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How to Select Optional Subject in UPSC

How to Decide Your UPSC Optional Subject Wisely

UPSC is everyone’s dream but the vastness of the syllabus makes it a very tough choice. 1st stage of the IAS exam is prelims.

It’s an objective type paper which is just a necessary evil. It also has a negative marking system.

IAS Mains which is the 2nd level of the exam. And, you need an extensive study to clear this exam.

However, One question which troubles a lot of UPSC aspirants is the selection of Optional Subject.

As per UPSC, In the second stage of the exam, you need to select an optional paper which accounts for 500 Marks.

The optional subject comprises two papers and each paper has a value of 250 marks.

However, the selection of one paper is a product of rule change in UPSC. Earlier, aspirants had to choose two optional papers.

Paper TypeTotal MarksTotal Hours
Paper I2503 Hrs
Paper-II2503 Hrs

Moreover, IAS aspirants are given a list of 27 subjects to choose from. Notably, they are free to choose any one subject from the below list.

Level of Optional Subject Exam:

UPSC asks detailed questions from Optional Subjects. The syllabus is above par of Honours paper but below par from Masters.

Evidently, you need to master the subject before appearing in the Civil Services exams to pass it with flying colours.

Honours Degree >>> Mains Paper >>>> Masters’ Level

List of Optional Subjects:

AgricultureAnimal Husbandry and Veterinary ScienceAnthropologyBotanyChemistry
Civil EngineeringCommerce and AccountancyEconomicsElectrical EngineeringGeography
Mechanical EngineeringMedical SciencePhilosophyPhysicsPolitical Science and International Relations
PsychologyPublic AdministrationSociologyStatisticsZoology

Apart from this, there are literature subjects which you can opt as your optional subject for UPSC.

So far we understood about Optional Subjects. Now, we would try to unclutter your mind and give you a fresh perspective on the selection of Optional Paper.

A career decisive selection:

It will not be wrong to say that if you choose your optional paper correctly then you’re halfway done of your exam.

Moreover, the selection of Optional Paper in UPSC exam is really a game-changer. You need to know that you need 50-60% marks to qualify for the Civil Services Exam.

However, this is not a fixed number but a general trend of the last few years of results.

Therefore, you need to be very clear in your mind that what subject is to be chosen as optional and why?

As you read above the list of the optional subject, you should take a look at each subject syllabus in detail before the selection of optional paper.

Now, we would understand how we should choose our optional paper.

8 Things to consider before choosing your Optional Subject for UPSC examination

1. Interest

Interest in the subject plays an important role in the selection of Optional Paper.

If any subject bores you and you feel like jumping off the cliff after reading it about an hour then you should maintain a distance from that subject.

2. Syllabus Reading

Once your interest is defined then as a next step, you should read the syllabus of the particular subject.

Reading the UPSC Syllabus thoroughly gives you an insight into how tough or easy it’s going to be.

Depending on it, you could take a call.

3. Previous Year Questions

This is the most important fact to check before finalizing any subject.

Notably, you’d understand the question pattern once you go through the previous year questions.

Additionally, it will help you determine the number of hours required for the paper. It is a key part of IAS success. Because, without a plan, you can’t clear IAS exams.

Download Previous Year UPSC Question Papers

4. Creative/Out of the box

Generally, this refers to making your subject interesting. If you are a creative learner then you are more likely to get bored than non-creative students.

Therefore, choosing an optional subject that allows you to think out of the box is a more important factor than anything else for you.

It will be easy to grasp if you study such subjects for exam preparation.

5. Availability of Coachings, Books and Study Materials

Easy availability of Study Materials and books in the market make your preparation easier for IAS mains optional.

Therefore, do thorough research on the availability of IAS Study Materials and books before finalizing your subject.

However, in this digital era, nothing is not in reach of you. Everything is available at your fingertips. But, being double sure is important.

6. High Scoring VS Low Scoring

There are few subjects in List of the optional subject which have a low scoring pattern in the last few years and vice versa.

Therefore, you should rule out those subjects which are low scoring even though it is very fascinating to read.

Because, you are preparing to clear the exam, not for being a scholar in the subject.

However, if you have such a subject in the list and you are well prepared for it then you should go with it.

It totally depends on your preparation and your determination.

7. Overlapping with General Study Subject:

If you choose a subject that overlaps with your General Studies then your task becomes easy.

Notably, you avoid extra effort and time. These efforts and time can be attributed to the weaker section of your studies.

8. Relevance with Academic Background

If you choose any subject which you have studied earlier then it becomes easy for you to score.

Moreover, you don’t have to worry about the study materials and books. Needless to say, it saves your time and effort.

Notably, there are many optional subjects which are most favoured by UPSC aspirants. Notably, you could also choose one of the subjects. These 5-6 subjects are chosen by almost 50% of the students.

But, why and how you should choose an optional subject depends on the aspirant’s learning method and his/her interest in the subject.

First, let us see some popular optional subjects amongst IAS Officers for UPSC Civil Services Exam:

1. History – This is the most sought optional subject for the Civil Services Preparation. Mainly, it overlaps the GS Paper, therefore, many students choose it as an optional paper.

Additionally, there is nothing to change in history so Syllabus is fixed. If you have a keen interest in history then you could take it as an optional subject.

2. Geography: This is the second most opted as optional subjects. Mostly, this is also similar to History where nothing changes.

The syllabus is fixed and also overlaps with your General Studies.

If you love exploring maps and have a good interest in Geography of places then this subject is a good suit for you.

3. Anthropology: This optional paper is a lifesaver for many students. It’s a very high scoring subject as well.

If you are a science brainiac then this subject is good and interesting too. If you want to know how tribal society works in India.

But, you need to be good with Graphs to opt for this subject for your optional subject.

4. Public Administration: This subject is opted by mostly office going people who have quit their job.

Moreover, the syllabus is also fixed and if you prepare well then you could cover the whole Syllabus in just 5 months of time.

Additionally, this subject knowledge comes very handy when you become an IAS officer.

5. Sociology: Last but not the least, this is a favorite subject for good rational mind people.

If you are a rational thinker and have the ability to differentiate between abstract theories and concepts then it’s a very good choice as an Optional subject.

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