Strategy for Statistics Optional for UPSC

Statistics is one of the optional subjects that the UPSC offers in the civil services mains examination. It is an optional that finds very few takers every year, in fact, the number rarely rises above 20. This is, no doubt, due to the specialised nature of the subject and because of the fact that very few students take this subject for their graduation.

Statistics is closely related to mathematics. It is in fact, a branch of mathematics dealing with data collection, organization, analysis, interpretation and presentation. The chief difference between the two is that while mathematics has a lot of theoretical aspects (apart from the practical application), statistics is almost entirely an applied science. In this article, we discuss all about the statistics optional for the UPSC IAS exam.

How many take Statistics optional?

Year No. of candidates appeared No. of candidates cleared Success Rate (%)
2015 5 1 20
2014 6 1 16.7
2013 6 1 16.7
2012 16 1 6.3
2011 19 1 5.3
2010 19 0 0

Statistics optional pros and cons

As with any other optional, the statistics optional also has its share of advantages and drawbacks associated with the mains exam. To decide on an optional, you should study the pros and cons of the subject you are considering, and then assess your own strengths and weaknesses and analyse for yourself. Do not pick an optional just because your friends are doing it, or because some topper suggested it. At the end of the day, you are taking the exam, and you will have to study the subject for months. So, the decision can ultimately only be yours.

Statistics optional pros

  • Statistics is a scoring optional since it is a branch of mathematics.
  • You will face very little competition in this optional subject.
  • If you are comfortable with the subject and prepare well, you should be able to score well since there is no subjectivity in this subject.
  • The syllabus for statistics for the optional is quite static.
  • If you have studied this optional for your degree or PG, you would not have to start from scratch if you opt for this optional which would not be the case if you opt for any other subject like political science, public administration or history.
  • Some concepts in statistics are very important for every field of study, be it geography, economics, science, sociology, anthropology, etc. You can use such information in your GS answers as well.
  • You can also take the Indian Statistical Service exam if you are interested in it.

Statistics optional cons

  • There is no UPSC-tailored study material available for this optional. You will have to go through the previous years’ IAS question papers and the syllabus, and see for yourself which are the most important and repeated topics. You will mostly have to rely on your graduation textbooks.
  • You will find it difficult (almost impossible) to get a good test series for statistics.
  • There is almost nil overlap with the general studies papers.
  • You will have to engage in self-study as coaching is pretty hard to come by for statistics optional.

Statistics Syllabus for UPSC

Let us take a look at the syllabus for Statistics for the UPSC mains exam.

There are two optional papers in the UPSC exam pattern. Both the papers are for a total of 250 marks making the total optional marks to 500.

UPSC Statistics optional syllabus PDF –Download PDF Here

Statistics optional UPSC strategy

  1. The first step in your preparation should be to study the UPSC syllabus for statistics thoroughly.
  2. The second step should be to analyse the previous years’ question papers, at least papers of the past ten years should be looked at.
  3. When you analyse the papers,  you will come to know of the most important and repeated topics in the papers. In this optional, there are repeated topics and you must ensure to study those topics thoroughly.
  4. Make sure to practice questions very well. In statistics, much like its parent mathematics, sufficient practice is required to develop speed of answering questions. Practice will also ensure that you do not make any silly mistakes, which can prove costly.
  5. Even though test series are not readily available for the statistics optional, you must get enough exam-simulation before you face the real deal. For this, practice previous years’ UPSC statistics papers in a time-bound manner. This will ensure that you learn time management for the mains exam. Also, you will understand how to choose questions that you are going to answer. (In the optionals, out of 8 questions, you have to attempt questions 1 and 5 compulsorily, out of the remaining, you can choose three questions).
  6. Remember to write answers like a specialist in the optional papers. Your approach to answer-writing should be different for the general studies papers and for the optional subjects.
  7. Presentation is very important in the answer booklet. Underline or highlight the important words and concepts in your answers. Avoid strikes and cuttings. Draw tables or pictorial representations like graphs wherever relevant and possible.

Statistics optional books for UPSC

  • An Introduction to Probability Theory & Mathematical Statistics  – V K Rohtagi
  • Fundamentals of Applied Statistics – S C Gupta and V K Kapoor
  • Fundamentals of Statistics (2 Vol.) – A M Goon, M K Gupta and B Dass Gupta
  • Introductory Probability and Statistical Applications – Paul Meyer
  • Fundamentals of Mathematical Statistics – A C Gupta and V K Kapoor
  • Sampling Theory of Surveys with applications – P V Sukhatme & B V Sukhatme
  • Sampling Techniques – William G. Cochran

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