How Many Optional Subject In UPSC

how many optional subject in upsc

How many optional subject in UPSC are there according to you? If you do not have a clear idea, then read this article to know more.


The UPSC Civil Services exam is amongst the most prestigious exams conducted in India. Every year many aspirants fill up the Examination form for this exam. Posts of Cadres like IAS & IPS are filled through this examination, which increases the competition among aspirants. As these Civil servants’ posts are well connected with the common people and their lives are impacted by the decisions of these civil servants.

This exam is conducted by UPSC and it has three stages – Prelims, Mains and Personality Test (Interview). One who clears all these three stages is given various Services Cadres depending upon their performance and ranking in the final list (Combining Marks of UPSC Mains and Interview).

Aspirants are required to opt for an Optional Subject (Two papers) of their choice and that choice makes the difference in the candidate’s performance in this UPSC Exam cycle. This article will try to help the Aspirants in clearing the confusion, regarding the selection of an Optional paper and how they can ace this exam.

How Many Optional Subject In UPSC Mains Exam?

The Mains Stage of the Union civil service examination (UPSC) consists of Four General Studies Papers carrying a total of 1000 Marks, while the two optional papers carry 250 marks apiece. Therefore, a candidate must weigh all of the benefits and drawbacks before selecting an optional topic for the IAS Mains exam.

There are 48 optional subjects in the UPSC syllabus. Of these, two papers are 250 marks each. Thus, the total mark for the written examination is 500. Hence, you should select an optional subject you are comfortable with and can score well. You must note down the number of optional subjects that you are interested in and choose them carefully.

The number of optional exams and their syllabi are annually listed in the Notification issued by the UPSC.

General Studies Paper 1 to IV for IAS Mains Exam

The Four General Studies Papers are as given below:

General studiesTopics coveredTotal marks
General Studies Paper-IIndian Heritage and Culture, History and Geography of the World and Society250
General Studies Paper-IIGovernance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations250
General Studies Paper-IIITechnology, Economic Development, Bio-diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management250
General Studies Paper IVEthics, Integrity and Aptitude250

Civil Services Optional Subject List

Before you begin your hunt for choosing your optional subject, you should understand what the exam is all about. You’ll also be required to complete two papers, each worth 250 marks. It’s important to pick subjects that you are interested in. If you want to make the best possible choices, read the syllabus carefully and make notes on areas of interest. If possible, also look at question papers from previous years. This way, you’ll know exactly how much knowledge and interest you have in a subject.

UPSC Civil Services Optional Subjects/Optional List for UPSC:

UPSC Optional Subjects
AgricultureCivil EngineeringGeologyMechanical EngineeringPsychology
Animal Husbandry and Veterinary ScienceCommerceHistoryMedical SciencePublic Administration
BotanyElectrical EngineeringManagementPhysicsStatistics
ChemistryGeographyMathematicsPolitical ScienceZoology

Literature Subjects Optional List for UPSC Exam

UPSC Mains consists of Two Optional papers. Each paper is of 250 marks. The languages prescribed in the UPSC Mains Syllabus are from the 8th Schedule of the Indian Constitution.

The list of Literature Optional Subjects is as given :

Literature Optional Subjects List For UPSC Examination

What Is The Best Optional Paper For Civil Services Examination?

Some Subjects in the UPSC Optional Paper lists are good scoring, one with Proper Guidance and dedicated effort can easily get good marks. If we see the past year’s topper’s data, toppers with both Technical and non-technical subjects have scored in a range of 310-320 marks.

Practical subjects, like maths, can assist you in achieving excellent marks because the solutions are definitive. Thus, with exception of subjects in the arts, the examiner’s prejudices or inclinations don’t matter as much. On the other hand, non-technical subjects, particularly those that overlap with the GS syllabus in certain ways, provide more study time and reading materials, resulting in an excellent overall Mains score if prepared adequately.

Here is the list of the top ten Popular Optional Subjects:

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

UPSC Optional Subjects With Most Overlap With General Studies Paper

Due to their substantial overlap with the General Studies component or other portions of the UPSC test, the following UPSC Optional subjects are popular among IAS hopefuls from both technical and non-technical backgrounds:

  1. History – Useful for Prelims and GS I
  2. Public Administration – Useful in Paper II (Indian Administration), Polity and government in GS II
  3. Sociology – Useful for GS I, Essay, and Ethics Paper
  4. Geography – Useful for Prelims and GS I
  5. Political Science – Useful for Prelims and GS I
  6. Law – useful for Prelims and GS II

Subjects like Philosophy, Economics, and Agriculture are excellent choices as Optional Subjects for fetching good marks and their syllabus overlaps with General Studies papers in the UPSC Examination.

Choosing Optional Subjects For UPSC

Choosing optional subjects for UPSC is an important part of the preparation process. It’s not just about opting for a subject that you like, but also about choosing a subject that you’ll do well in. Good science or technical subject will require some preparation, as will a social science subject, which will require ample memory and a good grasp of the subject’s concepts. Here are the Few steps that can help the Aspirants Selecting The Right Optional for UPSC CSE Mains Exam:

Overlapping Syllabus

In both the Stages Prelims and the Mains, the General Studies syllabus is covered by some of the optional subjects, including History, Political Science & International Relations, Sociology, Geography, Economics, and Public Administration. It could therefore help you save some preparation time.

Length Of Syllabus

There is an essay paper that is merit-based, four General Studies papers, and two other papers add to a lengthy exam syllabus. If you select an optional with a vast syllabus, you will need to dedicate extra preparation time for the optional topic. Therefore, pick a topic that you can easily finish in the allotted time.

Level Of Competition

Some applicants believe that a strong UPSC optional subject is one that consistently attracts more applicants than compared with recommended candidates. It is only partially accurate, though. Your transcript will be evaluated mainly in terms of how understandable your response is. So pick a topic you feel confident in.

Availability Of Study Material

48 Optional Subjects are now offered by UPSC, although there are very few qualified teachers, less availability of study material, less availability of study groups and very few pertinent publications. Even if you may now access more resources from the convenience of your own home thanks to online education, you must analyze your options based on the available resources.

Familiarity With Subject

When selecting the finest optional subject for the UPSC Civil Services Exam, a basic understanding of the subject is another crucial factor to take into account. You should choose that optional if your educational background is in that subject (graduation or Post-Graduation). If not, pick a subject that you can persistently study without getting bored.

Mains Optional Preparation Strategy UPSC IAS Exam

  1. First, one should go through the detailed syllabus of his selected Optional subject for the Civil Services Mains Exam.
  2. One should collect relevant and proper study material from various reputed coachings for that Optional paper.
  3. NCERT are must read for the Prelims Exam and Civil service mains exam preparation
  4. It’s best to start preparing for the Optional subject along with Preliminary Examination Preparation.
  5. Practice of Answer Writing is a must for enhancing writing skills and fetching good marks in Mains Exam. one can enhance it by solving Previous year’s exam question papers and by giving the mock test.
  6. Aspirants can become familiar with Exam Pattern by evaluating and going through the previous year’s question paper.

Data Of Successful Candidates With Their Respective UPSC CSE Optional Subjects

UPSC CSE Exam Optional Analysis: (Mains), 2019

Optional SubjectNumber of CandidatesSuccess Rate (Percent)
Animal Husbandary & Veterinary Science16318.8%
Civil Engineering1461510.3%
Commerce & Accountancy1832010.9%
Electrical Engineering200168.0%
Mechanical Engineering213125.6%
Medical Science2472610.5%
Political Science & International Relations16621378.2%
Public Administration705588.2%
Literature Of Assamese Language300.0%
Literature Of Bengali Language100.0%
Literature Of English Language3139.7%
Literature Of Gujarati Language8533.5%
Literature Of Hindi Language191136.8%
Literature Of Kannada Language1241713.7%
Literature Of Maithili Language5323.8%
Literature Of Malayalam Language1051312.4%
Literature Of Manipuri Language700.0%
Literature Of Marathi Language600.0%
Literature Of Oriya Language300.0%
Literature Of Punjabi Language1815.6%
Literature Of Sanskrit Language5323.8%
Literature Of Sindhi(Devanagari) Language2150.0%
Literature Of Tamil Language7756.5%
Literature Of Telugu Language3213.1%
Literature Of Urdu Language18211.1%

Summing Up

Consistent Hard work can help in fetching good marks in the UPSC Mains Examination. student’s choice of the subject must be done according to their interest in the subject. one must read the syllabus of each subject. They should note down points of interest and study previous years’ question papers. This will help them gauge how much knowledge and interest they have in that particular subject. Depending on the candidate’s preference, they can choose four or five optional subjects.

You Might Also Like – Which is the Most Popular Optional Subject in UPSC Civil Services Main Examination?


How Many Optional Subjects Are There In UPSC IAS Exam?

In the UPSC Civil Services Examination, there are 48 optional subjects from which one can select depending on their choice. There are two papers Paper I and Paper II. Each paper has 250 Marks Weightage. The syllabus for the elective course is of the graduate level. Elective subjects are available for candidates to select based on their graduating degree or a topic of interest.

What to avoid while choosing the optional subject in UPSC Civil Service Exam?

Never pick an optional subject merely because the majority of candidates are choosing it. Don’t choose the topic entirely based on what the toppers of previous years decided. Select the optional topic based on your interests. 

Which is the Easiest Optional subject for UPSC Examination?

The Easiest optional subjects for the UPSC Mains are those that cover the most portions of the Prel syllabus or had the best scoring trends in the previous exam. Sociology, philosophy, public administration, Sanskrit and other fields may be included. The ideal optional subject for you might potentially turn out to be one that you are interested in.

Which optional subject is the most scoring in UPSC?

Philosophy consistently receives one of the highest scores because of its shorter syllabus compared to other Optional Subjects. Additionally, subjects with High scores include sociology and public administration. However, a candidate’s level of interest in and familiarity with the subject also plays a role in their ability to perform well in the UPSC exam.

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