How to prepare Political Science optional

By Preeti Kaushik|Updated : October 13th, 2019


Political Science and International Relation (PSIR) Optional Strategy

Selecting the Optional and what to look for?

The optional subject carries around 500 Marks and hence possess significant turnaround capability in the rank list. The first thing, therefore, is a wise choice. So, Why PSIR?

  1. Interest, so that one can read the subject for long enough.
  2. Overlapping with GS. It can help in all the four papers of GS and even Essay.
  3. If read with a bit of interest, it is easy and doable.
  4. Availability of notes, materials and books easily in the market.



Paper 1
Section A:

  • OP Gauba: Political theory
  • Andrew Heywood: Ideologies part 
  • IGNOU Notes for Indian and western political thoughts 


Section B:

  • M. Laxmi Kant 
  • Oxford Companion to politics in India

Newspaper articles on Indian politics (The Hindu, The Indian Express)

Paper 2
Section A:

  • Globalization of world politics
  • Model answers for test papers
  • Newspaper articles on global politics (The Hindu, The Indian Express)

                  Section B:

  • Does the elephant dance by David Malone?
  • Model answers for test papers
  • Newspaper articles on India’s Foreign affairs (The Hindu, The Indian Express)
  • Oxford Handbook on Indian Foreign policy


General Strategy

  • One needs to understand that, you are here for clearing the exam and not to do any sort of research purpose. So, manage the time accordingly between the optional and other GS subjects.
  • Don’t neglect the subject, thinking it is not a part of Prelims. You need to be prepared beforehand for everything and be ready for the battle.
  • Go through the syllabus. It should be printed in your brain. It will help you in selecting articles from the newspapers, websites and making notes easily.
  • First make a comprehensive note on each topic. Leave spaces for value addition. After reading notes, make snippets of those notes, so that you can revise it before exams.
  • For newspapers, note down specific criticisms or positive arguments to certain important events or topics. You can read a few book reviews if not books. This will help in developing a new perspective to the situations.

Answer Writing Part

  • This is the major part of the UPSC exam. Be it GS or Optional, it doesn’t matter what you know, rather what you express there.
  • Practice, practice a lot. This is the only way to succeed. Key to complete the paper and writing good answers.
  • It is advisable to write the answer in paragraphs in optional and not points.
  • Previous year questions are very important in the optional. You will get a brief idea of the pattern. Read the topic, pick a few questions and answer them. Repeat this.
  • Relating to the content part, dynamism is the crux of the paper. You need to relate to the topics, concepts, theories, ideas etc. And hence the conceptual clarity of the paper is a must.
  • The need is to understand the demand of the question. You need to read the question properly. Looking for last year papers, questions were quite unusual. Give some time, to understand the context and frame structure in mind before start writing.
  • Try to give current examples even in theoretical questions. For example, Compassionate capitalism, Ajij Premji in Theory of Trusteeship by M.K. Gandhi.
  • Interlinking across sections and across papers will help you add dynamism and values to the answers. This will fetch you good marks.
  • Introduction and specifically conclusions are very important for the answer. Try to conclude on a positive note.
  • Read entire paper thoroughly. If you get stuck anywhere while writing answer, derive points from other questions. It will add dimensions to the answers and will help you come out of the trap.
  • Don’t go with any preconceived notions of answering and selecting questions from different sections.
  • Study all parts with equal importance. It may happen that few topics you left would come in compulsory ten markers or maybe one question each in the 15 markers. Select what you feel, you can write best.
  • Answer comprehensively. Include arguments, criticisms especially in theory part. Join any test series to practice in the environment. Try to finish on the time.
  • Answers should include keywords like Justice, equality, rights etc. Write like a specialist with technical details including theories and phrases of scholars.
  • You can refer to the answer copies of toppers available online.

All the best!


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