N Jeykumaran IFS AIR-4, 2019, TN Rank 1 [TOPPERS STRATEGY]

Education : B.E ECE (CEG)

Optional: Geology,Forestry

1. How did you mold yourself in college days for UPSC?

There is no particular type of personality that one needs to get molded into, before aspiring for UPSC examination. It is more about identifying how the examination process is and to develop strategies that help one move towards the goal. During my college days, I was only beginning to understand the examination terrain. Most of the learning came only after failures in the exam and learning from them.

2. Who was your inspiration to go for IFS?

There was no particular inspiration. I got to know about IFS only after I entered the Civil services preparation. I liked the nature of the job and since it was partly alongside civil services preparation, I appeared for it.

3. How should one prepare for prelims as the cut off is very high for IFS prelims?

It has been my experience that the prelims exam is becoming unpredictable in the nature of questions asked and hence there is no silver bullet to guarantee higher marks. Over the years, one thing that had helped me was sticking to a particular reading material, solving many mock questions and revising both as many times as possible. It is not a guarantee for clearing prelims but increases the probability of sailing through.

4. Despite being an All India service why is IFS less attractive compared to IAS and IPS?

In my opinion that is merely a popular perception not based on any objective evaluation. However fewer reasons which I could think of are- The nature of service in IAS and IPS is such that, public interaction and consequently media attention is a common feature. Hence people are drawn to these services and attach a social attractiveness component to it. Also IFS is more of a technical service that requires aspirants from certain academic backgrounds, thereby reducing the pool of candidates at the entry stage itself. However, off late, students are beginning to appreciate the uniqueness of each of these services and appearing for them, without buying the attractiveness argument.

The Quora article throws light upon this aspect

5. What were your Optionals and their strategies – kindly elaborate with book list.

I appeared with Geology and Forestry. Much of my strategy was based upon the following articles.

For Forestry:


For Geology:

Geology Optional -UPSC IFS Examination- Detailed booklist and References.

6. How important is current affairs and how to prepare them?

Current affairs(CA) is a vital part of the preparation and there are two ways of preparing for it- Either follow a daily CA post or read monthly CA compilation. Students can choose between them based on their time and comfort. The one thing to keep in mind is, keep revising them as much as possible.

7. What was your mains strategy?

I was mentally drained after civil services examination and there was only 2 months for IFS mains examination. So neither did I plan much nor practiced answer writing. I stuck with few reading materials and revised them many a times.

8. How should one prepare for forest service interview? How different is it from Civil Service interview?

Though interview(IFS/CSE) is dynamic and depends on the interview panel and the profile of the candidate appearing, over the years it has been felt that IFS interviews often revolve around optional subjects and environmental issues. Having said that, there is no assurance that the scope of the interview will not exceed the aforementioned areas. So preparation strategy would be- focus on one’s profile, optional subjects, environment issues, and current affairs in the past few weeks. (Decreasing order of priority)

9. Can you recall some interesting questions that were asked in your interview and the answers you gave for them?

I found two questions to be interesting, as it gave me an opportunity to express myself.

1) Can you name a few blunders that Indians committed in the past?

We Indians normally ignore rocks and stones around us, as insignificant. But every rock has tales of numerous episodes of volcanic eruption, stories about diverse life forms and their evolution and tales about our geological past. Appreciating them would have helped us to cherish our existence on Earth . Ignoring this aspect was a blunder.

India has 1600+ languages and each language is a prism to view the world differently. Nurturing movies from these diverse languages would have provided Indians with diverse stories and world views, which we had missed by neglecting niche movies and celebrating only commercial template based movies. This is a blunder.

2) Tell me a poem you wrote in Tamil and translate it

* சில சமயம்,

புரிந்து கொண்ட வாழ்க்கையை எல்லாம்,

ஒரு மூட்டையாய் கட்டி விற்று,

வரும் காசில்,

மறுபடியும் மழலையை வாங்கி,

முதலில் இருந்து வாழ தொடங்கிட தான் ஆசை வருகிறது!


Sometimes I wish to sell every knowledge about life that I had accumulated, to buy back my childhood days, so that I can explore and learn from the world with a child’s curiosity.

10. What is your advice/suggestion to aspirants who have their sole focus on forest services?

As far as IFS is concerned, prelims is paramount. If students manage to clear prelims, the chances of them appearing in IFS interview is very high. So clearly strategize for prelims and once that is done, everything else will fall in place.

On a lighter note, I would say- Accept that this exam is unpredictable and success is not guaranteed. Speculations about question paper or finding faults in the process of the exam will take us nowhere and more worse, they drain our time. So the key is- Focus on one’s self and only on things which one can control. Have a strategy, break them into daily targets and try achieving it. Don’t spend time in repenting the past or prophesizing the future- Just one day at a time, one target at a time!

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