UPSC strategy by sociology optional topper Vishal Shah AIR 63 in 2018



Hi for aspirants giving cse in 2020 I’ll share the books to start with in this post.
A little background about me- I’m an engineer with 2 years work experience.

I studied sociology on my own and didn’t even joined test series.

The reason I’m so eager to help others I’m optional is that I did optional in first attempt in 20 days. I didn’t joined coaching as I thought I won’t clear prelims. And when I did I had so limited time that I couldn’t go for multiple sources and coaching.

This is my booklist
- [ ] Tusharanshu notes available online as pdf - I have memorised this completely
- [ ] Orange book selected reading
- [ ] Chronicle ias solved previous years papers


Guys I never touched ignou or blue book. I don’t say it’s bad . It’s good but I didn’t had time.

My reasoning for limited sources is this- you’ll hardly get 15 minutes for 20 marker and 8 minutes for 10 marker. In that limited time and pressure in my opinion limited sources can fetch you decent marks.


1st post: for those confused about whether taking sociology has been a good call or not.

Reasons I took sociology
1. I went through syllabus and previous years paper and saw that many questions I was already familiar with especially paper 2.
2. It helps you in essay. At least one or both the essays can be written with sociology help. I scored last year 145+ in essay with the help of sociology
3. It helps in gs1 and gs4 too.
4. Rest as an optional it is easy to comprehend and there are good resources available in the market so you don’t have to struggle much in search of materials

And lastly I follow the principle of 0 or 1 - that is you’re either in or out. And once you’re in you shouldn’t back at at any cost. Give your 💯 %. Thankfully it worked out well with me and so it’ll be for you.

Stay tuned. Happy learning:)
This answer can be used in interviews too when asked why did you selected sociology as an optional/ or why sociology after graduation in some different streams. Cheers

This is my prelims strategy in details with the booklist.

Whether or not to use social media during preparation?

I was crazily focused when I sit on my study table. And I agree distraction is harmful.

However, I remained across all social media websites and never went off. Key is to have a purpose while utilising social media or any online sources. For example, on Instagram I used to follow nytimes, economist etc that used to come up with vivid illustrations and story covering the world. So used to be my engagement in Facebook. On Twitter I followed profiles of civil servants and the story that they share used to be my motivation source. On YouTube I used to watch a series called - Against all odds. Overall social media has been part of my journey in UPSC CSE.

Here priority is to finish your daily targets and it doesn’t matter if you do it with or without social media. When you’re off from social media and still you’re involved in multiple things and end of the day you’re unable to finish your targets then your social media asceticism fails.

I must say -

Study has always been my greatest DISTRACTION.

All the best

For the day of exam- I used to take care of following things on the day of the exam.

Exam centre: if it’s suits you, please visit the centre prior to exam. Although it’s not a compulsory task to do.
However, you can do the following in case you’re not visiting the centre prior. Use google maps to see how long does it takes to reach the centre especially at the time of your exam. Be familiar with the nearest metro station too.


Food and drinks- do not rely on food stalls nearby your centre. I used to carry packed food for both morning and afternoon. Usually I got for subway and I order the night before the exam and carry it along with me.
Carry water and juice/ors/glucose solution with you as temperatures remain high in June.


Mental preparation of the classroom - be mentally prepared for following possible scenarios-
a. Uncomfortable seats at the exam centre
b. This happened to my friend where he was asked to go to other room as fan stopped working in their classroom
c. A number of vacant seats or students sleeping on their seats during examination
Etc etc


Mental preparation for the exam-
a. Last time it took me more than an hour for first reading of the questions itself. So please plan when would you mark the omr sheets accordingly
b. Number of questions to attempt- no fixed formula but try to go for as much as possible. One of my friend used to attempt more questions if paper seemed easy and less if hard.
c. Have faith. You just have to cross the cutoff. And you’ll certainly be able to do so from the effort that you have put. Things are going to be asked from books you have studied.


Physically be alert and curate your diet in such a way that you don’t get drowsy. I remember last year I got sleepy in csat paper.

For the csat paper- it’s qualifying so I rely more on strategy than hardwork. I find the combination that gives me optimum marks. For example I first do comprehension then reasoning and then certain minimum number of quantitative questions to balance out any negative marking that I might get in the comprehension section.


all the very best. I pray to almighty that all be well with you.

Pages which I read from the M Haralambos and RM Heald - Sociology themes and perspectives also called as the Orange book-

Chapter 2: page number 32 to 73

Chapter 3: page number 116 to 143

Chapter 5: page number 2015 and 206

Chapter 6: page number 272 to 330

Chapter 7: page number 333 to 370

Chapter 8: page number 389 to 439

Chapter 9: page number 492 to 500

Chapter 13: page number 624 to 661

I encourage everyone to read as much pages of this book as they can. At the same time limit source to minimum so that it doesn’t become impossible to revise.

To note- I didn’t read blue book haralambos and Holborn at all so I won’t be able to prescribe which parts to read from it.
All the best

Also a suggestion to those who are giving exam next year or couldn’t clear prelims this year-

Please work on your HOBBY as well. Try to bring out quality answers for question that you anticipate from a hobby.

One can refer to interview transcripts of previous year to understand what kind of preparation is required for hobby.


To note:
1. I was not advised to use crayons so I didn’t used it in the final exams

2. Presentations should be neat

3. In fact diagram occupies space which results in you writing less and still make an impression on invigilator

4. Word limit is not breached

5. Clear diagram with pen as pencil diagram might become less visible with time

6. I wrote all 20 questions in 3 hours and still maintained same handwriting- so it’s a message to everyone that you too can write legibly and still complete paper in time

7. Test is about innovation. Experiment with things. Find out what works and what not. Utilise those working elements

All the best

My formula for essay writing
1. Three ways of introduction- tip make intro and conclusion at the same time- especially in anecdote based as you might introduce laxmi in first paragraph but miss her at the end doing away the benefits of a good anecdote

2. 3 types of body. Last type is framing 4 questions and answering them in the essay

3. Use of facts and figures in essay. I used to make outline of both the essay at the same time and then move to writing essay

4. If I feel flow is not coming i go with subheading approach to fill the gap.

5. 18+2 format - 18 paragraphs of 50-60 words in body and 2 paragraph for intro and conclusion

List of world history topics to be done based on current affairs topics

1. Greece civil war -
2. Truman doctrine - jcpoa article in news brinkmanship
3. Berlin Wall and related events
4. Korean crisis
5. Iranian revolution
6. Vietnam war
7. Cuban crisis
8. Arab/Middle East world history events


I read about Singapore in 2017 mains because president of Singapore died. Question from malay peninsula was asked that year in world history

In similar reasoning I listed above topics that one can do apart from ncert world history or any short notes on world history

Keep adding the topics. This is just a small list from what I can recollect.

All the best