How to Choose the Right Optional Subject for UPSC CSE
Embarking on the journey to become a civil servant, one crucial decision stands between you and success – choosing the right optional subject. In our years of guiding civil services aspirants, we at Vajiram & Ravi have witnessed the perplexity many face when confronted with this decision. The process is not just about selecting a subject; it’s a self-discovery journey that requires thoughtful consideration.
Why is Choosing the Right Optional Subject Important?
The optional subject carries a weightage of 500 marks out of the total 2025 marks in the UPSC CSE. This means that your performance in the optional subject can significantly influence your final rank and service allocation. Moreover, the optional subject also reflects your personality, interest, and aptitude. It shows the examiner your depth of knowledge, analytical skills, and intellectual traits.
Therefore, choosing the right optional subject is not just about picking a subject; it is about finding a subject that suits your abilities, interests, and goals.
How to Avoid the Common Mistakes in Choosing the Optional Subject?
Many aspirants make the mistake of choosing the optional subject based on external factors, such as popularity, success rate, coaching availability, peer pressure, etc. These factors may not be relevant or reliable for your individual case. What works for someone else may not work for you. Each aspirant has their own strengths, weaknesses, and preferences.
The danger of following external factors is that you may end up choosing a subject that is not compatible with your abilities and interests. This can lead to poor performance, lack of motivation, and wasted time and effort.
To avoid this trap, you need to introspect and analyze your own capabilities and interests. You need to ask yourself some critical questions, such as:
- Why do some aspirants succeed in one subject while others fail in the same subject in the same year?
- Why do some subjects seem easy to some aspirants while others find them difficult?
- Why has UPSC introduced scaling of marks for optional subjects?
The answers to these questions will help you understand the subject selection process better. You will realize that there is no universally right or wrong subject; there is only a right or wrong subject for you.
How to Follow a Systematic Approach to Choose the Optional Subject?
If you are still confused about which optional subject to choose, you can follow a systematic approach to narrow down your options and make a final decision. Here are the steps you can follow:
- First Stage: Book Evaluation
○ Read introductory-level books for the subjects you have shortlisted.
○ Evaluate your interest, comprehension, and recall ability for each subject.
○ Eliminate the subjects that you find boring, difficult, or irrelevant.
- Second Stage: Syllabus Assessment
○ Examine the UPSC syllabi for the remaining subjects.
○ Form impressions based on your book readings and compare them with the syllabi.
- Third Stage: Past Papers Analysis
○ Study the previous years’ unsolved papers for the remaining subjects.
○ Identify your ability to perceive hidden angles and dimensions in the questions.
○ Eliminate the subjects that have too many or too few questions that suit your analytical skills.
- Fourth Stage: Chapter-Specific Analysis
○ Choose a chapter from each of the remaining subjects and study it thoroughly.
○ Write answers to the previous years’ questions on that chapter.
○ Compare your answers with the model answers or toppers’ answers.
○ Eliminate the subjects that you cannot write satisfactory answers for.
How to Apply the Decision-Making Criteria?
After following the above steps, you should have one or two subjects left. To make the final decision, you need to apply the following criteria:
- Interest: Choose a subject that you are genuinely interested in and enjoy studying. This will keep you motivated and engaged throughout your preparation.
- Knowledge: Choose a subject that you have a good base of knowledge in or can acquire easily. This will save you time and effort and help you cover the syllabus faster and better.
- Relevance: You can choose a subject that is relevant to the UPSC CSE and your general studies preparation. This will help you integrate your optional subject with the rest of the exam and enhance your overall score.
How to Address the Common Dilemmas?
Some aspirants may face some common dilemmas while choosing the optional subject, such as:
- For Postgraduates: Should you choose your postgraduate subject as your optional subject?
○ The answer depends on your interest, knowledge, and relevance of your postgraduate subject. If you are confident and comfortable with your postgraduate subject, you can choose it as your optional subject. However, if you face any difficulties or doubts, you can consider other options as well.
- For Graduates: Should you choose your graduation subject as your optional subject?
○ The answer is similar to the above. If you have a good grasp of your graduation subject and find it interesting and relevant, you can choose it as your optional subject. However, if you have lost touch with your graduation subject or want to explore other subjects, you can do so as well.
- For Science Graduates: Should you choose a science subject or a humanities subject as your optional subject?
○ The answer depends on your preference and aptitude. If you have a strong background and interest in science, you can choose a science subject as your optional subject. However, if you want to diversify your knowledge and skills, you can choose a humanities subject as well. The key is to choose a subject that aligns with your abilities and interests and aids your general studies preparation.
Choosing an optional subject is not a one-size-fits-all process. This guide by Vajiram & Ravi provides a structured approach, but individual preferences and circumstances vary. If the advice offered here aids your decision, fantastic! If not, trust your instincts and choose based on what aligns with your unique journey towards becoming an IAS officer. Remember, the subject is a tool; your approach defines success. Best of luck on your path to excellence!