"When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all your thoughts break their bounds. Your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction, and you find yourself in a new, great and wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties and talents come alive, and you discover yourself to be a greater person by far than you ever dreamt yourself to be."
Maharishi Patanjali Yoga Sutra before 2200 years.
How to select the the right optionals for IAS Mains
At least 10 percent of the comments this blog receives is about how to select
the the right optionals for IAS Mains so I thought instead of replying
individually why not post an article on choosing the optionals for the IAS exam
which would benefit all the blog readers. And this includes those who have
never appeared for the IAS Mains yet and even those who have appeared but are
thinking about switching over to some different optional.
BUT WHAT DOES THE RIGHT OPTIONAL FOR IAS MEAN?
sure it means differently to different people but what does it mean
most popular optional?
understand or which you find interesting?
with easy availability of study materials like books and notes?
for which one 'best' coaching is available?
with some previous base in graduation or post-graduation?
optional with the best results in the IAS exam?
I have covered all the points that majority of the IAS aspirants consider
before selecting the right optionals for Mains. Obviously, you might consider
only one of the above points as the basis for selecting your Mains optional or
consider multiple criteria. So let's take them up one by one.
IAS beginners choose an optional simply because it is considered 'scoring'.
Some of the optionals that are considered scoring are Public Administration and
Geography. While 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. In fact the average marks scored by Mains candidates in Pub Ad in
2008 Mains was 266 which is quite high considering that it is the most
preferred optional among IAS aspirants.
should score be the sole criteria for selecting the Mains optional or are there
other related basis for selecting your mains optional? This gets us to the
that come within this definition are Geography, Public Ad, Sociology, History,
and Psychology. These four IAS optionals alone account for
about 50 percent share of the Mains pie and the rest 22 optionals, taking
Literature subjects as one, for the rest.
gives you some idea about the 'popular optionals for IAS'. But why are these
optionals so popular while the rest aren't so popular? Here are some reasons:
like Pub Ad and Geog have definite syllabus and Pub Ad has quite limited
syllabus especially for P2 so you can cover it within 5 months or so.
require limited coaching for Pub Ad as most of the syllabus involves
History optional for IAS is quite popular simply because there are so many
History post graduates and even graduates with history as a subject. Also we
all studied History as part of our school curriculum and most of us found it
interesting and some, even scoring.
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.
is easy to understand and very interesting as the topics covered concern the
very society we are a part of.
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.
this we come to another related question, are all popular optionals scoring or
to put it another way are the not-so-popular optionals for IAS not scoring
put it bluntly. Popularity has actually got nothing to do with the scoring
potential of an optional. If you want proof, read on. Shah Faesal topped
the 2010 IAS exam with Urdu Litt. as one of the optionals, second being Pub
Ad. 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.
common to all these IAS toppers? Except one, all opted for one non-popular
optional. And let me also mention that if you read their interviews they chose
the optionals based on their interest and backgroundand not because
they were scoring or popular.
fact that they have scored well in both the optionals (that's why they topped)
and not just the popular ones proves that all subjects are equally scoring. So
choosing an optional based only on the scoring criteria is incorrect.
about the coaching criteria?
deciding to select an optional on the basis of the coaching available first
determine whether you require coaching in the first place? You must've realized
this can only be determined after you've selected an optional, not before it.
So I feel selecting an optional simply on the basis of the coaching available
is like saying " I can never clear the Civil Services exam without
coaching". And once you become completely dependent on coaching then good
luck to you as I have already written in my Mains 2010 GS analysis how unpredictable
the IAS exam is becoming not just for you but the most well known coaching
classes as well.
course, it does help if there is good coaching available for the IAS
optionals you'vealready selected.
an optional with some previous background
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 optionals 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.
point again proves that previous base and interest are more important factors
in selecting the right optional for IAS than merely popularity or scoring
potential. People who have opted for the most obscure subjects like Literature,
Veterinary Science, Mathematics have scored heavily in the Mains simply because
they were so much in love with their optionals.
the good fortune of having a chat with the 2008 IAS topper Karthik Adapa when
we had enrolled for mock interview at Vajiram. He was already in the IPS that
time and I asked him about the reason for choosing Psychology and he said he
simply loved Psychology, that's why. Nothing about the score or popularity.
THUMB RULES FOR SELECTING THE RIGHT OPTIONAL FOR IAS
you know more about it
not put you to sleep
you think out of the box
books available easily
think about the score at this stage, just focus on selecting an optional with
the above qualities and remember, this will differ for different aspirants.
Once you have mastered the syllabus and have adequate writing practice the
marks will follow.
chosen Public Administration but I find it quite boring, especially Paper 1
Pub Ad usually seems boring to most people but many fall in love with it once
they have read and re-read the important books. If you still find it going over
your head ask yourself why did you choose Pub Ad? Is it simply because of its
xyz optional but i cannot answer the questions correctly
fact that you find the optional interesting is half the battle won. As far
answer writing is concerned you might consider joining some good test series to
hone your writing skills. Once you have enough writing practice marks will not
be an issue.
have any previous base in any of the optionals or I don't want to choose my
graduation subjects, what should I do?
go through the above thumb rules again and try reading something from the basic
books of the optional you plan to take up. If you feel you can cope up with the
subject then go for it otherwise try another one.
optional should I opt along with xyz?
UPSC disallows us from selecting similar subjects. The combination of
optional subjects that you cannot take up are:
Science & International Relations and Pubilc
& Accountancy and Management
·Anthropology and Sociology
·Mathematics and Statistics
·Agriculture and Animal
Husbandry & Veterinary Science
·Management and Public
branches of engineering
Husbandry & Veterinary Science and Medical Science
of two Literature Subjects
you've already selected one of the two optionals for IAS, good. I am sure there
will be one more subject that will appeal to you. Go for that one. Don't worry
about the complimentary aspect. The optionals need not be complimentary for you
to crack this exam.
some optionals that will be useful from GS Mains point of view
this is for reference purpose only. Actually every optional in some way or the
other contributes towards the GS or Essay preparation.
covers polity and India and the world part
covers polity and governance part
covers the history part
covers Statistics. Ditto for Statistics optional
covers GS geography, climate change, environment and other related sections
also covers polity
covers the Economy part of GS mains
covers questions on social issues as well as one Essay option
SOME POPULAR COMBINATIONS OF IAS OPTIONALS
is just for your knowledge. Nowhere am I suggesting you take up the same
otherwise what I said above would be idiotic.
and Pub Ad
and Pali Litt.
Ad and Psycho
Ad and Geography
Ad and History
summarize this long post (couldn't help it), any optional that you find
interesting, stimulating, fun to learn is right for you. 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. I hope this post helped selecting the right optionals for IAS a much
easier task. Eagerly awaiting your feedback!