The modifications carried out to the UPSC civil services examination in 2013 led to the decrease of optional subjects from two to one. Till then, optional papers were the decisive factors in becoming a civil servant.
Previously the total marks for the mains optional subject were 1200 marks. In the new scheme, the optional paper accounts for only 500 marks. The value of the optional paper thus reduced from 52% to 24% from 2013. From the statistics, it may seem that the importance of optional paper is diminishing. But, it is far from the truth.
UPSC CSE Mains syllabus includes four general studies papers. Only a few aspirants are capable of scoring 100+ marks in each of these papers to obtain a call to the interview round. For them, optional paper is truly optional. Even if they score average marks in the optional, they can get through. But for many, this is not the case. Optional paper is their support.
Many aspirants score merely above-average marks in the general studies papers. For them, optional paper is a benefit to score more and stay in the race. This is why even in the new pattern of syllabus optional paper still carries its significance.
But, the great puzzle is how to choose the optional subject vis-a-vis the changed pattern.
How to Choose the UPSC Civil Services Exam Optional Subject?
From the above, it is clear that the optional subject enhances your chances of becoming a civil servant. Thus, picking the right optional subject is the key.
There are some factors to consider while choosing an optional subject that suits you and helps you score more. Here are some:
Often, aspirants are seen picking the wrong optional due to several influences and waver at the exam. The purpose is they are not comfortable with the subject. It is why the optional subject you choose required to be comfortable for you. That is, you must be able to read it with ease, understand it and prepare without any doubts. It must be a subject of your desire.
UPSC has provided a long list of optional subjects to choose from. Give a precise look into the syllabus of each and every subject. For a fruitful outcome, pick the one where you sense that the given syllabus can be finished on time simultaneously with the preparation for general studies papers.
- Exam Mania
Among UPSC aspirants, the trend of the exam plays a role in their choice of optional subject. The exam course concerns the optional subjects that did well in the past five years. Currently, subjects like Public Administration, Sociology, History, Geography, Political Science and Psychology are Mania.
Note: It is not required for you to follow the trend. There are many successful aspirants who did not follow the trend. It all comes back to their own strategy of preparation.
Few Tips for preparing mains
- Regulating with General Studies
The pattern change in the mains exam made a unique problem for the aspirants. The digest of general studies papers aligns with many optional subjects. For example GS Paper 1. The history part of this paper can be covered by an aspirant taking history optional. Likewise, a pub-ad student can efficiently align their preparation with that of GS paper 2.
Time is precious for everyone, particularly for UPSC aspirants. There is so much to study and revise. If you are left out with a shortage of time and planning to choose an option that is new to you, better choose the one for which you can study in a short time efficiently. Reading an optional subject from scratch is a difficult task. Coaching facilities aid you in saving time if you could use their services to the fullest. So, consider coaching as a factor while choosing the optional.
The factors mentioned above are not the only factors to consider while choosing an optional subject. There are many more depending on the individual. But, the above factors are worth considering either individually or combined for better scoring prospects. If you feel that there are other factors to consider, please share with us.