Psychology Optional for UPSC: Syllabus, Preparation Tips and Books

By Balaji

Updated on: February 17th, 2023

Psychology Optional is a popular choice among candidates appearing for the UPSC Exam. According to students, the subject is easy to grasp and score in. For Psychology optional, students are required to study scientific concepts relating to human psychology, functions of the brain, and its psychological and physical effects on the human body.

Psychology optional requires both an objective and a subjective understanding of the subject. With a grasp of the fundamental concepts, students can score good marks on the paper in UPSC Mains. We have shared the detailed preparation strategy for Psychology Optional UPSC here.

Table of content

  • 1. Psychology Optional UPSC (more)
  • 2. UPSC Psychology Optional Syllabus (more)
  • 3. UPSC Psychology Optional Books (more)
  • 4. How to Prepare for Psychology Optional for UPSC? (more)
  • 5. Is Psychology a Good Optional for UPSC? (more)
  • 6. Success Rate of Psychology in UPSC Exam (more)
  • 7. Psychology Optional Preparation Strategy (more)

Psychology Optional UPSC

Psychology is one of the Optional Subjects for UPSC offered in the UPSC Mains exam. The Psychology Optional is among one the popular choices of candidates appearing for the UPSC Exam. The UPSC Psychology Optional paper consists of two papers, 250 marks each.

The Paper 1 of Psychology Optional includes topics like Methods of Psychology, Development of Human Behaviour, Issues and Perspectives in Modern Contemporary Psychology, etc. The UPSC Psychology Optional Paper 2 is more of a practical knowledge-based paper, consisting of topics like Community Psychology, Psychological well-being and Mental Disorders, and Psychology and Economic development, to name a few.

Who is considered the Father of Psychology?

UPSC Psychology Optional Syllabus

To prepare for the Psychology optional, candidates need to be aware of the entire UPSC Psychology Optional Syllabus. It can help them mark out the most important topics and focus on them from an exam point of view. Here, we have shared the syllabus details for Paper 1 and Paper 2 of the Psychology optional:

Psychology Optional UPSC

Paper 1 Syllabus for Psychology Optional

Paper 2 Syllabus for Psychology Optional


Psychological Measurement of Individual Differences

Methods of Psychology

Psychological well being and Mental Disorders

Research methods

Therapeutic Approaches

Development of Human Behaviour

Work Psychology and Organisational Behaviour

Sensation, Attention and Perception

Application of Psychology to Educational Field


Community Psychology


Rehabilitation Psychology

Thinking and Problem Solving

Application of Psychology to disadvantaged groups

Motivation and Emotion

The psychological problem of social integration

Intelligence and Aptitude

Application of Psychology in Information Technology and Mass Media


Psychology and Economic development

Attitudes, Values and Interests

Application of Psychology to the environment and related fields

Language and Communication

Application of psychology in other fields :

Issues and Perspectives in Modern Contemporary Psychology

UPSC Psychology Optional Books

Here are some Psychology optional Books for UPSC that every aspiring candidate should refer to:

  • Psychology by Robert A Baron
  • Tests, Measurements and Research Methods in Behavioural Sciences by A K Singh
  • Understanding Psychology by Robert S. Feldman
  • Psychology by Saundra Ciccarelli
  • Psychology – Classes XI & XII NCERT textbooks
  • Applied Psychology by Smarak Swain

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How to Prepare for Psychology Optional for UPSC?

Psychology optional is not an easy paper, but it is a better paper than many other optional papers. To prepare for the paper, you would want to gain a thorough understanding of psychological concepts.

How to Choose Optional for UPSC CSE?

Here are some preparation tips for psychology optional for UPSC Exam

  • Be familiar with the syllabus – This is the most underrated preparation tip. By being familiar with the Psychology Optional Syllabus, you can segregate the topics into difficult or easy categories to prepare accordingly.
  • Focus on the fundamentals – Gain a solid understanding of the fundamentals to improve your chances of scoring high marks in the UPSC psychology optional paper. Start with the basic NCERT Books.
  • Follow the previous year’s question papers – Refer to the previous year’s question papers to get an idea of the types of questions asked in the paper.
  • Target-based study – Set targets of covering a certain section of the psychology optional syllabus each day or week. The target-based study can help you cover concepts more efficiently.
  • Audio-visual study – Do not rely entirely on your UPSC Books for preparing for the psychology optional. Watch videos, and listen to audiobooks to stay interested in the subject.

Also Read,

Is Psychology a Good Optional for UPSC?

Psychology optional is considered a good optional by UPSC aspirants because it is easy to score marks in this subject. This subject is preferred more by those who like studying theory. To truly tell whether psychology is a good option, you would have to measure the pros and cons of the subject.

We have shared the Psychology optional pros and cons below:

Psychology Optional Pros

  • Since Psychology is a popular choice as an optional, UPSC study material for the paper is readily available.
  • This subject is considered good to score in because the candidate has to write the answers subjectively, drawing them from real-life situations or personal experiences.
  • UPSC Psychology is optional and is open to everyone. Even if candidates never studied psychology during graduation, they can still take it up for their UPSC mains.
  • Psychology is an immersive subject that helps one understand how the human mind works and hence, is considered interesting.
  • People find it easier to study theory by taking up a subjective paper such as Psychology optional.

IAS Toppers Marks Subject Wise

UPSC Psychology Optional Cons

  • People who prefer practical subjects instead of theoretical ones may find it difficult to study Psychology optional.
  • The syllabus for this optional paper is vast, so covering the important topics may take time.
  • Psychology optional may be difficult to follow because of the jargon involved in the paper for people with limited academic backgrounds.

Success Rate of Psychology in UPSC Exam

Psychology optional success rate is higher than many other subjects. When we compare the number of students who appeared for the exam to the number of candidates who cleared the exam, we get a success rate of 10.9% for the UPSC psychology optional. This rate is higher than other objective papers.

Many UPSC aspirants choose Psychology because it is easier to cover. Also, the fact that it is a subjective paper allows candidates to answer the questions with a personal touch.

How Many Appear for Psychology Optional UPSC?

Each year, hundreds of students appear for the UPSC Psychology optional. There are many UPSC toppers who opted for psychology for their exams, including the 2012 topper Shena Aggarwal. In 2010, 1139 candidates appeared for the optional, whereas in 2016, 1061 candidates appeared for the Psychology optional.

Psychology Optional Preparation Strategy

To score good marks in the psychology optional, you will require a good preparation strategy. Psychology is a theory-based subject that you should study with a subjective approach. You can always relate your personal experiences to your answers. Moreover, with a grasp of the concepts, it becomes easier to score marks in the UPSC psychology optional.

Here is a Psychology optional preparation strategy that you should try –

  • Pomodoro Technique – Pomodoro technique is an effective method to prepare for any exam. According to this psychological technique, you will have to sit for 25 minutes straight to focus on your tasks and take a short break of 5-10 minutes after every 25 minutes.
  • Diagrams and Flowcharts – Creating diagrams and flowcharts will help you memorize concepts and revisit them easily. Paste them on a wall above your study desk and revise them daily. Make Mnemonics to decode complex concepts.
  • Audio-Visual Methods – Audio-visual methods, such as videos, audiobooks, etc., can help spice up your study sessions and make learning fun. You can also use audio-visual mediums to revise your concepts during your free time.
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