IAS (UPSC CSE) Mains 2021 Preparation Strategy for Psychology Optional

Updated On -

Mar 22, 2021

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Sudeshna Bhar

Exams Prepmaster

Psychology is one of the optional subjects offered by the UPSC. It is defined as the scientific study of the human mind and its functions. The conducting body releases the syllabus of psychology optional on the official website. Direct Link to the official website

The topics which have been included in this subject majorly focus on theoretical and applied psychology. To prepare for IAS (UPSC CSE) Mains psychology optional, the booklist, previous year questions, and preparation tips have been provided in the article.

Best Books for IAS(UPSC CSE) Psychology Optional

To begin your preparation, you should get a few reference books and notes that will cover the entire course. Choose the books carefully so that you can limit the number of reference sources you use but have all the necessary topics covered within these few sources.

Name of the Books Author/ Publisher
NCERT Psychology Class 11 and 12 NCERT
Textbook of Psychology (Indian adaptation) Robert Baron
Textbook of Psychology Morgan and King
Psychology Optional Notes Mukul Pathak
Research book AK Singh
Psychology Saundra Ciccarelli
Understanding Psychology Robert S. Feldman
Applied Psychology Smarak Swain
Social Psychology Baron & Byrne
Social Psychology Robert Baron, Branscombe, Gopa Bhardwaj, Byrne
Statistics for Psychology Aron, Aron, Coups
Statistical psychology Das & Das
Systems & Theories of Psychology Krawiec & Chaplin
Group Dynamics: The Psychology of Small Group Behavior Marvin E. Shaw
Theories of Personality Hall & Lindzey

Online Source for IAS (UPSC CSE) Psychology Preparation

Those who prefer studying online can go for the below-mentioned online source to prepare for IAS (UPSC CSE) psychology optional:

  • Open course by Yale university– Taken by Dr. Paul Bloom.
  • Open course by MIT university
  • Psychology video series at the Crash Course Youtube Channel

Previous Years’ Papers for IAS (UPSC CSE) Psychology Optional

The previous years’ question papers are available on the official website of the UPSC. Candidates also can click on the below link to download the UPSC psychology question papers free of cost.

Year of Exam Paper-I Paper-II
2020 Download Download
2019 Download Download
2018 Download Download
2017 Download Download
2016 Download Download

Important Tips for IAS(UPSC CSE) Psychology Optional

There are two papers for the optional subject and psychology is no exception. Irrespective of the optional subject that you take up, you must begin preparations right from the time you submit the application form to ace the subject, simultaneous to your prelims preparation. This means you cannot wait to get the confirmation whether you qualified prelims to begin the Mains preparation. Here are a few generic tips:

  • Practice writing, answering more from your intuition than by mugging up theories. However, seek guidance and get your answers checked by someone who has a background in studying psychology.
  • NCERT will help to clear your basic concept that in turn will help in grasping the detailed study provided by other reference books, hence you cannot skip reading up the NCERTs in the initial few days.
  • The more you revise the topics and make notes or write answers, the better you will be able to draw links between topics that can further enrich your answer writing and are very helpful in IAS (UPSC CSE) Mains where your ability to co-relate topics is especially judged.
  • Research studies form an integral part of any subject. However, in psychology, the line between intuitive understanding of the topic and actual research-based proven backup is very thin. Hence, you have to carefully choose the research studies you refer to.
  • At the same time, you cannot skip mentioning research studies to substantiate the answer. A practical solution is making a habit of mentioning the researcher and the theory you conclude from at the beginning of the answer so that it does not get confusing for the examiner as they read through the answer.
  • Use the internet judicially and do not spend a lot of time researching every topic. The internet is quite helpful for supplementing the research-oriented part of the syllabus. It is also fruitful for computer and artificial intelligence-based topics.
  • You can also watch the psychology tutorial videos as well. The internet should be used for enhancing your understanding of a particular topic and not gaining more information that might not even have a substantial value.
  • While writing answers, many times you will come across questions that cannot be written based on all that you have memorized so far or learned. In such cases, try and understand the purpose of the question alone and what you derive from it.

Paper-wise Tips for IAS (UPSC CSE) Psychology Optional

NCERT psychology books for IAS (UPSC CSE) exam are very supportive for those who are starting preparation. Here are the preparation tips for both papers of psychology.

Preparation Tips for Psychology Paper-I

Paper-1 comprises the topics- Foundation of psychology, cognitive psychology, personality, and contemporary psychology.

  • Emphasis on the “research methods” chapter as it is becoming increasingly popular as a topic and several questions are being asked from this chapter in the past few years.
  • Questions from a few topics are repeated many times over the years and hence by studying the previous years’ question papers you can get an idea about the topics to be focused on.
  • Some of the topics that are repeated include working memory, intrinsic motivation, attitude, values and interest, issues in modern psychology, etc.
  • Episodic memory, long-term memory, learning, stereotypes, adjustments, etc. are some of the topics that are less popular but are necessary for the overall understanding of the sections covered in paper-1.
  • Keep your answers structurally organized and straightforward while writing the paper-1.
  • Paper-1 has a more theoretical approach and hence, to make richer answers, substantiate with quotes from research works of relevant researchers alongside examples.

Preparation Tips for Psychology Paper-II

Paper-II deals with applied psychology. This paper is more application-oriented and requires extra effort and answer writing practice.

  • Try to write your answers from the concepts of psychology that you have learned in Paper I.
  • For paper II, Applied Psychology by Smarak Swain is very helpful.
  • Certain questions of paper-1 are application based and here, your understanding of the topics from paper-2 will be helpful. Hence, the papers are interconnected.
  • Paper 1 has conceptual topics and you must have a clarified idea about all the concepts to ace paper-2 as well.
  • Practice the writing answers for paper-II on alternate days so that the track can be maintained.

Only by following the above-mentioned strategy and books will not be enough to clear the IAS (UPSC CSE Mains exam. To get the desired marks in the exam, candidates need to study at least 12 - 15 hours and check the current affairs regularly.

*The article might have information for the previous academic years, please refer the official website of the exam.