Saturday, May 16, 2009

Choosing optionals

This is perhaps the most important step in your preparation. How do you go about selecting the right optional? I have heard many aspirants say that they have selected a certain optional because it is scoring. This is perhaps the biggest myth surrounding this exam.

When you think that an optional is scoring you are probably you are looking at the high scores some of the aspirants have got in that optional. You must ask yourself if the optional would be scoring for YOU. 

For this you need to see the syllabus, your interest in the subject, your aptitude, available  guidance, availability of course material and then decide if this optional will work for you. 
Often a wrong choice can waste 4 or 5 years of your life without any outcome.

Rest Later.


  1. hey ma'm, cse 2010 is ging to be my first attempt and i do not want to leave any stone unturned for making it the best attempt,

    i had non medical in 11 n 12th class. then i did law. and then after that now i am going to take law and geography as my optionals,

    one question i have been pondering upon since few days is that what if i am asked this question that gaurav earlier u had non med then law and now geogrpahy! why such suddden shifts?

    and then lastly whats the relationship between law and geography?

    Gaurav Garg

  2. hi mam .....congrats and thanks a lot fr starting this blog.....its gng 2 be very helpful.....mam my paper1 (psycho)score is very u plz tell the strategy fr paper1 answer writing

  3. Hello,

    firstly having diff optionals than your educ background doesn't matter.

    I am not the right person to answer questions on law and geog.

    For psycho, wait for some time.


  4. hello..

    i will be in 3rd year after few weeks of civil engg.
    i want to go for both engg services and IAS as well...
    i asked some seniors,they told about me public ad
    i am in dilemma to take public ad or indian polity...
    on what factors i should decide??
    help me out

  5. Hi Shubhra

    First of all congratulations for your grand success in the most pretigious exam of india.

    You are the role model for the IAS aspirants, your marks simply suggest it and your attempt of helping others to crack this exam proves the same.

    I have some querries related to second optional subgect. Being an engineering graduate i chose physics as my 1st optional, but i am confuse while opting the second optional among electrical engineering, psycology, Pub Ad and geography. Can you please suggest which one is best in terms of

    1. Scoring subject
    2. compact syllabus
    3. subject material availability
    4. combatibility with my graduation is electronics and communication engineering.
    5. help in general studies.

    Thanks in advance

  6. Hi Shubhra,
    First of all congrats on your epic performance at the UPSC stage.
    I have just completed my masters in economics from Delhi School of Economics and I wish to appear for the next year's exam. I might do eco. on my own n take coaching for geography and take GS from vaji ram in oct. However, my question to you is till oct. what all should I cover in GS on my own (given I had commerce in high school) & do we really need to memorise the facts etc. which we read in newpapers & magazines on a daily basis coz it seems impossible to do this, what I follow is that I just read & enjoy. Is this the correct way to go about for current affairs.

    My second question is that do you really have to be a workaholic to top this exam, coz I am sort of a person who believes in efficiency hours put in & a enjoy a good mix of work & leisure.

    I would really appreciate if you could answers these two basic questions of mine.

    Congratulations again on the enormity of your success.

    Thanking You

    Siddharth Rathore

  7. hi mam...congrats fr ur performance in upsc
    mam i m seekin ur guidance fr general studies mains n prelims
    plz let me knw bout ur prep fr both n the books n magzines which r helpful..
    thank u mam...

  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

  9. Hi,

    I always maintain that all subjects are scoring. UPSC doesnt discriminate among subjects , although it might seem so sometimes.

    Regarding course material, Pub ad looks compact. But it is so current and contemporary based that it needs constt revision and effort.

    Well psychology is a good subject as far as availability of course material and guidance is concerned.

    Hope you make a good choice.

    All the best!


  10. Hi Shubhra,

    I m rather late joinee here. But after going through the blog content i must say u r doing a great work by guiding the CSE aspirants.

    I congratulate u for ur achievement.

  11. Subhra i m really confused in optional selection. I need ur help.

    I have decided 1st optional as history but confused b/w management and public ad for d 2nd optional.

    Factors in favour of management:
    1. have done M.B.A. (same syllabus)
    2. Interesting subject
    3. can be prepared in less time (important b'coz i m working currently.

    Factors against management:
    1. No coaching institute (hence lack of proper guidance, no place to check ur development)
    2. No study materia.
    3. The question paper has been made theoretical, excluding the practical part of the MBA curriculum.

    Please tell me how much the lack of coaching and study material can affect my preparation. Should these be reasons enough to reconsider?

    If not Management then only option left is Public ad, as the management theories and O.B. portion is same as Management syllabus.

    Please guide me in choosing my 2nd optional.


  12. Well, with pub ad there are a lot of problems, lack of good coaching, material etc etc. if u have already done MBA and are interested in it, that shud be your choice. pub ad is very dynamic and you will need to put in extra effort to cover it.

  13. Thanku very much Shubhra for such prompt reply. Your suggestion is very helpful. Before i take a final decision about d optional i would request u to think over the difficult one can face due to non-availability of any management coaching or study material.

    I mean wouldnt it prove to b a major hindrance in evaluatin ones progress and performance in d course of preparation?

    Please suggest me keeping this in mind. I m going to take d final decision on d basis of ur view only.


  14. I never had anyone to evaluate my progress in Pub Ad. I never had any guidance whatsoever in my preparation of pub ad. if you think you can do good amt of self study and master a subject, select that one.


  15. In the end, no coaching will help you get a good rank. Ther are thousands of students who avail each coaching yer after year in the belief that this year they wud crack prelims. But alas, they do not undertsand that there is no substitute to self study. Event the best teacher can't ensure your success if you yourself are not able to study.

    So with self study your probability of success is much higher. Coaching( a good one) just reduces the time taken to cover the syllabus. But even a good coaching is hard to come by. Don't you think?

  16. This comment has been removed by the author.

  17. sorry, I don't do personal guidance.

  18. This comment has been removed by the author.

  19. hi Shubhra, Congratulations on your achievement, i hope youll find niche in the civil services arena.. I was quite surprised hearing that you were a teacher in an IAS coaching institute.. A software enginner as a student in IAS coaching institute is something you get to hear generally... but a teacher? i was wondering what you must have taught there? ( if you dont mind :) )

    I have read in many blogs that this was your second attempt with a different set of optionals ( psychology and public ad )... what were your optionals the first time you attempted?

    have you sought coaching for any of the optionals in the first or second attempt?

    were you a regular reader of hindi, any journals, active follower of schemes published by indian govt. before you made up your mind for targetting civil services?

  20. Yes I taught for about 3-4 months between my 2008 mains and 2009 interview, to kill time, and since it is my hobby. I taught GS-history and Pub ad.

    Second attempt but with same optionals.
    Regular reader of Hindu, IIPA journals.

    No, I was not conversant with govt schemes before I made up my mind.

  21. Thanks Shubra...

    Here goes another confusing news, which made me guess that pschology and PA were probably not your optionals in the first attempt...


    This time, Saxena decided to go for psychology and public administration as her subjects. The selection of subjects, she feels, is an important aspect. With lesser time in hand, she opted for psychology because the syllabus is compact


  22. Hello maam,
    Firstly congratulations for your great achievement.Its really wonderful.
    I have completed my engg. in electronics and instrumentation this year and starting with my prepration for cse2010.I am really confused about selecting the optionals,actually i want to take up an subject that is more of an analytical sought rather than just facts and theory based.
    I am thinking of public ad. as i think it is answered mostly logically based on current affairs and events and partially on theories.
    I am thinking about sociology or phychology as second optional.Also i am more of an self study oriented person.

    kindly guide me about these subjects or any other subject you think can be good according to my requirement.
    Please also guide me about how to start prepration from the basics.

    It'l be really helpful.
    Thanking you,
    suryadeep singh

  23. @suryadeep
    pub ad will be good for you.

    you can choose either psychology or socio- similar subjects. but for psychology, there's good study material and guidance available in the form of Pathak sir.

  24. thanks a lot maam...
    Ol da best for your career..

  25. Dear Shubhra Ma'am,

    I'm a in ECE and working with a chip designing MNC for last 3 years in Noida.

    I would like to choose an optional based on these points:

    1) Comapct in terms of Syllabus.
    2) Can be prepared through self study as well as ease of material availability.
    3) Would help in General Studies.
    4) Must be analytical in approach as I can't cram much.

    I have shortlisted three optionals : 1) Philosophy 2) Psychology 3) Public Ad.

    If Public ad covers significant part of Indian Polity (as in GS), helps in GS as well as comply with abovementioned points, I'll prefer to go for Pub Ad.

    But if it is not the case, I'll go for another two.

    Pls help me in deciding this as well as the which one to opt as Optional 1?

    Eagerly waiting for your reply.

    Best Regards,

  26. This comment has been removed by the author.

  27. Pub ad is the best choice as far as 1,3,4 are concerned. But material availability is a problem. But remember, in any subject you will have to do sm amount of cramming...that goes w/o saying. Philosophy and psychology don't help in GS much.

  28. Hi Shubra mam,Hope you find this post in best of everything.

    I am an Computer Engineer presently working on govt project. i have decieded to give civil services exam in 2010.

    Optionals which i have decieded are Pshycology and Public Admn. After reading intial chapters of the book called intro to psycology by King and Morgan now am thinking to opt for sociology as 2nd option but i have heard of Pathak sir of Vaji ram as brilliant teacher for Psycology .kindly guide me in choosing my second option between Psycology and Sociology may be i have not read correct book to get the overview of the subject and also am going through the book written by M.Laxmikanth for Pub Adm to get my basic correct. is it Fine?
    Kindly Guide.

  29. No Laxmikanth book will not clear your concepts. It is a guide. First go throuhgh posts of psychology and public administration and the comments therein. You will get your answers.

  30. Hi Shubhra mam,thanks for ur inputs i have gone through the other posts and noted down the material which u have suggested for Pub Admn and GS.Thanks once again.

  31. Hello Mam!!!
    I am sorry but I was little confused to where to post this query like in which thought to share it here only.....Sorry for inconvienience caused if any.....

    I have done my Btech in Chemical Engineering from IIT Delhi last year(2008)......Currently I am doing job in Indian Oil in Delhi only........

    Last month I made my mind to start preparaing for UPSC. Before that I was confused that which way to go for future studies like for GMAT or for UPSC......GMAT was looking easier way to achieve good career for me.....but that too requires atleast 3 years work ex before joining any institute......that waiting for 3 years made me lazy to do study for it beacuse i was thinking that there is lot of time to prepare for hardly requires 2-3 months.......
    So as that laziness was growing in me I was feeling little uncomfortable and ignorant in the discussions about current affairs in our office or with friends......So I thought to throw my laziness and made my strong mind to jump into the preparation of it will enhance my knowledege base and will give some fruitful result at the end of ne day.......
    So I bought the UPSC syllabus on the very day and start juggling through it to OPT for the Optionals.....PUB AD was the sure choice to me as it will help in many areas......As I was looking into the Mathematics Syllabus and previous years Question papers I was gaining confidence that somehow I can crack the mathematics as it has been always my favorite subject since the jee prepartion.....
    But as I started survey about mathematics on Net and with friends and Professors everybody demotivated me that I couldnt crack it as it is too tough to complete the paper and analyse the questions.......but I dont know I was gaining more confidence as more and more people demotivating me not to take it.......
    But yesterday I came across one Excel Sheet prepared by one student that analyses the marks of all the students who had appeared in the Mains 2008 Exam.....the data was looking quite reliable.....the analysis of the marks of studensts who took Mathematics as one of their optional gave me a great SHOCK!!!!
    So I want ur advice that what is the reality behind this subject if it is in ur knowledege some how......Please guide me before i start preparation for the exam at the full intensity.....

  32. If you are looking at the number of people who got thru with maths, it might look small in comparison to geog,history or pub ad because the number of people opting for maths as an optional is also v small. So you should look at the % of success rather than the actual no.

    I don't think UPSC differentiates between optionals. People have been known to crack this exam with diff optionals.

  33. Thanks Mam for ur reply!!!!

    But I am not looking at the number of people who took it as an Optional......I was SHOCKED by the average and maximum marks one has obtained in the can one(examiner) be so rude in checking that he gave just 160/300 as the maximum mark in paper-2 and average was like 58/300 only.......On the contrary, I was thinking of buffering my GS Marks with the Mathematics it seems that GS will buffer my Mathematics marks if I go for it..[lolzzzz).....Sorry for Bad Joke!!!!

    So, I want ur opinion that if U were me(in my situation)wat would u have gone for??? Psychology or Mathematics.....

    PS: I have done two three courses on Psychology in IIT as u must be knowing that we have to select electives there.....Organisational Psychology, Behavioural Psychology and one more(I am not able to recollect that name)......

  34. Hmmm... you should know that scores across all optionals are scaled. So even if you have 300/300 in maths, your score might come out as 180 or 200 because UPSC aims to bring parity between subjets.

    If you are comfortable with psychology, you can take very well take psychology as your optional.

  35. Hello Mam,
    I am working as Software Engineer in private company having 3yr exp in IT.I am thinking to take 1st optional as public administration and 2nd optional as Sociology/Phycology.i have confusion for 2nd know in IT filed time management is crucial.i want to clear IAS with my job and with no extra coaching .actaully i want 2nd optional please guide me for 2nd optional selection.
    Brijesh Kumar Mishra

  36. Both socio and psychology are the same length and almost the same complexity. Psychology is more science like with its focus on experimental studies.

  37. Mam,
    This is sashi from chennai.
    I am goin to join at vajiram institute.I have few doubts after reading all your posts,Pls do answer these mam.I am really confused with no guidance.
    I thought of taking Pub ad as my 1st optional and Psychology as 2nd optional.Now after studying about the posts regarding that vajiram notes or not good for pub ad ,I got really confused and so now i have decided to take psycho as 1st optional under muthul sir and pub ad as 2nd.

    1.Now is this ok mam?
    2.Regarding general studies,u have posted that coaching at vajiram was not good.will atleast the materials be good?
    3.which institute materials would u preferthen for GS?
    3.Now still few days i was studyng only for my 2nd optional Psycho.But now i had to start with pub Ad.Wat will be the basic book i had to start with(may be this question is repeated),since i am not clear,pls do give a reply for this also..

    I am coming from a long distance to study.I had no idea about vajiram ,except few saying its the best institute,which made me to join there.I have made arrangements for that too.Now really few of ur posts have got a fear in me(truly speaking).So pls guide me.May be a lot of questions.Sorry for that.:)

  38. Please do not change your 1st and 2nd optional based on availability of coaching.

    Pub ad as 1st optional is a good choice.

    Yes, for GS, Vajiram material is good.

    I hv given the sources for Pub ad, psychology separately.

  39. Ok,Thank you mam.I will work upon ur guidance.Thnaks again for the help.

  40. Hi Mam,

    I have a small query regarding the selection of optionals subject.I have chosen PA as my first Optional.

    I heard from a lot of people that Languages papers have a relatively lesser weightage in the overall consideration of a candidate in the Final Rankings.Is that true or is it just a myth.I am planning to take my mother tounge as my second Optional paper as I am very convenient in that.

    I am very sorry to ask you about this inspite of knowing your optionals don`t include Language Paper.But I don`t have any other alternative as I am staying in US.I can`t find peaople who can help me regarding this issue.

  41. It is a rumour.
    Kindly go thru this year's selections, many people with language papers have qualified.

  42. Thank You very much Mam for your kind reply.....

  43. Dear Shubhra mam,

    I thought of choosing Pub Ad. as an optional. But before that I decided to give a reading to the first chapter of introduction, scope etc from Mohit Bhattacharya. But I was not able to develop any interest in this topic. I haven't read other topics but I am afraid whether I will find them appealing. Did anything like that happen with you when you started preparation? Mam plz help, I am afraid I may be wasting my time on this optional.


  44. @Raman
    well, you need to be interested in the subject to score well in it. I was interested after the first read.

  45. hello madam.........this is shekhar frm IITD
    thanks in advance for ur precious time to go through my query which is as follows.....
    as i m frm science backgrnd does answer writting skill matter in case of psychology as an optional paper???
    avrg score in psychology??
    good coaching center for psychology and G.S ????

  46. Hello mam,
    I am Gaurav Shrivastava preparing for CSE, Public Admin first optional and Sociology second optional.Currently working in IT company and want to appear for 2010 CSE.
    1.I want to know whether yojana and kurukshetra are helpful in any manner?
    2.How and where can i register for IIPA journals?

    ANd I would like to thank you for your great work. This was some thing I was looking for but unfortunately I got it quite late.

  47. as i m frm science backgrnd does answer writting skill matter in case of psychology as an optional paper???
    A. answer writing skill is imp.

    avrg score in psychology??
    A. No idea

    good coaching center for psychology and G.S ????
    A. For psychology, Mukul Pathak Sir. For GS no idea.

    I am Gaurav Shrivastava preparing for CSE, Public Admin first optional and Sociology second optional.Currently working in IT company and want to appear for 2010 CSE.
    1.I want to know whether yojana and kurukshetra are helpful in any manner?
    A. Very vital to prep.

    2.How and where can i register for IIPA journals?
    A. Just buy a compilation from Bersarai or Rajinder Nagar

    ANd I would like to thank you for your great work. This was some thing I was looking for but unfortunately I got it quite late.

  48. Thankyou so much
    But is there any other way? I mean cant I get it from some other place. or other way. I stay in pune that why.

  49. hello shubra

    this is regarding prelims.
    in order to clear prelims is it
    1)we have to reach both cut off of GS and optional
    2) is it overall cut off
    (like if i score very low in GS and do optional excellently can i clear prelims)

  50. Hi Shubhra,

    Based on my interest i am planning to go for Psychology and Geography as optionals.
    I am from Engineering back-ground.
    Need your opinion regarding the same.
    Is this combination fine?


  51. Hi subhra,
    a mechanical engg , with 4 years software experience and only have less time and energy and high risk. coz once after IAS preparation at 30 years of age , i will be useless.
    so highly unsecure i am feeling. so i think its not good to be experimental. better i'll stick to ur path.send me all details of ur journey.

  52. @Harry
    select optionals based on your aptitude n interest.
    please try to do some work on your own. I can't give you a solution that will do magic... work hard in an exam focussd manner. that's all.

  53. Hello Mam,are you still active on this post?

    If you are, Can you plz tell me Is Vajiram good or any other coaching for that matter after introduction of new pattern?

    I am from Biotechnogy background and I was thinking to take Zoology and any of the other optionals as i dont belong to any of them.

    Can you please tell should i take Pub Ad or Psychology considering the fact i like science more?

  54. Hi Subhra,

    Iam B.Tech graduate in the stream of Information Technology.Iam willing to start my preparation for UPSC exams but iam very much confused in selecting optional subjects.will you please suggest me how to begin the preparation and how to choose the optionals.

    Thanx in advance,

  55. Hello Shubhra Mam,
    heartly congratulations for your great achievment. I am very very late to see this blog but still think I am fortunate that at least I have a great source of guidance.
    I am a mechanical engg. graduate. For my optional, after a long thinking I decided to take 1. Geography
    2. Political science and International Relations
    But people have demotivated sometime that there will be a huge syllabus for the optional I selected. So I am a bit worried.
    The only thing in favour of Public Ad. I think is less syllabus.
    However, with the optional i selected, a large portion of GS will also be covered, so please guide me whether i should adhere to my optional or change them because of large syllabus?

  56. Mam I am an M.A. in english literature. i am going to join a coaching in New Delhi.. i want to take Geography as my optional just because i dont want to take english. Would it be better? or any other say public ad, sociology,anthropology..

    pls,pls suggest mam

  57. Hello mam, i am an M.A. in english literature. i want to take geography as optional, just because i dont want to take english. would it be better on any other say psychology,public administration,anthropology be better.

    pls.pls suggest me mam.

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