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Civil Services Optionals - Literature has immense scoring potentialities

civil services optionals - literature


Breaking Conventions Part 2 ‘Literature’ in a competent language- optional subject

Civil Service is amongst the most prestigious services in India, offering 24 services including IAS, IPS, IFS etc. for which UPSC conducts Civil Services Examination (CSE) in order to select the candidates.


With the changes brought in from the year 2013, weightage of optional papers in Civil Services Mains exam has been reduced from 52% to around 24% owing to the shift from two optional subjects to one. And yet the importance of the optional subject can be seen in the allocation of marks- 500, which is double of 250 marks given for per paper of general studies, thereby doubling the scope of cracking mains. It is upon the selection of the optional subject that the conundrum arises.


Selection of your optional subject is a task that has to be done after an in depth analysis and with utmost care. We, at SuccessCDs, intend to ensure that only the best assemblage of noesis is made available to you in our articles, hence we bring to you a series of three articles, focused intently upon the selection of optional subject, ranging from Science and Technology to Literature and Arts.  


In the second part of the three article series, we will explore the subjects belonging to the stream of literature which, though underrated, have immense scoring potentialities. If one is fairly interested in literature, one can go for language optionals notwithstanding his/her graduation major. Apart from the advantage of availability of ample reading material, study of literature optional can be supplemented through the analysis/criticism provided on websites such as Sparknotes, Cliffnotes, Wikipedia etc.


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Furthermore, literature helps in developing strong viewpoint towards understanding of issues, and thus it has a great impact upon Essay writing and Interview. Usage of a few good lines from a poem or quoting a famous author can assure high marks in Essay, Ethics and Interview.



Paper-I  requires answer to the questions based on unseen poem and in paper-II, there is similarly a passage from which questions are based. Both combined constitute 100 marks (50 each) and are compulsory. These can be answered without any intensive prior preparation too. "Answer-writing practice is of utmost importance. One should do it on a regular basis using the previous year questions (questions from past 10 year paper are relevant) and since professional guidance (as per UPSC requirement) for this optional is virtually non-existent, one can approach any good university professor for evaluation of one’s answers. If not, even self-evaluation is sufficient." says Ajay Prakash (AIR 9, CSE 2010). The most important topics are Novels & Drama (English-origin+Indian), Poetry, History of English Literature, Unseen poetry and passage.


Kannada Literature

With Nandini K R getting the 1st rank with Kannada Literature as her optional subject in the year 2016, more and more people are looking towards this subject. The major plus point with Kannada Literature is the possibility of getting a score as high as 280-290 makes it a shining star for those who are well versed with Kannada language. Though the syllabus is huge and question paper tends to be lengthy, it is compensated by the repetitive nature of question paper. Around 50% of the questions asked are either from the static part of the subject or are related directly or indirectly to the past years' question papers. Linguistics, History of Kannada, Language, Bhasha Shastra, SahityaCharitre form the most important part of the paper.


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Telugu Literature

All the topics are related to – Kala SoundaryaDrukpatham, CharithrakaSamajakaDrukpatham, ManastatatvaDrukpatham, TatvikaDrukpatham, Vyaktitvam (character – sketch), relevance and importance of these topic in literature. So, frame answers while keeping these pointers in mind. In section – A, if one is comfortable with Telugu grammar, the paper becomes very easy. Section – B is also scoring with the exception of candidate having to memorize a lot of names of authors, care should be taken in presentation and art of writing good answers with sub-heading. The paper will require first-hand reading of the texts prescribed and will be designed to test the candidate's critical ability.


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Hindi Literature:

Hindi Literature is another much opted-for choice owing to Hindi being the compulsory language paper in Provincial Services of states like Uttar Pradesh. It has proved to be highly successful as Hindi Literature doesn't need to be updated daily, after preparing it once there remains no need of regular modifications. Also, it enables the candidate to score good marks in any examination after mere revision of those notes. In contrast, it remains a challenge for candidates to update other subjects like Political Science, Sociology, Public Administration and Economics with the events that take place from time to time.  All the four sections of Hindi Literature are mutually co-related with each other so there won't be a problem of dispersion during preparation. This subject can be prepared in a brief timeframe, a time of three months is sufficient to plan for the subject totally."IGNOU Notes for Literature of Hindi Language have been of huge help", says Pratibha Singh (AIR 407/ CSE 2012)


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Marathi Literature

Provided you have good command on the language and good handwriting (for the paper tends to be lengthy), scoring in this paper is quite simple. If you prepare well, then chances of scoring well are high. It is all about originality and how well you can write the critical analysis of topics, which will come easily if you practice answer writing regularly. The subject syllabus entails preparing:


  • Language and Folk-Lore


(a) Nature and Functions of Language (with reference to Marathi)

Language as a signifying system: Langue and Parole; Basic functions; Poetic language; Standard Language and dialect; Language variations according to social parameters.
Linguistic features of Marathi in thirteenth century and seventeenth century.


(b) Dialects of Marathi

Ahirani; Varhadi; Dangi


(c) Marathi Grammar

Parts of Speech; Case-system; Prayog-vichar (Voice)


(d) Nature and kinds of Folk-lore (with special reference to Marathi)


  • Lok-Geet, Lok Katha, LokNatya


History of Literature and Literary Criticism


(a) History of Marathi Literature and Literary Criticism

1. Nature and function of Literature;


2. Evaluation of Literature;


3. Nature, Objectives and Methods of Criticism;


4. Literature, Culture and Society.


Choosing a literature subject as your optional breaks the monotony of mugging up factual information in general studies and brings dynamism in the process of preparation. Literature appeals to your imaginative side, triggering creativity and innovative thinking which is of stupendous help in writing the essay and ethics paper. Preparation would be fun with the added spice of novels and poems instead of the backbreaking journey that Civil Services Examination is!


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Author: Anushka Mishra

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