UPSC Optional Subjects – Choose the Best Optional Subjects for IAS
Candidates preparing for the IAS exam face the dilemma on 'How to choose between the optional subjects?'. Aspirants can choose the optional subject based on their graduation or a popular optional subject having higher success rates. Apart from this, candidates get numerous inputs and suggestions from seniors and mentors. This article hopes to help aspirants to make the right choice.
IAS Mains Optional Subject: Basis of Selection
- Specifically defined and comparatively small syllabus
- Easy availability of study material
- Interesting and short subject material
- Scoring nature of the subject
- Availability of experienced guidance
- Paper-I - General Studies-I - 250 Marks - (Indian Heritage and Culture, History, and Geography of the World and Society)
- Paper-II - General Studies-II - 250 Marks - (Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations)
- Paper-III - General Studies-III - 250 Marks - (Technology, Economic Development, Bio-diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management)
- Paper-IV - General Studies-IV - 250 Marks - (Ethics, Integrity, and Aptitude)
How important is the Decision of UPSC Mains Optional Subject?
If the subject you studied in your graduation is available in the list of optional subjects, then students find that as the most comfortable option. You can also look for an optional subject which can be finished in a time-bound manner without disturbing the time for GS preparation.
Several candidates choose an optional subject because it is considered scoring. Marks should not be the sole criteria for making a choice. Depending on the interest of the individual, the optional subjects for IAS should be shortlisted. Based on the shortlisted subject, the candidate should take a thorough look at the syllabus of the respective optional subjects for IAS.
Factors Affecting the Choice of the UPSC Mains Optional Subject
Interest towards the subject
Syllabus of UPSC Optional Subject
Availability of coaching and reference materials
In addition to coaching, the availability of reference books should also be considered. Every subject will require extensive reading and preparation, hence the optional subject for IAS should be chosen after considering all the aspects.
UPSC Optional subject must not be confused with your favourite subject
An overlapping IAS Mains Optional with GS Topics
|S. No||Optional Subject||Number of Applicants||Success rate in 2014||Success rate in 2015||Success rate in 2016|
|1.||History||3000 +/- 50||8.3%||7.7%||6.5%|
|2.||Geography||3000 +/- 50||7.2%||5.6%||9.8%|
|3.||Public Administration||3000 +/- 50||5.1%||6.2%||5.3%|
|4.||Sociology||3000 +/- 50||9.2%||9.1%||10.6%|
|5.||Philosophy + Psychology + Political Science + Economics||2000-3000||Avg above 10%||Avg above 10%||Avg above 10%|
|6.||All other science/art subjects (in total)||1000-1500||Avg above 12%||Avg above 12%||Avg above 12%|
|7.||All Other Literature Subjects||Less than 1000||Avg above 5%||Avg above 5%||Avg above 5%|
List of Optional Subjects
Click on the icon to go to the respective optional subject syllabus page.
Literature of any one of the following language:
How to Select Best Optional Subject for IAS
- Firstly, go through the list of all the optional subjects for IAS thoroughly. Invest a lot of time in reading and understanding the syllabus.
- Think about your favourite subjects, the subjects you excelled in and the ones you showed more interest in.
- Shortlist the types of news items you enjoy reading about and the topics in General Studies that interests you. This will help you in making a choice among the optional subjects for IAS.
- Based on the above steps, make a list of yout top 4 UPSC optional subjects which captivate your interest and which will keep you hooked until the very end of your preparation.
- Go through the previous year question papers (at least 3 years) of the shortlisted subjects. Read all the questions.
- Test yourself on the level of interest you have or the knowledge you possess in order to be able to answer each question. This will help you understand your level of comfort with the subject.
- Upon reviewing all the 4 subjects, you should be able to make the right choice.
IAS Mains Optional: What to avoid?
- It is important to not choose a subject because a friend or a family member suggested it.
- Do not opt for an optional just because it is what most of the aspirants have chosen.
- Candidates have managed to clear the exam in every optional even the ones which aren't very scoring.
- Do not make your decision based on the options chosen by the previous years' toppers.
Civil Services Mains Pattern in Detail
- One is English and the other is a paper on any of the enlisted Indian languages. Both carry 300 marks each. However, their marks are NOT taken into account in the main examination.
- According to the new pattern, there are 4 General Studies papers, each comprising of 250 marks with a total of 1000 Marks.
Civil Services Mains Pattern & Marking Scheme
|1||Indian Language (Qualifying)||300|
|4||General Studies I||250|
|5||General Studies II||250|
|6||General Studies III||250|
|7||General Studies IV||250|
|8||Optional Subject Paper 1||250|
|9||Optional Subject Paper 1||250|
|Interview (Personality Test)||275|
Thus, choosing an optional subject for IAS should be based on an individual's interest and liking for a subject. There is no ideal optional subject to clear the examination; it always depends on the dedication in terms of preparation for the exam.
FAQs related to UPSC Optional Subject
- Give importance to conceptual understanding while preparing for an optional subject.
- Regular note making.
- Spend some quality time on the optional subject.
- Answer writing practice.
- Revision before the exam.