I scored 301/500 in Sociology paper. Paper I=134 and paper 2=167 are my precise marks. I attribute my AIR 51 and admit to IAS as a result of my performance in optional more than any other component of the exam.
My marks also testify that if sufficient writing practice is done by an aspirant, non-science optionals can also fetch 300+ marks. In this blog, we will broadly discuss as to why Sociology is a good optional and who must choose it as an optional
Sociology: What UPSC wants
I did not have any prior knowledge/degree/qualification in the subject but I knew that this optional never gets “butchered” like Pub Ad or Geography. I had opted with the aim of only getting “average” marks so as to make it to the list somehow. However, over the time when I read through previous years papers, I realised what the examiner wants.
UPSC is NOT looking for theories or thinkers or a specialised knowledge in a subject matter. What they look for is application. And that’s precisely why graduation in sociology cannot alone guarantee success you in UPSC. You should understand and give examples. Paper II is concerned with the Indian society- education, urbanisation, industrialisation. This is a deal maker if you have good grasp over current affairs. For example, when talking of urbanisation in India, you can quote World Bank Development Report that terms Indian urbanisation as “slow, hidden and messy” owing to slums.
As a crux of the matter, merely knowledge of the theory is not important. You should know practical/daily life examples of Merton’s Latent and Manifest functions.
Who should opt for it?
Based on my personal experience (and success, if you may call so), it is not needed to have any prior understanding of the subject. But what is essential is that you be prepared to do a lot of answer writing practice. Level of English need not be super impressive. Normal level with reasonable grammar is all that it takes. Sociology repeats several questions from previous years. The wording/phrasing may differ, but the core remains the same.
To help you make a more well-informed decision, please have a look at the syllabus here.
Also, I have a video lecture series to disseminate information about role of optional in the UPSC exam here