As the best optional for UPSC, sociology has long been a favourite among aspirants looking to get a high score. It is one of the subjects where a score of more than 300 is an achievable reality. Take the case of Anu Kumari, who scored 318 in the subject and attained the 2nd rank in 2017. you too can do that with just 4 months of intensive studying, here is how.
1. Why is Sociology the Best Optional for UPSC?
- Easier and less syllabus as compared to other optional subjects.
- Requires no prior knowledge or skill to understand.
- Static syllabus.
- Plenty of material and notes available both online and offline.
- Overlaps with prelims studies as well as GS-1.
- Many sociology optional books are available for reference.
2. Subject Analysis
Despite being a non-technical subject, even those from a science background will find it easy to comprehend. The syllabus of the best optional for UPSC is divided into two papers.
It focuses on the fundamentals of the subject. The topics in this paper are mostly static, like Research Methods and Analysis, Sociological Thinkers, Religion and Society etc. This paper requires a good retention capability and is fairly easy to understand because of its theoretical nature.
It focuses on the application of the subject to the Indian scenario. Broadly the topics can be grouped under an analysis of Indian society with emphasis on its social structure.
Here you will come across topics like Caste System, Rural and Agrarian structure, Tribal Communities etc., which draw from our own experiences of encountering society. As a result, understanding the subjects as well as framing the answers is not a difficult task.
UPSC examination trends of the past 5 years show that ‘Sociological Thinkers’ and ‘Social Change’ from Paper I and ‘Caste System’ and ‘Challenges of Social Transformation’ are the topics with maximum weightage.
3. Sociology Optional Books to Refer
The following sociology optional books are recommended for preparation. However, do keep in mind that you don’t need to read them from cover to cover. Always stick to the syllabus and only spend time on the topics that pertain to it.
Sociology Optional Books for Paper I:
- Sociology by Anthony Giddens (for the topic ‘Sociology- The Discipline’).
- Themes and Perspectives by Haralambos and Holborn (considered the bible for Part I).
- Sociological Thinkers by R K Mukherjee (to cover all the thinkers in detail).
- Methodology and Techniques by Jaspal Singh (to understand the basics and techniques of data collection).
- Relevant IGNOU sociology optional books/ notes
Sociology Optional Books for Paper-II:
- Indian Sociological Thought by K. Nagla (it will give you an overall view of Part II).
- Social Background of Indian Nationalism by A R Desai
- Modernization of Indian tradition by Yogenndra Singh (directly deals with the topic in the syllabus while helping with other key concepts as well).
- Indian Society & Culture by Nadeem Husnain
- Social Movements In India by Ghanshyam Shah
- Contemporary India by Neera Chandhoke (for further reference)
- IGNOU notes
4. Tips and Techniques to Score Well in the Best Optional for UPSC
Understand the Syllabus
The first step toward the preparation of any subject is a thorough study and understanding of the syllabus. Without the syllabus, your studies would be haphazard and seem extensive. So remember to read the syllabus of the best optional for UPSC before you begin studying.
Make a note of all keywords and concepts that you come across. Using technical jargon will make your answer rich and leave an impression. Also, if these words figure in the question, you can begin your answer by defining them in 2-3 lines.
Drawing from contemporary data is always a huge advantage. For example, while studying Social Movements, you can keep track of the latest and most popular ones happening in India as well as abroad (#metoo, farmer protests in Maharashtra). Likewise, when writing an answer on religious pluralism you can mention the latest examples from other countries (Canadian Cabinet, burkha/ turban ban).
Writing is crucial to any humanities subject, and sociology is no different. For this best optional for UPSC, it is essential to take as many mock tests as possible. Not only will this make your content stronger but will make your presentation striking as well.
Every question is different and the presentation too will vary in terms of answer writing. While most questions are best answered in bullet points format, the ones that ask you to analyse or review something, the caste system, for example, can be written in paragraph format.
Make sure the paragraphs are short and you give proper headings to each. So you can have headings like- introduction, the genesis of the caste system, legislative measures etc. preceding the paragraphs for the examiner to gauge your level of preparation.
Interlink Your Studies
Think logically and interlink your studies. There is huge scope for cross-references in this best optional subject for UPSC. Be aware of these linkages and incorporate them into your answer writing. For instance, while writing about communist movements in India you can quote from Marx’s theory when writing about the communist movement in India or Max Weber when talking about Indian bureaucracy in Paper-II.
5. Challenges in Sociology
While the disadvantages of taking the subject are pale in comparison to its obvious advantages, you may want to keep the following in mind when choosing it:
- You must have an interest in the subject, otherwise, the concepts will bore you and you will not have the right attitude required to comprehend it.
- Be ready to scrutinize and dissect every concept. The best optional for UPSC requires you to have the ability to do an in-depth analysis of alternate points of view as well.
- You might feel bogged down by the deluge of concepts and thinkers dominating the subject. The plethora of viewpoints and hypotheses can be difficult for a beginner to handle.
In short, sociology has not only proven to be the best optional for UPSC but it has also proved to be a scoring subject that continues to attract aspirants. Just focus on building an interest in the subject and grasping concepts rather than mugging them up. More importantly, believe in yourself and the fact that you can score 300+ in this subject. All the best!