How to choose best optional Subject for IAS UPSC Exam?

How to choose best optional Subject for IAS UPSC Exam?

Even though large importance is given to General subjects due to 2013 revised pattern, but a selection of right optional subject is also very important. You must not just ignore its importance instead you should be a perfectionist in the optional subject you select as it has been reduced to one.

Almost all the candidates have this question in their mind, which subject is to be selected so that they can gain more marks.
First thing first, lets us make it clear in a single sentence that according to 2013 changes the candidates of UPSC exam are supposed to select only one subject as their optional subject.This optional subject will consist of two papers of 250 marks each. So our task of selecting the best optional subject has become much easier.

What does this optional subject mean to an IAS candidate?

For a different candidate, this optional subject is different. There is a list of subjects included in the optional subject list of the mains exam pattern, Candidates are supposed to select their optional subject from that list. Optional subjects list are:

  1. Agriculture
  2. Animal Husbandry & Veterinary Science
  3. Anthropology
  4. Botany
  5. Chemistry
  6. Civil Engineering
  7. Commerce and Accountancy
  8. Economics
  9. Electrical Engineering
  10. Geography
  11. Geology
  12. History
  13. Law
  14. Management
  15. Mathematics
  16. Mechanical Engineering
  17. Medical Science
  18. Philosophy
  19. Physics
  20. Political Science and International Relations
  21. Psychology
  22. Public Administration
  23. Sociology
  24. Statistics
  25. Zoology

As this, itself comprises of almost all the streams, so no candidate can get disappointed.
As the competition level is very today optional subject mean to the candidates as;

1.Scoring optional:

IAS beginners prefer to choose that subject as an option which is like to give more marks and considered more scoring. Some of the optional subject which is considered to be more scoring are Public Administration and Geography.Looking at the past score of these subjects Geography has returned marks with 400+ in IAS Mains, many candidates have been scoring 340+ and 350+ in Public Administration in the past few years.

2.Popular Optional:

The another factor which the candidates think in their mind while selecting an optional subject is how popular that subject is. The popular optional subjects are like Geography, Public Administration, Sociology, History and Psychology. These four IAS optional alone accounts for about 50 percent share of the Mains pie than the rest 22 optional.
Next question arises that why only these subjects are popular and not the rest:

The syllabus of Public Administration and Geography is quite limited. It takes less time to cover the whole syllabus compared to other subjects. The average time taken by these subjects are 5 months. As it involves self-study you only require limited Coaching for it.

History is popular as an optional subject as there are many people who do their graduation and post graduation in History and also it is that subject which we have been studying from our school days. It is quite interesting and Scoring. The another fact about this subject is that as it is History which is an event which have already taken place in past, so there is no scope of any changes which can take place in the topics of this subject. It will remain as it is forever.

Geography is a semi-scientific subjects and a favourite among Engineers and Doctors for its laws, principles, and map-based questions. No wonder so many IAS aspirants opt for it.

Talking about Sociology as it is all about the happenings in our society, it is easy to understand.
Psychology has pulled, I feel, simply because it is a combination of all the above attributes and also due to the fact that it is probably the only optional where only one name prevails for coaching: Mukul Pathak of Vajiram.

3.Are the not-so-popular optional subjects for IAS not scoring as well?

Let’s state it in Brief popularity has nothing to do with the scoring potential of an optional subject. History of mark sheet is a record of it, Shah Faesal topped the 2010 IAS exam with Urdu Literature as one of the optional, second being Pub Administration.Mona Pruthi, the 2006 IAS topper chose English Litt. and Sociology. Mutyala Raju, the 2007 topper took Electrical Engineering and Mathematics. Karthik Adapa aced the 2008 IAS exam with Zoology and Psychology.
Almost all over here opted for a non-popular optional subject. They choose theirs optional on the basis of their interest and background.So, it’s nor necessary that in order to get a high score you have to select only popular optional subjects.
The thought that selection of an optional subject based on the scoring criteria is incorrect.

4.Coaching Criteria:

The first thing every candidate must decide that do they ready need any coaching? This you should think only after you have selected your optional subject. Selecting your optional subject based on the Coaching that is available to you near your vicinity is like saying to yourself .’ i can’t clear the civil exam without coaching’. It is like defeating yourself before reaching the battleground.If there is good coaching available for the optional subject which you have selected and you are really in need of that coaching then you can apply for it.

5. Choose an optional with the previous background:

Many people who’ve graduated or done Masters in some subject opt for it in the CSE. This is really helpful as you’re already familiar with the subject and will need to study just one subject from scratch. This is where graduation in humanities really helps as the most popular IAS optional listed above are included within the “Arts” subjects. So if you’re pursuing graduation or masters in any of the Arts subjects and plan to take it up in the IAS mains, make sure you pursue it seriously and focus more on the syllabus common to your degree as well as the IAS Mains.

This point is to make it clear that previous base and interest are helpful in selecting the optional subject. It is like you have already learned that subject and now just have to brush yourself.In this way, your knowledge over that subject increase and becomes firm and finally helps you in scoring outstanding marks.
There are people who opt for a blow out subjects like Literature, Veterinary science, Mathematics and still have scored heavily in the Mains, just because of their interest and love towards that subject.

2008 IAS topper Karthik Adapa when we had enrolled for a mock interview at Vajiram, he was already in the IPS that time was asked about the reason for choosing Psychology as his optional and he said he simply loved Psychology, that’s why. Nothing about the score or popularity.

Here are some pointers to choose tight optional subject for IAS are:

The subject that you select should:
Excite you, encourages you to know more about it, you should not feel bored about it and fall asleep, it should bring your innovative ideas and thought from you, it should make you think out of the box, the books for that subject must be easily available , dint think about the score, focus on the selection.
You have to master your syllabus and do adequate written practises and accordingly the marks will follow.

You can select any optional subject as you like, it will help you in GS and essay preparation in some or the other way, like:
Pol Sc. covers Polity and India and the world part
Pub Ad covers Polity and governance part
History covers the history part.
Mathematics covers Statistics. Ditto for Statistics optional
Geography covers GS geography, climate change, environment and other related sections
Law also covers Polity
Economics covers the Economy part of GS mains
Socio covers questions on social issues as well as one Essay option

Don’t worry about popularity or scoring potential. Both are just an indicator. Every optional is equally scoring provided you have mastered the syllabus and the answer writing aspect.

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  1. Nandini says:

    I am doing bsc(H) chemistry . what i take optional subject? I like history but not ancient .i have some doubt as chemistry as an optional sub that they give many rxn,and equation ,this is my weak point .what i can do?what is the best coaching institute for ias?

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