It is true that UPSC has no bias towards any optional and any one can clear the examination with any optional, provided it is selected for the right reason. However, it is also true that according to the UPSC annual report, which is available online, more than 100 students were chosen from the four optional subjects-Geography, sociology, public administration and political science.
While there are different reasons behind these four optional being the most popular among UPSC aspirants, sociology for UPSC is a smart choice because of its content which is not just concise but very interesting in itself. It is extremely difficult to get bored in a sociology class, unless you are not listening to the lecture. Since sociology allows you to see everyday routine happenings in a different light, students often have their interest aroused beyond just clearing the UPSC mains examination.
When an aspirant studies something they enjoy reading, it does not become an arduous task and the hours spent reading it does not seem long. Hence the UPSC journey with sociology is often far more tolerable and even enjoyable. Compared this with taking a dry optional where every minute studying it seems like a punishment and the popularity of sociology for UPSC becomes understandable.
Sociology for UPSC is also a sensible choice because the length of syllabus is much less compared to other popular optional subjects. It is hence advisable for especially those students who have comparatively lesser time to spare for their UPSC studies due to job commitments or any other personal reasons.
Again, if you analyze the general trend among UPSC toppers, their general studies marks of paper 1, 2, 3 and 4 are generally in the same range. Ultimately it is the marks in Essay paper, the optional subject and the personality test that are the deciding factor in whether you can find your name in the merit list or not.
Sociology is an optional which helps you all of the above aspects. You can quote the sociological thinkers or the various sociological case studies in the essay paper for added impact. Most years, the topics which come in Essay paper have a sociological angle as well. Enriching your essay answers with your sociological knowledge will definitely give you a lead in the mains examination.
Sociology is a subject of everyday societal problems, while the personality test is an analysis of the ability of an aspirant to solve the problems of society. Sociology as an optional thus helps the aspirant in the personality test by providing insights regarding the various aspects of the issue in questions.
UPSC has mentioned ‘balanced approach’ as a quality which they are specifically looking for in an aspirant. Your sociological studies will help you imbibe these qualities as sociology aims at analyzing every problem in the society in an objective and non-judgmental way. Only by acquiring such objectivity can you hope to give correct answers to the questions that have an element of moral dilemma in them. Again, with sociology, you end up preparing for your ethics paper as well.
Thus, the over lapping of sociology syllabus with other areas of your preparation makes it an ideal candidate for optional subject. The crux of UPSC preparation is to cover as much areas of the syllabus as possible in as little amount of time. Thus, sociology for UPSC not only reduces the time you need to devote for your optional, but simultaneously helps you by preparing for your general studies papers as well. In fact, you can quote the thinkers in any other exam in which you may be required to write essays for or even give interviews.
It is hard to find a student who is dissatisfied with or regrets taking sociology as an optional. Even in state public service exams which still have two optional in the mains examination, sociology is more often than not the preference of the candidates. Thus a candidate can prepare with sociology for both UPSC and the state services.
Sociology is also an optional which requires a lot of answer writing practice. Preparing for sociology thus improves the overall answer writing skills of the candidate. This provides the candidate with an umbrella benefit for all the paper of mains and indeed, any subjective paper they may need to write later in life. Improved writing skill is an asset development which will benefit you throughout your professional life, whether it is in the bureaucracy or even the private sector.
Sociology for UPSC is thus a smart choice not just because the syllabus will be finished in a shorter period of time, but because it also has far reaching consequences. Sociology will not just improve your performance in the UPSC examination process, but will also increase your mental abilities and decision making power as a civil servant.