1. Overview of Strategy
  2. Introduction to Psychology Optional
  3. Pros and Cons Of Psychology as an Optional
  4. 14 point Stage-wise strategy

Overview of Strategy

Preparation for any Optional subject should start with the recognition of the fact that ‘One cannot be good at it unless one prepares notes for it”. This adage is very much true for Psychology optional as well. If you are to strategize your preparation with Psychology as an optional, you should have chosen it out of sheer interest and nothing else.

A decent score in an optional subject is a must to make it to the final merit list in the Civil Services Exam. The decent score can hover anywhere between 310 and 355 out of 500. The strategy to get this decent score requires some disciplined effort too. The effort which is channeled in the right direction with the right set of books and organized study.

Introduction to Psychology Optional

Psychology as an optional has 2 papers. Each paper carries 250 Marks. The Paper 1 is about fundamentals of psychology. The chapters in Paper 1 revolve around Psychological concepts and theories. Various constructs include Intelligence, Memory, Emotions, Motivation, Attitudes, Personality etc,. These constructs will be spread across fields like Developmental Psychology, Cognitive Psychology, Social Psychology etc

Various schools of psychology like Structuralists, Functionalists, Gestaltist, Behaviorists, Cognitivists, Humanists have different viewpoints for the same Psychological construct. These viewpoints will be studied under theories propounded by respective Psychologists and researchers of that school.

Paper 2 is completely application based. One has to be thorough with Paper 1 before starting Paper 2. The application of Psychological theories and findings is quite diverse – Education, Health, Sports, Military, Rehabilitation, Organisational etc,.

Pros and Cons of Psychology Optional

The subject is unlike many other optionals, which generally involve memorizing a lot of content. This subject is more about being able to understand concepts, related theories and constructs. However, one has to bear in mind that being comfortable with ‘jargon’ becomes all the more important.

The most significant advantage one can enjoy with Psychology as an optional is that one has to prepare properly for paper 1. Paper 2 preparation then would take considerably less amount of time. Going by this metric, the length of the syllabus will be relatively shorter. Furthermore, it requires less reliance on rote memorizing. This of course can act as a con for few who rely on memorizing content. The subject is to be learnt by understanding and analyzing concepts. This would require considerable amount of time. However, it is a time consuming exercise only for paper 1!!

The memory techniques one learns in this subject can be applied to learn material of other General studies subjects too. Also, better understanding of concepts and pragmatic outlook would lead to overall personality development, which would matter a lot at the Personality Interview stage.

14 point stage-wise Strategy


1. Memorize the Syllabus — in the very order given by UPSC. This is the only place where memorizing of content is required. Helps a great deal in writing the answers with diversified content as you let your brain sift through various chapters and topics in the Syllabus

2. Study the NCERTs of Class 11 and Class 12. These books are to be studied cover to cover. They give you a fundamental understanding of almost all the topics in Paper 1. However, in-depth analyses of the topics are not present here.

3. Attend the Legacy IAS classes and study the Class Notes. This exercise makes the subject lucid and the amount of time to be spent on Optional reduces drastically. Inputs provided in class and highlighting of the focal points in the syllabus would help students direct the energies in the right direction

4. Make sure you revise the notes and even as you do it, start preparing your own notes by integrating information from various sources listed in the booklist with Class Notes. Put to use the memory techniques you learn in the class, adopt a learning style that best suits. Race against yourself, not others. FACT: Every human is unique. So should be his learning style and speed.

5. Proceed in accordance with the syllabus while making notes. Keep the notes updated even as you move from one source to another. Maintaining the notes is an arduous task: Agreed. But the Return on Investment it guarantees is something which you cannot brush aside so easily. Notes of your own means you are the “Editor”. Because you are the editor, the chances are that you remember the content for a long time to come.

6. Complete 1st stage of books and have the notes prepared. Move to the next stage and update the notes
a. Stage 1: Class Notes, NCERTs, Robert Baron or Ciccarelli or Feldman
b. Stage 2: Social Psychology
c. Stage 3: Cognitive Psychology and Theories of Personality
d. Stage 4: Tests, Measurements and Research Methods
e. Stage 5: IGNOU material

7. Religiously completing the first 3 stages would suffice for paper 1. What really matters is the amount of information you have understood. To develop understanding, multiple revisions of the same source is to be done.

8. Without completion of Paper 1, there is no way one can gain from Paper2. Since there is only one source of Paper 2, add content from internet for almost every topic in Paper 2.

9. You have to revise the notes every time you update it with a new source

10. Space your revision and do not move to the next topic until you clearly understand the topic at hand.

11. Indexing and keywords for every chapter is to be written up. Tips for the same can be learnt from the Class at the end of each chapter.

12. With enough mastery over Paper 1, one can now move on to Paper 2. Strategy is quite simple for the fact that it is sheer application of Paper 1 that is required. Only one book is to be referred to – Applied Psychology by Smarak Swain

13. Writing the Answers for previous year questions and getting them reviewed

14. Keeping oneself updated with newer discoveries and studies related to the subtopics in the Syllabus.

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