Studying Sociology for UPSC

The Civil Services Examination is a life changing exam. Irrespective of the result, the preparation changes you entirely. It is always advisable for a candidate to pursue this examination with the aim of learning things as well. This aspect keeps one motivated in the rather long process of UPSC preparation. Most of the students find themselves very confused about how to choose the optional, especially Sociology . Most students are not willing to engage in the subject they had in graduation, and rightly so. In that case, you are left with a few popular choices to choose from. Examples are  Public Administration,Sociology, Psychology, Anthropology, History and Geography.
In this article, we will be talking about Sociology. We will try to figure out what the subject is and what are you supposed to study for it. We will also try to understand what are the major pros and cons of picking Sociology as an optional for UPSC examination.
Sociology is the study of human society. Studying society can be slightly more complicated than what we all might imagine. Society is not just a sum of people, it is a sum of ideas as well. When you club the diverse ideas with diverse people and various kind of systems they create, it looks like a chaos. Society tries to make sense of that chaos. Let’s take an example.
If we take the simple idea of identity of a person, then there are too many factors to be worried about. The person may be a male of female or trans gendered. The person may or may not believe in God, the person may belong to any of the existing religion. Also, the person may have gone to any kind of school, may speak any language, may believe in any social idea. Also, may be a fan of any cricket team. It is very difficult to develop a structure of the identity of people. Sociology, as a stream, looks into the patterns of community. It peeps into the matters which are governed by the society and provides an insight on the logic of them.
Why Sociology is important in UPSC:
Sociology as an optional has a number of advantages. It has a considerably small syllabus as compared to any other optional, which makes it an easy task to finish off in a matter of 3 months. In Sociology, there is a theoretical core, which is generally covered during the concepts of thinkers. Once you understand them well, the rest of the syllabus can be handled by mere application of what you had learnt .  The content for Sociology is easily available.
So, all you have to do is to ensure that you observe the society around you really well and a with a bit of Sociologist’s eye. You may look at any social issue, or any event with an aptitude of Sociology . So, you may find a lot of content to write even from the newspapers. Unlike many other optional subjects, you will never be short on examples in Sociology.
Apart from all these factors, Sociology gives you a clear edge in your handling of questions based on social issues in General Studies. Most of the students write very scientific and fact based answers on such questions. On the other hand, your answer will show a deeper understanding of the social structure. So, it might be a factor having some role to play in that issue. You will be more appreciative of social variations . Hence you will make quick adjustments in making your answers inclusive.
You will not make reckless comments confusing the majority of people in your peer group as the majority of people in general. For example, on a question of corruption, you will be able to point out that it is a factor being controlled by the family of the official as well. In a political conflict of Gorkhaland, you will be able to bring out the nuances of identity and power in an answer. All these will make your answers stand out from the rest. Hence, it will fetch you better marks.
How to prepare Sociology for UPSC
The syllabus is well defined and limited. You have to make sure that your preparation is strictly within the domain of the syllabus. Many coaching institutes, teachers tend to teach what they know best. So, it might be irrelevant as far as UPSC is concerned. You need to find a source, which maps every single topic of the syllabus with utmost care. In UPSC just studying is not enough. Regular practice tests  are must. 
Also, in Sociology, it is extremely important to incorporate a number of recent examples in your answers. You must pick a course. Especially, recent events sociologically examples.
At UPSC Pathshala, I teach Sociology with all of the above factors in mind, starting everything from basic. You can view some course videos here:
I keep incorporating a number of recent issues from time to time in the course. Have a look at the Sociological analysis of the issue of Privacy, in news recently:

If you want to go through a time bound preparation, which makes you a better and formidable candidate. Also, a better human being. So,  come join me in the journey of understanding the society we live in through Sociology.

Visit our course page here:
Hope to see you soon!

Best wishes,
Atul Jain
Head | UPSC Pathshala

About the Author

Akshay Palande

Akshay Palande is a passionate teacher helping hundreds of students in their UPSC preparation. With a degree in Mechanical Engineering and double masters in Public Administration and Economics, he has experience of teaching UPSC aspirants for 5 years. His subject of expertise are Geography, Polity, Economics and Environment and Ecology.

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