Garima Lekhwani, Rank 136 CSE-2016, Sociology Marks – 290
Acing The Optional
A brief introduction- My name is Garima Lekhwani. I’m 23 years old. I secured AIR 136 in UPSC CSE 2016 in my first attempt. I completed my schooling from CJM, Agra. Thereafter, I pursued B.Com. (Hons.) from Shri Ram College of Commerce, DU and graduated in the year 2014. I worked in Axis Bank (Corporate Office, Mumbai) for a year and resigned in 2015. It was then that I started my preparation for CSE and managed to clear in my first attempt with Sociology optional.
First things first- How do you decide your optional?
I have often been asked by people to recommend a “good” optional. The only answer that I am able to give them is- Choose the subject that you can fall in love with. I truly believe that the main reason I did well in my optional in my first attempt itself was the fact that I was absolutely in love with it. In fact, I remember telling someone that even if I had scored less in the optional, I wouldn’t ever regret studying it. So please go through the syllabus and some reading material maybe to see whether the subject can evoke your interest because you’re expected to study the optional in considerable depth. I know a few people who struggled with this optional as it couldn’t strike a chord with them. This is not for the purpose of philosophising things but rather simplifying them.
Let me also state for those with Commerce background who have asked me why I didn’t stick with Commerce- I had always yearned to study Social Sciences and this presented a very good opportunity to do so, especially with a subject that I realised I could enjoy a lot.
Other considerations for Sociology (this is my personal opinion)-
- Ability to correlate the dynamic with the static and also Paper 1 with Paper 2
- Ability to be unconventional when writing answers for Sociology
- Ability to cite relevant news/current events in answers, especially Paper 2
- A certain inclination towards Social Sciences
- Ability to support theory with examples
It was because of the above factors that despite having a relatively concise reading list, I did fairly well. So my advice would be to choose an optional based on your own interest and competencies.
Coming to the sources- I won’t be able to provide topic wise sources because like others I too experimented with sources and even though I may not have revised all, I would keep a note of value adding points without remembering the original source! But broadly, I referred to the following sources-
- Mahapatra Sir’s class notes- I made running notes in class that more than the purpose of answer writing helped me understand how to correlate things
- Mahapatra Sir’s printed study material
- Selective reading of NCERTs initially
- IGNOU material for selective topics
- Haralombus (some notes and not the book) for selective topics
- Ritzer for selective topics
- Extensive use of Internet
- Vision IAS material for selective topics
- Current Affairs & integration with GS
- Previous Toppers’ notes selectively
There are other Sociology toppers who have provided a more comprehensive coverage of the book list and you may refer to those sources as well because choice of sources too is dependent on how comfortable you are with it, so try to experiment a little before settling on final sources (again, personal opinion, I know few people may not agree with this). This is more important because there are no well defined sources for Sociology as such unlike few other optionals.
- Try to join a test series, I had joined VisionIAS online test series
- Keep a note of Sociology related current affairs to be able to quote them in answers
- Quote thinkers wherever you can, both in Paper 1 and Paper 2
- You may want to include GS content in your answers but do it to a limited extent
- Answers should be multidimensional- For eg: if you’re asked to give sociological analysis of Green Revolution, mention its impact on female labor force participation, sex ratio, landholding pattern, rural mobility, etc.
- Careful reading of questions is required as questions are not straightforward sometimes- I remember I jumped the gun on one question in Paper 1 because I started writing before reading the question entirely
- Try to introduce answers well- I mostly followed paragraph from of answer writing but you may write in points too, that doesn’t make a difference so long as the flow is maintained.
- If you can quote some data or studies of sociologists especially in Paper 2 like in case of village studies, etc., it would help
Lastly, when it comes to Sociology please remember that perception/experience of social institutions/events/inequalities etc will always vary from one individual to another hence there is scope for writing extremely different answers. So use that to your advantage.
You can message me on Facebook for more queries.
All the best! 🙂