IFoS Interview Preparation

Here’s a article that I wrote for IFoS interview prep on ForumIAS blog a few months back (http://blog.forumias.com/strategy-ifos-interview-preparation-by-abhishek-surana-ifos-rank-2/) –

First of all, hearty congratulations to all of you who have cleared the IFoS Mains Examination.  This time UPSC has broken all records by declaring the results in 21 days. About 301 candidates have been called for, from which 110 will be finally selected.

I appeared for IFoS in 2016 ( last year ) and was able to get a humble rank of 2 in the final list. I am writing this for fellow aspirants who are scheduled to appear for the IFoS Interview in the coming week. In my opinion, the Interviews will commence soon and wind up within a week , before the Civil’s result comes and CSE Interview starts. So you have lesser time than usual, and hope that you make the most of this time.

I am assuming that you have been doing Current Affairs / newspaper well. Here is my experience

What happens?

  • It is a 20-25 min interview with 4-5 board members.
  • The chairman starts the interview and after 4-5 mins asks one of the members to carry on.
  • Usually 2 board sits for forest interview which means 22-24 people get interviewed in a day
  • From my own experience and of few others, there is usually one senior IFoS officer (could be retired) in the panel. He asks few questions related to forests and environment
  • There may or may not be a psychologist. One can’t guess

What to prepare?

  • Your DAF. Each and every word should be carefully pondered over. Prepare possible questions on it.
    •  For example – “Ambassador of Change award for social service”. Possible questions could be about ambassador car, the post of ambassador, type of changes, etc. I know I am stretching it a bit too far but you never know what a interviewer think of after looking at a certain word
    • Another example – My hobby is photography.  So they asked me “You do photography? What Kind? Why not wildlife? What equipment you would need to do wildlife photography?”
  • Prepare basic concepts of forestry and name of few trees – both scientific and common. Current affairs should also be prepared with special focus on environment and forestry.
    • For example – questions that were asked  to me in the interview were –
      • Tell me about vegetation of xyz tiger reserve.
      • Tell me about corridors of xyz tiger reserve.
      • What tribes exist in xyz tiger reserve
      • Why do we need corridors?
      • What spices do we get from forest?
      • What medicinal plants do we get from forest?
      • How can finance industry help in forest conservation
      • How can finance industry help SHG of tribals?
      • How should CAMPA fund be used?
    • Other possible questions for you to get an idea –
      • Difference between 
        • Forest cover and tree cover
        • Hard wood and softwood
        •   Forestry and agriculture
        •   Conservation and preservation
        •   NP and Sanctuaries
        •   Cheetah and leopard
        •  Teak and Sal
      • How is ‘Environment’ defined under Indian Law?
      •  What is the difference between the laws enacted before and after independence with respect to environmental protection in India?
      • Why so many environment legislation after independence
      • Are tribal responsible for forest degradation?
      • Name few forest officer?
      • which laws does a forest officer implements?
      • History of Indian forest service? Before it?
      • Situational questions: How to relocate farmers from area that has been declared as reserved forests
  • Basic knowledge about  the state of forest in India, your state, district etc. My home state is Rajasthan so the questions which were asked from me
    • Where do we find Very dense forest in Rajasthan? What is total area of very dense forest?
    • Tell me about vegetation and fauna of dessert national park
    • How do we know that a certain place had forest before?
  • General questions
    • Why do you people want to join IFoS, and what will be your choice if you’re getting IAS and IFoS and why?
  • Important topics
    • Biotechnology
    • Global warming
    • Climate change negotiation
    • State of Forest report
    • Forest rights act and its implementations
    • Tribal affairs
    • Water conservation
    • Human animal conflict
    • Poaching
    • Relocation issues
    • Agroforestry
    • Forest fires
    • New Wetland rules
    • Proposed new Environment management law – TSR Subramanium committee
    • Air pollution in Delhi
    • NGT rulings
    • CAMPA funds
    • Important personalities connected to Forest affairs in India – Hari Singh, Jim Corbett, verrier elwin, Salim Ali

Tips

  • This is a test for your personality and not knowledge. But as Ayush Sir has said in one of his videos – what may be knowledge for you may be personality for UPSC board member. For example – They may ask who is DFO of your district? What is the forest area of your district? If you don’t know answer to these basic yet crucial questions then you are in a bad soup. It reflects bad on you that as a person interested to be in public service and who is expected to be well versed with general knowledge of things around him doesn’t know even this much.
  • You are not expected to know answers to all the questions
  • Always smile. While entering, while answering, even if you don’t know the answer, while leaving. Shows a pleasing personality
  • Be humble – Like a cow. You are not perfect and can never be. Accept your weakness.
  • Be prepared to say No if you are not sure of an answer. In my opinion a No is a better answer than “I think it could be” or “I guess”.
  • Work on your communication skills- especially if you have a habit of using filler words like – “you know”.
    • You can video record yourself and analyse it

Last few words

  • People have got marks up to 220s last year and even higher before that. Only possible with a calm mind.
  • Candidates who’ve gotten into arguments with the board have seen their marks reduced.
  • Selected aspirants usually hover around 55-70%. But there are always exception.
  • Give as many mocks as possible. If possible give a mock at Forum or have at least one-on-one session with Ayush Sir.

-Best of Luck

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IFoS – Prelims

IFoS and CSE have the same prelim examination. This explains the high focus on environment related topics in prelim examination.

Thus if you prepare environment part thoroughly you’ll have an edge. Moreover if you have decided to give IFoS seriously – and have taken Forestry as one of the optional – then you should go through the entire syllabus of it once before prelims. There is a chance that there’ll be 2-3 questions  which a Forestry student can answer easily compared to a general candidate.

Also dont leave ancient and medieval history section. TN board class 11th book is a savior in this regard.

For current affairs – refer to at least two sources – Vision and Insight make for a good combo but you can rely on others too.

Next practice as many mock test as you can. They’ll help in incremental improvement. Join a test series and give test at test center if you can. Nothing matches the actual experience of giving the test.

IFoS prelims cutoff is usually 15-20 marks above the CSE cutoff. It was 132-133 for IFoS – 2016 while 116 for CSE 2016. Your aim should be to optimize your marks by increasing the accuracy. Attempting more could backfire in this uncertain era of UPSC.

 

IFoS – English

Syllabus – Candidates will be required to write an essay in English. Other questions will be designed to test their understanding of English and workmanlike use of words. Passages will usually be set for summary or precis.
How to prepare? –

 

During the exam
  • Write the essay first. Highest component in the marking scheme
  • Don’t use colloquial language – this is not a qualifying exam – marks will be counted towards your final score and that’ll determine your rank.

IFoS – General Knowledge (GK) Paper

What does the syllabus say – General Knowledge including knowledge of current events and of such matters of every day observation and experience in their scientific aspects as may be expected of an educated person who has not made a special study of any scientific subject. The paper will also include questions on Indian Polity including the political system and the Constitution of India, History of India and Geography of a nature which the candidate should be able to answer without special study
Pattern 
  • 3 hour exam
  • 6 questions with 5-7 sub parts
How to prepare?
  • Focus on S&T
    • This year there were questions ranging from heliocentric orbit to genome editing to utility of friction
  • Focus on Ancient and Medieval history  – at least you should have a rough chronology in mind
    • IFoS GK paper at times had questions related to Ashoka in past years
  • CSE mains prep for GS will suffice for the rest
During the exam
  • Leave the questions which you don’t know anything about -There will be definitely 2-3 questions like those
  • Draw diagrams wherever possible especially in S&T question

 

Edit – 4/11/2017

GK

  • For S&T
    • Read 9th and 10th NCERT for Phyiscs, Chemistry and Biology
    • Cover last 3 year current afairs for S&T – Either via Vision/Insight booklets or Wizard compilations

English

  • Write some sample papers and get them checked from a teacher or someone you think know the grammar 🙂

My Indian Forest Service Interview

Date – 02/03/2017, Afternoon session
Board – P K Joshi Sir
M1 – Chairman
  • Tell me about your work expereince. How was it?
  • Tell me about solar policy of India
  • How much land does it take to setup 1MW solar plant?
  • Where is the largest solar plant in India?
M2 – Lady member
  • Why people/students don’t take risk? Is it changing? Why? How?
  • Compare startup ecosystem from 2012 to 2017
  • What new policies government has announced?
  • Have you cleared CSE?
M3
  • You do photography? What Kind? Why not wildlife? What equipment you would need to do wildlife photography?
  • Tell me about vegetations of  …… tiger reserve.
  • Tell me about corridors of ….. tiger reserve.
  • What tribes exist in….. tiger reserve
  • Why do we need corridors?
  • What dishes do you like to cook?
  • What species do we get from forest?
  • What medicinal plants do we get from forest?
  • How can finance industry help in forest conservation
  • How can finance industry help SHG of tribals?
  • How should CAMPA fund be used?
M4
  • What is cultural ecology?
  • What do you like in Astronomy?
  • What is difference between Astronomy and Astrology?
  • Do you believe in Astrology?
  • Where do we find Very dense forest in Rajasthan? What is total area of very dense forest?
  • Tell me about vegetation and fauna of dessert national park
  • How do we know that a certain place had forest before?
  • Where do we find coal?
  • What is species?

Interview lasted about 20-25 mins. I was third one to go.  Board was extremely cordial. I couldn’t answer few questions related to forestry.

I got 201/300.