July 28th, 2019       Civil Services Preparation, UPSC

UPSC Civil Services Prelims Examination, 2019 was announced just few days back. Now is the time to gear up for the next stage of the battle…MAINS. Even those candidates who could not make to the list, should not get disheartened, and should prepare for mains to gain the edge for the next year.

A lot of aspirants have a dilemma over what optional subject should be taken for the mains examination. With the changes in pattern from the year 2013, the weightage of optional subject has been reduced to 24%. However, the importance of optional subject can be judged from the fact that if one looks at the performance of successful candidates, more often than not the deal breaker is the marks in optional subjects. Good marks like 350+ can give a candidate edge of almost 50 marks over other candidates.

But it is often seen that, aspirants end up choosing the wrong optional which hampers their chance for selection. This article explores the subjects belonging to the literature streams which are often sidelined and considered underrated.

The list of literature subjects….

Literature Optional Subjects

It is worth mentioning that literature optionals are not so popular among the candidates but there have been toppers who had literature as their optional. Nandini K R, 2016 CSE Rank 1 had Kannada optional in which she scored 331 marks.

What are the advantages of taking literature optional in mains?

  • There are very few aspirants who take these optionals. This reduces the competition. Further, the evaluator can give more time and energy to each copy.
  • Aspirants with literature background or who have passion for literature will find the preparation for the optional easy and less demanding than other subjects.
  • Usually, the syllabus of the literature optional is more or less static. There is almost nil updation of the syllabus. Further, there is very less linkage to the current happenings. So, if one prepares for this optional, even after couple of years, ‘preparation content’ remains the same.
  • There are very few experts of certain optionals like Bodo. So, they are responsible for making the question paper as well as evaluating the answer scripts.
  • The syllabus is full of interesting stories and poetry Aspirants who are passionate about such things and have good command over language can definitely think of pursuing such an optional.
  • The syllabus is also small as compared to popular optionals like geography.
  • Literature helps in developing strong viewpoints regarding understanding of various issues.
  • It has a positive impact on essay writing and in interview process.
  • Usage of lines from poems, quoting stories, famous authors can add creative linkage to essay and GS papers.
  • If one’s answers are unique and innovative one can score very good marks.

What are the disadvantages of taking literature optional in mains?

  • Lot of subjectivity is involved in literature optionals.
  • There is dearth of coaching material, expert guidance and peer group.
  • There is almost nil overlap with GS syllabus.
  • Answers have to be really unique for them to stand out. Similarity of answers can be easily verified.
  • Last couple of years has seen analytical and unconventional question papers.
  • Such optionals tend to cover multi-dimensional features of particular language. This makes it essential to have a proper focused and dedicated preparation.

Performance of the literature optionals:

The following table shows the distribution of candidates who appeared vis-à-vis recommended candidates in CSE 2015 (Source: UPSC Annual report 2016-17)

Literature Optional Performance Table 1Literature Optional Performance Table 2

The following points emerge from the table:

  • Very few aspirants opt for literature optionals. In most cases, number of candidates is less than 10. There are certain optionals which have zero candidates.
  • Percentage wise language optionals occupy the top 5 positions with success rates varying from 21% to 100%.
  • However, certain language optionals have zero pass percentage.
  • Optional like hindi literature which has considerable number of appeared candidates (428) had only 12 candidates being recommended whereas optional like medical science has 66 recommendations from 327 candidates. Similar, is the case with Urdu and Gujararti literature.
  • It can be seen from the table that performance of literature subjects is a mixed bag.

Who should opt for literature optional?

  • One who has deep interest in the subject.
  • One who has understanding of the subject.
  • One who has command over the language.

General tips for aspirants opting for literature optionals:

  • Step 1: Know the UPSC language literature syllabus.
  • Step 2: Select best available reference books, expert guidance and peer group.
  • Step 3: Prepare a study plan-language optional usually takes 3 to 6 months of dedicated preparation. Completion of syllabus is a must. Read the historical portion after completion of the literary works.
  • Step 4: Prepare for novel and innovative answers.
  • Step 5: Make shot notes, flowchart and diagram while preparing.
  • Step 6: Prepare previous year questions thoroughly.
  • Use simple language while answering questions. Answer writing is of utmost importance.
  • Since professional guidance is usually not there, approach any good university professor for evaluation of answers and proper feedback.
  • Do not used books that are used in universities just for passing the exam.

Whatever optional the aspirant chooses should fall in Choice his/her interest zone. Aspirant should have a deep passion to learn more and more about it. Logical and rational selection should be made after considering all the factors, pros and cons. Remember, UPSC gives equal weightage to all subjects….it is how one prepares and attempts the paper that will decide the score!!!

Happy learning!! Best of luck!!

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