How to choose best Optional Subject for UPSC Civil Services Exam?

UPSC Exam comprises of three stages – Prelims, Mains and Interview. Amongst these three stages, the Mains Examination is the most vital because it comprises nearly 86% marks of the total marks (1750 Marks out of total of 2025 Marks).

In the Mains examination, the candidate is to choose one Optional Subject from the UPSC list of 26 Optional Subjects. Each Optional Subject has two papers of 250 Marks each thereby making about 30% of Mains Exam (500 Marks out of 1750 Marks). A candidate is free to choose any of the listed optional subject irrespective of his/her academic background.

In this blog, we will discuss the important points which you have to keep in mind while selecting an Optional Subject and they are as follows: –

1. Academic Background & Interest Area: –

You can easily identify the subject in which you have a keen interest by going through NCERT books of 11th & 12 th Standard. If you go through the syllabus of the Optional Subject, then also you can get a fair idea about the subject which interests you. It is extremely important that the choice of Optional Subject be made consciously and diligently. For instance: –

(a) If you are from Commerce stream then you can choose between Commerce & Accountancy, Economics, Public Administration and Management.

(b) If you from Engineering domain, Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering and Civil Engineering are tailor made choices offered by UPSC. An Engineering graduate also has the flexibility to choose between Maths, Chemistry or Physics

(c) For students of Medical Science, UPSC offers Medical Science as an Optional Subject.

(d) Students from Science background have many choices to opt from e.g. Botany, Zoology, Sociology, Anthropology, Psychology and Chemistry.

2. Is Optional subject connected with the General Studies syllabus: –

Some of the Optional subjects like Public Administration, Geography, History, Sociology, Political Science, Economics have a component in the GS Syllabus and hence form part of General Studies (GS) papers. Choosing one of these subjects gives an added advantage of covering GS syllabus while preparing for Optional.

3. Whether coaching is available for the chosen optional subject or not: –

Yes, there are many coaching institutes which enable Civil service aspirants to follow the correct strategy for preparing for Optional Subject. Each institute has its own domain expertise based on the faculty they have for the optional subjects. There are very few institutes which offer coaching in subjects like Anthropology, Philosophy, Animal Husbandry, Agriculture etc. Therefore, an aspirant will have to largely depend on self-preparation in such subjects. On the other end of the spectrum, most of the institutes offer coaching in subjects like Public Administration, Political Science, Geography, History, Economics, Psychology, Sociology etc. These subjects are more popular because of syllabus overlap with the GS papers.

You need to identify a coaching institute which has good reputation and proven results of the past. You may ask your friends, family, associates or research yourself over the Internet about which are the Best IAS coaching institutes to teach your selected optional subject. Updated study material from the most reliable coaching centre along with classroom coaching can accelerate your preparations.

4. Result of Optional subject from the past  three years : –

A candidate’s performance depends upon many parameters It would be imprudent to choose an Optional Subjest just based on past results. However, for the sake of academic interest, one can check the results which are available on Internet.

5. Strategic Time Management : –

Time is the most important resource for anyone! Preparing an effective and efficient time schedule and self-discipline in adhering to the schedule is an essential prerequisite for achieving success in any exam. Importance of time management for one of the most difficult entrance exam in our country needs no further emphasis. Civil Services exam preparation requires a continuous and effective effort and a balanced routine. To cover the syllabus, plan should be made after truthful self-assessment of own strengths and weaknesses. One should cater for time required for revision and practice through Mock tests. It all melts down to having an effective, practical timetable and its diligent adherence.

We hope this blog is helpful for all the IAS aspirants. To know more about Rau’s Optional Classes Click Here



35 Replies to “How to choose best Optional Subject for UPSC Civil Services Exam?”

    1. Dear Aspirant, the sole criterion for selecting an Optional Subject should be your interest in the subject. PLs do not get swayed by the myths of any Optional being more scoring or having less syllabus or being more popular.

    1. Dear Aarthi, you can choose from any of the subjects from Geography, History, Pols Science & International Relations, Public Administration and Sociology. These subjects are also part of Mains and preparing for them as Optional would supplement your Mains preparations.

    1. Dear Mr Amnath, we have not understood your query. We request you to call us and speak to any of our counsellors who will be able to guide you well.

  1. Only i say, I want to become IAS officer, this information is good and very simple language

    Thank you so much ☺️

    1. Dear Manasa, you have to choose one optional subject from the 26 Subjects offered by UPSC. There are two papers for this Optional Subject.

    1. Dear Aspirant, ofcourse you can take Zoology as an Optional Subject. Choice of Optional subject is independent of subjects you have studied as part of your graduation. Most of the aspirants firm up their choice of Optional Subject once they have studied GS Subjects. You might find that subjects like History/ Geography/ Public Administration/ Sociology enthuse you even more than Zoology. So we recommend that you finalise choice of Optional Subject once you start preparation for CSE.

    1. Dear Aspirant, its too early to decide about optional subject. We recommend that you start preparations with the GS Subjects. Once you have studied few of the Core Subjects like History, Geography, Political Science, Economics , you will be in a better position to decide. To get more clarity, you may speak to any of our counsellors on tele 011 – 4078 6050. There is no counselling fee for this. Good Luck.

    1. Dear Anish,
      We believe the sole criterion for choosing an Optional Subject is how much that subject interests you and what is your depth of knowledge and competence in that subject. In other words,an optional must be chosen out of our strength. If you feel the Medicine is your forte, having studied it for five yrs, by all means take that as Optional subject. In any case, this clarity will come to you once you have studied the Core Subjects of UPSC eg. History, Geography, Economics, Polity. You will be in a much better position to decide about Optional Subject. If you need more information or counselling, you can call on tele No 011 – 4078 6050 to speak to any of your Counsellors. There is no fee for this Counselling.

    1. Dear Aspirant, list of Optional subjects was approved by UPSC in early 80s based on Report of the Committee on Recruitment Policy and Selection Methods, 1976 – a.k.a the D.S. Kothari Committee Report. This was the time when Prelims exam was also introduced as Stage 1 of CSE.

    1. The subject which enthuses you most and in which you are most confident should be your Optional Subject. There should be no other criterion and there is no need for you to get confused for choices. In case you wish to speak to any of our Counsellors, pls feel free to call on Tel: 011 – 4078 6050. It will be our pleasure to clear any dilemma, if you still have. There is no counselling fee for this. Good luck!

    1. Dear Aspirant, we do have Optional Course on PSIR. The new batch has been tentatively scheduled to commence in end of Jun 2021. Kindly keep a watchon our website
      In case you want to know more, pls feel free to call on tele Tel: 011 – 4078 6050 and speak to any of our Counsellors.

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