How To Choose The Best UPSC Optional Subject For UPSC Exam | UPSC Optional Subjects For Civil Services (Main) Examination

UPSC Optional Subject plays a great role in being the score-differentiator for UPSC aspirants. In the CSE Main exam, out of the nine papers, two papers, Paper VI and Paper VII are of Optional Subject Paper 1 and Optional Subject Paper 2. Each of them carries 250 marks. And the marks obtained in the optional subject papers are considered for the preparation of final merit. Hence, the choice of an optional subject for UPSC must be made cautiously. Unlike the earlier times, candidates have to now choose just one optional subject, and hence, “how to choose the best optional subject for UPSC” remains the most frequently asked question by UPSC aspirants!

In this article, we have listed the UPSC optional subjects that a candidate can choose from with an expert strategy on how to choose the best optional subject for UPSC. You can click on the hyperlinks to check out the syllabus and strategy to prepare the particular subject. .

List of UPSC Optional Subjects

The names of UPSC optional subjects for the UPSC CS(Main) examination are mentioned in the table below. Click on the link of the subject to get detailed information about the syllabus, preparation strategy, and booklist of the optional subject for UPSC:


Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Science




Civil Engineering

Commerce and Accountancy


Electrical Engineering







Mechanical Engineering

Medical Science



Political Science and International Relations


Public Administration




Literature of following languages are also a part of the UPSC optional subjects for UPSC Mains exam from which you can choose your best suited optional subject for UPSC:


























How to Choose the Best UPSC Optional Subject For Civil Services Exam?

UPSC optional subject plays a very important role in the UPSC CS Main Examination as it consists of a total of 500 marks out of a total of 2025 marks. If you choose wisely, then these 500 marks can make a great difference in the final total marks. The definition of the best UPSC optional subject can vary from one candidate to another based on his educational background.

Most students commit the mistake of choosing optional subjects for UPSC on the basis of toppers’ score in that subject, or because of other factors like popularity, availability of study groups, etc. However, you should be very careful while choosing an optional subject on such parameters as it may cost you an attempt!

Here are some of the factors that you may consider to choose the best from the list of optional subjects for UPSC:

#1 Overlapping Syllabus

 Some of the optional subjects like History, Political Science & International Relations, Sociology, Geography, Economics, Public Administration, etc have syllabuses that overlap with the General Studies syllabus in both Prelims and Mains. Hence, it might save you some preparation time.

#2 Lengthy Syllabus

Now, you already have four General Studies papers and an essay paper that are merit-oriented. Choosing an optional with a lengthy syllabus would mean that you’ll have to dedicate more time to prepare the optional subject. Hence, choose a subject that you can comfortably cover in the stipulated time.

#3 Competition Level

Some candidates feel a good UPSC optional subject is the one that has a high success ratio in terms of the number of candidates appearing to the recommended candidates. However, it is only partially true. More than everything else, your copy will be evaluated on the basis of your answer’s comprehensibility. Hence, choose a subject that you’re comfortable with.

#4 Availability of resources

Now, there are 47 optional subjects available, but the resources in terms of educators, study materials, and relevant books are extremely limited. Although now, with the onset of online education, you can access more resources sitting at the comfort of your home, it is imperative that you evaluate the choice of optional on the basis of the available resources.

#5 Familiarity with the subject

Another important factor that you must consider while choosing the optional subject for UPSC is familiarity with the subject. If you already have that subject as part of your graduation or post-graduation, then that should be your choice. Otherwise, opt for a subject that you can consistently study without losing interest.

Other than these, factors such as relevance to the civil services job role, a consistent choice of subject among high rankers, scoring potential, and comfortability with the subject may also be considered while evaluating the optional subjects. So, this was a brief overview of the optional subjects available for the UPSC Main Examination. Check out the detailed exam pattern and exam syllabus of UPSC CSE here.

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How to choose UPSC optional subject?