UPSC Mains Public Administration Optional - Syllabus, Strategy, Books, Answer Writing Tips, Question Paper & More

Public Administration is a frequently-opted paper as an optional in UPSC Mains examination. Public administration syllabus for UPSC thoroughly deals with the various theories and aspects of administration in the first paper and with the nuances of Indian administration in Paper II. If an aspirant is interested and well-versed with how governments around the world and India work, Pub Ad Optional is a good optional exam to choose.

Pros and Cons of Choosing Public Administration as an Optional

Choosing an optional paper is always a hard decision to make. Public Administration is a fairly scoring subject preferred by many high ranking UPSC candidates in the past, because of the following reasons.


  1. UPSC Optional Public Administration creates the base of knowledge for future administrators of the state and provides an in-depth idea about government mechanisms.
  2. There are more than enough books, notes and study materials available out there for the subject.
  3. The questions asked in Public Administration are straightforward in nature, and surprise twists are a rarity.
  4. The Pub Ad syllabus is regarded by aspirants to be simple and easy to understand.
  5. Public Administration helps with General Studies as well as in the essays and future IAS interviews.

However, there are some drawbacks of choosing Public Administration as well.


  1. The syllabus, although easy, is rather lengthy to cover every part of it.
  2. For those not from Humanities background, Public Administration might seem too alien to understand sometimes, and dry as well.
  3. Since a majority of aspirants go for this subject as an optional, the competition is stiff. One has to be very well prepared to rank high in Pub Ad.
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How much of GS Topics does Public Administration cover?

Public Administration covers a chunk of the GS papers in the UPSC Mains as well – almost 60% of it. Following are the different topics in General Studies that overlap with Pub Ad.

General Studies: Paper II

  • Governance
  • Indian constitution – evolution, features, amendments, etc.
  • Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States
  • Separation of powers between various organs
  • Dispute Remediation Mechanisms and institutions
  • Parliament and State Legislatures
  • Structure, organisation and functioning of the Executive and Judiciary
  • Ministries and Departments of the Government
  • Constitutional, statutory, regulatory and quasi-judicial bodies
  • Government policies and interventions for development in different sectors
  • Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections
  • Issues relating to poverty and hunger
  • Aspects of governance, transparency and accountability
  • E-governance
  • Role of civil services in a democracy

General Studies: Paper III

  • Disaster Management, Planning and Budgeting
  • Planning issues
  • Inclusive growth
  • Government budgeting
  • Environment
  • Disaster management
  • Challenges to internal security through communication networks
  • Role of media and social networking sites in internal security
  • Security forces and agencies and their mandate.

General Studies: Paper IV

  • Ethics and Human Interface (the foundational concept of Administrative values & ethics of Public Administration)
  • Attitude: content, structure, function; its influence and relation with thought and behaviour; moral and political attitudes; social influence and persuasion.
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Why one should choose Public Administration Optional?

The ideal optional subject for UPSC is one that helps the candidates secure high marks and thus improve their ranks, as well as helps them in the preparation of other papers and further interviews. Public Administration fits that bill perfectly, which is why most aspirants choose Public Administration for UPSC Optional. Moreover, the things learnt in the syllabus of this paper helps form the base of a future Civil Service officer and assists aspirants in performing their duties on the field. Public Administration is what the entire purpose of UPSC examination is based on, and choosing this paper as an optional and getting acquainted with the governmental framework where the aspirants might be working in the future, would be a really wise move.

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Public Administration Syllabus

Here is a detailed syllabus of Public Administration for IAS:

Paper I

Administrative Theory

Introduction: Meaning, scope and significance of Public Administration; Evolution of the discipline and its present status; New Public Administration; Wilson's vision of Public Administration; Challenges of liberalization, Privatization; Globalization; Good Governance: concept and application; Public Choice approach; New Public Management.

Administrative Thought: Classical Theory; Weber's bureaucratic model - its critique and post-Weberian Developments; Scientific Management and Scientific Management movement; Human Relations School (Elton Mayo and others); Dynamic Administration (Mary Parker Follett); Simon's decision-making theory; Functions of the Executive (C.I. Barnard); Participative Management (R. Likert, C. Argyris, D. McGregor).

Administrative Behaviour: Motivation Theories - content, process and contemporary; Theories of Leadership: Traditional and Modern; Process and techniques of decision-making; Communication; Morale.

Organizations: Theories - systems, contingency; Structure and forms: Ministries and Departments, Corporations, Companies, Boards and Commissions; Regulatory Authorities; Public-Private Partnerships; Ad hoc and advisory bodies; Headquarters and Field relationships.

Accountability and control: Concepts of accountability and control; Legislative, Executive and Judicial control over administration; Citizen and Administration; Right to Information; Social audit; Civil society; Citizen's Charters; Role of media, interest groups, voluntary organizations.

Administrative Law: Meaning, scope and significance; Dicey on Administrative law; Delegated legislation; Administrative Tribunals.

Comparative Public Administration: Administration and politics in different countries; Historical and sociological factors affecting administrative systems; Ecology and administration; status of Comparative Public Administration; Riggsian models and their critique.

Development Dynamics: Concept of development; Bureaucracy and development; Changing profile of development administration; 'Anti-development thesis'; Impact of liberalization on administration in developing countries; Strong state versus the market debate; Women and development - the self-help group movement.

Personnel Administration: Importance of human resource development; recruitment, training, career advancement, position classification, discipline, performance appraisal, promotion, pay and service conditions; employer- employee relations, grievance redressal mechanism; Code of conduct; Administrative ethics.

Public Policy: Models of policy-making and their critique; State theories and public policy formulation; Processes of conceptualization, planning, implementation, monitoring, evaluation and review and their limitations.

Techniques of Administrative Improvement: Organization and methods, Work study and work management; e-governance and information technology; Management aid tools like network analysis, MIS, PERT, CPM.

Financial Administration: Monetary and fiscal policies; Public borrowings and public debt Budgets - types and forms; Budgetary process; Financial accountability; Accounts and audit.

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Paper II

Indian Administration

Evolution of Indian Administration: Kautilya's Arthashastra; Mughal administration; Legacy of British rule in politics and administration - Indianization of public services, revenue administration, district administration, local self-government.

Philosophical and Constitutional framework of government: Political culture; Salient features and value premises; Constitutionalism; Bureaucracy and democracy; Bureaucracy and development.

Public Sector Undertakings: Public sector in modern India; Forms of Public Sector Undertakings; Problems of autonomy, accountability, and control; Impact of liberalization and privatization.

Union Government and Administration: Executive, Parliament, Judiciary - structure, functions, work processes; Recent trends; Intra-governmental relations; Prime Minister's Office; Cabinet Secretariat; Central Secretariat; Ministries and Departments; Boards; Attached offices; Commissions; Field organizations.

Plans and Priorities: Machinery of planning; Role, composition and functions of the Planning Commission and the National Development Council; 'Indicative' planning; Process of plan formulation at Union and State levels; Constitutional Amendments (1992) and decentralized planning for economic development and social justice.

State Government and Administration: Union-State administrative, legislative and financial relations; Role of the Finance Commission; Chief Minister; Governor; Chief Secretary; State Secretariat; Council of Ministers; Directorates.

District Administration since Independence: Union state-local relations; the Changing role of the Collector; Imperatives of development management and law and order administration; District administration and democratic decentralization.

Civil Services: Constitutional position; Structure, recruitment, training and capacity-building; Good governance initiatives; Code of conduct and discipline; Staff associations; Political rights; Grievance redressal mechanism; Civil service neutrality; Civil service activism.

Financial Management: Budget as a political instrument; Parliamentary control of public expenditure; Role of the finance ministry in the monetary and fiscal area; Accounting techniques; Audit; Role of Controller General of Accounts and Comptroller and Auditor General of India.

Administrative Reforms since Independence: Major concerns; Important Committees and Commissions; Reforms in financial management and human resource development; Problems of implementation.

Rural Development: Institutions and agencies since independence; Rural development programmes: Foci and strategies; Decentralization and Panchayati Raj; 73rd Constitutional amendment.

Urban Local Government: Municipal governance: main features, structures, finance and problem areas; 74th Constitutional Amendment; Global local debate; New localism; Development dynamics, politics and administration with special reference to city management.

Law and Order Administration: British legacy; National Police Commission; Investigative agencies; Role of central and state agencies including paramilitary forces in maintenance of law and order and countering insurgency and terrorism; Criminalization of politics and administration; Police-public relations; Reforms in Police.

Significant issues in Indian Administration: Values in public service; Regulatory Commissions; National Human Rights Commission; Problems of administration in coalition regimes; Citizen-administration interface; Corruption and administration; Disaster management.

Preparation Strategies for Public Administration Optional

Whether an aspirant is a first-timer or a senior player, strategy for preparing the paper is very important to score good marks. It might seem or look easy from the surface, but without a properly chalked out plan in front of you, it would be really difficult to execute in the test.

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Preparation Strategy for Paper 1

The two papers of UPSC Pub Ad syllabus require different, but an equally thorough strategy of studying and preparing. Moreover, finding the right book for a subject often does half the required job. Here are some suggestions for Public Administration strategy for UPSC Mains.  

  1. Introduction: The basic concepts are best given in the books of Sharma and Sadana or S. Polinaidu, with supplement reading of Mohit Bhattacharya. This chapter is more about having a broader outlook and forming the foundation for the subject than breaking it down into shorter notes.
  2. Administrative Thought: While studying this, try linking the different theories of different thinkers and also make a note of their background – the circumstances that led to the origin of the thoughts. Refer to Prasad and Prasad for this.
  3. Administrative Behaviour: Sharma and Sadana are enough to get a grasp of this chapter as a whole, while Prasad and Prasad can come in handy for the Motivational Theories. This chapter has a lot of scope for shorter notes.
  4. Organisations: This topic calls for examples and case studies from Indian contexts, for which reading up newspapers can help, especially if the question is related to something contemporary. For the textual part, candidates can use Sharma and Sadana for everything (except PPP) and Fadia and Fadia for PPP.
  5. Comparative Public Administration and Development Dynamics: CPA by Ramesh K Arora is the best book for these topics.
  6. Accountability and Control, Administrative Law: Other than Sharma and Sadana for a broader outlook, aspirants must keep an eye on national and international news for the more dynamic and evolving topics like Civil Society, Right to Information or Citizen Charters.
  7. Public Policy: Refer to IGNOU BA and MA papers thoroughly for this topic. But instead of reading everything, it is better to be selective about it.

Preparation Strategy for Paper II

Paper II needs a different approach from Paper I since it is more practical-based than Paper I, which is more about the cornerstone theories and concepts of Public Administration. One or two books are enough for the preparation of Paper II. Indian Administration by Rajni Goyal and Ramesh Arora is a highly recommended book which covers the entire Pub Ad syllabus more or less.

Other than that, aspirants should thoroughly follow Second ARC reports to make their Public Administration UPSC notes. The reports and their content should have a heavy impact on the answers of Paper II. Reports relating to Personnel Administration, State and District, Public Order, Disaster Management and Ethics in Governance need to be closely referred to.

For any topic which draws material from the contemporary period, following the news is the best way to go about it. Candidates should make it a habit and note down any developments on the socio-political front to use them later in the answer.

How to Write Good Answers in Public Administration?

Once the subject is understood and internalized, writing the answers should not be a problem. However, answer writing is not only about ‘knowing’ the answer but also being able to present it in a way on the answer sheet that will impress the examiner. Aspirants should keep the following points in mind while writing answers for Public Administration:

  1. Avoid writing generic answers and use Pub Ad terminologies, references and technicalities. The answers should be written from the point of view of Public Administration.
  2. Do quote thinkers and refer to their theories wherever there is an opportunity, but there is no need to force it into an answer. The flow of the inclusion of the quote must look natural.
  3. Giving cross-cultural examples and references in Paper I will be very important.
  4. For both the papers, starting the answer from a grassroots level is necessary. The introductory lines of the answer often have the biggest impact on the examiner.
  5. Keep the answers lucid yet attractive. Use simple language and not an ornate one, sticking to short sentences in administrative style. Also make it a combination of paragraphs, bullet points and tables if there is scope, and underline necessary parts of the answer.

Making Notes for Public Administration

Having clarity of concepts from the very beginning is very important for the understanding of Public Administration. While studying, students should take notes on every topic as they cover it. It is suggested that the notes are made after the 4th or 5th reading.

Making one’s own notes has more benefits. It will help the candidates remember the important highlights better when they jot it down in their own language. This will make the inclusion of those points in the answers easier. Moreover, self-notes are always easier to refer to for a quick glance since the aspirant is familiar with them. While making notes, candidates should also try and interlink the different topics they cover to establish a connection between them. This will specifically help in revising the subject and having a clear view of the entire picture in their mind.

Books Recommended for Public Administration Optional

The more experienced candidates of the IAS field usually get an idea after the first attempt on which books to refer to for the best results. But it is a difficult decision to make for someone new. Here is a list of the most preferred Public Administration books for UPSC.

Paper I

Name of the Book

Name of the Author

Public Administration

M. Laxmikanth

New Horizons of Public Administration

Mohit Bhattacharya

Administrative Thinkers

Prasad and Prasad

Public Administration: Concepts and Theories

Rumki Basu

Public Administration: Theory and Practice

Sharma and Sadana

Administrative Theories and Management Thought


Contemporary Debates in Public Administration

Dhameja Alka

Paper II

Name of the Book

Name of the Author

Indian Administration

Arora and Goyal

Governance in India

M. Laxmikanth

Indian Administration


Introduction to the Constitution of India

D. D. Basu

Indian Administration

Pankaj Singh

Governance in India for UPSC Civil Services (Prelims)

M. Laxminkanth

Previous Years Question Paper for Public Administration

Analysing and answering previous years question paper is an essential part of the preparation. It gives the aspirants an idea of what type of challenges to expect in the test. Here are the last five years Pub Ad question papers PDF.


Question Papers


Paper I

Paper II


Paper I

Paper II


Paper I

Paper II


Paper I

Paper II


Paper I

Paper II

Download IGNOU Study Material for Public Administration

Other than Pub Ad books, aspirants also refer to IGNOU notes of BA and MA courses to prepare for IAS examination.  They are in fact a much-preferred study material by many toppers and high rankers. Here are the BA and MA notes’ links to IGNOU’s website for all study materials.

IGNOU Pub Ad BA Notes

  1. Indian Administration
  2. Administrative Theory
  3. Development Administration
  4. Personnel Administration
  5. Financial Administration
  6. Public Policy

IGNOU Pub Ad MA Notes

  1. State, Society and Public Administration
  2. Administrative Theory
  3. Public Systems Management
  4. Human Resource Management
  5. India: Democracy and Development

UPSC Public Administration Optional Coaching

A lot of students prefer to study on their own and succeed as well. But the role Public Administration Optional coaching institutes play in preparation for IAS is undeniable. However, before investing their time, energy and money in a coaching class, the aspirants should have a clear idea of what they are looking for in an institute and whether a particular institution is offering all of those aspects.

Key features of an IAS Pub Ad Coaching Class

  • Make sure that the institute has a reputation for completing as well as revising the entire Pub Ad syllabus well before the dates of the examination.
  • All IAS coaching classes should be conducting multiple mock tests, and test series leading up to the examination and Pub Ad classes are not an exception to that rule.
  • The faculty of the institute always leaves a great impact on how the classes would be. It does not necessarily have to be star-studded, but pick an institute with reputed and qualified mentors.
  • Speak to other students of the coaching class, current or former, to get an idea of what to expect. There is no better source than a fellow candidate for that.
  • The institute should not only conduct regular classes but also provide good quality notes to refer to.
  • Lastly, pick a centre which is convenient keeping in mind distance and other factors. If a whole lot of time goes in the conveyance, which would end up wasting time which could have otherwise been used in preparing or resting.

Ideal Course Format

There is no one perfect course format that everyone should rigidly follow. However, here is a framework that every coaching institute should ideally stick to, in order to make it easier and convenient for all students.

Duration: The course should at least be of 10-12 months to give the aspirants ample time to prepare thoroughly.

Tests: There should be regular mock tests throughout the duration of the course and 12-16 mock tests at least leading up to the examination so that the aspirants are in no way left unprepared for the test.

Study Materials: There are many sources available in the market in the form of books and notes that the students can follow. An institution should offer something more in their study material which would give their students an extra edge.

Pub Ad Coaching in Delhi

Delhi has always been an important centre for IAS coaching. Students from all over Northern India come to the capital to make their preparation for IAS sharper, better and more focused. The coaching institutes of Delhi have made their name for having the most examination-centred classes, immaculate study material and A to Z guidance throughout the preparation process by renowned and experienced IAS teachers.

Public Administration Optional Online Coaching

Here is a list of NeoStencil’s associate teachers for Public Administration Online Coaching.

1. Pavan Kumar Sir

Founder of Pavan Kumar IAS Academy, he is a versatile teacher of Civil Services with strong command in Indian Administration, Governance and Politics, Economics and Ethics. Other than Public Administration, he also offers guidance in GS Paper II and IV and Essay papers.

2. S. Ansari Sir

Mr Salamuddin Ansari of Lukmaan IAS is known for his unparalleled command over General Studies. Since 2009, he has been helping students to improve their ranks with the very basic of skills – the art of answer writing, combining facts and theories in the perfect amount.

3. Atul Lohiya Sir

The founder of Praba Institute of Civil Services, Mr Atul Lohiya’s classes are extremely beneficial for those who come from Hindi backgrounds and have trouble with English. Everything is taught from the core in his classes, which helps even the most amateur students get a grasp of the subject soon.


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