“Toppers says....

S Deepika IFoS-2019
Hi all this is S Deepika AIR 50, IFS exam 2019, Agriculture optional 
I cleared UPSC IFS exam With agriculture optional, this is my 8th attempt in upsc 5th mains in UPSC, but only 1st mains with Agriculture. I made a decision to change my optional to agriculture in early 2019 so that this year I can maximize the chance of getting IFS .
Being an electrical engineering graduate and geography optional in earlier attempts, this decision of changing to agriculture optional was huge. I was a newbie in agriculture optional when started in Feb 2019. I too faced lot of difficulty in decoding the syllabus, finding the soucre, how to write etc. I would like to share my experiences and strategy in agriculture optional here. 
Studying syllabus
      The first step in starting the agriculture preparation is to understand and through with each line of syllabus and word. It is so important because most of the question in Agri paper are exactly the same line/words given in the syllabus itself. In preparation we can't afford to skip a line/word, even if the topic is so vast, we should at least prepare an answer for 15-20marker for each line of syllabus in the worst case scenario of unable to prepare a topic exhaustively..
Once we did this must look at the previous year papers to know the nature and depth of questions. 
Analysing previous year question

   I wrote down chapter wise question from each year for past 10years to know the nature of questions and trends over the year. I find many questions are direct, repeated and  same line from syllabus ( even no change in words).
I gave more importance to recurring topics in each units like Mendel's law of inheritance, ploidy breeding, application in crop improvement etc which is repeated most of the years. I memorised those recurring topics each definition, examples and structure of answer so that it will be handy and I can finish those questions faster with good content 
3. Source material
      The very crucial part in Agri optional is finding the source material. when I started my preparation after seeing the toppers blog suggesting TNAU materials are enough, initially I thought source are limited and easy to find. Being a non Agri graduate I find it difficult initially to know how much read in a topic and where to find the topics in the given source. I got guidance from my friends, they shared notes and even taught me the agriculture concept later on it become easy for me to study and compile the final notes from TNAU material.
The main sources I referred are
   a. Genetics by phundan Singh
   b. Plant breeding by phundan Singh
   c. TNAU( took print out if the required books and pages)
Only for genetics and plant breeding I referred the standard book and rest all topics I covered entirely from TNAU material, Krushna Sir's telegram channel  and website, and some internet search for some topics which I can't find it in TNAU. I also referred previous years toppers notes  to cover some topics
Since I had time only to cover the static portion of syllabus I rarely updated the recent data's of Agri but it didn't make much difference. Only focusing on static portion we can glide through agriculture comfortably
4.Compiling the final notes and strategy
    I either wrote down or printed the materials notes from TNAU or website and filed up properly, topic wise and arranged according to syllabus.. So that once I did this I don't have to refer multiple books or notes. 
  I revised the entired compilation multiple times before prelims and for cse mains, so that in time between cse mains and IFS mains I spend only little time in Agri optional so as to focus on my 2nd optional geology.
   I also made a revision notes of writing the keywords and examples of each unit and syllabus wise. I used to write the entire revision copy of a unit within a paper so that I revised multiple times the examples and keywords. Even examples  copyI revised daily and over time it become so familiar to me all species  scientific names, crop names, pest etc
    I did drawing practice also while making notes so that I don't make mistake it in exam.

I planned to cover the units which are basic and easily understandable but also more mark fetching.
So First started doing paper 2 chapters like genetics, plant breeding, physiology and seed science.
 In paper 1 chapters like agronomy, soil science, water management, weeds I did next.
Then I completed the remaining chapters in paper 1 and paper 2
In food security (paper2) I couldn't find everything in single source so I had to do internet search n compiled it , 

Finally I kept horticulture, pest and disease units.

For hoticulture I finished the relatively smaller topics like preservation, marketing, role of fruit in nutrition etc first before I take up the cultivation practice of fruits and vegetables. Since these topics I felt vast I decided to do only limited number of crops like 5 fruits,5 vegetables,5 flowers and few other important crops , if later I have time I can add few more.

For pest and disease, similar to horticulture strategy I finished the integrated pest management, biological pest control, forecast , storage pest and pesticides etc first. Then I studied only the major pest and disease(not all) their key symptoms and management which are repeated and important. 

5.Answer writing
  I wrote few answers & also got opportunity to see  and solve Agri mock test papers from krushna sir's Telegram chanel  n got benefited from it. 
In exam i preferred question with diagram in choice, I took color pencil to draw the diagram and neatly marked, I almost drawn diagram in all question or wherever possible. 
I also underline the scientific names and keywords. All this will increase the visibility of answer.

This my strategy of covering the Agri optional in less time available as I had started preparing for Agri paper after filling the application form only. Am happy with that decision, because agriculture optional came as magic wand in my upsc journey and got me the all India service. 
Thanking you sir for help and support.
S Deepika
Yatish Deshmukh IPS, Hello friends, I would like to write few words about Agriculture optional for CSE. This optional is a blessing for those who are Agriculture graduates. But it's not that others can't opt for it. One of my friends Mani Arora, an engineering graduate got 289 marks in Agriculture! Syllabus is static and most of the questions are directly asked from text books. Only thing you have to do is to get all the concepts done, revise more and solve test papers. My strategy for preparation I gave very less time to optional because I already had spent 6 year in Agriculture and had good hold over important subjects. Me along with my friends used to do group discussions on Agriculture. Concept was never an issue for me. Only challenge was to complete revision. Fortunately my senior Deepak Dhamane gave his own handwritten notes for paper 1 which came very handy for revision. I would sugget you to prepare short notes for every topic so that you will revise it more. Major part of the paper-2 was plant sciences which I had covered during post-graduation, so I got good marks in paper-2. Here are some must read books (List provided by Krushna Bhokare Sir) These are major subjects and other subjects can be read from degree notes of any reputed university. About current affairs- It is very much static subject and doesn't need special attention to current developments. You will get to know about current developments in Agriculture while preparing for GS-3. You can read Agriculture chapter in economic survey and read all the articles of Ashok Gulati from Indian Express. It will help in personality test too. Test Series: I wrote last 3 years papers also evaluated with my friends Kiran, Swaroop and Krushna Bhokare Sir to ensured that I cover whole paper in given time. “In a nutshell Being a technical subject, it is very much predictable unlike subjects from humanities. Only vastness is the issue but it can be tackled by revision and writing practice. Biggest challenge is to write more points in an answer in given time. The answer should be at your fingertips and it comes only after revision and writing practice. So, revise more and write more” Wishing you all the best.
Yatish Deshmukh
Amit Shinde IRS IT,
Hello all, I am Amit Laxman Shinde, (IRS IT, 2018 Batch) and I’m sharing my agriculture optional strategy which helped me to get 306/500 marks in CSE 2017 as well as 239/400 in IFS exam 2017. In my opinion agriculture is one of the lengthy optional subjects which has very vast portion, so the key to approach the subject is to minimize syllabus with short notes and repeated revision which will help you to get good score. For those who are starting the UPSC journey I lie to advise them to first go through the syllabus of the subject, it covers almost every course of graduation except agril engineering and animal husbandry. Those who are from different backgrounds, please go through the question papers to as paper 2 has very technical requirements which includes topics like plant genetics, physiology and Entomology. Agriculture is a very good scoring subject in civil service examination, and you can also take same optional subject in IFS exam too, but the question patterns both exams are quite different, IFS exam demands more technical and scientific approach while the civil service mains papers demands simple but comprehensive approach of preparation. I will advise you all to plan for whole year and prepare optional subject before starting your preparation for prelims, this will give you more confidence in preparation and will allow you to give more time to general studies preparations. Before starting the core subject, please go through previous years question papers and limit yourself to the important topics only, if possible, try to write down the answer of every asked question in short and put together these in your notes which can be uesd for your final revision before the exam. I personally found that paper 1 has very general question and preparing for the same requires comparatively less time, but the paper 2 has many complicated topics which requires deep understanding, so plan your preparation accordingly. As 2nd paper has technical knowledge involved, answers written in scientific language with precise examples, diagrams, etc will help you to get very good score (above 170). The question pattern for optimal paper is also changing these days, they are asking more questions on minor topics like food policy and seed technology in Compulsory sections, so please go through whole syllabus and prepare for every topic thoroughly, this will help you to improve your choice of questions to attempt in exam which ultimately help to boost your score. Last but not least, try to give as many tests for optional paper as you can, as attempting complete paper is also a challenge for many, and test writing also improve your confidence for approaching the exam. I am joining the agriculture degree notes links and the booklist for Agriculture optional preparations here, hope this will help you in your endeavour. Please feel free to contact me any time, I will be happy to help you all. Best of luck . Reference book list. Paper 1st. 1. Agronomy – principles of agronomy by reddy and reddy. 2. Soil science and soil water conservation – Introduced to soil science by D K Das. 3. Agriculture economics – Economics of farm production and management by V. T. Raju. 4. Agriculture Extension – Graduation notes. Paper 2nd. 1. Genetics – fundamental of genetics by B. D. Singh. 2. Plant breeding and seed technology – Essentials of plant breeding by Phundan Singh. 3. Plant physiology – Plant physiology by Pandey and sinha. 4. Horticulture – Graduation notes. 5. Plant pathology and entomology – Graduation notes.
Amit Shinde
Akshay Bhorde IFS,
Hello Aspirants, This is Akshay Bhorde IFS (2017 exam) sharing my Agriculture Optional strategy which help me to make good score in mains examination. Agriculture marks in civil services (302/500) and IFS exam (245/400). Agriculture is good scoring subject in Civil services as well as Forest service mains examination. With correct strategy and its sincere execution one can score 300+ marks easily. Who can option Agriculture as an optional Subject? Agriculture is a technical subject and needs understanding of technical terms especially in agriculture paper 2. Aspirants with academic background of agriculture botany and zoology can take this as optional and students from engineering background s can also choose this optional but need to take little bit more efforts. The other benefits of opting agriculture is to we can take same subject in IFS mains exam as syllabus 45-50 % syllabus is common. It will also help in agriculture part of General studies syllabus in GS1 and GS3. How to start? Syllabus- For any optional subject, syllabus is the best way to start with, its give you an idea about planning strategy. Paper 1- It includes basic farm practices (agronomy), ecology, soil science, Agriculture economics and agriculture extension. This paper is easy to understand and even gets good marks up to 170 each proper strategy. Paper 2 – This paper includes subjects like plant breeding, genetics, seed technology horticulture and food technology. This part required multiple revisions as this part so one should understand the concepts rather mugging up things. Tips for preparation 1. First of all, breakup the syllabus into subject and sub topics and write down the previous year questions accordingly. It will help you to set daily, weekly targets. (This breakup of syllabus and questions you can get readymade from us) 2. You can start with basic book – fundamental of Agriculture by Arun Katyayan vol 1 and 2. It will give you overview of syllabus. 3. Then start with the reference book for each subject. See the breakup of topic in each particular subject and see the previous year questions asked on that topic and make notes on that topics and try to covers all the questions answers. 4. In this way you can cover each topic under particular topics will be done. The final notes will help you in doing multiple revisions. Because its very difficult to reference books again and again especially before exam. 5. Answer writing – To get 300+ marks one must do answer writing regularly. I used to write pervious years questions daily basis. Write at least one answer daily which will help you to improve presentation skill and content improvement. 6. Use of flowchart, diagrams are necessary in both papers to improve the marks as well as presentation. Make diagrams in notes making itself so that it will used to while making answers. 7. Test series – As there is no good test series for agriculture in the market, you can rely upon previous year question papers or Krushna Bhokare Sir’s online test series is better than any institutions test series. It will help you in practicing as many questions and completing the whole syllabus also. 8. Booklists – • Fundamentals of agriculture by Arun Katyayan Vol 1 & 2 • Agronomy – Reedy and Reddy • Soil science – D K Das • Agriculture Economics – V T Raju • Agriculture Extension – G L Ray and TNAU notes • Plant breeding and genetics – B D Singh • Seed technology – ANGRAU notes and Agriinfo.in etc • Plant physiology – pandya and sinha • Horticulture – TNAU and ANRAU notes 9. Current affairs – To enrich our answers we have to add current affairs into our answers to make it differently from other candidates. You can make notes from newspapers eg. Ashok Gulatis blog in Indian Express, Rajyasabha (rstv) videos on agriculture, Government schemes, budgetary provisions etc. and used it in answers accordingly. “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” – Bemjamin Franklin So planning is most important throughout your preparation of competitive exams, If you plan your optional strategy and act accordingly then you can achieve good score in Agriculture optional . I wish you all the best …!
Akshay Bhorde