“We are our choices”, famously said by the French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre. There is no better way to convey the significance of choosing an optional topic for the Civil Services (Mains) Exam. I’ll go through the advice I provide to candidates picking their optional topic at Officer’s IAS Academy, the best IAS coaching institute, and other institutions.
Importance of UPSC IAS optional
- The Mains Examination’s optional papers, Papers VI and VII, each carry 500 marks or about 25% of the total points awarded for the written and personality tests combined.
- Toppers advance through the Essay paper and their Optional subject. In other words, if you do well in these two areas and do okay in the General Studies section, your odds of topping the class are quite strong.
- Your ability to receive your dream service, dream cadre and dream interview call depends on your performance on the optional paper.
- Before I recommend how to pick an Optional, let me first explain “How Not to Choose an Optional.”
How not to choose an Optional?
- Believing in the myth of the ‘Trend’– In the civil service, it’s common to hear the phrase “This optional is trendy presently with UPSC.” You had best read it if you want to get great marks. Others claim that “too many individuals” are currently choosing to participate in this choice. Avoid taking it. There is less chance of you getting a decent score. These two claims are, at best, illogical. If UPSC were to “like” one Optional above another in any given year, the majority of that year’s high scorers would have chosen that specific Optional. This is not the case. Even if it happened by chance, it wouldn’t mean that UPSC was “favoring” one Optional over the other. Therefore, never fall for the “trend” fallacy.
- Going with the flow– Some aspirants “go with the flow,” or they select their optional based on the selection of a friend. Some people follow the rules set out by the educational institutions they attend. Simply “more convenient,” they claim. The two aforementioned factors are the main indicators of an optional subject that “should not be chosen.”
How to choose an Optional?
- You must be prepared to wait at least 15 days before choosing your optional topic.
- Download and print the most recent UPSC Civil Services Examination announcement from the website. In the notice, locate the optional list. A list of about 26 Optionals is provided.
- Begin by crossing off the subjects you know for sure you can’t study. For instance, there is a good chance that you will wish to cross out medical science or commerce and accountancy if you have a degree in mechanical engineering.
- Take into account your aptitude for the subject. For instance, you might wish to drop a science-based course like physics or chemistry if your background is in the humanities, such as philosophy.
- As the options decrease, choose your subjects more carefully. Only until you are certain you cannot pick up the issue should you eliminate it.
- Ideally, you should only have two or three optional subjects left after the previous iterative procedure. Ideally, one of the three disciplines would be the one in which you received your degree. I advise you to choose a subject in which you have a degree unless you have compelling reasons not to.
- It’s a good idea to choose topics that are more prevalent in other General Studies papers. Your preparation will be more thorough and take less time if you do it this way. Choosing a subject like Geography, History, for instance, will benefit you in other papers.
- Check if there are reliable sources accessible for the topics you’ve chosen. Any of the three Optionals can be dropped if it doesn’t meet this standard. The availability of reliable sources for the optional topic of choice is a crucial factor. After choosing an Optional, you do not want to be left searching for reliable sources.
- If more help is needed, you should explore if there are any reputable mentors, professors, or institutions offline or online where you may get it. The question you should ask yourself if there is just offline assistance available is if it is reachable from or nearby where you reside. For example, Officers’ IAS Academy, the best IAS academy in Chennai, proudly offers all optional coaching with the utmost confidence.
- Read the primary source book for the chosen topic for at least a week after choosing an Optional. Within a week, you’ll be able to assess your aptitude for the topic and determine whether you’ll be able to study it diligently and for extended periods of time. Please change the Optional if you don’t feel comfortable talking about it.
If you have similar doubts regarding IAS Exam preparation, consider joining our offline/online programs as we are one of the top IAS academies in India and we have mentoring programs where we support you every step of the way. All the best!