Optional Subjects-Picking the best combination is not easy

Picking any optional subject is not a joke that you have just to scratch the surface; you have to understand it thoroughly and develop a knowledge level that helps in identifying what is being asked and what answer is expected out of you.

The scheme of examination clearly indicates the importance of Optional Subject in your whole exam game-plan. The weightage of 1200 marks out of total 2000 marks in Main Examination says it all.

Hope there is no need to explain the significance what importance marks obtained in Main Examination plays in your over all result.

In Main Examination, looking at the current environment where contribution from General Studies has shown gradual decline in marks secured, significance of optional subjects come on fore.

The decision for choosing right set of optional subjects is not easy and news-flow relating to optional subjects and past data does not render much of straight assistance in selecting right optional subject.

In last 25 years, I have come across many candidates who had talent and capability to make it to IAS but, could not achieve and lost opportunity to turn their dreams in to reality.

Some of them were able to make it, but, settled for less like IPS, IRS or may be other services. There are numerous examples who were able to accomplish their goals and become IAS but some wrong decisions in respect to choice of optional subjects posed hindrance which cost them precious time and delayed their entry in to services.

Candidates generally make opinion about the optional subjects based on information they are exposed to. The trend now is that many candidates follow herd mentality and try to emulate toppers and pick those subjects which are producing more results. Without having prior knowledge, interest in the subject and unaware of the subject requirements, your decision to follow others is not a great idea.

This may not work in each and every case as you have to justify your decision with excellent preparation and then stunning performance which ensures success.

When it comes to choosing optional subject for Main Examination, there are three possible scenarios:

1. Pick both optional subjects which you have read in graduation/post-graduation and have prior knowledge.

2. Pick one subject which is from your academic background and select one new subject.

3. Pick both subject which are new to you.

1. Pick both optional subjects which you have read in graduation/post-graduation and have prior knowledge
This is most common situation where candidates keep their own subjects which they have read in graduation/post-graduation as they are familiar with the subject and feel confident.

In such circumstances, one has to build up on the knowledge base accumulated over years and have to penetrate a little deeper. It has been observed that the candidates, who formulate long-term plans, start preparation for Civil Services Examination from school level and become serious in second/third year of graduation and put in their best to accomplish the mission immediately after completing graduation.

The benefit is that one, you know the subject; two, you are in touch with studies; three, you have to delve a little deeper to come close to examination standards.

It is always better to devote time more willingly for higher rewards in your own subject than trying out luck with new subjects and attempting to build base with them.

Now, talking of CSE 2013, in current environment when in anticipation of proposed changes at Main Examination level, a section of candidates have postponed optional subjects preparation, this tactics would be more effective. For such candidates who have just started preparation, accepting their own subjects as optional subjects will require lesser time to prepare and a serious attempt will certainly uplift the level.

2. Pick one subject which is from your academic background and select one new subject
Those who wish to play safe and at the same time, desire to try out something different which helps them in secure high marks at Main Examination level; take chance and pick one subject which is new to them. 

The subjects in vogue, high scoring subjects, subjects with shorter syllabus, subjects which are manageable in shorter span of time are such themes which come in to play and many candidates try their luck with this calculative game-plan.

They aim to score very high marks with own subject and go for a safe second optional subject which gives at least average marks so that overall aggregate should be in the region of adequate range which helps them see through.

This happens both with humanities/science background candidates. And they pick such subjects which are performing, for which books/study material and proper guidance is available.

Some humanities subjects like Public Administration, Geography, History, Sociology, Psychology, Philosophy, Political Science & International relation fall in this category. Literatures of Languages are also in consideration list.

3. Pick both subjects which are new to you
This is what candidates with smartness and intellect do when they come to CSE with a pre-set strategy and adeptness.

Picking two new subjects and building up such a level of preparation which matches the standard CSE demands is not at all easy. But, every year, many candidates make cross-domain shift by leaving their own subjects and picking a set of subjects from humanities/literature of languages and produce wonderful results.

This is prevalent among science/engineering/medicine background candidates as they make a choice in favour of some most-popular optional subjects like Public Administration, Geography, Sociology, History, Philosophy, Psychology and Political Science & International Relations. Some of the Literature of Languages is also among top favourites.

The reason being, one, it makes a risky preposition if subject combinations from science/engineering/medicine are selected. It makes or breaks your attempt. Two, in any case General Studies preparation requires you to have a grip over some of the constituents which with wider coverage in shape of Optional Subjects can help prepare General Studies well. Three, these are performing subjects and a lot of insights/advice is available, which is of tremendous help to understand the trends. Four, quality study material and guidance in shape of coaching institutes also helps in managing the syllabus in short span of time. Five, success inspires success. A lot of confidence is installed when you see others performing which fills enthusiasm and motivates you to act upon.

Justify your decisions
Casual approach toward subject selection is sure recipe for disaster.

And picking any subject is not a joke that you have just to scratch the surface; you have to understand it thoroughly and develop a knowledge level that helps in identifying what is being asked and what answer is expected out of you.

Understanding UPSC requirements inside out, focusing aim on the ultimate goal and intelligent hard work make dreams come true for many candidates.

Last Update Sunday 25th December 2011     

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