Not just a preparation strategy but a heart to heart talk by 22 year old Shikhar Choudhary IFoS Rank 9 + his MGP copies

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Shikhar Choudhary has clinched rank 9 at such a young age. This remarkable achievement is not without its share of hard and smart work. Read on to know how he aced this exam. 

Forumias team thanks Shikhar from the heart for taking his time out to describe his strategy in such detail. 

Something about me and my preparation journey


Hello everyone, my name is Shikhar Choudhary and i am 22 years old. I secured an AIR 9 in Indian Forest Service Examinations, 2019. This was my first attempt in both Civils and IFoS examination. I did my mechanical engineering from IIT Patna and graduated in 2019. My optionals were mathematics and forestry.

I started my preparation during my college days as I was clear in mind that I wanted civil services as my career. The diversity of career, ability to create an impact in the society especially at the ground level and the authority and respect which a civil servant commands is what encouraged me to choose this profession.

As I was preparing from college, I could not possibly attend any coaching classes (I did take online test series). However, during this preparation, I realized that this exam does not require high intelligence as one requires to crack IIT. What matters most is the amount of hard work you put in, amount of patience you have and your ability to cope with ups and downs during the preparation and come on top of it. Hence, if one has will to succeed and is ready to give in his best, one can do it on his own.

Coaching does help one to grasp difficult topics, clarify one’s doubt and streamline one’s preparation. But ultimately, it is one’s hard work and conviction which leads to success.

And this is the mantra which I believe helped me crack IFoS. Starting early, I put in all my effort to crack this exam. By effort, I mean putting in long hours for my study (sometimes, it would even stretch to 12 hours in a day), identifying my mistakes, and rectifying them with time.

The heart to heart talk

This exam, as known to you all is a very long process. There are many a times where one feels bogged down, one may feel that despite his efforts his preparations are not up to the mark and he isn’t going anywhere good with his preparation. And trust me, this happens to everyone. There were times when I would get low marks in tests and I would feel so disheartened that I could not study for next few days. I would feel that my preparations are inadequate and that I would not be able to succeed in the exam.

But let me tell you, having such feelings are but natural. We all are human beings and certain emotions are beyond our control, no matter how hard we try. And also let me assure you that it is not wrong to have such feelings, it is also not wrong to take rest once in a while to re-energize yourself. But what is wrong is to let such feelings of sadness overcome you in a way that you are unable to snap out of it. One should always keep that in mind that “Failing is not getting it wrong, it’s giving up when you get it wrong”. Hence, when we aim for an exam like civil services, it becomes important not to give up no matter the circumstances.

And this is what I decided that I would do during my preparation, not giving up despite the ups and downs. There is a famous saying very close to my heart and something which kept me going throughout my preparation,

“Girte hai shahsawar hi maidan-e-jang mein
Wo tifl kyaa girega jo ghutno ke bal chale”

Since we are like shahsawar (horse rider) riding on the bumpy road of civil services, we should be ready to fall, accept it graciously and rise again to win the race. Each failure provides a new learning. This should be kept in mind so that we learn from our mistakes and avoid doing the same in the future.

Preliminary examination

GS-booklist and strategy

For prelims, my overall strategy was pretty straight forward. I did all the basic materials, read newspapers (though I was not regular), covered my current affairs from coaching magazines and gave tests regularly (I gave around 40 tests in total).



History AncientNew NCERT
History Medieval New NCERT
History Modern (Freedom Struggle)Spectrum
CultureNitin Singhania + NCERT Class 11 Art and Culture
Polity (static + current affairs)  Lakshmikanth
Economy (static + current affairs) Mrunal Economy Lecture
Science (static + current affairs)Visionias Current Affairs Magazines
Environment (static + current affairs)Shankarias
Geography(Physical +Indian+World)NCERT 11th and 12th, GC Leong
Current affairsThe Hindu, Visionias Monthly magazines
CSAT (strategy and books)


I did not specifically prepare for CSAT, but I believe practicing past year papers of UPSC would be good enough

Certain special pointers for prelims.
  1. Attempt maximum (80+ questions is a safe number) in the paper, but the questions should be attempted using intelligent guesswork. Prelims exam pattern has changed a lot and even for the best candidate, it is difficult to know more than 45-50 questions correctly. So, one has to take calculated risk in exam to cross the cutoff. This can be achieved by practicing more and more tests at home so that accuracy improves.
  2. Do not fear to take risk in the exam. By this, I mean that if one is stuck in a question where he has eliminated two options but is stuck in two, it is better to apply some logic and attempt it rather that leaving the question. In the main exam, one is sure to find 20-30 questions where he is stuck in two options. And it is imperative that one takes calculated risk in such questions.
  3. Do the paper in iterations. For example, in my first iteration, I marked around 35-40 questions of which I was 100% sure. In next iteration, I attempted questions in which I was stuck between 2 options and took my total attempts to around 70. And finally, I attempted few more questions taking my total attempt to 85
  4. Do not panic in the exam because let me tell you that prelims is less a test of knowledge and more a test of patience and mental strength.

Remember that prelims is a relative exam. As a result, one should do all the basic materials which everyone does. When you are through with your basics, you are all set to go. The only thing is that you have to improve your accuracy in the paper which can be achieved by practicing more and more tests.

There is a doubt in many aspirants as to whether to make notes or not. I did not make any notes for prelims. Rather, I would underline important points in the magazine itself. Also, I feel that notes making from newspaper is not required at all as not only is it infeasible, time taking but also because most of the important news are covered in magazines and test series.

My thoughts on revision

 Further, many have also asked me whether to revise test or not. Test revision should be done thoroughly. While revising tests, one should identify his/her silly mistakes (questions which one knows but marked it wrong, or did not read the questions properly like it was asked to find the incorrect statements and you marked the correct statements) and should not repeat in future. Further, while revising tests, try to do reverse engineering. It means that in questions where you had taken a guess and it went wrong, try to find why your logic went wrong and what other logic could have been applied.

Also, if revising the entire test thoroughly is not possible, try to at least revise the current affairs questions in the test and leave the static part. I am saying this because static part questions are mostly from standard books and if one revises basic books thoroughly it would be sufficient, but for current affairs one requires a very wide coverage which could be done through revising the current affairs questions from tests.

Role of Test Series

 I was a part of Forumias Simulator Test Series. I have to admit that it was one of my best investments as the questions in the test series were very much like the actual prelims exam. It had a very wide coverage of questions and especially, I liked the current affairs coverage of Simulator Test Series.

Test series has a major role in cracking prelims. It not only provides one a wide set of question bank, but also helps one identify mistakes and improve his/her accuracy. In a way, it gives one a real exam like feel and helps one gauge his level of preparation.


 GS/GK preparation

GK for IFoS is unlike that of civil services. There is only a single paper of GK and it includes the entire syllabus of GS1, GS2 and GS3 of civil services barring a few topics. Here, there is a heavy focus on Ancient/Medieval history as well as Science and Technology. Further, the questions are more straight forward and less analytical in nature. Hence, one’s mains preparation for civil services will suffice for IFoS as well and no separate preparation is needed.

English preparation

The Essay portion of English paper is similar to Civil services Essay paper and no separate preparation is required if one prepares well for civil services. However, in IFoS, one has to prepare the grammar part, which can be done through online YouTube videos. There are many grammar related videos on YouTube regarding SSC as well as other exams which can be utilized for Grammar portion. One should also practice past year English papers to get a feel of type of questions asked.

Current Affairs for Mains

Newspaper Reading and Monthly magazine of any coaching will be good enough


I choose Maths and Forestry as my two optionals. Maths was my common optional for both civils as well as IFoS, while I choose forestry as it is not only the easiest of all optionals but also very less time consuming and has a very limited syllabus. As a result, forestry can be easily done in the time between civil services mains and IFoS mains.


Strategy for Forestry

 For forestry, only one book, that is Manikandan and Prabhu is more than enough. It covers more than 90% of the syllabus in around 500 pages!

Further, one should do the previous year questions given at the end of each chapter as many questions are repeated.

Also, regarding certain topics, some google searching might be required to better understand them.

Rishav Gupta’s forestry notes are also a good source as it covers the syllabus in a concise manner and the material is written in a flowchart manner making it easier to remember.

I took Shankarias online classes for forestry as I initially felt that I would not be able to complete forestry in such a short span of time, but I believe that it can be done without any coaching as well.



Interview is a test of your personality and not knowledge as it has already been tested in the mains paper. Hence, one should not stress too much regarding interview. Rather, one should try to enjoy the interview preparation. Focus on improving your confidence, practicing before the mirror, preparing your DAF well and so on. Attending mocks helps boost confidence. Also, in IFoS, focus is given on environment and forestry related questions and it should be prepared well.

Last but not the least, try to remain calm and composed before the interview board. Be honest, do not argue with the board, be humble and do not be afraid to say “Sorry  sir, I don’t know the answer” to any question you might not know. Remember that not knowing is not a sin as no one expects us to know everything under the sun, but bluffing before the board and making up answers to questions will create a very bad impression.

In the end, I would say that there is only one quality required to succeed in the exam, and that is an uncompromising attitude to succeed. It does not matter what your background is, or whether you are weak in English or not, neither does your intelligence matters, what matters is whether you have the attitude to succeed and whether you are ready to put in hard work to achieve your goal. There is a famous saying. “Where there is a will, there is way”. Hence, strengthen your will, your resolve to succeed, and you will surely.


Mr Shikhar Choudhary was a student of Forumias MGP- which is a mentor based mains test series . You can download his MGP copies down below.

Shikhar Choudhary Forumias mains test series copy 1

Shikhar Choudhary Forumias mains test series copy 2

Shikhar Choudhary Forumias mains test series copy 3


ForumIAS has launched MGP for 2021.You can read download the brochure here and read about it and enroll here.



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