There have been many instances when it was the Optional Scores that decided whether one got into the Rank List or not.
However ,with the obsession over General Studies Preparation many aspirants give inadequate focus upon their Optional Subjects.
It is time we understand the importance of Optional Subject in the entire scheme of things.
How much time should I allot to Optional Subject Preparation ?
Equal amount of time that you would devote to General Studies Preparation.
But the total Optional Weightage is only 500 marks !
That is because almost 50% of your General Studies Preparation is already completed. A glance at the General Studies syllabus would reveal this fact.
And GS 4 (Ethics) preparation hardly takes 15 days.
The other 50% in GS preparation does not require much of abstract thinking. The facts and information are placed before you in the form of clear content. All you need to do is read them, understand how UPSC asks Questions from these areas and you are all set to go.
Your only remaining task is to pen down your knowledge in the form of answers in the Weekly tests. Get evaluated and work on weaker areas.
This however is not the case with Optional Subjects.
One can get a complete idea about an Optional Subject only after multiple reading of many topics in the Optional Syllabus sheet.
Optional Preparation requires good understanding of various topics and sub topics to form interconnections across topics.
A mature understanding of the subject requires the entire subject to be completed and an attempt made to understand what UPSC focuses in the Optional Subjects.You may start with the UPSC Questions of the previous years.
Learning to use the correct Optional Subject specific jargon and terminologies in the correct place is an art. Ideas and concepts can only be explained in the discipline-specific language.
This is not the case with GS Papers where it is always better to be plain and simple.
Unlike General Studies paper where one can afford to skip some topics if time is short, such shortcuts cannot work in the case of Optional Subjects.
A thinker, a perspective or a time frame has to be properly covered, understood and cherished in order to move to the next area. Each and every topic builds a base for other topics to be built upon.
Concluding words on Optional preparation:
1.Focus on Ideas, Opinions and Perspectives. – Read slow and steady. You cannot rush through Optional preparation.
2. Compare Ideas and establish inter connections – Turn back the chapters in your book whenever required.
3.It is from the first paper where one gets the hold on the Optional Subject – It is only by reading Sociological thought, one gets a hold on Sociology. Any student of General Studies can answer the second paper of Public Administration but only those who have understood Public Administration can answer Paper 1. So does it apply for History and Political Science as well.
4.Ideas in the optional subjects needs abstract thinking – Try to imagine and visualize concepts such as the emergence of feudalism (History), state (Political Science) and Coriolis force (Geography) etc.,
5. Attempt previous year Questions – Check if you can manage to get 5 points that strengthens your argument. If not search and find 5 points for every Question.
6. Make notes – Optional Preparation is about solid recollection of what has been studied and the ability to frame a suitable answer.
7. Whenever you are free during the next 3 months before the mains keep thinking about the ideas in the Optional Subject. Become an expert in linking ideas you have studied to answer any Question.
8. Attempt tests – Experiment if your answers incorporate all aspects of effective writing – A blend of ideas along with arguements and most important of all conviction.
9. Conclude the answer in such a way that there are no loose ends. Conclusion is the best point you can write to convince the examiner to give you marks.