Optional Subject for UPSC: 10 Best UPSC Optional Subject for IAS Prelims & Mains

By Ritesh|Updated : August 5th, 2022

Best Optional Subject for UPSC is the subject that makes it easier for the candidates to fetch good marks in the optional papers of the UPSC exam. However, the idea of the Best Optional Subject for UPSC depends on various factors that we have discussed in this article. The optional subject for UPSC is divided into two papers, each carrying 250 marks. The total weightage of the optional subject is 500 marks out of 1750 marks in the UPSC Mains. It shows the importance of the optional subject and how important it is to choose the Best Optional Subject for UPSC as it can make a huge difference in the overall rank of a candidate.

Below we have mentioned the Best Optional Subject for UPSC and factors a candidate should consider before choosing the optional subject for UPSC. Additionally, we will guide the candidates with the data on the success rate of each optional subject in the previous years of UPSC exams which would be immensely helpful when choosing the best optional subject for IAS.

Table of Content

Best Optional Subject for UPSC- Why is it Important?

Why can't you just pick any subject as your optional? Why do you have to choose the best optional subject for IAS? The answers to these questions are simple.

  • According to the most recent patterns for the UPSC civil services exam, the weightage of the optional subject is 500 marks out of 2025 marks.
  • Due to this, it is an integral factor in determining the final ranks. You need to choose the best scoring option for UPSC that will help you to fetch maximum marks.
  • There are many parameters to choosing the Best Optional Subject for UPSC, such as the knowledge of the subject and the availability of study materials.
  • Most of the candidates opt for a subject they choose at graduation. But it is not the constant or only factor deciding the Best Optional Subject for UPSC.
  • If the subject you studied in your graduation is not part of the optional subject, then no need to worry. You can choose any subject and still succeed in the very first attempt.
  • Read further to know what is the Best Optional Subject for UPSC and what factors you must consider before selecting the best optional subject for IAS.

Which Optional Subject is Best for UPSC?

A scoring subject and the Best Optional Subject for UPSC are two different things. Candidates can score big in every subject as per the past records.

  • But some subjects are perceived as low scoring because the candidates are not able to put in the requisite effort, or they have chosen an optional subject that is not right for them. And this is when the concept of the Best Optional Subject for UPSC comes into the picture.
  • Technical subjects like mathematics can fetch you high marks because there is an absolute answer to each question. Whereas humanities subjects depend on the examiner's preferences.
  • But it doesn't mean that the candidates can't score well in these non-technical subjects. The non-technical subjects that overlap with the GS syllabus offer an advantage to the candidates as they will get more time for preparation and reading materials. This will help the candidates to boost their overall Mains score.

Things you need to consider while choosing the Best Optional Subject for UPSC.

  • If the syllabus is vast
  • If you have enough time for preparation
  • If you have studied this subject in your graduation or post-graduation level
  • Does the syllabus overlap with the GS part of Prelims/Mains?
  • Are there enough study materials available?

Based on these factors, you need to make your choice and come up with the Best Optional Subject for UPSC.

There are some optional subjects that have been opted for by the majority of candidates over the years. It is because their syllabus overlaps with the other parts of the UPSC exam, such as UPSC prelims, GS I, II, III, IV, and essays. According to some aspirants, the Best Optional Subject for UPSC should have relevance to the UPSC exam. So, let's take a look at these subjects in the table below.

Optional Subject

(Approx) Number of Aspirants

Syllabus Overlaps with

Sociology

1800

GS I, GS II, Essay

Geography

3500

Prelims, GS I and GS III

Philosophy

1000

GS IV. Essay

Political Science

1800

Prelims, GS II

History

3500

Prelims, GS I

Public Administration

3000

Prelims, GS II

As we have mentioned above, the common exam strategy while opting for the Best Optional Subject for UPSC is to choose a subject that overlaps with the UPSC syllabus. However, this strategy may not work for you, and there are many candidates who have cracked the UPSC exam without picking these popular subjects. So this should not be the only deciding factor when opting for the Best Optional Subject for UPSC.

So Which is the Best Optional Subject for UPSC?

There is no answer to this question as no optional subject is easier for UPSC. The skill and learning ability and interest of a candidate determine which optional subject would be best suited for him/her. However, candidates should choose an optional subject which has easily available study material.

More Scoring Optional Subjects for UPSC Mains

As we have mentioned above, it is easier to fetch marks in technical subjects like Mathematics because the ‘subjectivity quotient' is limited. Unlike humanities subjects, the biases of the examiner are less in the technical subjects. But the non-technical subjects that overlap with the GS syllabus give more preparation time.

If you see the bigger picture, it can be concluded that the UPSC Toppers scored 320+ in both technical and non-technical subjects. Some subjects are known as low scoring because the candidate hasn't put the requisite effort he/she has selected the optional subject that is not right for him/her.

Optional Subjects with the Highest Success Rate in the UPSC/IAS Exam

As per the Department of Personnel & Training (DoPT), the success rate of the optional subjects for the UPSC 2019 is given below.

Success-Rate of Optionals in UPSC 2019

Optional Subject

Number of Candidates

Success Rate (Percent)

Appeared

Recommended

Geography

1916

105

5.5%

Sociology

1263

126

10.0%

Commerce & Accountancy

183

20

10.9%

Economics

243

26

10.7%

Agriculture

124

13

10.5%

Animal Husbandry & Veterinary Science

16

3

18.8%

Anthropology

1189

108

9.1%

Botany

28

2

7.1%

Electrical Engineering

200

16

8.0%

Chemistry

156

13

8.3%

Geology

30

0

0.0%

History

751

51

6.8%

Law

186

19

10.2%

Management

54

6

11.1%

Mathematics

539

45

8.3%

Public Administration

705

58

8.2%

Civil Engineering

146

15

10.3%

Statistics

2

0

0.0%

Zoology

44

4

9.1%

Political Science & International Relations

1662

137

8.2%

Psychology

164

15

9.1%

Mechanical Engineering

213

12

5.6%

Medical Science

247

26

10.5%

Philosophy

439

27

6.2%

Physics

165

12

7.3%

The success rate for the literature subjects is given below for the IAS Mains 2019.

Optional Subject

Number of Candidates

Success Rate (Percent)

Appeared

Recommended

Literature Of Sanskrit Language

53

2

3.8%

Literature Of Kannada Language

124

17

13.7%

Literature Of Maithili Language

53

2

3.8%

Literature Of Malayalam Language

105

13

12.4%

Literature Of Hindi Language

191

13

6.8%

Literature Of Marathi Language

6

0

0.0%

Literature Of Oriya Language

3

0

0.0%

Literature Of Punjabi Language

18

1

5.6%

Literature Of Assamese Language

3

0

0.0%

Literature Of Bengali Language

1

0

0.0%

Literature Of English Language

31

3

9.7%

Literature Of Gujarati Language

85

3

3.5%

Literature Of Manipuri Language

7

0

0.0%

Literature Of Sindhi(Devanagari) Language

2

1

50.0%

Literature Of Tamil Language

77

5

6.5%

Literature Of Telugu Language

32

1

3.1%

Literature Of Urdu Language

18

2

11.1%

Top 10 Optional Subjects for UPSC IAS Exam

After considering all the points and data given above, and the latest UPSC Results, we have prepared a list of the top 10 optional subjects for UPSC.

  1. Sociology
  2. Geography
  3. Literature Subject (Any)
  4. Anthropology
  5. Agriculture
  6. Medical Science
  7. Public Administration
  8. Psychology
  9. Law
  10. History

Which is the Best Optional Subject for UPSC for Medical Students and Doctors?

Out of all the optional subjects for UPSC, medical science remains the first choice for medical students and doctors. However, candidates with medical backgrounds also take subjects like oology, Animal Husbandry, and Veterinary Science as their optional subjects. If someone is not interested in these subjects, then he/she can also go for the non-technical subjects that overlap with the GS.

Which is the Best Optional Subject for UPSC for Engineering Candidates?

So many candidates from engineering backgrounds appear for the IAS exam. However, the choices for these candidates are limited to Civil, Mechanical and Electrical engineering. Apart from these subjects, Maths, Physics and Chemistry can also be considered. The non-technical subjects are highly preferred among engineering candidates.

List of UPSC Optional Subjects Syllabus
UPSC Agriculture SyllabusUPSC Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Science Syllabus
UPSC Anthropology SyllabusUPSC Botany Syllabus
UPSC Chemistry SyllabusUPSC Civil Engineering Syllabus
UPSC Commerce and Accountancy SyllabusUPSC Economics Syllabus
UPSC Electrical Engineering SyllabusUPSC Medical Science Syllabus
UPSC Geography Syllabus UPSC Geology Syllabus
UPSC Hindi Literature SyllabusUPSC History Syllabus
UPSC Law SyllabusUPSC Management Syllabus
UPSC Maths Optional SyllabusUPSC Mechanical Engineering Syllabus
UPSC Physics SyllabusUPSC Political Science and International Relations (PSIR) Optional Syllabus
UPSC Psychology SyllabusUPSC Public Administration Syllabus
UPSC Science and Technology SyllabusUPSC Sociology Optional Syllabus
UPSC Statistics SyllabusUPSC Zoology Syllabus

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FAQs on Best Optional Subject for UPSC

  • There is no right answer to this question. Only aspirants know their strengths and weaknesses, and they must choose the optional subject accordingly. However, candidates must choose an optional subject with enough study material available.

  • There is no scoring optional subject in UPSC. candidates have scored good marks in every optional subject in previous years' UPSC exams. Everything depends on the skills, efforts, and interests of the candidate.

  • The success rate of the optional subject varies every year; as per UPSC 2019 data Animal Husbandry & Veterinary Science, anthropology, management, Sociology, economics and law had the highest success rate in UPSC.

  • Philosophy has the smallest Syllabus among other optional subjects syllabus.

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