EXPERT ADVICE 

   SAFELY OPT FOR SCIENCE OPTIONALS :  THEY ARE  EVERGREEN  

-Prof  D P Vajpayee

DIRECTOR
DELHI INSTITUTE FOR ADMINISTRATIVE SERVICES (DIAS)
18 , PUSA ROAD , KAROL BAGH , NEW DELHI-110005

Civil Services has been a popular career choice of youth due to their exalted role in society, assured career progression, versatility and challenging responsibilities .Every year some six lakhs candidates compete for 800 to 1200 seats . Therefore competition is intense (1  seat against 500 aspirants) and only the best can survive. Looking at the level of competition involved in this exam, one can sail through this ‘hurdle race’ with flying colours only by proper planning, sustained hard-work over a long period, perseverance and patience. Proper planning is must for getting good ranks in this exam. And the first step in proper planning is the right selection of optional subjects.

HOW TO CHOOSE RIGHT OPTIONAL?

 In my opinion, optionals should be chosen on the basis of following five point criteria :

  1. Interest in that subject,
  2. Scoring pattern of the  subject in the last two –three years
  3. Less prone to likes and dislikes of examiner /objectivity
  4. Availability of study material 
  5. Expert guidance.

First advice to choose optional is that one must have keen interest/strong liking for the subject. It generates a level of confidence in one‘s abilities and it helps displace more than 80 percent of  peers. Remember any competition is survival of the fittest. It is an elimination of eighty percent of peers. Therefore, it should preferably be the subject studied during graduation/post graduation. There is no hard and fast rule in this regard, but my advice to  aspirants in the last twenty years has been that choosing “parent subject” as their  optional proves beneficial until and unless there are some very genuine points against that subject. For M.Sc background candidates irrespective of their success in this exam, it is the best subject and must be opted. Otherwise they are at loss. BSc background candidates, depending on their their continued interest may or may not opt, but MSc candidates do not have much choice because: Firstly, they are most prepared in the subject and secondly, this is the subject of their first love and they will be at a great loss if they do not opt for it as it will be their alternate and glowing career choice. On the basis of interest, it has been the first preference of many bright engineering graduates and every year in my classes, I have more than 70 percent candidates coming from various engineering disciplines  (more than half of them are IIT grads). A large number of engineering graduates appear with Physics, therefore large numbers are selected and thus creating a wrong perception of the subject being taken only by IITians .Subject is most suited to  M.Sc/B.Sc background candidates followed by engineering graduates .  

Second criteria is the Scoring pattern of the subject  ( Although I consider every optional is equally scoring ,then what do I mean by this term ? This means every subject in CSE is not evergreen , UPSC follows some pattern  .Some subjects are on an upward trajectory for some period . This pattern is followed in case of popular subjects ,which almost all are humanities subjects .  But here Science optionals Physics/ Mathematics/Chemistry /Life Sciences/ Engg optional  etc stand tall and have advantage , as they are  not very common optionals , only a handful opts  for them . Therefore all science optional are  evergreen subjects .Every year some 20 percent people qualify for personality test with any Science optional and thus  Physics/Mathematics or  Chemistry for that matter is as good an optional  as anything else . 

Next criteria  is  availability of study material and expert guidance

Syllabus of Science optionals are  static in nature  i.e syllabus is fixed and plenty of books are available . List of books are well known and  can be easily ascertained by google search . 

One more advantage of science optional is their objective orientation . That is to say 

evaluation is   independent of frame of reference .Whether paper is evaluated by a X examiner or Y examiner , if the answer is correct , marks are to be awarded. 

 

IS COACHING ESSENTIAL ? 

 It can be very well prepared by self study .

Competitions are passed by an intrinsic level of candidates . Neither books nor teachers can create a topper . If one possesses those innate skills/traits a good guide or coach can hone them up . A good teacher can  make your path less hurdle some , but can not provide the drive . If one  has a passion , energy and drive to succeed , then only one can succeed .  Infact in every successive batch , I have been  repeating that competitions are always cleared by students ‘ own  abilities. I only get credit for their success because I am still able to attract the best students of the country. Not every one clears from my classes too. Out of a batch of 50 students , only 20 percent will pass, that I know from day one. Then why do people think coaching is essential ? Answer is in between . For example , I have been teaching over a long period and have evaluated answer sheets of more than 5000 excellent candidates , so by my sheer experience I know what UPSC desires in a candidate .What kind of answer is expected . So if someone joins or interacts with a person like me, a lot of time and energy can be saved. Syllabus of any optional  is  equivalent to a four year degree course, which in our case turns out to be higher than that of an honours level and little less than  that of Masters level. Only an experienced hand can do justice to such a vast syllabus in a short duration of 4 to 5 months . Good  Coaching  just provided a direction . It tells more of what not to be studied than what to study.  If one is ready to work hard and practice , everything can be surmounted .More harm can be done by choosing a wrong coach than self study . I consider self study to be a better option than going to many  businessmen masquerading as coaches.

HOW TO SELECT GOOD COACH / COACHING  ?

These days there is a plethora of coaches offering all kinds of guidance with big promotions and fake results in the media. First of all , I consider , coaching is not essential at all .     But if one wants to go for a coaching to save time and energy , institute or coach should be selected very carefully by talking to a cross section of  selected candidates or from the feedback of  known tos , instead of blindly aping the others and going by advertisements .

RELATIVE PERFORMANCE OF SCIENCE OPTIONALS IN CSE in LAST THREE YEARS

The relative performance of different  Science optionals in the last three Civil Services Examinations as per latest  69 th Annual  UPSC Report  is given below  to help you decide about the optionals. Remember ten percent plus success rate is regarded as excellent in CSE. Most popular among Science optionals ,  Mathematics has a success rate of 7.1 and 5.9 percent respectively in CSE 2016 and 2017. Most popular humanities optional have success rates between   5 to 10 percent . Therefore popularity of the optional does not mean high success rate . In terms of number of selections ,definitely popular optional will have an edge . If  a subject has 4000 candidates appearing , even the success rate of 4 percent will also be equal to 320 selections . But matter of fact is that  for every  selection there is a rejection of 96 .  However limitation of this analysis is due to a time  lag of 2 years in obtaining  authentic   data . I have written this article in March 2020 when UPSC has just released its  69 th Report ,providing  data of Civil Services Examination 2017. Another limitation of analysis  is that UPSC provides only the number of candidates finally selected , not the data of candidates passing Mains . If we take a factor of 2.5 for success in personality test , then the success rate of optional will be 2.5 times the number of candidates finally  recommended. For Physics optional ,which I know for sure , every year out of approximately 140 to 150 candidates appearing  in Mains , about 30 to 35 candidates get a call for a Personality test . Therefore I regard it as a best  subject with consistent success  rate  and  an evergreen optional. But if we analyse carefully from the table , most of the science/engineering optional have a double digit success rate ,and in true sense four out of one selection . Though they may require a little more time to master the desired level of excellence , effort is best rewarded . Science optionals by their very nature are objective , so even after normalisation , are more scoring . If one is in the top ten percent of the class , 300  plus marks are assured ,which can easily catapult to one ‘ s   dream career .

 

 

Number of Candidates 

Appeared

Candidates Recommended

Success Rate 

Optional Subject

2015

2016

2017

2015

2016

2017

2015

2016

2017

Physics

128

141

140

20

14

14

15.6

10

10

Chemistry

92

126

126

11

12

11

12.1

9.5

8.7

Mathematics

258

406

441

31

29

26

12

7.1

5.9

Zoology

72

79

55

5

9

1

6.9

11.4

1.8

Botany

56

57

44

8

5

8.9

14

11.4

Agriculture

86

97

89

11

9

11

12.8

9.3

12.4

Civil Engineering

80

121

124

4

3

11

5

2.5

8.9

Mechanical Engineering

15

152

170

14

17 

19

12.2

11.2

11.2

Electrical Engineering

143

190 

193

13

17 

19

9.1

8.9

9.8

                                                                ( Source : UPSC Annual reports 67 ,68 and 69  )

From the above table , can we conclude more popular is the subject less is the success rate , more are the number of selections ?

I have presented all the facts before you to decide upon the optional . This is going to be the first important decision ,which can  propel your career to great heights.  Best of luck !

                                 

Mr. D P VAJPAYEE is a B.Tech from IIT, Bombay , LL B and M.Phil from JNU, New

Delhi. He is Director Delhi Institute for Administrative Services ( DIAS ) , Pusa

Road , New Delhi , country ‘s leading Institute for Science optionals . He teaches

Physics optional , portions of Mathematics and GS and is one of the the most popular

and trusted teachers for Civil Services Examination in India.                                          

 EXPERT ADVICE:  PHYSICS AS AN OPTIONAL IN CSE (MAINS )

  An Evergreen and Scoring optional 

-Prof  D P Vajpayee

DIRECTOR
DELHI INSTITUTE FOR ADMINISTRATIVE SERVICES (DIAS)
18 , PUSA ROAD , KAROL BAGH , NEW DELHI-110005

On  the basis of 5 POINT criteria of choosing optionals, Physics is one of the most preferred optional among the Science/Engg stream subjects. Reasons in its favour are:  

  1. Its well defined and well structured syllabus. Horizontal and vertical spread is well defined by the syllabus. 
  2. Its scoring nature. Every year lot many Physics candidates make it to “Top-100”
  3. Easy availability of study material.
  4. Its reliable nature. If it has been prepared well one can easily score up to 60-70% of marks i.e. between 300-350 marks.Value addition in every successive attempt.
  5. Highest success Rate of  10 % to  14 %  among popular optionals

In spite of all above-mentioned factors, few people are creating an environment that these days Physics is not very scoring. You have to put a lot of effort to score “well” in this subject. So on and so forth. My answer to all these is that only those candidates do not score well in this subject who either leave many portions of the syllabus, do not give to-the-point answers or do not practice the right way of answering the questions. A to Z of the present syllabus can be studied within 200 hours of study (this is the time, I take in completing the whole course). Hence the allegation of requiring a lot of time is not all that correct. Successful candidates every year score 300+ Marks in this subject. Therefore Science and Engineering Background candidates can safely opt for Physics as their optional.

Nature of PHYSICS OPTIONAL IN CSE MAINS

Now let me discuss the nature of Physics question papers in the Mains examination. Like any other optional, Physics too has  two papers of 250 marks each. Each paper being divided into two sections of 4 questions each. And out of these 8 questions, one has to attempt only 5. First question of both sections being compulsory, meaning there by that one has to choose remaining 3 questions out of 6. (Good 50% choice). All questions typically have 3 bits each barring compulsory questions, where there are 5  bits of ten marks each.  This is the format of the question papers. Now let’s discuss topic wise emphasis in both the papers. 

Section “A” of Paper I comprises of (i)  Mechanics  and (ii)  Waves &  Optics and in a compulsory question two bits are asked from both the courses , and remaining one bit  may be  asked on  the liking of the examiner, from any one of the three courses. Therefore on an average from every course 4 bits are asked. Every  bit may be of 10 , 15 or  of 20  marks. 

Mechanics have four  well defined units: Particle dynamics, System of particles ( Rigid body dynamics), Mechanics of continuous media and Special Theory of Relativity .   One bit is asked from each topic. Hence you should not leave any topic. This course can be well prepared from text books of classical mechanics by  Gupta , Kumar & Sharma . For supplementary reading Mechanics by Kleppner and Kolenkov can be consulted.

From Special Relativity, at the most two bits may be asked. Hence all old topics like Lorentz transforms, Length contraction, time dilation, velocity addition, Mass-Energy equivalence , covariance of equations in Physics are important. This  may be prepared from special relativity by Rebert Resnick/Gupta & Goyal. 

In Waves, damped and forced oscillations,  phase and group velocity should be given due importance. This portion can be prepared from any book because all topics are very common and given in all text books.   

In Geometrical optics, Fermat’s principle and matrix method should be prepared well. Geometrical optics along with Physical optics can be prepared from a book on optics by Prof. Ajay Ghatak.  Physical optics also has three well defined topics providing one bit each. In interference , division of amplitude class should be prepared well, in diffraction be omitted and in modern optics, optical fibres, spatial and temporal coherence and lasers be given due weightage.  

Section B of Paper I comprises (i) Electricity & Magnetism which included portions of  E.M. theory and black body radiation and (ii) Thermal and statistical physics. Format of this section is same as section A i.e. one question each from all the three courses and one bit from each course makes the compulsory question. Courses of electricity and magnetism has two well defined topics of electrostatics/ magnetostatics and current electricity. This course along with EM theory have been very straight forward and quite scoring. 

Thermal and statistical Physics can be prepared from a  textbook by Garg , Bansal & Ghosh. Ideal Fermi systems,  adiabatic demagnetisation etc. should be given due attention. 

Second paper of Physics can be very well covered in 80-90 hours and therefore, if prepared well, can fetch rich dividends. Section A of paper II consists of Quantum Mechanics and Spectroscopy, while section “B” has Nuclear & Particle Physics and Electronics & Solid state physics. 

The second paper excluding electronics can be prepared from Quantum Physics by Resnick and Eisberg/ Modern Physics by Arthur Beiser. Above books can be supplemented by Quantum Mechanics by David Griffiths / HC Verma ,  Atomic Spectra by White  , Molecular Spectra by  Banwell /   Rajkumar, and Nuclear physics by DC Tayal/  S B Patel. Electronics can be prepared from a text book by Allan Mottershed/ B. L. Thareja Vol. 4 and for Solid state Physics, text book by Kittel/ Puri & Babbar can be used . 

    In Nuclear physics, semi-empirical mass formula, deuteron problem, Shell model of nucleus and theory of β-decay should be prepared well. 

With the latest revision of syllabus, the syllabus of electronics has been enhanced and questions have also been asked from this new portion of JFET, MOSFET and fundamentals of microprocessors. Among the courses of Paper II, electronics has a maximum syllabus. Therefore non-electronics background candidates should make some extra efforts to master this part of syllabus or may also omit it.

This was all about different courses and their probable sources now I’ll give few general tips:

  1. My first advice is that one should not skip any portion of the syllabus. Thorough study is a must to get 300+marks.  At the most,  one course may be omitted from both the papers. Although when there is only one optional ,  I do not recommend it. 
  2. Analyse the examination papers of previous few years. You’ll know yourself where the focus is. For this you may use our topic wise collection of CSE questions and called Tutorial Sheets. 
  3. Take practice tests and get them evaluated by a teacher or by a senior and see yourself, what improvements can be made.
  4.  While taking the exams, read the questions correctly and carefully . Your answers  should be to the point, beating about the bush only wastes your time and doesn’t fetch any extra mark. Units and terms used in formulas should be clearly explained. If the question deals with what and how , you must definitely incorporate why and one line concluding remark answering where i.e its relevance or application.
  5. Do not give the derivation if it has not been asked. I’ll elaborate on this point, with the help of a problem asked in 2019’s exam. “Write down Euler ‘s equation of motion of a rigid body about a fixed point under the action of a torque . show that the kinetic energy of a torque free motion is constant “.  In this question , you are supposed to write  general Euler ‘s  equation, clearly explaining all the terms and frame of reference  and by taking torque zero , show  desired result and interpret quantities. Here there is no need to derive an equation. Apart from mentioning torque is the cause change in angular momentum is the effect and expressed in the body set ,it is Euler ‘s equation .Answering “why “ in every question of Physics is must .
  6. Finally one must stay ‘cool’ during the examination. Do not get panicked , even if you do not know a few things.

                                 RECOMMENDED BOOKS

    Before recommending any book , let me tell you my oft repeated mantra  : “ Every book and every teacher is equally good “ . Their job is only to present the experimentally verified facts ( called theories ) and to illustrate those basic concepts by  giving  some illustrations . Only illustrations and style of presentation may differ from teacher to teacher and book to book . Success of a teacher is typically measured in terms of success of their students . So if by studying from   a particular book or a teacher ,one   succeeds  ,  then  that book  starts trending and becomes popular . For Physics , I have recommended two sets of books , one is by internationally acclaimed writers , which typically are error free and have been widely used over space and time and second set of books by Indian writers , which have large number of solved problems , but may or may not have  desired  theoretical depth ., In this list I have tried to be as objective as possible , but can not be called free from  personal biases and preferences due to human nature.

Paper I

  •  Mechanics : Klappner & Kolenkov / Gupta , Kumar & Sharma
  • Waves &  Optics : Jenkins and White/ Ajay Ghatak/Brijlal , Subramanyam and Avdhesanulu 
  • Electrodynamics & EM Theory : David Griffiths /Satya Prakash

Chopra & Agrawal/

  • Thermal & Statistical Physics :  Sears & Zemansky/Garg ,Bansal & Ghosh / Satya Prakash & Agrawal .   

Paper II

  • Quantum Physics : Resnick & Eisberg
  • Concepts of Modern Physics : Arthur Beiser 
  • Quantum Mechanics : David Griffiths/  HCVerma 
  • Atomic & Molecular Spectra : White / Banwell /Raj Kumar 
  • Nuclear Physics : DC Tayal / S B Patel 
  • Solid State Physics : Kittel /Puri & Babbar 
  • Electronics : Alan Mottershed/ B L Thareja Vol.  

        and last DIAS tutorial sheets ( can be downloaded from our web site www.diasindia.com

and DIAS All India Test & Discussion Series ( can be taken by online mode , previous years papers and discussions can be seen from our website and youtube channel dias india

Mr. D P VAJPAYEE is a B.Tech from IIT, Bombay , LL B and M.Phil from JNU, New

Delhi. He is Director Delhi Institute for Administrative Services ( DIAS ) , Pusa

Road , New Delhi , country ‘s leading Institute for Science optionals . He teaches

Physics optional , portions of Mathematics and GS and is one of the the most popular

and trusted teachers for Civil Services Examination in India.