Chosing your optional can prove to be one of the most difficult task especially with so many coaching institutes hailing a particular optional subject to have maximum overlap with GS, requiring least amount of time, maximum scoring potential etc.
Marks in the optional subject plays a decisive role in getting through mains and in the final determination of rank. For instance, even if you perform exceedingly well in all 4 GS papers you will get around ~400 marks (out of 1000) whereas with a good performance in your optional subject you can expect to get ~300+ marks (out of 500). Thus the optional subject has relatively more importance than other papers.
How to chose your optional in case of confusion?
Let’s say you are confused between Sociology and Political Science. Then instead of knocking at the doorsteps of coaching institutes or taking advice from senior players, you should first pick up the NCERT textbooks of Class XIth and Class XIIth of these two subjects and give a quick reading. In this very first step you will start developing a liking for one of these subjects.
After that you should pick up the past mains paper of these subjects and try attempting few questions from them. You will now start getting a feeling of comfort and flow in either of these subjects. You will notice that you are able to come up with thoughts and ideas better in one of these subjects compared to other.
Don’t succumb to rumours
Rumours and misinformation spread by coaching institutes, online forums and students are the biggest impediments when it comes to chosing a right optional.
I have seen students changing their optional because of the following factors:
- The optional is not considered to be a scoring one.
- There was no overlap with GS papers.
- There are very few takers for this optional.
- The subject undergoes heavy scaling.
- There are large number of books to be covered.
- The subject is getting butchered by UPSC in past few years.
- There is a lot of competition.
Nothing can be further from the truth. There is no optional which doesn’t suffer from one or the other above mentioned short-comings. Once you have narrowed down upon an optional then religiously stick to it and put your mind and soul into it.
Past results have shown that students have got top 100 ranks with optionals like Agriculture, Veterinary Science, Zoology which have very few takers. It’s not the popularity or difficulty but your attempts and performance in the exam that matters.