Thursday, May 17, 2012

Selecting Optional

Selecting Optional :- 

By Rugved Thakur IAS .

Very simple advice was given to me by a retired I.A.S officer at the start of my preparation - choose only those optionals that you like. So I selected History and Public Administration.
The idea behind selecting an optional that you like is that you will have to spend more than 2 years studying it. At no point during the preparation can you get tired or bored with the optional. You do not know how long you will have to prepare for Civil Services Examination. If one requires 2-3 attempts then for each attempt one should be ready to keep reading on the optional subjects and trying to improve one's score in the optionals.

It is obvious that if we select the optional subject similar to our subject of graduation, our preparation time will get reduced. Also since we have spent 3-4 years on the subject during our graduation, we will have better command on it. We will have a strong foundation in that subject and as a result will be able to tackle the questions better.

The flip side to selecting the same optionals as our graduation subject is that we may not necessarily like the subjects. Graduation subjects are often selected taking economic factors into consideration - good prospects of job, family business etc. One can still manage graduation in subjects we don't really like. Civil Services Examination will require a much thorough preparation and far more time with the subject. So if you don't enjoy it, the whole exercise will become labourious and that is not a good way to go about the civil services examination.

Another factor to be considered in selecting same graduation and civil services examination optionals is the difficulty level of the subject - Specifically Engineering, Medical Subjects or other science subjects. One should select these subjects only if one is really interested in them. They involve a lot more effort than the other optional subjects. The Engineering examination of each semester is challenging by itself. To study all 8 semesters together will be a Herculean task. If one is very much interested in these subjects, would it not be better to pursue the academic line itself as opposed to the civil services? Well, that is for each person to answer for themselves.

Availability of books and other material also needs to be considered while selecting the optionals. The best way is to ask people who are preparing for the examination with those optionals. 

The most popular optionals are - 

  1. Public Administration
  2. Geography
  3. History
  4. Psychology
  5. Sociology
  6. Political Science
  7. Marathi Literature (In Maharashtra)
One should not select optionals just because some successful candidate had the same optionals. Each individual is different with his/her own likes and dislikes. So following someone blindly should be avoided. One should play to his/her own strengths and choose those optionals in which he/she is comfortable.

There also goes around a thought that some optionals are better scoring than the others. There is no justification for that. Yes, some optionals require more study than the others. But if the required amount of effort is put in, there is no reason why a person cannot get 180-200 marks (out of 300) in any optional.

The above mentioned are the main factors to be considered while selecting the optional subjects. Some ancillary factors for selecting optional subjects are - common syllabus between the two optionals, common syllabus with General Studies, availability of a guide/teacher, colleagues with same optionals for group study and easy access to study material etc.    

Disclaimer: taken from


  1. I am preparing for UPSC from Marathi.
    Is this good for me because i have done BE.
    Preparing from marathi is going to lead any problem for me?

    1. c u can prepare in marathi,,..there are many who cracked exam in marathi..but u have to work extra cause books available in marathi are less ..everytime u need to some or other english resource crunch is the only problem in marathi..n if ur good in marathi writing then no issues..

  2. sir plz post a guide map in detAIL for public admn,. i am tom prepare this optional during the time period b/w prelims & mains only.

    1. see..go for the booklist provided in this blog for pub ad..dont read too many books just focus more on improving ur understanding..try to finish ur first reading in 45 days..and write one question answer per day..

  3. sir,i am graduating from coep next yr.My branch is civil engineering.please tell me d names those who r taking civil as a optional and got selected in UPSC...

  4. Hello Sir,
    I have given my pre this year. I had chosen my optionals as pub ad and geography previously but i am thinking of changing my optional from geography to pali. but i am slightly confused..
    1. Is it risky to change the optional at this point of time
    2. What is the range of marks people score in Pali?
    3. Am hearing weird things that 2012 people scored good marks in Pali so this year, you may not score.Pali optional will affect your interview, etc. Sir how far is this true?
    Please help...

    1. First important thing is changing optional is one of the most difficult thing to decide as there are many pros and cons associated with it. As far as changing optional is considered first thing is how much Geography syllabus is covered by you. If you have covered major part then don't fall for Pali stick to your optional. If you haven't covered it, then you can think of Pali as a only available way. Range of marks for Pali varies may be 280 to 320 if you done good study.
      Actually none of us took Pali as optional so I will say you should discuss with a candidate who has taken that optional as he will be better position to guide.

  5. cracking ias is not an easy task but choosing which course to be done for preparation is more difficult becoz if you dont hav the aim in mind then you need to be sure
    For this
    this will really help you as they have many options
    Thank you

  6. Sir,being from engineering background i am facing difficulty in choosing optional..i have gone through syllabus and i found history,,and sociology interesting..sir would you please kindly guide me with the kind of approachthat i will need regarding this that i will be able to select optionals

  7. Dear Sir,
    I'm an Engineering graduate aspiring to give 2013 UPSC exam.
    I have selected Geography as one optional. I think that I can do well with "Pali" subject as 2nd optional, but I'm in dilemma because it is being said that from 2014 it is more likely that there won't be optionals. Please guide me on this.

  8. Sir i appeared in this 2012 prelims and optimistic about the result. I have taken PubAd and Sociology as a my optionals.
    So sir can you please guide how to start the subject as i am having no basic knowledge about this and have to prepare on my own. Your guidance will be helpful to me sir.

  9. Kshirsagar Sir, could you please provide me with the contact details of I.P. Singh and Bhushan Patil's IAS classes? I cannot locate them on the internet...