Best Optional Subject for UPSC: 10 Most Scoring Optional Subjects

By BYJU'S Exam Prep

Updated on: November 14th, 2023

Best Optional Subject for UPSC makes it easier for the candidates to fetch good marks in the two optional papers of the UPSC exam, each carrying 250 marks. The total weightage of the optional subject is 500 marks out of 1750 in the UPSC Mains. This shows the significance of the optional subject and how important it is to choose the most scoring optional in UPSC, as it can make a huge difference in the overall rank of a candidate.

This article will guide the aspirants with the data on the success rate of each optional subject in the previous years of the IAS exam which would be immensely helpful when choosing the right optional subject. Below we have mentioned the Best Optional Subject for UPSC along with the factors a candidate should consider before choosing any optional subject for the toughest examination in India.

Best Optional Subject for UPSC

No optional subject is easier for UPSC. The skill, learning ability, and interest of a candidate determine which optional subject would best suit him/her. However, candidates should choose an optional subject whose study materials are readily available in the market or on online platforms.

  • According to the most recent patterns for the civil services exam, the weightage of the optional subject is 500 marks out of 2025 marks.
  • You need to decide and pick the best scoring optional subject as it is an integral factor in determining your final rank.
  • 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 from their graduation course. But this is not always the case or the only deciding factor.
  • 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 on the very first attempt.

BYJU'S UPSC Toppers 2023

Most Opted UPSC Optional Subject

A scoring subject and the best optional subject for UPSC are two different things. As per the past records of toppers, it is observed that candidates can score high marks in every subject.

  • Technical subjects like mathematics can fetch you high marks because there is a definite answer to each question. In comparison, answers to humanities subjects totally depend upon the preference of the examiner.
  • Some subjects are perceived as low scoring because the candidates cannot put in the requisite effort or they have not chosen the best optional subject for UPSC according to their ability.
  • If you see the bigger picture, it can be concluded that the UPSC Toppers scored 320+ in both technical and non-technical subjects.
  • The non-technical subjects that overlap with the UPSC 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.
  • Some subjects are known as low scoring because the candidate has not put in the required effort.

Which Optional Subject is Best for UPSC?

Based on the below factors, you need to make your choice and come up with the best optional subject for UPSC. Things you need to consider while choosing the best optional are:

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

Most Scoring Optional in UPSC

The most scoring optional subject in UPSC has been opted by the majority of candidates over the years. Their syllabus overlaps with the other parts of the UPSC exam, such as 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. Let us glance at the optional subjects in the table below.

Best Optional Subject for UPSC (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 easiest optional subject for UPSC is to choose a subject that overlaps with the UPSC Syllabus. However, this strategy may not work for you, and many candidates have cracked the UPSC Exam without picking these popular subjects.

Optional Subjects with Highest Success Rate in UPSC/IAS Exam

It is clear from the table below that Animal Husbandry & Veterinary Science is considered the best subject for UPSC as it has the highest success rate of 18.8%.

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

Success-Rate of Optional in UPSC 2019
Best Optional Subject for UPSC 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%

Highest Scoring Literature Optional Subjects

Candidates having a good command of literature subjects can opt for it as their optional subject. Among all the mentioned UPSC best optional subjects of literature, Sindhi (Devanagari) Language has the highest success rate of 50%.

According to the IAS Mains 2019 data analysis, the success rate for the Literature optional subjects is illustrated in the table below.

Best Optional Subject for UPSC (Literature) 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%

List of Top 10 Optional Subjects for IAS Exam 2023

Picking a scoring subject for UPSC can benefit the aspirants to get a good overall score. Though students must pay attention to the vast UPSC syllabus, they can skip studying a few subjects they are not good at by selecting their favorite optional subject from the list.

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, which are as follows.

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

Best UPSC Optional Subject 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 Zoology, Animal Husbandry, and Veterinary Science as 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 syllabus.

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, Math, Physics, and Chemistry can also be considered. The non-technical subjects are highly preferred among engineering candidates.

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