Every year lakhs of enthusiastic and hard working aspirants start their IAS exam preparation by joining UPSC coaching institutes in Chandigarh and other parts of India. In recent years, sociology has emerged as a highly popular optional for UPSC civil services exam. Since aspirants from diverse education backgrounds find not only interesting but also easy to understand and cover it in 6 to 8 months duration due to its well-defined syllabus. As optional subject accounts for 500 marks in the mains examination it is plays a pivotal role in not only helping aspirants clear the IAS exam but also in securing top ranks. Thus, in this blog we will review the Sociology preparation strategy for IAS Mains exam.
Sociology Syllabus- foundation of the optional preparation
All aspirants who are interested in choosing sociology an optional should first go through the detailed sociology optional syllabus beforepreparing a strategy for Sociology or beginning the preparation.
Familiarise yourself with the pattern
The next step should be to analyse the pattern of the optional subject papers. There are two optional papers in the Mains exam. Sociology Optional Paper 1 focuses on Fundamentals of Sociology.It is more theoretical in nature with a strong focus on various Sociological Thinkers. These thinkers and their theories are the most important topic in Paper 1 of Sociology optional. Every year lot of questions are asked from these chapters of the syllabus and they form the backbone for understanding many other sociological issues and topics as well. And the Paper 2 focuses on various aspects related to Indian society.Paper 2 is focuses onvarious dimensions of the Indian society such as – caste, rural and agrarian social structure, kinship, tribal communities etc. It has to be supplemented with case studies, current affairs and practical examples.
PYQs- backbone of your preparation
After going through the sociology syllabus and pattern of the sociology optional now you should focus on understanding the type & nature of questions asked by the UPSC in optional subjects of mains exam. Thus, you should make a habit of carrying a question bank with you. You should regularly go through and analyse the previous year’s questions to understand the nature of questions being asked from different topics of various sub topics and chapters. Regularly analysis of PYQs will also aid you in gauging the level of your understanding and preparation.
It is advisable to solve the PYQs after completing chapters and subtopics and not leave this aspect of preparation for the last month before the mains exam. Thus, whether you have joined a coaching or you are preparing on your own, after covering a topic make it a habit to solve all past questions from that topic and evaluate your performance.
These days last 10 years/20 yrs question paper banks are easily available in the market and even online. It is better to opt forsimple question banks and not the model answers bookletsas mostly such model answers’ are of poor quality.
Answer writing practise- secret ingredient for success
In UPSC civil services exam, the art of writing is very important. Since pre marks are not counted while making the final list it is the cumulative mains exams and interview marks which are considered while declaration of results. Since optional subject is the biggest contributor towards the total mark thus scoring good marks in it will ensure your success in IAS exam. And to do so during your preparation you must focus on the answer writing aspect of UPSC examination. And all the hard work and consistent effort put in writing good answers in the long run will help you achieve your goal of scoring a rank in top 200.
In addition you shouldalways assess your performance and get your answers reviewed by an experienced UPSC sociology teacher only. Merely writing answers and not evaluating your performance will not lead to any magical improvement in the quality of your answers. But his does not mean that you should focus on merely scoring highest marks in all attempted answers. Instead your focus should be on understanding your strengths and weaknesses via answer writing and improving upon them. Thus answers should be written and evaluated regularly and religiously as an opportunity for learning.
Coaching- to do or not to do
Requirement of coaching for any optional subject is a highly subjective topic and depends on a lot of factors. And this stands true for sociology optional as well. Thus, every aspirant will have to analyse his/her understanding of the subject based on syllabus, previous questions and general reading of the standard books like Haralambos to check if they require coaching for sociology optional.
Even though sociology is avery interesting subject which is easier to understand and cover a compared to technical subjects like Engineering, accounts, medical science etc.Still it might be tough for those who do not have a background in this subject to prepare without guidance. Sociology is a very popular subject among aspirants having diverse backgrounds like engineering, science and commerceapart from humanities. And students who do not have humanities background initially might struggle to understand the abstract concepts in sociology. And, this is when the role of a mentor becomes pivotal during your optional preparation. If you face any difficulty during your sociology optional preparation it is ideal to seek guidance. List out various potential coaching institutes in your area and after scrutiny join the institute that you find the best. Joining a UPSC coaching institute in Chandigarh will provide you with best quality study material, guidance and mentorship for all stages of your sociology optional preparation.
Advice- quality over quantity
Most importantly aspirants should avoid blindly following others advice. All your decisions regarding different stages and steps of your optional subject should be made on the basis of your requirements. For example; 1-you should join a coaching institute if and only if you like their performance and not merely because your friend attends the same batch as you. 2-Just because someone suggest you to read some random book related to sociology does not mean it is worth investing your precious time and energy in it. As reading too many sources like IGNOU, NIOS, Haralambos, Coaching notes of multiple institutes will definitely enrich your knowledge of the subject but will not give you gains proportionate to the time spent in completing them. This will reduce the time that should have been spent covering other GS main subjects. So when it comes to following advice or seeking advice it is important to check the credibility of the source before following it. In simple words follow quality advice from a single source instead of changing your optional strategy every time you get a new piece of random “gyaan” from a self proclaimed “sociology optional expert”
Minimise your Sources: revision is the key
Just like other mains subjects even in the case of sociology optional you should minimise you sources. Maximum efoort should be spent in reading and revising minimum basic sources and then practising answer writing. You should only refer to IGNOU BA and MA notes to supplement the information for Paper 1 topics which you cannot find in standard books. Many aspirants tend to collect multiple printed notes which are easilyavailable online on Amazon. But caution should be taken as their quality and genuineness are doubtful.
If you have joined coaching for sociology then their notes should be your basic material which can then be later supplemented it with few other sources such as IGNOU books, HARLAMBOS book, Ritzer etc.
Sociology Themes and Perspectives by Haralambos (the Blue one – for few chapters like Family, Polity, Religion)
Sociological Theory by George Ritzer (for thinkers of Paper 1)
IGNOU B.A. and M.A. – very selectively after reading Index of all the books and focussing in depth reading of few selected topicsto fill the content void
Your coaching notes
Newspaper and Internet- as when required (sparingly)
In case, if you are following any other sources which you feel are sufficient and are of good quality then you could stick to it and focus on answer writing.
Attempting good quality mocks on a regular basis will help you in learning difficult concepts with long term retention. Mock tests will also help you in understanding the UPSC pattern of questions. So do not worry about the marks you score as you may or may not get direct/ indirect questions from test series in UPSC exams. Since the main purpose of attempting mocks is better revision and retention.
After having followed all the above steps your answers in test series during the final months before mains examinations should look sociological and thoughtful. They should be written in the GS like language and structure. Thus if youdo not practise mocks diligently reading multiple sources will be of no use. Since socio question might seem general at first but you should write specific sociological answers with relevant examples and case studies and not generalist answers. Thus, we advise you to join a test series of a reputed institute to hone your answer writing skills.
We hope that these tips will help you. These were our views and opinions on the sociology optional strategy. What are your thoughts and inputs or queries on this topic? Comment below and share your views with us. We would be happy to assist you in your UPSC preparation battles and answer your queries.