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Which Optionals Work Best For IFS Exam? UPSC Topper Shares Preparation Strategy

From picking the right optional subjects for Mains to planning your preparation strategy, IFS officer Saurabh Kumar shares crucial tips to help you crack UPSC CSE and IFS

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Saurabh Kumar is an Indian Forest Service (IFS) officer who secured All India Rank (AIR) 16 in the 2018 examination. He is currently posted as the Assistant Conservator of Forest (ACF), Dharwad in Karnataka.

A resident of Samastipur in Bihar, Saurabh completed his BTech in Naval Architecture and Ship Building from Cochin University and went on to work both in India and overseas for six years before he decided to appear for the examination in 2016.

After passing out in 2010, Saurabh worked with a company that was involved in making warships for the Indian Navy.

How to pick the right optional paper.

He says, “I was in the design department and enjoyed my three-year stint there. This was followed by a job opportunity in UAE where while I was earning well, I felt the need to do something to give back to my country. It strengthened my desire to come back to India and appear for the service.”

Speaking to The Better India, he says, “From 2016 onwards, I appeared for two civil service mains and one forest service mains examination.” Having chosen Mathematics and Forestry as his optional for the forest service examination, Saurabh shares with us some of the advantages and strategies that worked for him during preparation.

Art of Choosing Optional Subjects

For aspirants, there are a total of 14 optional papers to choose from. Each aspirant needs to pick two optional subjects for the exam. While there are 11 subjects that are common to both the Civil Service Examination and IFS, three topics are exclusive to IFS examination only. “Picking the right optional subject is as important as preparing for it. So, take your time while making that decision,” says Saurabh.

He urges aspirants to use the elimination method while picking the optional subject. “Of the given options, there are bound to be subjects you are not comfortable picking – so eliminate those. Of the ones remaining, spend time going through the syllabus of each subject and pick the ones that you feel the most confident of taking up.” This elimination method will leave you with a handful of subjects to choose from.

“If the subject you graduated in is one of the optional subjects, then do consider picking that if you are comfortable with it,” says Saurabh.

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Advantage of choosing forestry as an optional

IFS
IFS Saurabh Kumar

“Picking forestry as one of your optional papers is a great idea for so many reasons,” says Saurabh. The syllabus of the forestry optional paper is short and concise and one that can fetch an aspirant good marks, if attempted well.

Saurabh also says that picking forestry for the optional paper is the key to success in the Indian Forest Service, as it helps in laying a rather strong foundation for the work that will follow. He adds, “It is also of great advantage during the interview stage and even later when the candidate receives a posting. It helps with on-ground work.”

Make socialising all about information exchange

Unlike some aspirants, who chose to stay away from others while preparing, Saurabh devised a unique way of interacting with others during his preparation journey. He says, “I would meet other aspirants often and discuss various subjects with them. With each conversation, I learnt something new and also got a glimpse into their opinions and analysis of various topics. While the information available is common to everyone, how each one presents it is worth learning from.”

With using minimum study resources, Saurabh ensured that he was thorough with his preparation. “I wanted to ensure that whatever I had studied I knew like the back of my hand. With limited resources, I made sure I was thorough,” he adds.

Tips for the examination:

  • Keep your phone switched off for the duration you are studying. Only pick it up once you have completed the task at hand.
  • Divide the study schedule to include a variety of subjects. Spend a few hours on self-study, this can be followed by solving a few test papers and also include time for discussions with others on any topic from the syllabus.
  • Complete and revise one source of content material for a subject before you move on to additional resources.
  • Try and increase the number of hours spent studying by bringing in diversity. For example, if you are studying for six hours each day, consider the study time to be five hours and include a two-hour discussion time. This not just gives the aspirant an additional one hour of study time but also brings in a new aspect.

Saurabh has also written a book titled – UPSC Prelims Simplified, which is available here.

(Edited by Yoshita Rao)

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