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Forestry Optional Preparation Strategy for UPSC IFoS Mains 2021

Updated On -

Jan 20, 2021

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The Indian Forest Service or IFoS exam is conducted yearly and is of similar stature with IAS. Unlike IAS, you have some limitations and conditions to follow while choosing optional subjects in IFoS. Moreover, graduates in particular subjects relevant to the post can only apply for this exam. One of the optional subjects that is popularly chosen is Forestry. Your choice of optional plays an influential role in the types of questions you are asked in the interview round and this is particularly true for candidates who choose forestry. This is because the subject is intricately related to the job profile of an IFoS officer.

If you chose forestry as optional for your IFoS Mains 2020, we have some suggestions and tips for you to cover the syllabus thoroughly in minimum time.

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Why choose Forestry Optional

Though forestry is not always a subject of specialization for many candidates, it is still taken up by many who have relevant subjects in graduation. Students of agriculture, horticulture, botany particularly find forestry suitable as an optional. Here are a few advantages which make it a good choice for many candidates:

  • There is little factual data involved in this subject and hence you do not have to memorize too many dates and events. Many candidates find the subject easy to understand and prepare solely for this reason.
  • The subject is very scoring provided you are able to remember the botanical names of different trees and substantiate your answer with good diagrams.
  • The syllabus is lengthy but can be prepared fast if you can grasp the basic concepts. Moreover, there are repeated questions from previous years and someone who practiced the past 10 years’ questions will find it particularly easy to crack the exam.
  • Certain parts of the syllabus is overlapping for prelims as well as mains which means, if you strategize the preparation plan properly, you can cover a significant part of the syllabus even before the prelims commence.
  • Forestry related concepts are elemental for a better understanding of your job role as an IFoS officer and questions based on this subject are often asked in the interview. A candidate who has forestry as their optional subject will find it easier to understand and answer these questions better.
  • Though it is a popular optional compared to other similar unconventional optional subjects, the competition is still low. Moreover, since it is scoring, it will also help to increase your overall marks in mains and boost your ranking in the final merit list.

Who should not choose forestry optional?

  • Do not choose forestry optional if you are not ready to memorize scientific names and terms.
  • Avoid choosing this subject because someone you know qualifies and credits this subject to be scoring.
  • Preparation will be difficult, irrespective of the time you dedicate to it, if you have no general interest in the subject.

Syllabus of Forestry Optional and chapter-wise tips for IFoS Mains

To make a successful preparation strategy, you must be very familiar with the syllabus as well as the exam pattern. In IFoS mains, there are 2 optional subjects and 4 papers are dedicated to them. Each paper is further divided into Part A and Part B. There are a total of 8 questions in the papers- 4 in each part. Out of these 8, only 5 have to be answered from both the groups. Question 1 from Part A and question 5 from Part B are compulsory. Apart from these, you have to attempt another 2 from each part. The fifth question can be chosen from any of the parts.

Paper-1, Forestry optional syllabus

  • General silviculture
    • The book by L.S. Khanna is the best reference for this chapter.
    • Cite as many examples as you can while writing the answers related to this chapter to maximize the marks.
    • This is the most important chapter in paper-1 so dedicate maximum time to its preparation and practice the previous years’ questions multiple times.
  • Silviculture system
    • Like the first chapter, this is also a core forestry chapter and hence calls for significant time and attention for preparing the topics.
    • Questions are often repeated so practicing previous years’ papers will help.
  • Mangrove and cold forests
    • Remember the scientific names of mangroves.
    • Cold desert trees, shrubs and plant species have to be studied with special attention and you must remember their scientific names too.
    • The chapter is small, but has a lot to memorize. Moreover, direct questions on scientific names were asked from this chapter in 2015.
  • Silviculture of trees
    • Study the different species of trees and their properties.
    • This chapter is comparatively less important than the past three but should not be skipped.
  • Agroforestry, social forestry, tribology and joint forest management
    • This chapter is simple and has a lot of materials to frame good answers.
    • Try preparing your own notes and answers to prepare this chapter better.
  • Watershed management, soil management and forest soils
    • This is another chapter with ample scope for writing substantial answers and easy to prepare.
    • Questions are almost always asked from the topics covered by this chapter so it cannot be left out.
  • Conservation of environment and biodiversity
    • The syllabus overlaps with the prelims general studies papers and you can prepare this right before the prelims commence.
  • Seed technology and improvement of trees
    • Take help of the internet sources to prepare topics like provincial tribes.
    • Often there are long 8 marks questions from this chapter hence, preparing it well is a good idea.

Paper-2, forestry optional syllabus

  • Management system and forest management
    • This is an important topic and the best reference book for it is Forest management by Prakash Ram. However, in case you do not have enough time, S. Prabhu has enough material to give you the basic idea about this chapter.
  • Forest working plans
    • This chapter is very important as it is majorly about a key function of the IFoS officer.
    • The knowledge you gain from this chapter is not only helpful in your mains exam but will help your job throughout your career.
  • Remote sensing and mensuration for forests
    • This is a technical topic and hence tricky and calls for understanding the concepts more than memorizing anything.
    • Dedicate enough time to the topic so that you have enough idea to write substantial and impromptu answers in the examination hall.
  • Forest engineering and surveying
    • This is again a technical topic that is a bit tough if you do not understand the concepts.
    • Dedicate more time in understanding the theory of this topic as it can fetch good marks when you are able to write good technical answers.
  • Ethno-botany and forest ecology
    • This topic is covered in S.Prabhu but the internet is the best source for preparing the topics.
  • Utilization of forest resources
    • Often multiple questions are asked from this chapter in one year which makes this a very important topic.
    • The points are not systematically covered in any of the reference books but if you read through the chapter multiple times you will get an idea about the entire topic.
    • Give enough time to understand this topic as it is also important for your job profile as an IFoS officer.
    • Examples of scientific names are also important for writing answers for questions on this chapter.
  • Wildlife biology and forest protection
    • This topic is important from the perspective of the mains exam as well as the interview round as many questions asked are based on the concepts in this chapter.
  • Economics and legislation of forests
    • Wikipedia is a good source for learning the basics of the chapter.
    • It is not as important but having a basic knowledge will be enough to attempt any questions asked from here.

Reference books and materials for IFoS Forestry Optional Mains

The syllabus is rather diverse and while some parts of paper 1 overlaps with the general environment topics for prelims, the subject is largely unique and there are many new topics and approaches that you must get familiar with. This is why it is important to find books which cover the majority of the syllabus properly such that secondary sources will not be necessary. The following are some of the best books that you can refer to. Keep your reference booklist short and precise to avoid confusion.

  • Principles and Practice of Silviculture by L.S. Khanna
  • Theory and Practice of Silviculture Systems by Ram Prakash, L S Khanna (but wasn’t able to revise) and K. Manikandan and S. Prabhu
  • Indian Forestry by K. Manikandan and S. Prabhu
  • Forest Management byPrakash Ram
  • Agroforestry: Indian Perspective byL. K. Jha
  • Wikipedia
  • YouTube videos for forestry optional
  • Internet search for scientific names of trees and important terminologies

As you can see that the materials for forestry optional are limited. Though there are many different books available, these are only a few standard books which will cover the entire syllabus for both paper 1 and 2. Indian Forestry by K. Manikandan and S. Prabhuis an all-round book that covers the majority of the topics in paper 1 and 2. It is a must have along with specific reference books for topics that are not covered in so much detail in this book.

Preparation tips for Forestry Optional

Once you are familiar with all the topics and syllabus, here are a few things you can do to boost your preparation plan and make it more time-efficient and effective:

  • Do not keep postponing your mains preparation till you get the prelims result. The time will not be enough and it is best if you start prelims and mains preparation simultaneously.
  • Go through the previous years’ question papers and recognise the pattern of the questions. Determine the topics which are more important and frequently asked so that you can plan your study hours accordingly.
  • Start studying with the common portions that you have with the prelims exam. Environmental topics, soil and its conservation, watershed management, conservation and biodiversity, ethnobotany and forest ecology, and forest legislation are some of the common topics which you can begin your preparation with.
  • Make a list of all the scientific names of trees, shrubs, cold desert plants, as you prepare the subject. Also prepare a table of different types of soils and their properties. These will be handy for last minute revision right before the exam and at the same time, make your preparation more thorough.
  • Also make small notes of different examples relevant to the different chapters while preparing answers and notes. Make use of sticky notes and page markers so that you can easily find them later while doing revision.
  • The IFoS mains 2020 are scheduled from February 28, 2021 which means you have ample time at hand. However it is best to begin the preparation right away for getting the best results.
  • Try and cover the entire syllabus thoroughly in the first 3-4 months. Dedicate the next 5-6 months till February 2021 for constant revision.
  • As you prepare and revise the topics, make mind maps which are very useful for thoroughly absorbing the things you learn and also as quick revision notes.
  • If you have friends who are preparing for the same exam and have taken forestry as optional, opt for group studies and discussion often. This will help you to assess your own understanding of the different topics as well as learn new perspectives from a third person.

Suggestions for interview round for IFoS Mains

The subject you are choosing for optional plays a vital role in your interview round. When you choose a specific subject, it means you are an expert in it and hence, questions will be asked accordingly. Since forestry as a subject is intricately linked to the job description of an IFoS officer, there are chances of getting several specialized questions from this topic. Here are a few tips to bear in mind regarding the interview-

  • Aspirants who have taken forestry are likely to be asked more questions from environment and core forestry topics.
  • Candidates should be aware of current news related to forestry and environment as well as topics like Green building, NAPCC, REDD etc.
  • Candidates must have a very clear idea about the methods of mapping a forest area. Also be familiar with the different native species of trees, shrubs, plants, herbs that are available in your district and state.

Forestry is an interesting subject to choose for optional and if you prepare well, the knowledge will stay with you for lifetime and you may have to apply it often throughout your career. By keeping the suggestions and tips we have shared in mind, this is the perfect time to begin your preparation for the IFoS 2020. We wish you the best for your exams!

*The article might have information for the previous academic years, please refer the official website of the exam.