(Getting Started) Sociology optional Strategy Neha Bhosle's AIR-15

(Getting Started) Sociology optional Strategy Neha Bhosle's AIR-15

Neha Bhosle secured the coveted AIR-15 rank in UPSC Civil Services Examination in 2019. Hailing from the state of Maharashtra, Neha has done her BE from Mumbai University and continued her education by completing her MBA from IIM Lucknow. She has also worked for the private sector for 3 years. She started preparing for UPSC in 2016 while in her job, but given the lack of time, she quit her job in 2017 and pursued a full-time preparation. This was her second attempt and her optional was Sociology.

Why Sociology Optional?

Neha took three months of researching optionals at the beginning of her preparation before zeroing in on Sociology. Initially, she had spent a few months on management optional as it was a reminiscence of her post-grad degree. However, the vast syllabus was not encouraging. Once she quit her job, choosing an optional different from her background and starting from scratch became a viable option. Keeping her general interest, ease of finding study material, and overlap with the General Studies syllabus, Neha chose Sociology to be her optional.

Sociology Optional Book List


  1. Both Class 11 NCERTs – Introducing Sociology and Understanding Society
  2. Both Class 12 NCERTs – Indian Society and Social Change and Development in India
  3. IGNOU Sociology - ESO 13 and MSO 04 Blocks
  4. Sociology – Themes and Perspectives by Haralambos and Holborn (Blue Haralambos)

UPSC Mains Sociology (Optional) Study Materials

As per her blog, Neha recommends selectively reading from the Blue Haralambos (8th Edition)  –

  1. Introduction: sociological perspectives – full
  2. Chapter 1: Stratification, class and inequality – pages 21-24, 30-34, 47-56, 80-82, 87-93
  3. Chapter 2: Sex and gender – pages 95-101, 104-121, 130-138
  4. Chapter 3: ‘Race’, ethnicity and nationality – pages 155-160, 174-187, 193-197, 206-210
  5. Chapter 4: Poverty, social exclusion and the welfare state – pages 231-236, 246-247, 259-264, 269-276
  6. Chapter 6: Crime and deviance – pages 347-352, 361-367
  7. Chapter 7: Religion – pages 431-437, 444-462, 473-475, 487-488, 491-499, 504-507
  8. Chapter 8: Families, households and personal life – pages 509-525, 544-545, 566-569
  9. Chapter 9: Power, politics and the state – pages 579-590, 593-603, 608-620
  10. Chapter 10: Education – pages 663-671, 702-704
  11. Chapter 14: Methodology – full
  12. Chapter 15: Sociological theory – pages 953-998, 1013-1015


  1. Applied Sociology – Indian Society: Structure and Change by Vikash Ranjan Sir
  2. Mohapatra Sir’s Class Notebooks
  3. Tusharanshu Sharma Sir’s notes

Neha’s Strategy

Neha started with the NCERTs for Paper-I. Once she was done with them, she read the IGNOU material once and tried making notes from them. She followed this up by the selective reading of the Blue Haralambos and made study notes. She followed a similar process for Paper-II and made notes from the text. She also revised the IGNOU material more than once before the prelims itself. For the notes, she highlighted the potions she felt were more important or contained keywords, instead of making fresh notes.

After the prelims, armed with her own notes, and highlighted notes from Upendra Gaur Sir, Mohapatra Sir, and Tusharanshu Sharma Sir, she made multiple revisions and wrote tests. She joined the online combined Lectures and Test Series Course for Sociology by Praveen Kishore Sir.

Answer Writing

There are three things you need to have prepared before attempting writing good answers –

  1. 350-400 word notes on each topic mentioned in the syllabus.
  2. Real-life current affairs case studies pertaining to relevant topics in the syllabus.
  3. Answers to common questions asked over the years.

These already give you enough good content to fill your answers with. Now it is a matter of practice. Write test series and use the feedback to analyze and improve your answers. It is not rocket science and is very doable for each aspirant. 

Remember, the key to writing good answers in sociology is to not fall into the General Studies trap, but instead, think sociological points to write about. 

All the best!



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