How To Choose The Best UPSC Optional Subjects 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 from the UPSC Optional subjects. They are optional Subject Paper 1 and Optional Subject Paper 2. Each of them carries 250 marks. So, the UPSC optional subject carries 500/1750 marks in the UPSC Mains Exam. The marks obtained in the UPSC optional subjects 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. However, it needs to be done 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.

In this article, we have listed the UPSC optional subjects that a candidate can choose. However, it needs to be done 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 UPSC optional subject to get detailed information about the syllabus, preparation strategy, and booklist of the optional subject for UPSC:

Agriculture

Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Science

Anthropology

Botany

Chemistry

Civil Engineering

Commerce and Accountancy

Economics

Eletrical Engineering

Geography

Geology

History

Law

Management

Mathematics

Mechanical Engineering

Medical Science

Philosophy

Physics

Political Science and International Relations

Psychology

Public Administration

Sociology

Statistics

Zoology

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:

Assamese

Bengali

Bodo

Dogri

Gujarati

Hindi

Kannada

Kashmiri

Konkani

Maithali

Malayalam

Manipuri

Marathi

Nepali

Odia

Punjabi

Sanskrit

Santhali

Sindhi

Tamil

Telugu

Urdu

English

 

 

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

The UPSC optional subjects play a very important role in the UPSC CS Main Examination. 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 from the list of UPSC optional subjects 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’ scores 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.

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 UPSC optional subjects available for the UPSC Main Examination. Check out the detailed exam pattern and exam syllabus of UPSC CSE here.

Which Is The Best Optional Subject For UPSC

There are some subjects which are more scoring than others. However, if we see the broader picture, IAS toppers have scored 320+ in both technical and non-technical subjects. The reason why some subjects are perceived as low scoring is that candidates are not able to put in the requisite effort or they have selected an optional subject which isn’t right for them.

Technical subjects (such as Mathematics) can fetch you high marks as the answers are absolute. Basically, unlike humanities subjects, the examiner’s biases or preferences have less of a role to play. However, non-technical subjects, especially those which have some overlap with the GS syllabus, give more preparation time and reading material overall, thus increasing the overall Mains score if studied well.

There are many factors to decide which is the best optional subject in UPSC. Before deciding on a subject, a candidate must ask herself/himself the following six questions.

  • How vast is the syllabus of the optional?

  • How much preparation time do you have?

  • Do you have prior knowledge of the subject at the graduate/PG level?

  • How much syllabus overlap is there between your optional choice and GS part in Prelims/Mains?

  • Are the study material and coaching readily available?

  • Do you have the requisite drive/interest to study the subject for UPSC exam?

Depending on the answers to the above six questions, a candidate should make an ‘individual’ choice as to the best optional in UPSC for them.

Which UPSC Optional Subject Has Most Overlap With General Studies Subjects?

The following subjects are popular among IAS aspirants from both technical and non-technical because of the high overlap with GS or other parts of the UPSC exam:

  • Public Administration – Highly relevant, compact syllabus, paper II (Indian Administration) has a lot of overlap with polity and governance part in GS II.

  • Sociology – the study of society, lots of material which can be used in GS I, Essay, and even in Ethics paper.

  • History – relevant for prelims as well as GS I.

  • Geography -relevant for prelims as well as GS I

  • Political Science – relevant for prelims as well as GS II

  • Law – relevant for prelims as well as GS II

Optional subject in UPSC like Economics, Philosophy, and Agriculture are also good choices.

Success Rate Of Candidates With UPSC Optional Subjects

UPSC Optional Subject Success Rate - 2017

Subject

No of Candidates Appeared

No of candidates Selected

Success Rate

Agriculture

89

11

12.4

Anthropology

880

85

9.7

Chemistry 

126

11

8.7

Accounts 

224

28

12.5

Electrical Engineering

193

19

9.8

Geology 

37

2

5.4

Law 

3041

43

4.1

Mathematics 

441

26

5.9

Medical Science 

313

32

10.2

Physics 

140

14

10

Psychology 

193

21

10.9

Sociology 

1421

137

9.6

Animal Husbandry

23

2

8.7

Botany 

44

5

11.4

Civil Engineering

124

11

8.9

Economics 

233

16

6.9

Geography 

2669

147

5.5

History 

1074

59

5.5

Management 

86

7

8.1

Mechanical Engineering

170

19

11.2

Philosophy 

755

53

7

Political  Science 

1246

117

9.4

Public Administration

1165

119

10.2

Statistics 

3

0

0

Zoology 

484

18

3.7

Literature UPSC Optional Success Rate - 2017

Optional Subject

Candidates Appeared

Candidates Recommended

Success Rate

English Literature 

21

2

9.5

Assamese Literature 

3

0

0

Manipuri Literature 

13

7.7

Hindi Literature 

267

19

7.1

Maithili Literature 

78

5

6.4

Bodo Literature 

1

1

100

Odia Literature 

5

0

0

Punjabi Literature 

39

6

15.4

Marathi Literature 

17

0

0

Gujarati Literature 

101

8

7.9

Kannada Literature 

115

4

3.5

Bengali Literature 

3

0

0

Sindhi Literature 

2

1

50

Tamil Literature 

107

5

4.7

Telugu Literature 

72

1

1.4

Urdu Literature 

26

5

19.2

Sanskrit Literature 

70

5

7.1

Nepali Literature 

1

0

0

Malayalam Literature 

111

8

7.2

So, this was a brief overview of the UPSC optional subjects available for the UPSC Main Examination. Check out the detailed exam syllabus of UPSC CSE here.

Career Launcher brings to you a range of comprehensive online course for UPSC CSE preparation that is sure to build a strong foundation. Check out the entire course range here. You can also get in touch with our course counselors to get more information on the course deliverables.

How to choose UPSC optional subject?

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