Shivshankar E secured AIR 76 in the UPSC Indian Forest Services (IFS) 2015 examination, securing as many as 210 out of 300 marks in personality development phase. In an interaction with Careers360, the 22-year-old mechanical Engineer attributes his success to his hard work, disciplined routine and right preparation strategy.


Despite getting a number of job offers from multinational companies, Shivshankar did not take a core engineering job as he wanted to pursue his Civil Services dream. Dedicating his success to his father who worked in a welding workshop so that his children can study well and see the light of success one day, Shivshankar says that he studied 16-18 hours a day to crack this exam along with continuing his engineering programme.


On his preparation strategy, Shivshankar says that intensive study of all the topics specified in the syllabus brought broadness to his approach. He says that his thorough and regular revisions were keys to his success. In this interview, he shares more on his UPSC IFS 2015 strategy and insights on different dimensions of his preparation. Read below for full interview.


Interview Excerpts:


Careers360: Congratulations for your outstanding performance in UPSC Indian Forest Services! How did you celebrate your success?

Shivshankar E: Thank you very much. I celebrated my success with my family members.


Careers360: What were the key factors behind your brilliant performance in UPSC IFS?

Shivshankar E: For prelims, I finished the syllabus well before the exam and did intensive revision during the prelims stage. For mains, I completed studies of optional subjects before the prelims. Post prelims, I did only General Studies and revision of optional subjects with test series. For interview, I did continuous preparation throughout the year.


Careers360: Tell us something about your area of studies, academic background and job experience?

Shivshankar E: I studied Mechanical Engineering from PESIT, Bangalore. Right after my graduation, I got offers from multinational companies but I started studying for Civil Services right away and did not join any of the companies.


Careers360: What were your key career ambitions that kept you motivated towards administrative services? Where did you get inspiration for that?

Shivshankar E: My father is inspiration to me. He worked day and night in a welding shop ensure that we study well. I wanted to relieve him of that pain. He always wanted to see me as an All India service officer. Also, IFS offers challenges as well as opportunities. This motivated me to study continuously. With Discipline, dedication, hard work and proper guidance, I have cracked it.


Careers360: What were your subjects? How did you divide your preparation schedule among the different subjects?

Shivshankar E: My subjects were Forestry and Geology. Before prelims, I made sure Forestry (optional subject) was complete and I was done with one paper of Geology (optional subject). After prelims, I finished Geology and started revision and answer writing simultaneously. I had made notes for both optional subjects which came in handy for easy revision. I practiced answer writing with 10 previous year question papers.


I used to study Engineering subjects from 4 am to 7 am. I attended my college from 8:30 am to 3:30 pm. Then, from 4:30 pm to 12 midnight, I studied for my UPSC Civil Service exam in the college library, as it had free wifi connectivity. As I was dependent on the scholarship amount, I had to focus on my Engineering subjects as well to get good marks.


As my college had 24X7 library facility, I tried utilising it. Every day, from 4:30 pm to 12 midnight, I used to study in college and return home afterwards. There were days when I extended it upto 2 am and slept in the library only.


Careers360: What were the top three agenda under your Indian Forest Services preparation strategy?

Shivshankar E: First, finish studying the optional subjects before the Prelims. Post prelims should be reserved for only revision and recall of optional and General Studies preparation.


Second, keep yourself abreast of the happenings around the world. Don't just read current affairs, react to it. Develop your analytical skills and express your own opinion regarding different issues. Justification of the opinion and critical analysis of the same would also help. You can take help of a mentor to do these things effectively as I did.


Third, the interview is a test of your personality and make sure you grow as a person on daily basis. 20 minutes of your daily time should be reserved to do activities that add on to your personality like pursuing hobby, introspection of the activities that you have done, spending time with people who can give you genuine feedback about your personality.


Careers360: Which were the easiest and the toughest part of your preparation?

Shivshankar E: I had given my UPSC Civil Services interview in June 2015 which I couldn't clear by 2 marks. This was heart breaking, as I had worked very hard for the same. Then, I picked myself up and worked hard again for UPSC IFS exam. This was the toughest part. My grasping abilities are good. I was able to cover a lot of syllabus quickly. This was the easiest part of my preparation.


Careers360: How important is coaching for preparations for such top jobs exams? If an aspirant can’t afford coaching, how should he prepare for the exam?

Shivshankar E: Coaching is important for such exams mainly because they cut short the time that is necessary for the preparation by guiding us in the right direction. Or else in the ocean of online resources, the students will not be able to filter out the important details and may stuff themselves with lots of unnecessary details. My teachers helped me a lot to streamline my preparation. However, if a person cannot afford coaching, he can get the basic details from the topper's blogs and prepare a strategy of his own.


Careers360: Please share a few questions asked to you by the interview board? Which was the toughest question for you to answer?

Shivshankar E: First question was, “You have finished your graduation at an age of 21, is it an advantage or disadvantage?” I answered, “It is an advantage as it helps me in analysing an issue without any bias and take a decision.”


Next the chairman asked me, “Good decision is better or quick decision is better?” I replied, “Both depending on the situation.”


They asked, “How?” My reply was, “In case of fire accidents, we have to immediately call the fire engine (quick decision). We can’t be thinking for a good decision.” This was appreciated by the chairman.


Toughest question was, “Use 9, 13 times to get 1990.” I was provided pen and paper to work it out. Though I tried it but in that interview room I could not solve it.


Careers360: How was your interview board (numbers)? Did you also find any uneasy moment during your interview?

Shivshankar E: There were four members, including a chairman. Interview was very cordial and I did not find any uneasy moment during my interview.


Careers360: Besides studies, what do you do?

Shivshankar E: I generally watch television.  I like cricket. I watch Kannada and Telugu movies.


Careers360: Are you active on social media? How useful is this for you?

Shivshankar E: Yes, only after my results are announced. Before that I had deactivated my facebook account as these eat up a lot of useful time and don't contribute much to our exam preparation. I advise aspirants to use internet only for productive purposes.


Careers360: Please share your tips and message for future aspirants.

Shivshankar E: The Read, Revise and Recall strategy given by my mentor was greatly helpful to me and I suggest the same to the students. Reading the matter once, revising it conceptually and recalling it in such a way as to write the answers for a question was the strategy. Simply reading too many things, though, will widen your knowledge but will not deepen it. Both width and depth of the concept is important in UPSC exams. Dedication, discipline, hard work and proper guidance will help you clear the exam with ease, no matter whatever background you come from.


Careers360: How big is corruption a problem? What is your model for eradicating it from our system?

Shivshankar E: Corruption is indeed a very big problem in the country. It robs the country of its efficiency and the savings of people. Educating people on their rights and duties along with making government servants accountable to their work can help in solving the problem of corruption in our system.


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