Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Choosing science optionals

This post comes quite late, more than an year after Civil Services results were declared. But it's better late than never. It has been necessitated by the fact that many aspirants are asking questions regarding taking two science optionals.

My view regarding science optionals (particularly Botany, Chemistry, Engineering subjects, Mathematics, Medical Science, Physics, Statistics, Zoology). I'll call above list as 'Science optionals' even though one Science subjects - Psychology - is outside this list: Please don't pick BOTH the optionals from the above list despite your interest in the topics. This approach has two significant drawbacks.

First, Civil services as a career benefits from exposure to Humanities/arts subjects. They give a new perspective which science students usually lack. Secondly, two of them make the syllabus for examination huge. Each Science optional has different concepts which don't add to either GS, Essay or Interview preparation. One humanities optional definitely adds to GS and essay.

Some secondary considerations are: A science optional takes more time to prepare than an arts optional. Advantage of having one science optional is that consistent scoring is easier in science optionals once the subject has been prepared well. Marks can fluctuate widely in Arts optional over various attempts but not so much in science optionals.

I chose optionals solely on the criterion of my interest in them. Whatever your background, your interest in the optionals has to be your first criterion. That probably helped to study them over a four year period. But during the attempts, I had realised that I was missing out on exposure to an Arts/humanities subject.

Why did I then stick to Engineering and Physics for four attempts? Simple, I had wasted my first attempt (appeared in Prelims without preparation and didn't clear it). Any optional is worth at least 2 Mains attempts - first Mains attempt gives very good feedback into preparation for next attempt. That's how I kept these two optionals for second and third attempts. And it didn't make much sense to change an optional for one final attempt after studying it for nearly 2.5 years.

It's crazy, I know!