Many students think that lot of intelligence and a high IQ level are required to clear this prestigious exam. The interesting fact is that UPSC looks for ordinary hard-working people who can understand the pulse of the people in the country. Definitely with hard work and determination, one can achieve anything in their life, and cracking this exam can be one’s dream come true!
Choosing the optional subject in the UPSC exam is quite critical and if you have made the right choice, then half the job is done. As per the latest syllabus, the number of optional subjects to be selected has been reduced to one, but aspirants year after year are still confused if they can make the right choice or not.
How to choose optional subjects for civil services?
The weightage of the optional paper is only 500 marks out of 2025 marks as per the latest pattern of the Civil Services exam so you cannot neglect it completely as it is still a deciding factor in the final ranks. This is due to the unpredictability associated with General Studies (GS)Papers (1000 marks GS + 250 marks essay) and Interview (275 marks).
How crucial is it to select the right optional subject?
Let’s check out a scenario where you are so strong in all your GS papers with consistent newspaper reading and note-making, then the decision of IAS Mains optional should not bother you so much. But unfortunately, very few aspirants fall into the “strong GS” category of students and hence you have to wisely choose an optional.
You need to select an optional subject where you are comfortable to score high in the mains. The level of comfort depends on many factors like the familiarity of the subject, accessibility of books and other study materials, the scope of peer discussion and faculty, trends in marks year after year, the level of difficulty as per the syllabus and previous question papers.
If the subject you took for your graduation is available in the list of optional subjects given, in most cases the same option will turn out as your comfortable one. The others look for an optional subject which you can finish in a time-bound manner without encroaching the time for GS preparation.
How to select the right optional subject for UPSC?
- First, go through the list of all the Optional Subjects. Read the names of the subjects over and over again till you are familiar with everything.
- Now think back to your school days and check which one was your most favorite subject at that point. Think about not just one but every subject in which you showed more interest and in which you scored high marks.
- Now think about your current syllabus and shortlist the subjects of GS you like more. A few people like history, polity/sociology and continue to be in touch with those books as though they were doing masters in those topics.
- Some individuals likewise have a pastime of reading the literature on their mother tongue language.
- Now go through the see the entire syllabi of all the optional subjects ranging from subjects like Agriculture to Russian Literature. There are many optional subjects given by the UPSC so the students must visit the UPSC official website and see the list of available optional subjects and go through the syllabus. Students with optional subjects as their graduation subjects like History, Geography or Political Science have the option to choose their graduation subjects itself as their optional subjects in the IAS exam.
For engineering students, there are also optional subjects pertaining to those areas in UPSC. But they are not the most preferred subjects. The reason is that you may lose the option of “Law of Averages”. Other subjects like Sociology, Psychology, Public Administration, etc are recommended by most students, which gives an edge over them in writing the Main examination.
Which is the most popular optional subject for UPSC?
In your preparation for UPSC, certain optional subjects are very popular. Here are the top 10 optional subjects:-
- Medical Science
- Animal Husbandry & Veterinary Science
- Commerce and Accountancy
- Literature Subject (Any)
Keep in mind the following aspects:
Don’t take an optional subject if you are weak in it, there is every chance that the end result would be compromised.
Don’t take an optional subject which requires extensive preparation, if the time left before you is quite less.
A well scoring optional subject, which might require a substantial amount preparation due to the vast nature of the syllabus can be adopted, if you have sufficient background exposure in that subject, or if there is adequate time left. If somewhat 1-2 years is available for preparation before the mains exam, a hardworking candidate might be able to finish standard textbooks of any optional subject.
The decision of selecting an optional subject is more or less a personal choice of that should be decided to take into account his/her strengths and weakness. Keep in mind that all optional subjects are high scoring if you have the right knowledge in that particular subject and if you can answer the questions with the latest requirements of UPSC.