Selecting The Optional For Civil Service


selecting of the IAS Mains Optional has always been a tricky decision for Civil Services aspirants. As of now, the number of optional subjects to be selected is one, but aspirants are always divided on what represents the right choice. Among the many things that influence decision making are whether to go for so called scoring subjects or stick to what interests them or they should go for their academically familiar subjects.

Though the weigtage of the optional paper is only 28% marks out of 1750 marks in the written part of civil service exam, it still packs more punch than its share in the exam.

How many marks are good enough to get an interview call?

Analysis of mark-list of last 3 years of mains written part of UPSC Civil Services Exams, shows a shift of around 130 marks in cut-off across categories reserved to general and all this is 10% variation over the period.

  • General – 809 (2017) vs 787 (2016) vs 676 (2015)

How critical is the selection of Optional in IAS Mains?

Being strong in GS papers and being capable of scoring 450+ in those papers can offset the importance of optional paper selection in the overall scheme. To achieve the above a long term preparation and keen interest are a must.

For those who do not belong to above category optionals should be selected with care and caution. To begin with analyse suitability, interest, level of difficulty, availability of study materials and other support.

Should my graduation stream of study be taken as an optional?

It depends on many things as discussed below:

  1. Subjects at college are studied less analytically in most Indian universities and hence do not count for much.
  2. After studying for 3 to 5 years as the case may be, students may lose interest.
  3. Check the syllabus as it may vary.


Overlap for the IAS Mains optional subject with General Studies: Is this the right strategy?

  1. Selecting an overlapping optional with General Studies is a good strategy, as the time required to study an optional subject not mentioned as per GS syllabus can be saved.
  2. But This idea cannot be generalised. None of these overlaps with GS syllabus as subjects like History or Geography do overlap. Never take an optional just for the sole reason of GS overlap.
  3. Also never take an optional just based on advice from coaching institutes
  4. Trust good mentors,
  5. Try to understand that each and every optional subject is scoring. Due to the scaling effects, some optionals might not turn out to be high-scoring in some years, but these are no universal trends or theory.
  6. Your requirement is to score maximum marks for the optional subject as well as in GS. Time available, the effort requiredand the possibility of maximum marks are three crucial factors to consider before you select the option.

Author: vision

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