Optional Subject Selection: pick ‘One’ optional subject that suits you the best?

As per the current format for Civil Services (Main) Examination, despite the fact that now, only ‘One’ optional subject is to be picked, candidates still face problem in choosing only ‘One’ optional subject that can contribute in final success.

Here is a little help in selecting Optional Subject. 


 By:      On Saturday 31st March 2018

For candidates who pretends or assumes that they are on the right track as far as choice for optional subjects for civil services Examination is concerned.

But, the point for consideration is, do you have aptitude for that subject? Even if you have some liking still do you have capacity to build the subject knowledge as per examination standards?

Being familiar with the topics given in the syllabus, is not enough as the approach is slightly different here from your academic studies.

We have listed a few suggestions, a dozen to be precise, on which you can weigh the optional and can choose the right optional subject for you.

These suggestions are just for your reference to take a clue from it, if you think useful. You need not to consider all factors, or in the given sequence. Whatever you choose, it should be well thought of and after spending some evaluating various aspects related to optional subjects.

12 Factors to keep in mind while short-listing a few optional subjects from long list of subjects available and finally, finding the ‘One’ optional subject that can chip in some help in your final selection:

1. Educational background can back your choice
Make a List few optional subjects which you have studied in recent past. The knowledge base you built up can guide you while choosing optional subjects and can help you understand needed outlook in any particular optional subject.

Be sure that during academics, you really adored these subjects and executed these in a satisfactory way.

2. Familiarity with the subject
It is easier to understand and build your base if you have familiarity with any particular subject. You are aware about your strengths and weaknesses and can understand it well that you can go ahead with that subject or not. If yes, then how far?

If any of the optional subjects available has some familiarity, add those subjects in your wish-list.

3. Interest in the subject
Being familiar with any subject doesn’t mean that you cultivate interest in it or if you have read it earlier that alone cannot develop interest in that particular subject.

You need to have proper understanding of the subject, till the time you don’t have interest, how can you continue preparation as you move ahead from the basics. It is all about your comfort level as you have to read it for many months; may be years and have to prepare it effectively to justify your decision.

Better, you read some basic books of the subject concerned (NCERT Books are wonderful resource) and judge if you could enjoy and understand the contents.

See, if you can add some subject in the list you have made.

4. Aptitude for the subject

How-so-ever attention grabbing the subject is or you are familiar with that subject, till the time you don’t have aptitude, you can’t move forward. Skills and knowledge can be built up over time. Interest can be developed once acquaintance grows and learning progresses.

It is said higher the aptitude; better the prospects of an outstanding performance.

5. Gaze at the syllabus

Irrespective of whether it is your own subject or you have added up a new optional subject for consideration, you must contemplate the syllabus defined by UPSC for the subject and carefully read each topic covered therein. 

A well-defined syllabus makes your choice easier where you can spot the areas you need to cover and the depth/details it involves. 

When you read it 2-3 times, you understand the depth and coverage that gives you real sense about the UPSC examiner’s intent. This would certainly help in taking a rational decision in utter confusing environment where candidates are surrounded by some prejudices with some optional subjects.

Don’t get lured by short syllabus or such gimmicks as UPSC does not allow such discrimination based on syllabus size. Again, not every aspirant opt these optional subjects is able to succeed. 

Still, you find any optional subject which can work to your benefit; you take your own judgment.

6. Previous years’ question papers reveal the truth

On the face of it, syllabus seems manageable with availability of guidance, books and study material. It may seem so; but, look at the past years’ question papers and trends before finally deciding about any subject.

Quality of question and the way these are presented in Main Examination question papers would give some idea about the necessities and amount of effort you need to put in to match the exam standards.

7. Study material availability

It is an important criterion when you opt for any particular subject. You should understand the examination standards and examiners’ expectation which clearly indicate that anything of average quality will not work here. 

As you need to have competitive edge, you make sure the availability of relevant authentic and up-to-date books and study-material to cover the complete syllabus. 

Basic books do not suffice the purpose and you need many standard text-books to cover the complete syllabus. For majority of optional subjects, candidates depend on text-books that are printed with some gap; hence, these fail to update you on current and evolving issues.

Many a time even standard set of books do not fully cover the syllabus. So, you need relevant, up-to-date and crisp content which covers syllabus fully from diverse sources. Here, internet plays a vital role in an effective preparation.

If, the subject you choose has enough study material which can fulfill your requirements, shortlist the subject for further consideration.

8. Capacity to absorb information related to subject

This becomes important as you have to manage preparation for four papers of General Studies along with the optional subject you are going to decide with this exercise.

You fully understand your capabilities and despite interest and aptitude for any particular subject, if you find any subject has staggering demand, think again before opting for such subject.

If any subject requires such extraordinary efforts which are beyond your capacity, better to ignore that subject and review another from the rest.

9. The nature of the subject and time it requires for preparation

Each and every subject has its own requirements and special demands which you need to execute.

You can’t escape this truth as you have to reach the examination level. It would never be the case that examination will adjust to your level, understand it clearly. 

Again, how much time it will require to reach examination level and do you have sufficient time to do that. You can have best of the study material and even top rated coaching, if you feel that you will not be able to do justice with it, better take any other subject.

10. Overlapping a portion of General Studies syllabus/help in other areas

When your short-listed subjects would continue to trim down and would be left with 2-3 optional subjects to find the most suitable one out of these, you can consider optional subjects that lend a hand in preparation.

Yes, it is logical to opt for some subject part of which gets covered with your rest of preparation. This complements what you study and help in managing you time well.

Political Science & International Relations, Public Administration, Psychology, History Geography, Sociology and even Philosophy have got syllabus overlapping with amplified domain of General Studies syllabus. Some of these optional subjects help in Essay and interview stage also.

Take a look at the subjects you have short listed and see if any falls in this category. Pick it up for further review.

11. Subject’s performance in the medium of writing examination

It may surprise you but, some optional subjects produce better result is English Medium or in Hindi.

Take example of Psychology which is predominantly chosen by English Medium candidates. If you plan to take Psychology in Hindi, you may not find many who back your views. 

Likewise, the most popular optional subject Public Administration has produced wonderful results with English medium but, the performance of Hindi medium candidates with Public Administration has not been that great. 

Subjects like History and Philosophy are predominantly considered to be the most favorite among Hindi-medium candidates. However, in recent years, this perception is changing fast and a lot of English medium candidates are being spotted in the merit-list.

So, before you zero in, try to find out the optional subject’s result trends based on this parameter. It can change the whole plan for the candidates. It is not so easy but, when you go little deep and explore, you can get some insights about the same.

12. Guidance/quality coaching availability

Not everyone is interested in Coaching that is why it has found space as the last reasons for consideration.

It is an important factor as in last few years, the examination has become innovative and much above the level it used to have. When you are hard pressed for time and wish to achieve a competitive edge, you can always reach out to the experts who can take you to the level this examination requires.

Look out for the subjects where you have trusted coaching institutes who innovate, follow the latest trends and fulfill you examination related requirements.

Good guidance can always be a deciding factor, if you desire or require, single out from the subjects you have picked up.

Time for action
Out of these first few reasons can help you in shortlisting few optional subjects you wish to take into consideration and subsequent factors can lend a hand to zero in on reaching the final decision.

We sincerely hope that these factors would help you in deciding which subjects are best suited to you for Civil Services Examination from the list of few subjects which surround your mind.

Following the above twelve factors, you would make an important decision to embark the journey toward the goal you have set for yourself.

Understand the requirements; work hard and move ahead to conquer the summit called Civil Services Examination.

Last Update Saturday 31st March 2018

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