Three years back the number of posts used to be around 350-400. But now we are seeing an increase in the number. This year, the number of posts has gone up to 965. Ultimately it means that one in 400 ultimately will make it into the services.. For an exam which is considered as "mother of all competitions", a thorough preparation is a must. And for that to happen, the optionals to be selected should be rewarding.
Selecting the first optional should be done keeping in mind the syllabus of that optional, interests, recent history and the most important is the usual number of candidates who take the optional. The more the candidates are taking that optional, the more is the representation of candidates of that optional. For this reason, the usual optionals had been Public administration, History, Geography etc.
Since UPSC has planned to do a total revamp of prelims by the year 2011, the optional pattern in preliminary might be done with and in its place the CSAT would be introduced. The official notification in this regard is expected by June end-July 2010. Till then nobody can ascertain the pattern of Prel 2011..
This is more troublesome for most of the candidates (including me) as the first optional itself had asked us to do some sacrifice with regard to our academic subjects. This is where a judicious assessment and advice of those who have already appeared comes to the rescue.
When I appeared last year, I was a fresher, who had just finished MBBS and had virtually no idea about the exam. Even then I opted for Public administration as my first optional. After the prelims, I got casual as I had no hopes of clearing the preliminary stage itself. Although my score was coming close to 240(out of a total of 450), there were many who were claiming to get beyond 260-270. The results brought a welcome surprise and only then i started my preparation for mains.
Deciding about my 2nd optional was relatively easy for me as choosing anthropology meant that I'd have to study a few topics lesser(Genetics, physiology, embryology etc) and that plenty of material and guidance were available. But unfortunately guidance from Prof Muniratnam Reddy sir came only for social anthropology part of Paper 1. Second paper was not at all dealt with before the exams.
With just the half preparation in Anthro, i appeared and found that everyone had a bad experience due to the unexpected nature of the papers.. Saving grace had been physical anthropology for me but even there i had not covered the fossils properly due to which I had to make up the answers in most of the questions.Even then I managed to score well in the anthropology papers(P1 - 162, P2 - 144).
My advice to those who are thinking about taking up anthropology is that you can very well go about it provided you are well versed in either physical anthro or in social anthro. Even if you are an expert in social anthro, You'll have to face minimum 100 marks worth of questions of physical anthro..
Take Anthropology as your 2nd optional only and only if you can deal with physical anthropology comfortably..
Wishing everyone, Best of luck..