UPSC: In the new pattern for UPSC Mains, candidates can opt for only one Optional subject which will have two papers of 250 Marks each. As the UPSC aspirants come from diverse academic backgrounds, the commission offers 48 optional subjects from various branches of science, commerce & humanities for the aspirants to choose one optional subject based on their interests and academic background. Choosing the right Optional subject is a crucial step in the preparation for the UPSC civil services exam. A wrong decision not only costs a rank but also leaves in a sense of regret, if not selected. There are many important aspects to be kept in mind while choosing an Optional Subject -
- Academic Background and Interest in the Subject
Preparation of GS papers makes it easier for the candidate to decide which subject interests them more and they can revise and learn easily. Some aspirants find History as a fascinating subject while others find it boring and dynamic. It is important that aspirants keenly notice in which GS subjects they excel better.
Apart from interest, academic knowledge also plays a key role. Usually, humanities graduates prefer choosing their degree major as the optional subject as they have prior knowledge of the topics and syllabus.
- Availability of Study Material
Before choosing an optional, it is advised that the candidates should verify the availability of its study material and coaching. It has often been observed that the aspirants choose an optional they are comfortable in but struggle to gather the study material or guidance related to the subject.
- Go through Previous year Question papers
Candidates can go through the Previous Year Question papers (3-4 years) of the shortlisted optional subjects. Read all the questions to understand the level of interest you have and to know how comfortable you are with a subject. It is advised that this practice can be performed for 3-4 optional subjects that entices you the most from the list.
- Qualifying and Scoring Ration of an optional subject
A candidate’s individual performance can vary due to a large number of reasons compared to his competitors. But there can be Optional Subject(s) that do not fetch the marks desired as compared to the effort put in by candidates. A few Optional Subjects are repeatedly chosen and has produced more toppers can be one factor to keep in mind.
However, selecting an optional subject based only on the scoring criteria is inappropriate.
- Time Investment
Optional papers usually play a crucial role in deciding a candidate’s spot in the final merit list. Hence, the optional subject should be chosen as per the time availability. A candidate should decide on how much time he/she would be able to spend studying an Optional Subject. A few candidates might be working while preparing or studying at a university etc, should be able to estimate the amount of time required to study the chosen optional subject along with General Studies.
No single formula is available to choose an optional subject for the UPSC mains. Also, there is no right option. In this respect, you should not imitate others. It is possible that what worked for previous year toppers may not work for you. Bear in mind the above criteria, but make sure that, regardless of its prominence or presumed mark-fetching nature, you select a topic you like and are confident in.