UPSC / IAS Prep: Psychology Optional Strategy by IAS Ravi Ranjan (AIR 92 CSE 2013)

Hi, this article on psychology optional preparation has been written by Mr. Ravi Ranjan (AIR 92, CSE 2013). His facebook page is . I am merely hosting this on my blog. Pleas direct all queries to him. Thanks, Gaurav.

Hello everybody! In this note i am going to share the strategy i followed for preparation of Psychology as well as the booklist for the same.First let me talk about this optional a bit.

It’s quite an interesting optional not only at the face of it but also when u are deep into it. It has tremendous applicability not only in daily life and to manage one’s own self, shape one’s personality, attitudes, behaviour but also in administration. In a nutshell i have realized that wherever there is human involvement, psychology as a study of behaviour and mental processes has a role to play. Now the revised General Studies syllabus talks about Attitude, Emotional Intelligence, Aptitude which are staight out of the syllabus of Psychology. Psychology aids in the understanding of social issues like Communal violence, Juvenile delinquency, Voilence of all forms against women to name a few. It also aids in essays, personality test. Hence it’s a nice optional to take with multiple interlinkages with various stages of this examination as well as portions of GS syllabus.

But, the nice words end here and the somewhat discomforting picture about psychology is the low scores awarded by UPSC. After all, what is the use of the optional if one cannot score in it and get into the preferred service? This is the general concern about this subject. Statistics also buttress this notion. The highest marks have been barely touching 50% at times crossing it marginally. This year i had a tough time finding fellow psycho aspirants and strength in the test series batch of Vaziram was drastically less.

Analyzing closely, i find that this dismal trend of score is just not true for psychology but also in other optional subjects. As i feel, UPSC now checks for greater conceptual clarity across optionals and sets more difficult papers.Also, this is perhaps the way of UPSC to reduce the undue impact on selection due to spiking of marks in optionals, particulary in a few particularly popular ones.I can find similar assessment elsewhere in another piece where Mr. Rahul Pandey AIR 52 has shared his experiences with Public Administration. I quote him ” In the last two years, UPSC has deliberately increased the difficulty levels of question paper as they are more interested in those students who have conceptual clarity and ability to write those concepts in a simple manner.” Actually, marks are therefore awarded when there is conceptual clarity, originality in analysis and connections highlighted between theoretical concepts and the real life examples. This is simply the logic of whole process of studying optionals for Civil Services, where as an administrator, one is supposed to use the same concepts while performing in the service. A good indicator of whether a person will do that is whether s/he is able to do that on paper in the examination.

Looking at the scores of optionals, it appears that if one can obtain about 45%-50% marks in optionals then one has done reasonably well to quite good job.Hence, to expect that one will become IAS just by studying the optional is going to be suicidal. Every Paper counts now including the Personality Test.

Here’s my booklist for Psychology:

Paper 1

Introduction to Psychology Robert Baron
Psychology by Morgan and King
Psychology by Ciccarelli
Psychology NCERT XI XII
Vaziram class notes by Mukul Pathak sir
Tests, Measurements and Research Methods in Behavioural Sciences by A K Singh (Bharti Bhawan publications)
Statistics for Psychology by Aron, Aron, Coups
Cognitive Psychology by Sternberg

Paper 2
Vaziram class notes by Mukul Pathak sir
Applied Psychology by Mr. Smarak Swain
Social Psychology by Robert Baron, Branscombe, Gopa Bhardwaj, Byrne

Besides i also frequently visited for latest updates on applied part and research in psychology.Not to forget, i followed columns dealing with latest practices in organizations in newspapers. These can be readily found in The Hindu, TOI, The Business Standard, The ET. Also, keeping an eye on the news articles from the point of view of psychology syllabus gave me fresh perspective in writing answers.

In the next note i’ll specifically talk about how I read paper 1 and paper 2 and practised answer writing.I’ll try to upload snapshots of some answers i wrote during test series.

I thank Mr. Rahul Pandey for sharing his valuable insights for the benefit of the aspirants.

Thanx and All the best!


33 thoughts on “UPSC / IAS Prep: Psychology Optional Strategy by IAS Ravi Ranjan (AIR 92 CSE 2013)”

  1. Sir any of ur frns took Pol Sc.? Please help me with that .. either host their suggestions/ strategy for prep or please help me get in tch with em. Thanks in advance


  2. Sir, any or ur frns took Geography ? Please help me that either host their suggestions/ strategy for prep or please help me get in tch with em.


  3. hello ravi ranjan sir, i have taken psychology as an optional. i took mukul pathak sir’s classes last year. i want to know that how did you study. i mean should i read mukl sir’s notes or shouls i make my own notes using vajiram notes and various books.
    i also want to know about the answer writing practice and mains test series for psychology.
    did u take any? which one do u prefer? thanks


  4. SIr, i dont have a background with any of these optionals but, psychology is something (i think) i may find interesting(instinct says so)…coz i love watching psykological flicks and reading cognitive articles and all….just based on this hunch… should i take a decision so big as to make it my optional??…..(that “low scores awarded in psycho” by UPSC thing scares me)


  5. Hi Gaurav sir, Pls ask Rahul Sir to post other posts as he promised. Or else can u direct me to his blog, if he has any? Thank you. You are doing a great job helping aspirants like me who doesn’t have access to coaching. Thank you.


  6. Gaurav sir,
    Please ask Ravi sir(unable to get response from him) to update the complete strategy that he mentioned that he will follow up on, regarding paper 1 and paper 2.
    Us pschology optional walas are going pscho with utter confusion when answering test series, losing confidence, even though i feel i have completed the syllabus.


  7. HI Ravi sir,
    Kindly provide your next release as per your promise:

    <</In the next note i’ll specifically talk about how I read paper 1 and paper 2 and practised answer writing.I’ll try to upload snapshots of some answers i wrote during test series.



  8. I’m a mechanical engineer n I’m interested about taking up psychology as my optional n I have no basic knowledge about it
    So please Mrs anything that helps me for a better understanding of the subject..?


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