Any Optional Subject in UPSC civil services examination plays an important role in the final selection. Optional subject has a weightage of 500 marks out of the total in UPSC civil services mains examination. Hence students must choose a proper optional subjects and proper strategy must be followed by a student to cover the whole syllabus thoroughly to score well in the exam. Proper planning of the syllabus of sociology optional, and regular writing practice can fetch an average 315 to even 340+ in many cases. Hence, proper analysis and guided preparation is important for sociology optional.

Sociology Optional Pros and Cons

There are many benefits of taking sociology as an optional in the UPSC exam. In this section, we discuss some of the advantages and disadvantages associated with the sociology optional in the IAS exam.

Sociology Optional Advantages

Scoring subject & short syllabus: Sociology is considered a scoring subject, and this is one of the main reasons for its popularity. Its success ratio is also pretty high. With a relatively short syllabus, candidates can ideally complete it within four months if they work sincerely.

Ample study material: There is ample study material available for this subject.

Overlap with other papers: There is a degree of overlap of sociology with the other papers in the UPSC exam. In General Studies Paper 1, about 40 – 50 marks can be from sociology-related topics. The following questions from the 2017 GS 1 paper will illustrate this better:

  1. In the context of the diversity of India, can it be said that the regions form cultural units rather than the States? Give reasons with examples for your viewpoint. (10 marks)
  2. What are the two major legal initiatives by the State since Independence, addressing discrimination against Scheduled Tribes (STs)? (10 marks)
  3. The spirit of tolerance and love is not only an interesting feature of Indian society from very early times, but it is also playing an important part at the present. Elaborate. (15 marks)
  4. Distinguish between religiousness/religiosity and communalism gives one example of how the former has got transformed into the latter in independent India. (15 marks)

These questions can be answered better with an understanding of sociology.

Take a look at the topics from the GS papers that can be done well with the help of sociology optional:

GS Paper I

  • Political philosophies such as capitalism, communism, socialism, etc., and their effects on society.
  • Highlights of Indian society, Diversity in India.
  • Impacts of globalization on Indian culture.
  • Role of women and women’s organization, poverty and developmental issues, population and associated issues, urbanization.
  • Social empowerment, communalism, secularism, and regionalism.

GS Paper II

  • Pressure groups and formal/informal associations, their role in the polity.
  • Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population, mechanisms, laws, institutions, and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of vulnerable sections.
  • Development processes and the development industry – the role of NGOs, SHGs, various groups and associations, donors, charities, institutional and other stakeholders.
  • Education, Human Resources.
  • Issues relating to the development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to health.
  • Civil services in a democracy.
  • Issues relating to poverty and hunger.

GS Paper III

  • Land reforms in India.
  • Comprehensive development and issues emerging from it.
  • Development and spread of extremism linkage – Naxalism.
  • Changes in industrial policy, impacts of liberalization on the economy, and their outcome on industrial growth.

GS Paper IV

  • Human Values- the role of family, society, and educational institutions in inculcating values; reformers and administrators, lessons from the lives and teachings of great leaders.

Even in the Essay paper, at least a couple of essays can be written well and in a systematic manner because of sociology optional because the topics would be about social problems and the like. Examples of a few essay topics that were asked in the IAS mains exam with a connection to sociology:

  1. Destiny of a nation is shaped in its classrooms.
  2. Fulfilment of a new woman in India is a myth.
  3. Does Indian cinema shape our popular culture or merely reflect it?
  4. The Indian society at a crossroads.
  5. The composite culture of India.

Finally, even in the UPSC personality test, sociology optional can help you. Many of the questions asked are based on social problems and current affairs. So, knowledge of sociology can give you an added advantage.

Sociology Optional Disadvantages

Sociology is a social sciences subject, and so, unlike the core sciences, some of the concepts and interpretations can be subjective. This may lead to subjective corrections by the examiner.

How to Prepare Sociology Optional?

Analysing Syllabus– while starting preparation of sociology optional one should go through each and every topic and sub-topic of the syllabus. Should memorize the syllabus so that he or she can correlate with other topics while writing answers. One should prepare for sociology optional syllabus wise so it is always important to have a syllabus every time when you are preparing any topic so that you won’t read irrelevant stuff which is not related to the syllabus prescribed by UPSC.

For Sociology Optional Referring previous year question papers after mugging up the syllabus, aspirants should go through previous year questions so that they will know the nature of questions and the pattern of questions UPSC asks in the mains examination. it is not needed to write answers of previous year questions in the vary starting phase of preparation. But aspirants should go through the previous year question regularly.

Start sociology preparation by reading-  the NCERT books of 11th and 12th. These books will provide you with a basic understanding of all the fundamental concepts of sociology. 

IGNOU books: IGNOU books for sociology optional almost cover II the whole paper 1 and paper 2 syllabus of the UPSC civil services examination. But aspirants should read those books selectively. Only those topics which are listed in the UPSC syllabus shall be covered from these books otherwise these books are very bulky. One can make syllabus-wise notes of topics and sub-topics from IGNOU books so that it will be easy for an aspirant to revise the stuff before the examination.

Some very selective reading of IGNOU Blocks ;

For Paper 1
  • Start selectively reading of Sociology – Themes and Perspectives by Haralambos and Holborn. This book is also known as the ‘Blue Haralambos’. The book only looks huge, but it is actually written in a very simple language. In the first reading, Only highlight the important points. And in the second reading, Make notes from this book.
  • Following are the page numbers that You should read from the Blue Haralambos (8th Edition):
    • Introduction: sociological perspectives – full
    • Chapter 1: Stratification, class and inequality – pages 21-24, 30-34, 47-56, 80-82, 87-93
    • Chapter 2: Sex and gender – pages 95-101, 104-121, 130-138
    • Chapter 3: ‘Race’, ethnicity and nationality – pages 155-160, 174-187, 193-197, 206-210
    • Chapter 4: Poverty, social exclusion and the welfare state – pages 231-236, 246-247, 259-264, 269-276
    • Chapter 6: Crime and deviance – pages 347-352, 361-367
    • Chapter 7: Religion – pages 431-437, 444-462, 473-475, 487-488, 491-499, 504-507
    • Chapter 8: Families, households and personal life – pages 509-525, 544-545, 566-569
    • Chapter 9: Power, politics and the state – pages 579-590, 593-603, 608-620
    • Chapter 10: Education – pages 663-671, 702-704
    • Chapter 14: Methodology – full
    • Chapter 15: Sociological theory – pages 953-998, 1013-1015
  • Fundamentals of Sociology by Vikash Ranjan Sir (5th Edition).
  • Class Notebooks of Upendra Gaur Sir. 
  • Essential Sociology by Nitin Sangwan Sir.
  • Tusharanshu Sharma Sir’s notes
For Paper 2
  • First read Applied Sociology – Indian Society: Structure and Change by Vikash Ranjan Sir (5th Edition). The language of the book is very simple,
  • Social Change in Modern India – MN Srinivas
  • Caste Its Twentieth Century Avatar – MN Srinivas
  • Indian Sociological Thought – BK Nagla

And then Go through all the past rank holders’ Sociology Test Series Papers that. You can download them from:

Answer writing

  • Before writing answers for sociology optional there are few things that aspirants should keep in the mind- It is very important to link various topics of paper 1 and paper 2 while writing answers. One should concentrate on the topics which are frequently appearing in UPSC mains examination. These topics must be given high priority.
  • Collect various data from newspapers, economic survey, budget, current affairs magazines and should be used while writing answers of sociology optional. Opinions of thinkers shall also be written wherever necessary.
  • One should adhere to the word limit prescribed in the question paper while writing the answer.
  • Answers should be written in small paragraphs or points rather than writing long paragraphs. One must underline the key concepts, names of thinkers, or keywords so that the examiner can notice these things easily.
  • Don’t write extreme opinions in the answers. You should write balanced opinions. Regular writing practice can fetch good scores in the UPSC mains examination for both GS and sociology optional.
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