How to Choose Optional Subject for UPSC Civil Services Exam ?

By Nitin Singhal|Updated : March 31st, 2022

How to Choose Optional for UPSC is one of the most asked questions among the IAS aspirants no matter if they are beginners or attempting more than once. The second stage of the UPSC exam gives full freedom to choose optional subjects. The optional subject can be the differentiator for UPSC aspirants as it carries a total of 500 marks in the UPSC Mains exam. That is why the optional subject should be chosen cautiously. Knowing How to Choose Optional for UPSC would be a game-changer for the aspirants.

Every year, many aspirants get almost similar marks in General Studies and Essay Papers, but rank in final merit is determined by the Optional subject. So, here we will discuss how to choose optional for the IAS exam and what strategy needs to follow to ace the subject as well as the exam.

Table of Content

Things to Avoid While Choosing Optional for UPSC 

Before discussing How To Choose An Optional Subject for UPSC, we need to understand what an ideal subject is described. According to the IAS Aspirants, there are some factors that make an optional subject stand out from others, such as:

  • The optional subject should be scoring
  • It has to be a popular subject
  • They should have studied that subject at their UG or PG level

According to the aspirants, these are the top factors that need to be considered while choosing an optional subject. But in reality, these factors may not work for you when you are choosing optional for UPSC, and below we have discussed the reason.

  • There is no such scoring subject, it depends on how the candidate performs. You shouldn't pick a subject based on its past success rate.
  • The popularity of a subject has nothing to do with the exam, and it is just one’s perspective. There are many candidates who have cracked the exam with not-so-popular subjects.
  • In many cases, candidates who have opted for subjects that were different from their backgrounds scored profoundly in the Mains. It is just because they chose which subject they genuinely had an interest in.

As you can see one shouldn’t choose the optional based on these parameters. So, what should be the right approach when choosing an optional? Let’s reveal the best answer for how to choose optional for UPSC.

How to Choose Optional Subject for UPSC?

UPSC offers 48 optional subjects to choose from in the UPSC Exam. Candidates can choose any one of the optional subjects for UPSC and appear for two papers. Following are the key points one should remember while choosing optional for UPSC

  • Read the list of optional subjects offered by UPSC and narrow down your options to three to four and make sure that the subjects you choose are comfortable.
  • After narrowing them down, look at the UPSC Previous Year Question Papers of that optional subject and analyze where you stand and are you comfortable with interpreting the demand of the question.
  • Also, one popular criterion to choose the optional subject is the accessibility and the availability of study material, coaching, and guidance. 
  • Study material availability and coaching facility become crucial to master the topics of an optional and also for answer writing practice.
  • Other factors like Overlap with General Studies syllabus, background knowledge, etc should be secondary to the interest when opting for an optional paper.

There is no right answer for how to choose optional for UPSC, it is only a matter of perspective. No matter which optional subject you choose, it is only the effort and hard work that decide if you will succeed or not. So after choosing an optional make sure you stick to it and stay dedicated. 

As we have mentioned above, there is no perfect answer to how to choose optional for UPSC. You can take any optional and fetch good marks if you have done enough preparation for it. But below we have mentioned some of the popular optional subjects and explained what makes them so popular.

☛ Also Read:- How to become an IPS Officer

Geography

  • A subject like Geography has a definite syllabus but it is very lengthy to cover. Also, it requires a deep conceptual understanding. Go through the Geography Syllabus for UPSC to get a better idea. 
  • It is semi-scientific in nature which makes it popular among students from engineering and other backgrounds. 
  • Moreover, geography as a subject also helps in the preliminary examination and has a good overlap with the general studies paper 1.

Public Administration

  • Public administration has a definite syllabus and can be covered within a short time span of 2-3 months. To get a better picture, download the Public Administration Syllabus for UPSC and check if it interests you. 
  • Also good coaching and study material are available in the market also it can be easily covered through self-study

History

  • History is popular because every student has studied history in school and some during their graduation. To make an informed decision, go through the History Syllabus for UPSC
  • Also many find history an interesting subject along with scoring but history requires deep understanding and interpretation because the questions asked in the mains examination require aspirants to interlink the concepts with the facts to make the answers qualitative

Sociology

  • Sociology as a subject is also popular because it is easy to understand and the topics are interesting. 
  • It helps in the essay paper and covers portions of the general studies paper. Download the Sociology Syllabus for UPSC and check the overlap with the UPSC Mains Syllabus

Importance of Choosing the Best Optional for UPSC

As we have mentioned above, the UPSC Optional subject has two papers, and each carries 250 marks. This means the optional subject will contribute a total of 500 marks in the UPSC Mains exam. Every candidate must aim to fetch maximum marks in this optional subject as it will play a huge role in qualifying for the Mains exam. Scoring big in the optional subject becomes easy if you choose the right optional subject as per your interest and other factors we have mentioned above. 

How to Choose Optional Subject for UPSC - Some Precautions to Take

  • Therefore, Popular and scoring optional is a myth and it is just a perspective.
  • It is observed that in the past successful candidates who cracked the exams chose the optional subject based on their interest and background and not on the criteria about which is scoring or has a good overlap with the UPSC Syllabus for general studies. 
  • There is only the right fit for every individual. It is better to go by one's own judgment rather than what the previous toppers did in the past. 
  • Whatever optional a candidate chooses he or she has to study hard and turn it into the most scoring subject.
  • Popular and scoring optional is a myth and it is just a perspective.
  • It is observed that in the past successful candidates who cracked the exams chose the optional subject based on their interest and background and not on the criteria about which is scoring or has a good overlap with the general studies syllabus. 
  • There is only the right fit for every individual. It is better to go by one's own judgment rather than what the previous toppers did in the past. 
  • Whatever optional a candidate chooses he or she has to study hard and turn it into the most scoring subject.

Important UPSC Topics

UPSC Exam

UPSC Exam Date

UPSC Notification

UPSC Eligibility

UPSC Online Application

UPSC Exam Pattern

UPSC CSAT Syllabus

IAS Exam

UPSC Cut Off

UPSC Preparation Strategy

UPSC Books

UPSC Exam Analysis

Comments

write a comment

FAQs

  • There is no ideal answer to how to choose optional for UPSC as we have mentioned above. Candidates need to choose an optional subject that they are interested in, rather than focusing on whether it is scoring or not.

  • There are a total of 48 optional subjects in the UPSC mains exam, and 23 of them are literature optional. Each optional subject has two papers and carries 250 marks. Candidates get the freedom to choose any optional subject they want.

  • Yes absolutely, candidates can choose any optional subject they like even if it doesn’t match their background. There are many candidates who have cleared the exam by taking an irrelevant optional subject from their curriculum.

  • There are 48 optional syllabus philosophy has the shortest syllabus among them. This justifies the popularity of this subject among the aspirants. However, this shouldn’t be the only factor when choosing an optional subject for UPSC.

  • Yes, if someone has adopted a strategic approach in preparation then he/she can fetch good marks. The questions for mathematics are objective in nature, hence it is scoring.

Featured Articles

Follow us for latest updates