Main examination special - (Topic 4)
After General Studies, with 500 marks optional subjects are the next most important in UPSC main examination. There are plenty of people who lost out by choosing these optional subjects “at will.” I am also one among the list of people who faced failure by choosing an optional subject without proper care and attention. In my first attempt in UPSC, just because I am a medical doctor, I chose medicine as optional subject. Anatomy, biochemistry, physiology, pathology, pharmacology, microbiology and such 15 very big topics are included in medicine. By choosing it as my optional, I spent a larger part of my preparation time studying only these topics. I could not allot sufficient time for studying General Studies. And I failed in my first attempt. After the failure, I thought, “this examination is not one that just tests how intelligent I am; it is an examination that tests who is optimally utilising the opportunity given to them.” Public administration is an optional subject. The first paper has 12 small topics; and the second paper has 12 small topics. In the next attempt I chose it as my optional and was able to cover the whole syllabus in just three months! “When there are easy ways, why did I choose the hard way first!” - I asked myself. In stead of putting oneself in a tough situation by choosing an optional as lengthy as medicine, competing with other doctors including post graduate doctors, and allotting more time to that topic; the smart thing to do is to choose a simple subject, save time, focus on other subjects, revise the optional subject multiple times, and win!
For selecting optional subject, you can ask yourself three simple questions, and decide from your heart.
Is the optional subject having easier and fewer topics?
Is the optional subject one that we like and have an interest in?
Is it easy to get books, materials and guidance easily for the subject?
Whichever subject makes you answer yes to all three questions, is your optional subject!
After choosing your optional, go through its syllabus thoroughly. If you look at first paper and second paper, most optional subjects will have 120-150 topics only per paper. These 120-150 topics per paper can be written down as a table in a paper to help absorb them into your mind. Next, for each topic in the table, write down 15-20 main points as notes. In main examination, questions may be of 20, 50, 75, 100, 150, 200, 250, 300 words, but study well and make points so that these 15-20 points will help you to answer all these questions. If diagrams are needed, add them also in your points. In this manner, for each paper, make a note each of 120-150 topics. This note will aid to revise without any trouble the day before your examination, and score lots of marks in the exam!
Talking of notes reminds me of a very important matter. For success in main examination, writing practice is as important as studying the subject as told above. These notes help with writing practice. Thus, assuming one page is 50 words, for a 150 mark question, we need to answer in 3 pages, such that first page is introduction, third page is conclusion, and the second page contains the crux of the answer. To split like this and write in the assigned time, writing practice is a must. Therefore, as you make more notes, your writing style also improves. Similarly, to finish a paper in the given time, in 3 hours about 3000-3500 words need to be written. Keeping this in mind, at home you can write practice tests to help you to finish the examination beautifully by answering each question sticking to the stipulated word limit, in the given time. For main examination, all you need is to study with a clear plan, and you will surely be successful.
Thus, main examination is easier than preliminary examination, and the interview is simpler than main examination!
In next topic we will discuss about personal interview and how to prepare for it.