With the changing face of the civil services examination from year 2011, when Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT) will replace the present scheme of preliminary examination, a lot of frequently asked questions regarding the selection of the optional papers will be put to rest for good. For instance, with the implementation of the CSAT (which means elimination of the optional subject from the preliminary exam) the following questions will not arise:
- Do certain optionals have better prospects at the preliminary exam?
- Is it necessary to retain the prelims optional for Mains?
- Some optionals are paying at the preliminary examination but not at Mains. Thus, is it better to change optionals at the Mains stage?
- When the same optional is chosen for the prelims & mains exam, is there a need of preparing that optional for mains?
However, since there will be no change in the pattern of the Mains Examination wherein it will be required to opt for two optional subjects (same as in the present structure), “which optional subject should I take?” will remain the starting point for every aspirant in his/her IAS exam preparation strategy.
FAQ 1: List of optional subjects in the Mains exam.
Ans: For the optional papers in the Main Examination, UPSC has a list of about twenty-six (26) subjects out of which two subjects have to be selected by a candidate.
(1) Agriculture, (2) Animal Husbandry & Veterinary Science, (3) Botany, (4) Chemistry, (5) Civil Engg., (6) Commerce & Accountancy, (7) Economics, (8) Electrical Engg., (9) Geography, (10) Geology, (11) Indian History, (12) Law, (13) Mathematics, (14) Mechanical Engg., (15) Medical Science, (16) Philosophy, (17) Physics, (18) Political Science, (19) Psychology, (20) Public Administration, (21) Sociology, (22) Statistics, (23) Zoology, (24) Anthropology, (25) Management,
(26) Literature of one of these languages:
(a) Arabic, (b) Assamese, (c) Bengali, (d) Chinese, (e) English, (f) French, (g) German, (h) Gujarati, (i) Hindi, (j) Kannada, (k) Kashmiri, (l) Konkani, (m) Malayalam, (n) Manipuri, (o) Marathi, (p) Nepali, (q) Oriya, (r) Pali, (s) Persian, (t) Punjabi, (u) Russian, (v) Sanskrit, (w) Sindhi, (x) Tamil, (y) Telugu, (z) Urdu
FAQ 2: Which combinations are not allowed in IAS Examination?
Ans: The combinations not allowed are:
- Political Science & International Relations and Public Administration
- Commerce & Accountancy and Management
- Anthropology and Sociology
- Mathematics and Statistics
- Agriculture & Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Science
- Management and Public Administration
- Any two branches of engineering
- Animal Husbandry & Veterinary Science and Medical Science
- Combination of two literatures in the list above
FAQ 3: How should I select my optional subjects? Which optional subjects should I take?
Ans: It is extremely important that the correct optional subjects are taken up and it is advised that aspirants take optionals for which the success rate in the recent past has been good. Arriving at the right optionals set is not that simple, however, an aspirant must evaluate his/her Interest in a particular subject.
Interest: Choose a subject that you have an (a) aptitude for and (b) the one in which you have more than just a passing interest. Aspirant should be prepared to spend 100s of hours with the chosen subject.
Availability of Resources: Secondly, find out how easily is the study material, guidance, coaching, etc available in a particular optional subject. Availability of quality guidance makes learning of the subject easy.
Subject Knowledge: Graduation/post-graduation subject should be taken if you are comfortable with it. That will certainly help in the preparation since you have good knowledge in the subject area. But do not take it if you had only a passing interest in it in college.
Before finalizing an optional:
- Analyse the syllabus in detail
- Analyse the last ten years question paper to figure out a subject’s difficulty level
- Don’t take a subject just because everyone else is taking it
- Science subjects should be handled by people with ONLY science background
- Art subjects can be handled by ALL