How to choose Optional Subjects for UPSC Exam


The decision of opting for the UPSC Mains Optional is an age-old dilemma for Civil Services aspirants. As per the newest syllabus, the amount of optional subjects to be selected is reduced to at least one, but aspirants are still confused if they create the proper choice or not.

Though the weightage of the optional paper is merely 500 marks out of 2025 marks as per the newest pattern of the UPSC Civil Services exam, it's still a deciding think about the ultimate ranks thanks to the unpredictability related to General Studies Papers (1000 marks GS + 250 marks essay) and Interview (275 marks).

How average marks approximately needed to clear the UPSC Exam?

  • By analyzing the question papers and mark-list of the last 5-10 years of UPSC Civil Services Exams, we will collect tons of interesting and valuable data.
  • The UPSC questions have evolved and now the bias is more towards current related aspects of polity, economy, diplomacy, etc than conventional topics. (Please also confine in mind that there's no guarantee by UPSC that the case will remain equivalent for future exams!)
  • Due to the high standard of questions and valuation, the marks scored by top candidates are coming down per annum. the share of top ranks within the IAS exam has come down from 60% within the 2010s to around 55% now, while the last rank of a successful candidate within the General category is around 40% marks now.
  • There is every chance that an equivalent trend of low scoring, tight competition to continue in coming years also because the weightage has shifted towards GS within the new UPSC Civil Service Exam syllabus, which is low scoring (particularly as of now!). it's at this juncture, one cannot take an off-the-cuff approach regarding the choice of an optional subject for mains.

How crucial is that the decision of IAS Mains Optional?

  • If you're so strong altogether your GS papers with consistent newspaper reading and note-making habits, the choice of IAS Mains optional shouldn't worry you much. But unfortunately, only a few aspirants fall under the “strong GS” category of scholars and it’s tough to urge into the club without serious long-term preparation.
  • You need to pick an optional subject during which you're comfortable to attain high in UPSC mains. the extent of comfort depends on many factors like – the familiarity of the topic, availability of books and other study materials, availability of college, the scope of peer discussion, recent trends of marks, the extent of difficulty as per the syllabus, and former question papers, etc.
  • If the topic you took for graduation is out there within the list of subjects given, in most cases an equivalent option will end up as a cushy option. All others (who don’t have an option for optional subject:-)), search for an optional subject which you'll finish during a time-bound manner without encroaching the time for GS preparation.

Optimization of Optional Subject Marks and GS Marks

  1. Don’t take an overlapping optional if you're weak in it, there's every chance that it can turn counterproductive.
  2. Don’t take an optional subject that needs extensive preparation, if the time left before you is restricted (say but 4 months)
  3. A scoring overlapping optional subject, though which could require substantial preparation thanks to the vast nature of the syllabus is often adopted if you've got – background/ previous exposure to the topic, or if there's adequate time left. If you're running in need of time, select an optional paper that needs less time for an honest level of preparation.
  4. If 1-2 years is out there before the mains exam, a hardworking candidate could be ready to finish standard textbooks of just about any optional subject. But compromising GS marks for Optional preparation also can turn suicidal, and hence not advised as per the newest pattern of the exam.

What makes an Optional a scoring subject?

Most of the aspirants choose an optional subject simply because they consider it as a scoring subject and a few of the themes that are considered as scoring are Geography and Public Administration. What makes these optional as scoring subjects? once when we take a look at many of these subjects over the last few years within the UPSC mains exam, candidates have scored with 400+, while publicly Administration, many candidates are scoring 340+ and 350+.

It is seen that subjects like public administration might sound just like the highest scoring optional within the IAS exam. But again, there's no guarantee for this. Any subject is often scoring or not. It depends on how the candidate performs! Now, you'll be thinking that just on the idea of scoring criteria, one can choose the optional subject for the Mains exam.  

To opt for an optional subject with some previous background about the subject

  • Many people who have graduated or done Masters in some subject choose an equivalent subject as optional within the Civil Services Exam. this is often a plus point that the candidates’ are already conversant in the topic and wish not put much effort into preparing for the optional. this is often where graduation in humanities really helps as most of the favored IAS optional subjects’ mentioned above are involved within the “Arts” subjects. So if candidates are pursuing graduation or masters in any of the humanities subjects and desire to require IAS Exam then it's advised them to pursue it seriously and focus more on the UPSC Syllabus that's common to their degree also because of the IAS Mains Exam.
  • With these criteria, one can understand that having some background about the topic alongside interest are the more important factors in choosing the proper optional for IAS than merely counting on the recognition of the topic or the scoring potential. a number of the candidates who had taken the foremost ambiguous subjects like Veterinary Science, Literature, Mathematics, et al. have scored profoundly within the Mains simply because they opted for the topic they were pursuing and which they loved.
  • There stands a myth that there are easy optional subjects for UPSC, which is false. The diligence and energy suggest by the aspirants make the topic easy.

How to Choose Optional Subject UPSC

The subject should:

  1. Enthuse you
  2. Make you be familiar with more about it
  3. Should not bore you
  4. Make your plan of the box
  5. Have books easily available
  • It is well-advised to all or any the candidates while choosing an optional subject to not consider the score, so choose a topic with the above-mentioned qualities, and one thing to stay in mind that these qualities may differ from one aspirant to the opposite.
  • Once you've got understood the syllabus and have ample writing practice then nothing will stop in scoring big because the marks will follow.
  • The fact that the candidates who have succeeded within the IAS Exam and scored well within the optional prove that it’s not just the favored subjects who are equally scoring. 
  • So opting for an optional subject based only on the scoring criteria is inappropriate. If you continue to have doubts about choosing an optional subject, please register with us for free of charge counseling and obtain on the proper track for IAS Mains preparation.

Factors before you choose Optional Subjects:

  • Popularity

Some UPSC candidates choose an optional that's chosen by most UPSC aspirants. While the merits of selecting a well-liked subject are often debated, there are multiple reasons for his or her popularity. These subjects either have a limited syllabus compared to another subject or are scoring for a few candidates, or just because there are more candidates with these subjects as their graduation subject. The more popular optional subjects for the UPSC exam are public administration, geography, history, sociology, and psychology.

  • Scoring subjects

Some UPSC aspirants select those optional subjects that are deemed scoring. Subjects that are coming under this list are public administration and geography with its laws and maps. But remember, if you've got absolutely no interest in these subjects and/or find them very tough, it's wise to not consider them as your optional.

  • Your background

Many candidates choose a topic that they need to study during their graduation or previous education. they are doing this because they need already studied it and just need to reshape their knowledge as per the UPSC syllabus. Nothing has got to be studied from scratch here. Many doctors take life science as they feel they're most comfortable with it. This choice is particularly recommended for college kids pursuing their education while simultaneously preparing for the civil services; or for those that start their UPSC exam preparation while in college itself.

  • Study material availability

Some UPSC candidates search for subjects that study material is widely available. Such subjects include history, geography, anthropology, sociology, politics, psychology, and public administration.

  • Coaching

Certain candidates choose subjects that more coaching is out there. Again this is often very subjective as a candidate can attend coaching classes but his lack of interest within the subject can render them useless. Of course, if you've got lost touch together with your graduation or post-graduation subject and need to start out afresh for your IAS preparation, it's an honest idea to travel by this criterion.

  • Overlap with General Studies (GS)

Again, for civil services aspirants who are clueless about many of the themes to be covered, it's an honest choice to choose a topic that might overlap with the GS papers. this is often also advisable if you're hard-pressed for time. These subjects are history, public administration, geography, sociology, politics, and philosophy.

  • Interest

However, the foremost important factor while you decide on an optional subject needs to be your interest in it. If you're wanting to learn more about a few subjects and love reading about it, you ought to definitely choose that subject. you'll also quicken your pace of study in subjects that interest you.

What to recollect while choosing an optional

There is nobody formula for choosing an optional for the UPSC mains. there's also no correct option. you can't emulate others in this regard. What worked for the previous topper might not work for you. confine mind the above-mentioned criterion but confirm that you simply choose a topic that you like and are confident in regardless of its popularity or supposed mark-fetching nature.

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