(Reproducing an article created for the Employment News by one of the officers of IFS 2015 Batch, published in its "30th May - 05th June 2015" issue)
Introduction to Service
Indian Forest Service (IFS) is one of the three All India Services (AIS), which works for conservation, protection and development of forests and wildlife, along with an aim to enhance livelihood opportunities of forest-dependent communities of rural and tribal areas. Thus, the mandate of IFS is a unique blend of environmental conservation and socio-economic development, which are essential components of the emerging sustainable development paradigm.
IFS offers a prestigious career option, equivalent to the coveted IAS and IPS, for graduates in science or engineering. Similar to IAS and IPS, IFS officers are also allocated state cadres based on their rank and available vacancies. After a Foundation Course in Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration (LBSNAA), Mussoorie, IFS officers undergo an extensive training programme at Indira Gandhi National Forest Academy (IGNFA), Dehradun. Post completion of training, they are posted in their respective cadre, initially as Assistant Conservator of Forests and later as Divisional Forest Officers. An IFS officer is largely independent of the district administration and exercises administrative, judicial and financial powers in their own domain. Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) acts as the cadre controlling authority for IFS officers.
IFS is open to graduates from science, with at least one of the subjects namely, Animal Husbandry & Veterinary Science, Botany, Chemistry, Geology, Mathematics, Physics, Statistics and Zoology, or a Bachelor’s degree in Agriculture or Forestry or Engineering from a recognized university or equivalent. Forest management is a technical field, where the background of scientific or technological education proves to be helpful.
Civil Services (Prelim) Examination-2015, to be held on 23rd August 2015, would be used to screen candidates for the Indian Forest Service (Main) Examination, to be held from 21st November 2015 onwards.
CSE (Prelim) consists of two objective-type papers – Paper-1 covers General Studies, such as Indian History, Geography, Economy, General Science, etc., while Paper-2 is a test of aptitude towards logical reasoning, data interpretation, comprehension, etc.
The Indian Forest Service (Main) Examination consists of six subjective-type papers – General English (300 marks), General Knowledge (300 marks), 2 papers each for 2 optional subjects (200 marks each). The optional subjects available are science subjects such as Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics, Botany, Zoology, Forestry, etc. and engineering streams such as Civil Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, etc.
Based on the Main examination scores, candidates are shortlisted for the Personality Test (300 marks). The final results for IFS Examination are declared based on the combined scores in Main examination and Personality Test.
One must go through previous years’ question papers to develop some understanding about the topics covered and difficulty level of questions.
The Prelims exam requires dedicated preparation, since a large proportion of candidates are eliminated in this stage itself. Furthermore, the cut-off mark for qualifying for IFS (Main) Examination is typically greater than that for Civil Services (Main) Examination.
Paper-1 requires complete coverage of the given syllabus from standard books, along with awareness of current issues of importance. The paper is a test of both knowledge and understanding of issues across a broad range of topics. NCERT textbooks of relevant subjects and standards are an appropriate starting point. Moreover, regular reading of one national daily is essential to develop the required general awareness.
Paper-2 focuses on testing one’s aptitude of mental ability, data interpretation, reasoning and comprehension. The foundation for this test rests upon basic numeracy, geometry and logic. Reading a newspaper helps in improving both reading speed and comprehension. However, proficiency in these skills can be developed only through regular practice of questions of similar pattern.
The Main examination is of subjective-type, and thus requires a different preparation strategy. Regular practice of writing answers is needed, with focus on speed of writing as well as quality of answers.
The ‘General English’ paper is of special importance as its score is included in the final marks, unlike the Civil Services (Main) Examination, in which English paper is only of qualifying nature. The various components in the ‘General English’ paper are essay, letter, report, précis, comprehension, vocabulary and grammatical problems. A good essay should provide a powerful context and analyze all aspects of the given topic, while offering both short-term and long-term perspective. Writing letters and reports requires awareness of the rules of structure and format. Précis-writing is an art of brief and comprehensive expression, and can be mastered only through regular practice. One can build strong comprehension skills and a rich vocabulary through extensive reading coupled with curiosity of learning new words. Last but not the least, knowledge of basic grammar rules would be useful in not only tackling grammatical problems but also improve overall correctness of expression.
The ‘General Knowledge’ paper seeks to test the general awareness and understanding of issues of current importance. The recent trend shows a shift towards shorter questions, but a greater number of them covering a broad range of topics. Besides the standard topics such as Indian history (ancient to modern), geography, economy, polity, etc., one must be aware of the various aspects of recent issues in India such as Government policies, programmes and laws, Supreme Court judgments. Familiarity with recent international events and their implications is also essential. There is a special focus on environmental issues – both domestic and international, and application of science and technology in everyday life.
The choice of optional subjects is crucial, and the candidate must opt for a subject based on one’s interest and aptitude. The format of papers is similar to Civil Services Examination with a mix of compulsory and optional questions. The syllabus of each optional subject can be completed within 3-4 months of dedicated study, and this should be followed with regular revision. Emphasis must also lie on ability to write brief and comprehensive answers as the space available is now limited after introduction of Question-cum-Answer booklets.
The Personality Test is the final stage of IFS Examination and is held at UPSC, New Delhi. Select candidates are invited for interviews based on their performance in the written examination. The interview board consists of one of the UPSC members as chairman and 3-4 other members. The average duration of an interview is about 25 minutes. Board is very cordial and seeks to establish a conversation with the candidate on topics of general interest and from one’s background. Interest in environmental and forests issues is an added benefit.
Personality Test is followed by a medical checkup and a walking test of 25 km for male candidates and 14 km for female candidates, to be completed in less than 4 hours.
I am a Computer Science & Engineering graduate from IIT Delhi. I began the preparation for General Studies / General Knowledge by reading relevant NCERT books. For instance, Geography textbooks for Class XI and XII are a comprehensive resource. Free availability of NCERT books on NCERT’s website has solved the issue of their availability and accessibility to aspirants. For deeper study, I studied ‘India’s Struggle for Independence’ by Bipan Chandra, ‘Indian Polity’ by Lakshmikanth, ‘Indian Economy’ by Ramesh Singh, etc.
My optional subjects for IFS Examination were Chemistry and Forestry. My preparation for Chemistry was based on books such as Atkins’ Physical Chemistry, Morrison & Boyd’s Organic Chemistry, Huheey’s Inorganic Chemistry, etc. For the Forestry optional, I relied on ‘Indian Forestry’ by K. Manikandan & S. Prabhu. Besides the books, Internet proved to be a helpful resource for recent developments and miscellaneous information.
Indian Forest Service promises to offer a fulfilling public service career, with the added satisfaction of working in close association with Mother Nature. Eligible candidates should give this career option a serious consideration and begin dedicated preparation for the recruitment examination at the earliest.
About the Author,
Vikas Prajapati, IFS