UPSC Optional Subject List – 48 Optional Subjects in UPSC

By BYJU'S Exam Prep

Updated on: November 14th, 2023

The UPSC Optional Subject list is released by the Union Public Service Commission in the official notification. These subjects in UPSC can be found in papers 6 and 7 of the mains exam. The mains exam consists of 2 compulsory papers, merit papers from papers 1 to 7, which include 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.

In accordance with the notification released by the Commission, there are 48 subjects in UPSC Optional Subjects list segregated into specific subjects and literature-optional subjects. Each subject paper comprises 250 marks, adding to a total of 500 marks. In this post, we have facilitated the complete UPSC Optional Subjects list to assist the candidates in choosing the subjects. You can also find details on how to choose the optional subject for UPSC and ace the exam on the first attempt.

Optional Subjects in UPSC

The UPSC optional subject list comes with the release of the notification of UPSC on its official website. Candidates get to choose any subject they want from these listed 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 and best optional subject for UPSC varies from person to person. So, we have covered the list of subjects for UPSC and also help you to figure out a way to choose the easiest optional subject.

UPSC Optional Subject List

The table below lists the names of optional subjects for the UPSC Exam. The marks attained in these subjects are essential for the marks scored in the final merit. Therefore, the selection of a 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 for Mains
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 Mains Optional Subjects List for Literature Subjects

The following literature subjects are also a segment of the optional subjects for IAS. The candidates can select any of the languages that they find easy as an optional subject.

S. No. List of Literature Optional Subjects for UPSC
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

UPSC Optional Subject List in Hindi

Here is the list of the optional subjects in Hindi. The candidates can select any of these subjects and start their preparation well for the upcoming exam.

S.No Optional Subjects List in Hindi
1 कृषि
2 पशुपालन और पशु चिकित्सा विज्ञान
3 मानव-विज्ञान
4 वनस्पतिशास्त्र
5 रसायन शास्त्र
6 सिविल इंजीनियरिंग
7 वाणिज्य और लेखा
8 अर्थशास्त्र
9 इलेक्ट्रिकल इंजीनियरिंग
10 भूगोल
11 भूविज्ञान
12 इतिहास
13 विधि शास्त्र
14 प्रबंधनशास्त्र
15 गणित
16 मैकेनिकल इंजीनियरिंग
17 चिकित्सा विज्ञान
18 दर्शनशास्त्र
19 भौतिक विज्ञान
20 राजनीति विज्ञान और अंतर्राष्ट्रीय संबंध
21 मनोविज्ञान
22 लोक प्रशासन
23 समाजशास्त्र
24 सांख्यिकी
25 जंतुविज्ञान

Here is the literature subjects list in Hindi. The candidates who are having an in-depth knowledge of the literature on any of these subjects can opt for the same and kickstart their preparation in the right direction.

S.No Literature Optional Subjects in UPSC
1 आसामी
2 बांग्ला
3 बोडो
4 डोगरी
5 गुजराती
6 हिंदी
7 कन्नड़
8 कश्मीरी
9 कोंकणी
10 मैथिली
11 मलयालम
12 मणिपुरी
13 मराठी
14 नेपाली
15 उड़िया
16 पंजाबी
17 संस्कृत
18 संथाली
19 सिन्धी
20 तमिल
21 तेलूगू
22 उर्दू
23 अंग्रेज़ी

How to Choose an Optional Subject in UPSC?

Choosing an optional from the UPSC optional subject list is a crucial decision that can impact the overall rank in the IAS 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 the common mistake of picking an IAS optional subject based on the parameters like popularity, accessibility of study materials, and educational background. But you should not choose your subject depending on these factors because it can take away 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 subject 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 subjects that overlap with the other portion of the IAS syllabus. That is why these subjects are highly popular among aspirants. The subjects are history, political science and 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 prepare for the UPSC exam without coaching, and crack it, 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 optional with a 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 take into account while picking 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 and 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 to Choose 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 subject. Let’s uncover which subject is easiest for UPSC. It is advisable for the candidates to check the UPSC syllabus for the optional subjects before picking the same.

  • Technical subjects (along with Mathematics) can fetch excessive marks because the solutions are absolute. Generally, not like the humanities topics, the examinee’s biases do not play a big role.
  • 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 syllabus.

Before selecting any subject, 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 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.

Optional Subject in UPSC with Maximum Overlap with GS

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

Success Rate of UPSC Optional Subjects

According to the UPSC 69th Year report, the Department of Personnel & Training (DoPT) updated the success rate of the optional subjects for the UPSC 2017. You can check the preparation strategy of toppers and that of the youngest IAS Officer in India to move in the right direction of preparation.

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

IAS Toppers Optional Subjects

Below, the table represents the optional subjects taken by toppers each year. However, your choice of subject shouldn’t depend on this factor only. The UPSC toppers’ preparation strategy for completing the subjects can mold the preparation of the candidates in a unique way.

Year UPSC Topper Name (Rank 1) UPSC Optional Subject Chosen
2020 Shubham Kumar [UPSC Topper 2020] 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

The candidates must make a wise choice before opting for the optional subjects, as the marks scored in these subjects are highly crucial in determining the result of the candidates. The candidates can bring forth an effective and efficient strategy for the optional subjects to be able to understand the questions and answer accurately in the limited time of the exam.

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