After five unsuccessful attempts, Agra’s Pawan Gupta cleared the UPSC Indian Forest Service (IFS) examination in 2022 with an All India Rank of 90.

Based on his experiences, the IFS officer shares tips from his preparation journey and points out mistakes that aspirants should avoid.

Start as early as possible: “If you are serious about attempting the examination, there is no point in delaying the preparation,” he says.

Get good guidance: “I wanted to prepare for UPSC but did not know how. I ended up reading the wrong books,” he shares.

“Getting guidance from someone who can direct you on what to study, when to study, and which topics to focus on is essential. This exam is quite demanding, so aspirants need solid guidance,” he adds.

Choose the right optional: “Nowadays, candidates often choose subjects like anthropology, sociology, geology, and forestry as their optional as these have manageable syllabi and also aid in general studies preparation,” he says.

“But it’s a good idea for candidates to discuss their options with someone who cleared the exam with their chosen optional, as they can provide useful insights to make the final choice,” he adds.

Focus on answer writing: “Answer writing helps you score better. Keep your introduction short, write answers in points, underline the keywords, give a decent conclusion, and include diagrams in subjects like geography,” he suggests.

Make short notes on big topics: “Short notes help revise content in a short period of time. But remember that your content should be condensed. For example, convert a 20–30 page topic into 3–4 page short notes,” he says.

Don’t make exam your life: “Keep in mind that it’s just a test, not your entire life. Many aspirants worry that failing this exam will ruin their lives,” says Pawan.

“At times, this pressure leads us to answer questions incorrectly. Remember to stay calm during the exam. With patience, things will eventually work out,” he adds.