How to choose the optional subject for UPSC Civil Services Exam (CSE) Mains Exam?

The prestigious IAS examination has been conducted by UPSC has three stages. Prelims, Mains and Interview test.

UPSC preliminary examination has an MCQ pattern, whereas UPSC mains is a full-fledged written examination. Every year lakhs of aspirants attempt the UPSC examination but only a handful make it to the final cut off.

The final cut off is decided on the cumulative marks of UPSC mains and Interview test.

What is the syllabus for UPSC mains?

UPSC Mains Syllabus comprises of Total marks- 1750.

Qualifying papers (Only minimum marks are required)

  • Any Indian Language ( Pick any one from the 22 languages mentioned in the 8th schedule of Indian constitution, Like- Hindi, Odia, and Sanskrit)
  • English Language paper

General Studies                 

Paper I- Essay

Paper II- Indian Heritage, Culture, History, World $ Indian Geography

Paper III-Indian Polity, Governance, Social Justice and International Relations

Paper IV- Ethics

Paper V- Optional Subject I

Paper VI- Optional Subject II

Why is an optional subject so important?

An Optional subject that you choose is one of your strongest pursuits. This will help you score maximum marks in UPSC CSE mains examination.

Many a time, aspirants take this lightly, and do not weigh the pros and cons before making a choice.

One has to be familiar with the optional subject so that they can easily prepare for it within a short span of time. As the time gap between UPSC prelims and mains is very small, you have to buck up with the preparation.

Also, you must know that UPSC expects you to know your optional subject choice while you are filling forms for UPSC prelims.

Once you fill in your choice, you cannot back off. Hence it is a very crucial decision that you need to ponder on!

List of Optional subjects.

  • Agriculture
  • Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Science
  • Anthropology
  • Botany
  • Chemistry
  • Civil Engineering
  • Economics
  • Geography
  • Geology
  • History law
  • Management
  • Mathematics
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Medical Science
  • Philosophy
  • Physics
  • Psychology
  • Political Science
  • Public Administration
  • Zoology
  • Sociology
  • Statistics
  • Electrical engineering
  • Commerce and accounting

Tips on how to choose your optional subject?

  • Graduation Field- Every UPSC aspirant is a graduate in one of the either subjects. Veterans say that picking your graduation subject will help you a lot during preparation. As you have spent a significant amount of time learning the subject. So if you have confidence and liking towards the same, pick your graduation subject as optional paper.
  • GS Papers– If you notice, many of the optional subjects are a part of your GS syllabus as well. If you pick one of those as your optional paper, you will have one less to study overall. Picking an optional subject overlapping with mandatory subjects to study would be a smarter choice.
  • Confused between two? – Well, many a time aspirants are confused between two optional subjects. In this case, you can refer to the past papers and UPSC topper’s choices. These past records will help you understand the degree of toughness an optional has. Go through all the past papers and only then make a wise choice.
  • Popular choices– You may be confused as to what is a popular choice? Well, a popular optional subject is the one that is a scoring subject, easy to understand and a subject for which notes and books are easily available. According to the UPSC toppers and track record, many aspirants choose subject like history, geography and Political Science and Philosophy as their optional.
  • Easiest to manage– There are few subjects like phycology and philosophy which are easy to study and interesting. Studying such subjects can work like rejuvenation break from your GS preparation. You will be excited and pumped during your preparation. Scan the subject list properly, check their syllabus and if it is exciting as per you. You can choose the same as your optional.

Stay connected with fellow students on PaGaLGuY for UPSC CSE Exam 2019

Do you need coaching for Optional Subject?

There has been a myth that to prepare for your optional subject you would require coaching. Nevertheless, it is not true. You can prepare for your optional subject all by yourself, if you choose it wisely.

Do a little back ground study on every optional before you finally choose it.

Final getaway!

Covering UPSC mains syllabus in 3-4 months after preliminary exams could be tricky for every aspirant. Which is why it is advisable for them to make a smart choice with respect to UPSC optional subject.

Choose an optional subject that you are familiar with and interested in. Make sure you are somehow acquainted with it and the study material is easily available for it.

You can also scan the choices of previous UPSC toppers and know their views to make a smarter choice.

Thank you.

1 comment
  1. @aakashjaiin
    I'm glad to get this valuable information. I'm preparing for my UPSC exam from Dhyeya IAS and is going very well. Anyway, I'm going to bookmark this post.
    May 2020