I have been asked this question many times and some people keep asking me which optional is better and why. In this post I’ll try to address these issues.
To begin with, I strongly believe that UPSC is extremely fair and free from any bias. Every year you’ll find people getting selected from every optional and also getting rejected from every optional. So I conclude that the selections from all the optionals are fair. The given set of optionals had remained pretty much the same and their syllabus had also remained pretty much the same, after evolving over several years (decades may be?). So they must have brought the difficulty level of all the optionals to the same level. I thus conclude that every optional is equally easy/difficult.
When I had to choose my optional, I wanted to take my graduation subject which is Computer Science and Engineering. But that is not there is the UPSC list of optional subjects. So, I wanted to choose Mathematics as my optional. But then, many people have told me that it is a difficult optional, the syllabus is huge and that the selections are few. I then looked in the internet and found that many people were able to clear the exam with top ranks consistently(AIR 1 – Mutyalaraju and AIR-2 Prakash Rajpurohit). So I have no reason to believe them. And also, I am not familiar with the so called ‘traditional’ optionals like Geography, Public Administration, Sociology etc. as I have never studied them before. I had a choice – either take Mathematics based on my own judgement or take one of the traditional optionals based on someone else’s judgement who knows very little/nothing about me. It seemed logical to me to go with the former.
That’s how I chose Mathematics as my optional. I recommend all the aspirants to choose their optional based on their interest and not on the irrational talk that is in the air from the smoke emitted by the coaching wallahs.