How to select the best optional subject?’ is one question that haunts many UPSC CSE aspirants right from the start. This dilemma shows the importance of choosing the right IAS mains optional subject for every student. As per the current format, the number of optional subjects to be selected has been reduced to one and comprises two papers of 250 marks each.
The decision of selecting the best optional subject is very crucial and it plays a significant role in your overall score of the IAS exam. You need to select an optional subject in which you are comfortable to score high. There are various factors which enable the aspirants to choose a particular optional subject. While these may vary from person to person, they play an imperative role for the right selection.
Factors behind the Best Optional Subject Selection
Most students consider factors like a subject’s scoring potential, ease of understanding, availability of study materials like books and notes, their own academic background while choosing the IAS mains optional subject. Let’s have a look at some:
Certain optional subjects have gained popularity among the aspirants in the name of being ‘scoring.’ Optional subjects like Public Administration, Geography, History, Sociology, and Psychology are a popular choice among students because of the hype created that these subjects help you score well. They have well-defined and a very limited syllabus.
Most of the aspirants choose these popular subjects which increase competition and the chances of clearing the cut-offs decreases.
Coaching Institutes today are largely a money-making business, with only a few functioning with a non-profit approach. Instead of selecting best optional subject based on an availability of coaching institutes, you should analyze if you would require a coaching at all. For this, the foremost step is to select the optional itself. Only after selecting the subject you can decide if the coaching is necessary.
Having some previous background
Most often students end up choosing their graduation or masters subject as their optional as well. This is a rewarding strategy if you really like the subject and it intrigues you. Hence, a strong foundation and interest are important determinants in choosing an optional subject rather than scoring potential or popularity.
Tips for choosing the best optional subject for IAS Mains Exam
When you select the best optional subject, you are halfway through the examination. Apart from considering the above-mentioned factors, an aspirant has to look for various other sources. So, here are some practical tips which will help you to decide the best optional subject for the IAS mains examination.
- Study the list of optional subjects and narrow it down to one or two choices.
- Analyze the syllabus, question papers of previous years, past trends, and try to get some feedback from past aspirants who are well versed in the subject.
- Revisit your school and college days and think about your favorite subjects then. Analyze which areas of news interest you the most. This can help you in figuring out areas of your interest.
- Don’t base your choice on other’s opinion. Choose only what interests you the most. If you find it interesting, intriguing and fun to learn, then it is the one you should go for.
- A thorough understanding and loads of writing practice help you score well and it holds equally for all subjects.
- The familiarity of the subject, availability of books and other study materials, availability of faculty, the scope of peer discussion, recent trends of marks, the level of difficulty as per the syllabus and previous question papers etc help you to decide the subject you want to choose.
- An ideal optional would be the one you can finish studying in a time bound manner without hindering the time for GS preparation.
Overlapping the optional subject with General Studies
Overlapping strategy is a kind of study procedure where you choose an optional subject which forms a considerable part of General Studies as well. So, while studying for that subject you cover a considerable part of GS as well as the optional. Subjects like History, Geography and Public Administration overlaps with GS course material.
This strategy may sound alluring but only be adopted if the subject chosen genuinely interests you. Each and every optional subject is equally scoring if you study well for it.
Tips for Optimization of Optional Subject and GS Marks
- Avoid taking an optional subject which requires extensive preparation, if the time left before you is less than 4 months.
- Never choose an overlapping optional subject if you are weak in it, there is every chance that will backfire.
- An overlapping optional subject that is scoring but requires substantial preparation due to extensive syllabus can be adopted, only if you have the background/ previous exposure to the subject, or if there is an adequate amount of time left to grasp it.
- If the time is limited, select an optional paper which requires less time for a decent level of preparation.
We hope this article will help you in making the right decision for selecting the best optional subject for IAS mains. To enhance your writing skills for the IAS mains exam, follow the link. Start preparing for IAS Mains GS Paper by going through the following image:
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