Before initiating the preparations, a few things must be noted by the candidates. The choice of optional subject for Paper-II has to be done very carefully. The candidates must plan ahead of time with eyes on the main examination and choose the optional which he/she intends taking up in the Mains. The preparations done for the preliminaries would assist the candidates in getting good grasp of the subject and the effort put in would not go waste after the prelims.
Secondly, optional subject carries more number of maximum marks as compared to the General Studies Paper. Hence, its importance cannot be undermined. A candidate doing well in the optional paper is expected to fare well in the examination. Moreover, the optional subject for Paper-II should usually be the subject in which the candidate has either attained proficiency/higher academic qualification or in which the candidate feels at home. Another consideration is the performance of candidates in the said subject in the recent past. There are several20subjects like History, Psychology, Sociology, Public Administration etc in which even the candidates not having special or additional educational qualifications have been doing reasonably well, while the subjects like Mathematics, Physics, and Engineering are considered to offer tougher questions and the candidates with exceptionally good preparation only may expect to do well. But this observation may not be taken as the universal truth. Moreover, the aptitude and proficiency of a particular candidate in a given subject also plays an important role in arriving at a decision.
Availability and access to good and prescribed books is yet another consideration and often the candidates are also guided by this factor, particularly in smaller towns. Books for preliminary examination are available in plenty in common subjects but in case of specialised optionals like Mathematics, Engineering, Agriculture etc, one has to look carefully for good books which cover all parts of the syllabus.
Preparations for Paper-II also need specific planning. It would be wrong to confine the studies only to the multiple choice objective type questions. Unless a detailed study of the subject is carried out, it would be difficult to answer the questions on the subject properly. The aim, must, therefore, be to clearly understand the basics of the subject by covering each and every aspect of the syllabus. This provides a candidate with adequate self-confidence and knowledge to answer the questions correctly. It is better to consult various books on different aspects, as it is very rare that one single book covers the entire syllabus with total efficiency. After going through all parts of the syllabus in detail and getting hold of the basic concepts, it is desirable to have sufficient practice in solving multiple choice objective type questions. A good book on objective type multiple choice questions or a good question bank on the subject concerned may assist the candidates a great deal. Such practice, on the one hand, would perfect the art of answering the questions correctly and rapidly, and on the other would enable the candidates in understanding the questions asked in various forms. It is normally observed that at times even simple questions are asked in such a complex manner that it becomes difficult to understand the question correctly.
It is not difficult to find out a candidate who had, during the past couple of years, appeared in the prelims with the same subject. It is always better to discuss the subject, its intricacies, pattern of questions and the books to be studied. In addition, it is also not difficult to identify the candidate offering the same optional subject for Paper-II within the same town/city. It is always fruitful to have detailed discussions on various parts of the syllabus, books to be consulted for the basics, multiple choice question books or question banks and other related issues. Finally, the practice of correctly marking the answer sheet by using minimum possible time will go a long way in helping you succeed.