Which stream is best for preparation of IAS/ UPSC Civil Services Exam – Arts, Science or Commerce?

A student, moving to class 11th or joining a graduate course, who has decided to undertake UPSC Civil Services Exam, invariably faces a decision dilemma regarding which stream to choose, i.e. between Science, Commerce and Humanities (Arts), which would prove to be most helpful in the UPSC IAS exam?

This dilemma is even more complex for those students who have been a science or commerce students till class 12th but are now wanting to shift to Humanities stream in graduation considering that the syllabus for CSE is considered to be heavily biased towards Humanities subjects.

Although it is given that it is not the stream but the approach of the candidate towards exam which increases the probability of success but there is no denying the fact that Humanities students certainly have an edge having studied subjects which are recurrent themes across all stages of the CSE.

For e.g. subjects like History, Public Administration, Political Science, Geography, Psychology, Sociology, Economics etc form the major syllabus of General Studies’ papers (which have the maximum weightage across the Prelims and the Mains stages of the CSE).

Not only that, majority of these subjects, also figure in the Optional Subject List of UPSC. All of the following subjects which the Humanities stream offers are also available as optional subjects to be elected by students at the Mains stage of CSE:

  • Political Science
  • History
  • Geography
  • Economics
  • Psychology
  • Sociology
  • Public Administration
  • Philosophy

 (The list of these subjects doesn’t end here and is quite exhaustive as different schools and boards offer different numbers and combinations of these subjects. Normally, students are required to choose five compulsory and one additional (optional) subject in class 11th and 12th).

The 68th UPSC annual report also contains statistics about distribution of candidates who appeared at this exam vis-à-vis those who were selected (recommended for selection by UPSC), by Optional subjects in CSE 2016 (Pages 118 & 119 of report). For the sake of brevity, the entire data is not being put here but the essence of this analysis as given in the UPSC report is given below:

(i) As far as academic backgrounds of the recommended candidates are concerned,59.3% were from Engineering, followed by 21.9%, 10.3% and 8.5% from Humanities, Medical Science and Science respectively. However, 84.7% of optional subjects opted by the recommended candidates were related to Humanities (including literature of languages), followed by 6.8%, 5.4% and 3.1% related to Science, Medical Science and Engineering respectively. This shows that most of the candidates have made a cross domain shift from their original stream (i.e., Engineering, Science and Medical Science) to humanities.

(ii) Geography was the most preferred subject among the optional subjects chosen by the candidates, followed by Sociology and Public Administration.

(iii) Out of 45 Optional subjects offered by UPSC for CSE 2016, the most popular ones in descending order were; Geography, Sociology, Public Administration, History, Political Science & International Relations, Anthropology, Philosophy, Maths, Medical Science, Law, Literature of Hindi Language, Psychology and Economics.

Looking at the subjects for the General studies papers and UPSC syllabus, one can see an obvious advantage for a student with Humanities background as he has already studied these subjects in school and college.

So if you wish to pursue Civil services as your career aim, Humanities (Arts) is definitely going to provide you with the extra edge to do so. It covers the widest range of subjects which could be taken up for higher studies and also provide a strong base for CSE. If a student wishes to pursue CSE, it’s better to let go of the apprehension that Humanities has fewer career avenues as compared to other streams. It provides equal, if not more, opportunities and requires the same effort and dedication by the students.

Finally, keep in mind that every journey has its ups and downs. Prepare slow and steady, and use every means to expand your knowledge base. CSE demands candidates to have an honest interest in the subjects they study, which can only come from perseverance and devotion.

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103 Replies to “Which stream is best for preparation of IAS/ UPSC Civil Services Exam – Arts, Science or Commerce?”

          1. Dear Alka,
            You will have to give us some basic information about yourself to enable us to guide you. Are you an under graduate ? Have you completed graduation? what is your academic stream? We recommend that you call us on Tel: 011 – 4078 6050 and speak to any of our Counsellors. There is no counselling fee for this.

            Godspeed !

    1. Sir I have too much interest in science subject I passed 12th from pcm and got 89% but.after that I am now studying in b.a. sir please..kuch btaiye kya mujhe. Ye year drop krke bsc kr leni chahiye kyuki m optional me math lena chahta hu

      1. Dear Mr Suhail , we recommend that you pick up phone and speak to any of our counsellors. They will need more information from you to guide and counsel you. Kindly call on Tel: 011 – 4078 6050. There is no counselling fee for this.

      1. Since lve decided to take humanities in 11th , but the problem is about the good humanities colleges I haven’t found any humanities colleges for intermediate near me or somewhere else for intermediate could you please sujjest for the college that I may join .

          1. Dear Aspirant, pls call on Tel: 011 – 4078 6050 and speak to any of our Counsellors to get advise/ counselling.

      1. Dear Riza, to get more information about Civil Services Exam, you may call us on Tel: 011 – 4078 6050 and speak to any of our Counsellors. There is no counselling fee for this. Good Luck !

  1. wow great. This sounds very new to me. I haven’t heard of this tool before. But it seems like a very good source to stay ahead of the happenings going on in our surroundings. Good review.

  2. Sir
    Please help me I am in very big confusion I want to become IS officer but I have a great interest in science I want to take non med pls guide me pls

      1. Dear Disha, in case you have fixed Civil Services as your aim in life, you may choose Humanities Stream in Class 11th.

  3. I want to become IAS officer,,, so, I m really confused to choose a stream,, so, I hope through it,, it is beneficial for me 😊

  4. Plzz tell me regarding the syylbus for IAS in detail in prelims and mains. I have done bsc nursing which subjects I have to choose so that i will qualift

      1. I’m a student of cls 10 and want to crack upsc i choose cec after 10 but the dilema is for which board i have to choose cbse or other boards which boards are best for upsc please give reply

          1. Dear Aspirant, at this stage you can start reading NCERT Books of Humanities stream, which are the foundation of CSE. If you google, you will find relevant info on the same. If you want to be successful in cracking CSE, we will recommend that you join a coaching institute of repute. A professional coaching institute will synergise your effort and time.

          2. Dear Samyuktha, this is something which you will have to do yourself based on your present commitments and availability of time. The bottom line is that you will have to keep a balance between CSE preparation studies and your graduation studies.

          3. Dear Samyuktha, we are not funded by the government and are a private institute. You can join a course only after paying subscription fee. However, to help aspirants prepare , we have free registration on our web portal http://www.rauias.com , where you can register to make use of free study materiel, tests , magazines, videos etc. Another venture of ours on Current Affairs called ” Daily News Simplified” (DNS) is also available free of cost on You Tube as well as on our portal. This daily video upload covering important news of the day from Hindu Newspaper, should not be missed at any cost. Make the best use of it for keeping abreast with current affairs. You can click this link to see and subscribe https://www.youtube.com/c/rausias1953/videos

  5. What if we took science or commerce. U r saying this cause u have taken arts. If not can u tell what will science and commerce do in thIs field 🤔

    1. Students from all streams can appear for UPSC Civil Services exam and crack it. It is just that students from Arts stream have read some sections of the syllabus in their college level and therefore, some Arts students who have studied diligently at college level have a head start compared to other aspirants. But that does not mean that students from Science or Arts background have any disadvantage either.

      Students from Science & Commerce streams as well can study the entire syllabus and develop in better understanding in UPSC syllabus to crack the exam in their first attempt.

  6. i’m a student of 10 and i want to crack UPSC but i am confused with the stream, i’m not so good in maths i like bio a lil bt, but don’t ant to become a doctor and i’m really confused with the thought that does humanities has many options for job or not. i don’t know what to do.

    1. Dear Saumya, our blog referred to this dilemma only. You must choose the stream in which you have interest and which enthuses you. Whats the point in choosing a stream in which you have no interest but you feel it has comparatively better prospects ? In any case without interest, you wont be able to fare well. We would like to highlight once again that UPSC syllabus is stream neutral.

  7. Really, its very useful for the students who are planning to do upsc.its a very good information for youngers.keep giving some useful infos to students.

    1. Sure. Mathematics is available as an optional subject in UPSC.
      Also, you can appear for UPSC Civil Services Exam from any stream.

  8. According to you my question is that if I take arts in class 11 than it will be beneficial for me.
    Please kindly inform me my answer as soon as possible.

  9. Thank you for giving or publishing such a informative matter that I want previously…….thnkx a lot …….

  10. It was very helpful for me as I just completed my 10 and I was little confused weather to choose humanities or science…so the information provided above gave me a clear picture …. and now am clear about the stream which is best for UPSC exam it’s my dream to crack the UPSC exam …. thankyou

  11. It was very helpful for me as I just completed my 10th and I was little confused weather to choose humanities or science…so the information provided above gave me a clear picture …. and now am clear about the stream which is best for UPSC exam it’s my dream to crack the UPSC exam …. thankyou

  12. My daughter is keen for her UPSC Exams, she cleared her IGCSE exams & is continuing with IBDP in grade 11th & 12th..how can she continue in her graduation please guide.

    1. Dear Ms Priti, we recommend that you hold this concern till your daughter completes her 12th class. Kindly get in touch with our Counsellors once she is choosing graduation stream.

  13. Can I go with Physics chemistry and biology along make the subjects like pol. Sci. to be additional books along with my SCIENCE subject….???????????

  14. Very nice 👌👍 details given I was confused to persue which of the stream for CSE. Now as per my interest I will persue humanities (arts). Thanks to rau ias

  15. I have finished PUC(pcmb) but am confused because i don’t know which course is usefull for IAS ..😔my kindly request to u will u plzz help me about this matter.because nobody is there TO help me

    1. Dear Aspirant, kindly call on Tel: 011 – 4078 6050 and speak to any of our Counsellors for taking advise. There is no Counselling Fee for this. Our aim is to help aspirants like yourself to achieve their goal.

    1. Dear Suhail, our blog addressed the same question which you have asked. Kindly read the blog carefully. We are certain that it will clear all your doubts.

    1. Dear Abhinav, for Civil Services Exam, understanding of only Elementary Mathematics till Class 10th is required.

    1. Dear Shalini, both of these subjects are good for preparation for Civil Services Exam. We recommend that once you complete class 12th, pls speak to our counsellors for taking advise on the subjects which you must choose in graduation. Graduation subjects will be critical for your CSE preparations. Good luck.

  16. मेरा लडका 11 कलास में HUMANITIES से अध्ययन कर रहा हैं, उसे IAS का तैयारी कराना चाहता हु तो GRADUATION में कौन-सा विषय अच्छा रहेगा उसके बारे में बताने का कष्ट करें जिससे कि अच्छा मार्गदर्शन मिल सके।

    1. Abhishek Ji, pls call on Tel: 011 – 4078 6050 and speak to any of our Counsellors to get guidance. There is no Fee for taking counselling.

  17. Sir I’m currently in the PCM stream in 11th grade, and I want to pursue civil services later. And I also want to change my stream to Humanities/Arts right now. Kindly suggest if I should do that or not.

    1. Dear Priyanshi, we had hoped that our blog on this particular dilemma would help aspirants make up their mind. Let us talk! Kindly call on tele No Tel: 011 – 4078 6050 and speak to any of our Counsellors. They will surely help you in deciding. There is no counselling fee for this. All the best.

    1. Dear Aspirant, you can start preparation for Civil Services Exam now itself. To get more info you may speak to any of our Counsellors on tele 011 – 4078 6050. There is no counselling fee for this. Good luck.

    1. Dear Mr Dinesh,
      You must choose the Stream/ subjects which interests you. Even Commerce students appear for CSE exam and that is very large number too. If you want to understand more on this, pls feel free to call us on Tel: 011 – 4078 6050 to speak to any of our Counsellors. There is no counselling fee for this.

    1. Dear Jagdeep,
      If your interests is in Humanities subjects, you must take Humanities in +1. This will certainly give you an edge in your preparations for Civil Services Exam, as has been explained in our blog. Good luck.

    1. Dear Avishi,
      Pls feel free to call us on tele Tel: 011 – 4078 6050 and speak to any of our Counsellors. There is no counselling fee for this.

    1. Dear Gulnaaz,
      There is no such requirement. If you want to know more, kindly call us on Tel: 011 – 4078 6050 and speak to any of our Counsellors. There is no counselling fee for this.

  18. Halo
    Sir I am very confused which subject I am choose in 11th class for ias officer. But my intrest in business and maths, so what I am do. Please reply me sir.

    1. Dear Laxmi, the sole criterion for choosing a Stream (Science/Commerce/Humanities) or for choosing Subjects should be your interest. Just ignore any other factor. If you study subjects of your interest, you will have motivation to excel. Can any one excel in something which is not of his/her interest? This is as simple as this. As far as CSE is concerned, the syllabus is neutral and you are tested for your conceptual understanding of things. So go ahead and take subjects of your interest.

  19. I’m a student of cls 10 and want to crack upsc i choose cec after 10 but the dilema is for which board i have to choose cbse or other boards which boards are best for upsc please give reply

    1. Dear Aspirant, if your interest is in Science subjects, by all means you should take Science. UPSC syllabus is stream neutral. The advantage-gap which Humanities students have over Science and Commerce students, can be easily covered.

  20. I want to appear in upsc exam . The matter is humanities/arts is beneficial for it . But my desire is to take science stream. Please help me …what should I do ? Your help will be greatly help for my life🙏🙏🙏

    1. Dear Joyoti, there is no need to get confused about this. Pls take Science stream where your heart lye. It is not necessary that you should take Humanities only, to succeed. There is no denying that a Humanities background student will have a slight advantage having studied few subjects before. But, this gap between Humanities and non-humanities background students is very minuscule which can be easily covered by putting some extra effort and time. Go ahead and take Science Stream.
      One more word of advise for you. Pls start preparing for CSE right from first year of graduation. Do not squander this time. Initial years of graduation are relatively less demanding for time and effort towards studies. You can easily handle both graduation and CSE preparations. This will also take care of your anxiety about CSE preparations and you will be able to handle both equitably.

    1. Dear Ms Trisha,

      It is too premature at this stage when you are in class 11th, to start planning for subjects in graduation. Your focus should be on Class 11th and 12th right now. Plan for graduation stream once you have reached the end of class 12th. By that time you will have a better perspective of things.

  21. I had taken MEC , so can we still do for ias ? What can I take in degree level, for approaching ias . I thought of taking CA , can we do with this also or not. Our please suggest me any other course which can help in approaching ias .

    1. Dear Ms Ragini, the UPSC syllabus is stream neutral. You can pursue any stream for graduation and can still take civil services exam.

    1. Yes of-course you can. CSE is attempted by aspirants from all streams including Commerce and Law background and many many of them have been successful.

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