Why Sociology is a good optional choice in UPSC CSE

Sociology Optional Syllabus | Booklist | Why to choose Sociology as optional in UPSC?

Table of contents

It is crucial to choose UPSC optional carefully as optional carries 500 marks in UPSC CSE (28% of total mains marks).  

(Note- Link Sociology booklist is given in the end)

How to choose optional?

While choosing optional in UPSC, mentors suggest using a five-point framework --

  1. Scoring potential
  2. Your interest in Subject
  3. Availability of resources (books/notes/test series/mentors etc)
  4. Time-intensity/syllabus - Some optionals are short with a minimum syllabus while others are bulky
  5. Overlap with General studies

Read this framework in detail -

Sociology as optional

Now, let's try and apply above framework in the case of Sociology -

  1. Scoring potential - Sociology is one of the consistent scoring optional. Every year 10+ students in UPSC's top 100 ranks are from Sociology optional. Top score in it crosses 300! Shrusti Deshmukh, Amrutesh Aurangabadkar, Neha Bhosale, etc. are a few examples of UPSC toppers with Sociology optional
  2. Interest in subject - This is a subjective criterion, but still if you go through the Sociology syllabus, you will notice that it studies the social values, norms and institutions which are part of our day-to-day lives. So, many students find this optional to be interesting.
  3. Availability of resources - Multiple books (standard reference books as well as UPSC-specific books) are available. Also, in market, you can easily find multiple notes of Sociology. Numerous coaching institutes are providing coaching, test series and mentorship of Sociology - No issues in getting good guidance. Some other optionals like Management, commerce and accountancy etc. lack the availability of options in test series/mentorship etc.
  4. Time required - Sociology has a comparatively less syllabus. Moreover, it is a study of the society we live in - so if you have good observation skills, you might be aware of some concepts in Sociology even before reading. These factors make Sociology a subject which can be covered in less time. Ideally, sociology can be covered along with extensive answer writing practice in 3 months.
  5. Overlap with GS -

General Studies - Paper I

  • Political philosophies like communism, capitalism, socialism etc.- their forms and effect on the society.
  • Notable highlights of Indian Society, Diversity of India.
  • Role of women and women’s organization, population and associated issues, poverty and developmental issues, urbanization, their problems and their remedies.
  • Impacts of globalization on Indian culture
  • Social empowerment, communalism, regionalism & secularism.

General Studies - Paper II

  • Pressure groups and formal/informal associations, their role in the Polity.
  • Development processes and the development industry- the role of NGOs, SHGs, various groups and associations, donors, charities, institutional and other stakeholders
  • Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.
  • Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, and Human Resources.
  • Issues relating to poverty and hunger.
  • Civil services in a democracy.

General Studies - Paper III

  • Comprehensive development and issues emerging from it.
  • Land reforms in India.
  • Changes in industrial policy, impacts of liberalization on the economy, and their outcome on industrial growth.
  • Development and spread of extremism linkage – Naxalism.

General Studies - Paper IV

  • Human Values- role of family, society and educational institutions in inculcating values; reformers and administrators, lessons from the lives and teachings of great leaders


  • Sociology helps you write unique perspectives in essays.


  • Being a Sociology student gives you an edge in maintaining balance in your answers in front of the Interview board members. You will be well aware of various gender/caste/class/community based biases - it can help you become an objective and sensitive person.

Post Selection Advantage

As a civil servant, you will be dealing with diverse people. Each one’s circumstances vary and the solutions you provide should match it. Having read sociology, you will have a clear picture on your mind that there is no one-size fits all solution. You will be realistic in your approach and deliver better service.

Challenges in Sociology optional

  • Biggest challenge in Sociology optional is answer writing. It is one thing to understand sociological concept and other to write it. Many aspirants find it difficult to write asnwers in Sociology (despite having good knowlege of subject) - Solution is extensive answer writing practice
  • Answers are open to interpretation and candidates need to think before writing as to which opinion should be presented and which should be withheld.
  • It is challenging to write Sociological answers in Paper 2 - where GS like questions are asked (Eg. Write short note on green revolution)

To conclude, one can say that sociology optional is interesting, easy to study and easy to score optional which one can choose to clear UPSC civil services Examination.


Q. My academic background NOT in Sociology, should I choose it as an optional?

Ans. No special academic background is needed- sociology optional is nothing but briefly a study of society which we are part of. unlike the optional subjects related to the field of science or engineering, sociology optional can be prepared by student of any academic background easily. It doesn’t need any pre existing knowledge base or specialised qualification in the subject. eg. Shrusti Deshmukh, Abhijeet Yadav sir etc. are from engineering background, Shashank Ratnoo sir is from Law background - all of them scored good marks in Sociology

Q. Are there any common areas between Paper I and Paper II of Sociology optional?

Ans. Therea are many overlapping topics in paper 1 and paper 2 of sociology optional. Examples include religion, kinship, social movements etc. Hence it will consume short period to cover these topics as you can cover those topics of two papers simultaneously in one go.

Q. Is coaching necessary for Sociology optional?

Ans. If you have good comprehension and a habit of self-study, you can prepare this optional even without any coaching

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