UPSC Optional Subjects List - Choose from 48 Optional Subjects in UPSC Mains

By Shubhra Anand Jain|Updated : September 29th, 2022

The UPSC Optional Subject List is released by the UPSC in the official notification. Optional Subject in UPSC can be found in Paper 6 and 7 of the UPSC mains exam. The UPSC mains exam consists of 2 compulsory papers, merit papers from Paper 1 to 7, which includes 1 Essay paper, 4 GS papers, and 2 optional subject papers. An aspirant gets the freedom to choose any preferred subject for the mains exam from the UPSC Optional Subject List. 

As per the UPSC notification, there are 48 subjects in UPSC Optional Subjects List divided into subject-specific subjects and literature optional subjects. Each UPSC Optional Subject paper carries 250 marks, making it a total of 500 marks. In this article, we have provided the complete UPSC Optional Subjects List that a candidate can choose from. You can also find details on how to choose the optional subject for UPSC and ace the exam in the first attempt. 

Table of Content

What is Optional Subject in UPSC?

A list of optional subjects in UPSC comes with the release of the official Notification of UPSC on its official website. Candidates get to choose any subject they want from these listed IAS Optional Subjects. As we have mentioned above, the optional paper carries a total of 500 marks, so it is crucial to pick a subject that the candidate is comfortable with.

It would add a huge advantage if the candidate has completed his/her UG or PG in any one of the optional subjects in UPSC. The concept of the easiest optional subject for UPSC varies from person to person. So, we have covered the list of optional subjects for UPSC and also help you to figure out a way to choose the easiest optional subject for UPSC.

UPSC Optional Subject List

The table below lists the names of optional subjects for the UPSC Exam. The marks obtained in UPSC Optional Subject are considered for the preparation of final merit. Hence, the choice of an optional subject must be made cautiously.

Unlike earlier, candidates now have to choose just one subject from a wide range of optional subjects for UPSC.

S. No.

UPSC Optional Subjects List

1

Agriculture

2

Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Science

3

Anthropology

4

Botany

5

Chemistry

6

Civil Engineering

7

Commerce & Accountancy

8

Economics

9

Electrical Engineering

10

Geography

11

Geology

12

History

13

Law

14

Management

15

Mathematics

16

Mechanical Engineering

17

Medical Science

18

Philosophy

19

Physics

20

Political Science & International Relations

21

Psychology

22

Public Administration

23

Sociology

24

Statistics

25

Zoology

UPSC Optional Subject List for Literature Subjects

Literature of the following languages ​​is also part of the optional subjects for IAS, from which the candidate gets to choose any preferred language as his/her optional subject.

S. No.

List of Literature UPSC Optional Subject

1

Assamese

2

Bengali

3

Bodo

4

Dogri

5

Gujarati

6

Hindi

7

Kannada

8

Kashmiri

9

Konkani

10

Maithili

11

Malayalam

12

Manipuri

13

Marathi

14

Nepali

15

Oriya

16

Punjabi

17

Sanskrit

18

Santhali

19

Sindhi

20

Tamil

21

Telugu

22

Urdu

23

English

How to Choose Optional Subject in UPSC?

Choosing an optional subject for UPSC is a crucial decision that can impact the overall rank in the UPSC exam. An optional subject carries a total of 500 marks, making it essential to opt for the right subject. The goal is to fetch optimum marks in the UPSC optional because it can increase a candidate's rank on the merit list.

Most candidates make a common mistake of choosing an IAS optional subject based on the parameters like popularity, availability of study materials, and educational background. But you should not choose your optional subject depending on these factors because it can cost you an attempt. Following are some things you need to keep in mind before choosing a UPSC Mains Optional Subject.

  • Interest and academic background- While going through the UPSC Optional List, you need to find an optional that you are interested in. The UPSC CSE optional subject must match your comfort level while reading.
  • Overlap with the UPSC syllabus- There are some optional subjects that overlap with the other portion of the UPSC syllabus. That is why these optional subjects are highly popular among aspirants. The subjects are history, political science & international relations, sociology, geography, economics, etc.
  • Availability of resources- You need to choose a subject that doesn’t have limited resources to prepare from. There are enough study materials available for some optional subjects for UPSC, but in some cases, research needs to be done on the availability of study materials for some subjects. Download the UPSC book list for all the IAS Optional Subjects.
  • Proper Guidance- A candidate can crack the UPSC exam without coaching, but it would be hard to do the same without proper guidance. If you plan to choose an optional subject for UPSC that you are unfamiliar with, then you will need guidance.
  • Time- management- In the UPSC Mains exam, you will have to face four general studies papers, and a merit-based essay, if you choose an UPSC optional with vast syllabus then it will be hard for you to spend more time on other subjects. That is why choose an optional subject that will allow you to manage your time properly.
  • Subject familiarity- Another crucial point you must consider while choosing the best UPSC optional subject is familiarity or knowledge of the subject. Choosing a subject you have already studied in your UG or PG would be great. Make sure that this is not the only factor you need to consider while choosing the best subject from the list of optional subjects for UPSC.

UPSC Optional Subject List with Syllabus & Books PDF

Below we have given the direct link to the syllabus of all UPSC optional subjects. Candidates can check the syllabus of each subject, which would make this process a lot easier for them.

List of Optional Subjects in UPSC

Syllabus of Optional Subjects for UPSC

Recommended Books for IAS Optional Subjects

Geography 

Geography Optional Syllabus

Geography Optional Books

Geology

Geology Optional Syllabus

Geology Optional Books

History

History Optional Syllabus

History Optional Books

Law

Law Optional Syllabus

Law Optional Books

Management

Management Optional Syllabus

Management Optional Books

Maths 

UPSC Maths Optional Syllabus

Maths Optional Books

Mechanical Engineering

Mechanical Optional Syllabus

Mechanical Engg Optional Books

Medical Science

Medical Science Optional UPSC Syllabus

Medical Science Optional Books

Philosophy

Philosophy Optional Syllabus

Philosophy Optional Books

Agriculture

Agriculture Optional Syllabus

Agriculture Optional Books

Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Science

Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Science Optional Syllabus

Animal Husbandry Optional Books

Anthropology

Anthropology Optional Syllabus

Anthropology Optional Books

Botany

Botany Optional Syllabus

Botany Optional Books

Chemistry

Chemistry Optional Syllabus

Chemistry Optional Books

Civil Engineering

Civil Engineering Optional Syllabus

Civil Engineering UPSC Optional Books

Commerce & Accountancy

Commerce UPSC Optional Syllabus

Commerce Optional Books

Economics

Economics Optional Syllabus

Economics Optional Books

Electrical Engineering

Electrical Engineering Optional Syllabus

Electrical Engineering Optional Books

Physics

Physics Optional Syllabus

Physics Optional Books

Political Science & International Relations

PSIR Optional Syllabus

PSIR Optional Books

Psychology

Psychology Optional Syllabus

Psychology Optional Books

Public Administration

Pub Ad UPSC Optional Syllabus

Public Administration Optional Books

Sociology

Sociology Optional Syllabus

Sociology Optional Books

Statistics

Statistics Optional Syllabus

Statistics Optional Books

Zoology

Zoology Optional Syllabus

Zoology Optional Books

Which Optional Subject is Best for UPSC?

Every year lakhs of candidates try to find the easiest and the best optional subject in UPSC. There is no perfect answer to this question; however, some key points would help you find the right UPSC optional subject. Let’s uncover which optional subject is easiest for UPSC.

  • Technical subjects (along with Mathematics) can fetch excessive marks because the solutions are absolute. Basically, unlike humanities topics, the examine's biases have no big role to play.
  • The non-technical subject, on the other hand, specifically the ones that have a few overlaps with the GS syllabus, offers extra practice time. That is why candidates can score well if they prepare well for these subjects; additionally, it will help them with covering other portions of the UPSC syllabus.

Before selecting any optional subject in UPSC, a candidate should ask herself/himself to consider these key points.

  • The vastness of the syllabus
  • If the candidate has prior knowledge of this subject
  • Does the syllabus of this subject overlap with the GS papers?
  • If there is an availability of guidance and study materials for the chosen optional subject
  • Is the subject seems interesting or not

Depending on these abovementioned factors, a candidate should make an `individual` choice to pick the best subject among the list of optional subjects for UPSC.

Optional Subject in UPSC with Most Overlap with GS

Some optional subjects for UPSC overlap with the UPSC mains syllabus for general studies. These subjects are mentioned below.

  • Sociology
  • Law
  • Psychology
  • Medical Science
  • Agriculture
  • Literature
  • Anthropology
  • Public Administration
  • Geography
  • History.

Success Rate of UPSC Optional Subjects

According to the latest UPSC 69th Year report, the Department of Personnel & Training (DoPT) updated the success rate of the optional subjects for the UPSC 2017:

UPSC Optional Subject List 

No. of Candidates Appeared

No. of Candidates Recommended

Success Rate Percentage in UPSC Optional Subjects

Medical Sciences

313

32

10.2

Anthropology

880

85

9.7

Commerce & Accountancy

224

28

12.5

Economics

233

16

6.9

Public Administration

1165

119

10.2

Geography

2669

147

5.5

Sociology

1421

137

9.6

Mathematics

441

26

5.9

Toppers with their Optional Subjects in UPSC

Below, the table represents the UPSC optional subjects taken by toppers in each year. However, your choice of optional subject shouldn't depend on this factor only.

Year

UPSC Topper Name (Rank 1)

UPSC Optional Subject Chosen

2020

Subham Kumar

Anthropology

2019

Pradeep Singh

Public Administration

2018

Kanishka Kataria

Mathematics

2017

Anudeep Durishetty

Anthropology

2016

Nandini K.R.

Kannada Literature

2015

Tina Dabi

Political Science

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FAQs on UPSC Optional Subject List

  • As per the official notification, there are 48 subjects in UPSC Optional Subject List. Candidates gets the freedom to choose any subject he/she likes. There will be two papers on the UPS optional subject, each with 250 marks. Total UPSC optional subjects are divided into subject-specific subjects and literature subjects. 

  • Usually, the scoring trend in the UPSC Optional Subject List varies each year. If the subject is well prepared any subject can be scoring. Popular opinion suggests that subjects like public administration, sociology, and geography are considered to be scoring optional subjects in UPSC. 

  • To choose one of the best optional subjects in UPSC, you must first shortlist 3-4 subjects out of the total 48 based on your educational background, interest in the subject, overlap with the GS syllabus, and more. Out of the shortlisted subjects, you must go through the complete UPSC optional subjects syllabus and analyze if the topics interest you. If you have more time, you could go through the basic NCERTs to see if it interests you. 

  • The difficulty level of UPSC optional subjects depends on the applicant and their educational background. As per students' feedback and popularity, the following subjects are considered to be easy for the UPSC exam - Public Administration, Sociology, Philosophy, Anthropology, Geography, etc. 

  • No, as per the latest UPSC Exam Pattern, aspirants must choose one optional subject in UPSC out of the 48 subjects. There will be two papers on UPSC Mains optional subject. Earlier, there was a provision to choose two optional subjects but was later removed. 

  • Among the 48 optional subjects in UPSC, medical science would be best suited for medical students and doctors. This subject will feel relevant to them. Roman Saini is one good example of a UPSC topper who opted for medical science optional as he has an MBBS background. 

  • The UPSC optional subjects which have the best success rate are Accounts, Agriculture, Medical Science, Psychology, Botany, etc. However, candidates shouldn’t make their call as per the success parameter.

  • There are 23 literature subjects out of the total 48 optional subjects for UPSC. A few of them are English, Hindi, Punjabi Literature, Urdu Literature, Malayalam Literature, etc. Applicants can choose any one of the optional subjects out of the total for the UPSC exam. 

  • Philosophy has the shortest syllabus out of all of the optional subjects for the UPSC examination and is the reason for it is a popular choice amongst UPSC aspirants. There are a few other optional subjects such as English literature, law, etc which have a short syllabus. 

  • There are many optional subjects for UPSC that an engineering candidate can opt for namely civil engineering, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering or statistics.

  • Both Geography and Sociology are the most opted UPSC Optional subjects. They both have a huge overlap with the UPSC GS Syllabus, and the study material is easily available. To choose from the two UPSC optional, go through the detailed syllabus of both to check the topics to be covered. 

     

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