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Juggling Three Optionals: How a Topper Mastered Both CSE and IFS to Achieve Success

Ekam Singh cracked the UPSC IFS 2023 with an AIR 56 on his fourth attempt. He had already been selected for the IRMS. His journey exemplifies why mentorship and genuine guidance are essential for succeeding in the UPSC journey.
Indian Masterminds Stories

Joining a coaching program and beginning preparations for the Civil Services is a popular approach on this challenging journey. But is it the most effective method? Many aspirants grapple with this question, especially those without any prior experience in preparing for such competitive exams. In 2020, Ekam Singh, a young man from Delhi, found himself in a similar situation. Despite a year of coaching, he struggled to make any progress with the test papers.

Ekam’s determination to simultaneously prepare for both the UPSC Civil Services Exam (CSE) and the Indian Forest Service (IFS) with three optional subjects initially made his situation worse. His name, Ekam, which reflects the belief that ‘Ishwar ek hai’ – ‘God is one,’  symbolized his quest for a mentor who could guide him on the right path. Despite immense challenges in finding appropriate guidance and resources, Ekam’s resolve remained strong. Eventually, under the mentorship of an experienced IPS officer, he began to understand the pattern and nature of the exam. By focusing on PYQs and consistently studying toppers’ videos for inspiration and strategies, Ekam made substantial progress.

In 2023, Ekam’s hard work paid off when he successfully cleared the UPSC IFS exam. His story underscores not only personal triumph but also the critical importance of tailored guidance and relentless dedication in overcoming the odds.

Speaking exclusively with Indian Masterminds, Ekam divulged the nuances of his inspiring journey.

Ekam Singh

FAILURE TO SUCCESS: JOURNEY SO FAR

He started preparing for civil services in 2019 after his graduation. So far, he has made four attempts at both the UPSC CSE and the IFS exam. In his first attempt in 2020, he could not even pass the prelims.

In his next attempt in 2021, he passed the prelims for both exams but did not clear the mains. In his third attempt in 2022, he reached the interview round for both exams. He was selected for the Indian Railway Management Service (IRMS) and placed on the reserve list for the CSE. However, he did not make it to the final list for the IFS exam.

In his fourth attempt in 2023, Ekam successfully cleared the IFS exam with an impressive All-India Rank of 56. He also attended the interview for the CSE this year but did not make it to the final list.

Ekam with his family

BACKGROUND

He is from Delhi. His father runs a shoe business, and his mother is a homemaker. He has a younger sister.

He completed his schooling up to the 12th grade in Delhi. He then earned a B.Sc. in Botany (Honors) from Hansraj College in 2019. Following this, he completed his M.Sc. in Environmental Studies from the Department of Environmental Studies, Delhi University, in 2021.

Between 2016 and 2018, he also made three unsuccessful attempts at the NEET exam.

UPSC

After graduation, he joined a coaching in Delhi for Civil Services preparation. However, even after a year of coaching, he struggled with solving test papers. He began to worry that he was on the wrong path and losing his way in his UPSC journey. Seeking better guidance, he reached out to senior IPS Mahesh Bhagwat through Telegram.

Ekam Singh, UPSC IFS – 23, AIR 56

Mr. Bhagwat advised him to analyze the syllabus and previous years’ papers to gain a better understanding of the exam’s nature. Following this advice, Ekam focused on the syllabus and solved all available previous years’ questions (PYQs) from the last 15 years. This helped him develop a better understanding of the exam and approach the questions with a fresh perspective. He concentrated on current affairs by regularly reading newspapers and journals.

When asked why coaching did not provide such guidance, Ekam said, “In every coaching center, there are many aspirants now. Coaching does not pay attention to every aspirant. Every aspirant has their ability and different way of understanding. They do not understand this and do not guide individually.”

For the mains exam, he practiced answer writing daily. In his last two attempts, he wrote answers for the mains, every day. He also made separate short notes for the exam, which helped him improve his speed and analytical skills.

His optional subjects for the IFS exam were Forestry and Geology, while for the CSE, it is History.

With his younger sister

INTERVIEW INSIGHTS

His interview was primarily based on his Detailed Application Form (DAF) and situational questions. The interview covered a wide range of topics, from environmental issues to sustainable forest management, and included some questions on Botany as well.

He was asked questions about forest management, such as “How to control forest fires? Explain a few ways,” and “How to manage forest plantations?”

A board member also inquired about his hobby, nature-based walking, and how it would benefit him in the forest services. Another member asked him what his first action would be if he became a forest officer.

Smile of success: Ekam Singh

MESSAGE

Giving a message to aspirants, he said, “Aspirants need to avoid any misguidance. Do not follow or join any random coaching. If still needed, go through reviews and research properly. Seek guidance from senior aspirants and toppers.”

“Understand the syllabus first and solve previous years’ questions (PYQs). Prepare yourself with the basics first, like NCERT or other standard books,” he added.

FUTURE AIMS

Even after securing the prestigious IFS job, he is still attempting the CSE this year. He said, “I will try for IAS as long as I have attempts left. Apart from that, in service, I will do my work honestly and will try to implement the government’s schemes properly.”


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