UPSC Optional Subject List - 48 Optional Subjects for UPSC Mains

UPSC Optional Subject List is released by the officials every year in the official notification. One crucial aspect of the UPSC exam is selecting an optional subject for the Mains examination. This decision can significantly impact a candidate's chances of success and must be made after careful consideration. UPSC optional subjects must be selected for Papers 6 and 7 in the Mains exam. Each of these papers carries 250 marks.

This article will delve into the realm of optional subjects for UPSC, highlighting their importance and providing insights to help aspiring candidates make informed choices.

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List of 48 Optional Subjects in UPSC

There are a total of 48 optional subjects in the UPSC Mains exam, which includes 25 core subjects and 22 literature optional.

  • Agriculture
  • Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Science
  • Anthropology
  • Botany
  • Chemistry
  • Civil Engineering
  • Commerce and Accountancy
  • Economics
  • Electrical Engineering
  • Geography
  • Geology
  • History
  • Law
  • Management
  • Mathematics
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Medical Science
  • Philosophy
  • Physics
  • Political Science and International Relations
  • Psychology
  • Public Administration
  • Sociology
  • Statistics
  • Zoology
  • Literature of any one of the following languages: Assamese, Bengali, Bodo, Dogri, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Maithili, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Oriya, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Santali, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu, and English.

How many Optional Subjects in UPSC?

There are a total of 48 subjects included in the UPSC optional subject list, out of which candidates are required to choose only one. While choosing an optional subject is subjective and should align with an individual's interests and abilities, candidates have historically favoured certain subjects. Some popular UPSC optional subjects include:

  • History: Offers an in-depth understanding of India's rich cultural heritage, world history, and socio-political developments.
  • Geography: Covers physical, human, and environmental geography, providing insights into the Earth's diverse landscapes and the impact of human activities.
  • Public Administration: Focuses on the functioning of public institutions, administrative theories, and governance mechanisms.
  • Political Science and International Relations: Explores political ideologies, international relations, global issues, and the dynamics of governance.
  • Sociology: Examines social structures, institutions, and the dynamics of social change and interaction.

Significance of Optional Subjects in UPSC

The UPSC Mains examination is known for its vast syllabus covering a wide range of subjects. While candidates must clear compulsory papers, optional subjects offer an opportunity to showcase expertise and interest in a particular field. These subjects allow candidates to delve deeper into a subject of their choice and enable them to leverage their existing knowledge and skills to their advantage.

Moreover, selecting an optional subject for UPSC that aligns with one's background or academic strengths can enhance overall performance and confidence during the examination.

Preparation Tips for UPSC Optional Subjects

Preparing for the optional subject in the UPSC examination requires a systematic and focused approach. Here are some preparation tips to help you effectively tackle your chosen optional subject:

  • Familiarise yourself thoroughly with the syllabus of your optional subject. Break it down into smaller topics and sub-topics to create a clear roadmap for your preparation.
  • Choose standard and reliable study materials for your optional subject. Refer to textbooks, reference books, online resources, and study materials provided by coaching institutes or reliable sources.
  • Answer writing is crucial for the Main examination. Practice writing answers to previous year's question papers and mock tests. Pay attention to structuring your answers, presenting your arguments logically, and maintaining a coherent flow.
  • Find ways to integrate current affairs with your optional subject. Understand the contemporary relevance of topics within your subject and stay updated with recent developments.
  • Analyse UPSC previous year question paper to understand the pattern, question types, and weightage given to different topics.
  • If possible, seek guidance from subject matter experts or experienced mentors. They can provide valuable insights, clarify doubts, and provide guidance on effective preparation strategies.

Success Rates of UPSC Optional Subjects

According to the last Report released by the Department of Personnel & Training, the success rate of the Optional Subjects for the 2019 UPSC Mains Exam is given below.

Success-Rate of Optional in UPSC 2019
Optional Subjects for UPSCNumber of CandidatesSuccess Rate (Percent)
AppearedRecommended
Geography19161055.5%
Sociology126312610.0%
Commerce & Accountancy1832010.9%
Economics2432610.7%
Agriculture1241310.5%
Animal Husbandry & Veterinary Science16318.8%
Anthropology11891089.1%
Botany2827.1%
Electrical Engineering200168.0%
Chemistry156138.3%
Geology3000.0%
History751516.8%
Law1861910.2%
Management54611.1%
Mathematics539458.3%
Public Administration705588.2%
Civil Engineering1461510.3%
Statistics200.0%
Zoology4449.1%
Political Science & International Relations16621378.2%
Psychology164159.1%
Mechanical Engineering213125.6%
Medical Science2472610.5%
Philosophy439276.2%
Physics165127.3%

FAQs on UPSC Optional Subjects

What are the Optional Subjects in UPSC?

Candidates who clear Prelims and are going to appear for the Mains exam need to select an Optional Subject on which 2 papers will be there for 250 marks each. The selection of an optional subject is an important decision as it can impact a candidate's performance and overall success in the UPSC exam.

Which Optional Subject is best for UPSC?

The choice of the best optional subject for UPSC Mains is subjective and depends on various factors such as an individual's interest, aptitude, and preparation capabilities. Subjects like History, Geography, Public Administration, Political Science and International Relations, and Sociology have been popular among candidates due to their relative scoring potential and availability of study material.

What are the 26 Optional Subjects in UPSC?

The 26 optional subjects in UPSC are Agriculture, Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Science, Anthropology, Botany, Chemistry, Civil Engineering, Commerce and Accountancy, Economics, Electrical Engineering, Geography, Geology, History, Law, Management, Mathematics, Mechanical Engineering, Medical Science, Philosophy, Physics, Political Science and International Relations, Psychology, Public Administration, Sociology, Statistics, Zoology, and Literature of various languages.

What was Ishita Kishore Optional Subject in UPSC?

Ishita Kishore’s optional subject in UPSC was Political Science and International Relations (PSIR). She was an Economics graduate from SRCC, Delhi University, but took PSIR as her optional subject because of the overlap of its syllabus with GS papers.

Which is the most Scoring Optional Subject in UPSC?

Based on the feedback of selected candidates, the list of most scoring optional subjects in UPSC Mains includes Geography, Public Administration, Sociology, Political Science and International Relations, and History.

How to Select Optional Subjects for UPSC Mains?

When selecting optional subjects for UPSC Mains, candidates should consider their interest, aptitude, and background knowledge. They should analyze the syllabus, check the availability of study material, and scoring potential of the optional subjects of their interest.