Importance of choosing right optional – Jay Shivani (AIR 81)

Hello everyone,  hope you all are doing well. I am here trying to convey the importance of choosing your optional subject wisely for this examination through my personal experience and journey.

Introducing myself briefly,

I am Jay Shivani. I have secured AIR 81 in CSE 2018. I am from Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh and my schooling (grade 9-12) was from The Daly College, Indore. I graduated in 2017 from IIT(ISM), Dhanbad in Computer Science and Engineering.

Appearing for this examination, or rather, becoming an IAS officer was in my mind from school days only but the only thing I knew about it was the word “IAS” and not even its full form properly. I didn’t even know whether there is an examination for this or some different process. 
The thought was always there in the back of my mind but I started preparing for it seriously when I was in third year of my graduation after gaining a few experiences in service to the society through various opportunities I got during first two years of my college.

Why this article:

Optional subject is arguably the most important part of this examination. If you analyse the composition of marks scored by the candidates selected with a good rank you’ll find that most of them have scored substantially well in their optional subject barring a few exceptions.
Hence selecting a right optional becomes really important. Taking analogy from cricket, it is like choosing whether you want to be a spinner or a pacer, before working in that direction, if you want to excel as a bowler in cricket.

There are a lot of examples of aspirants taking an optional subject without genuine consideration of various factors and most importantly the factor of their “interest” and unfortunately ending up changing their optional attempts after attempts or even before attempting the exam but after giving a lot of months to that subject(my case :p).

Talking about my own experience, I had mathematics as my optional subject during both of my attempts but this is not it. Still infant in this preparation during second half of my third year I was considering various optionals that can be looked into so as to choose one. Having no previous knowledge or experience in this preparation I went ahead with the general trend/myth of not even considering mathematics or science subjects even in the first shortlist. Even after having interest as well as confidence of doing well in science subjects I went ahead with downsizing my first shortlist without mathematics in it and my pen stopped at economics.

The sole reason for me to opt for economics was “interest” but then too after spending around 4-5 months in it and wasting around 6 months(from optional point of view as the knowledge gained is never wasted) because of this step I had to reconsider my options and finally boil down to mathematics in my final year. 

Due to this I was not able to give my best in mathematics in the limited time I was left with before my first attempt. Though I cleared mains in that attempt fortunately on the back of essay and GS, I missed the final list by around 25 marks.

Why I had to reconsider even after having interest in it? 

After giving 4-5 months to the subject what I realised was that, it would take a lot of time for me to finish the syllabus on my own and even after studying substantial portion of syllabus for paper 1, I didn’t feel confident enough to be able to score good marks in economics. And since I had realised that to do well in mains one has to do really well in their optional, all these thoughts forced me to ponder over this issue in depth. 

And then as it is common for almost all of us I was watching a few topper talk videos to get some motivation going and finding solution to all the doubts that rose within me then. After watching the talk by Siddharth Jain Sir (AIR 13, CSE 2015) I started looking into mathematics optional. After going through the syllabus and previous year papers of mathematics I realised “ki yaar abhi tak kar kya rha tha mai”. Why didn’t I consider mathematics earlier, why I got stuck with the myth of not even thinking of taking science subjects or mathematics as your optional, all these questions started coming to my mind.

Then after giving around 6 months due to that decision I decided to change my optional and take mathematics. I realised that I can score well in mathematics as it was my comfort zone,  I loved the subject already and felt confident after looking at the syllabus and previous year papers. 

So in all what I would like to say is that before deciding to opt for a subject or before believing in any of the myths related to this examination consider all the factors, viz, your interest, your comfort with that decision, availability of material, scoring potential of that subject “for you personally”, and the self-confidence you feel when you think about that decision. 

Woh kehte hain na – “suno sabki par karo apne mann ki” (Indeed after analysing all the suggestions received very well :p)

Loads of luck to all of you. Give your best and “try to do the process right” without focusing much on the results. Have patience, results will fall in place automatically.

Will meet you all soon with some other demystifying article.

All the best. 

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10 thoughts on “Importance of choosing right optional – Jay Shivani (AIR 81)”

    1. Agreed that it is not easy to not focus on the results but we should always strive to do the process right. Breaking down the task at hand into simpler parts and trying to focus on achieving those small targets will help.

    1. I would be coming up with an article covering my mathematics strategy in detail. Till then you can refer this:, I’ve discussed my mathematics strategy here in brief. You can also refer to the article posted by Kanishak recently discussing about mathematics preparation.

  1. Sir I have seen you working really hard in ISM library with newspaper and books. At that time I did not know your name but heard about you. Congrats sir for achieving your dream and inspiring many like me.
    Raula kat diye sir aap.

      1. Thanks sir.
        Sir, I am facing a problem in covering the vast syllabus of Maths along with GS due to lack of time because of my job. It is really hard to practice more questions. Any suggestion sir?

      2. Sir please give detailed strategy about U R mathematics optional in english language …because many of not understand hindi language mostly south indians ..because I am also south indian..

  2. Hi,
    I am thinking to opt for electrical eng as my optional because I have done my grad in Instrumentation. I am seeing, a lot of people are going for maths even though they are from some other eng background. Is it because of lack of resources or because of their own interest? Can you please help me with this.

  3. Sir have u took coaching from IMS or prepare mathematics by self study ..sir pls mention ur booklist for mathematics ..

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