Best Optional Subject for UPSC

by Vajiram & Ravi

Opting for the Best Optional Subject for the UPSC Civil Services Examination can significantly enhance an aspirant's chances of securing high marks in the two optional papers, each weighted at 250 marks.

The optional subject accounts for 500 out of the total 1750 marks in the UPSC Mains, emphasising its importance in shaping an aspirant’s overall rank. This article provides valuable insights into the success rates of different optional subjects in past UPSC Mains Exam, aiding aspirants in selecting the most suitable one.

Which Optional Subject is Best for UPSC?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to the "best" optional subject for the UPSC exam, as the choice depends on an individual's interests, strengths, and background. Some popular optional subjects chosen by aspirants include History, Geography, Public Administration, Sociology, and Literature subjects like English, Hindi, or regional languages.

It's important to select a subject that you are comfortable with and can prepare thoroughly. Analysing the success rates and your own familiarity with the subject matter can help guide your decision. It's recommended to choose a subject that aligns with your strengths and offers a good balance between your aptitude and the UPSC syllabus.

How to Choose the Best Optional Subject for UPSC?

When choosing an optional subject for the UPSC exam, several factors should be taken into consideration:

  • Opt for a subject you're genuinely interested in and have some background knowledge or aptitude for. It will make studying more enjoyable and effective.
  • Review the syllabus of different UPSC optional subjects. Choose one that aligns with your comfort zone and existing knowledge.
  • Research the success rates of different optional subjects in previous UPSC exams. Some subjects historically have higher scoring potential due to manageable syllabi or objective evaluation.
  • Ensure there are ample study materials, books, and resources available for your chosen subject.
  • If you're considering coaching, check if quality coaching institutes offer guidance for your chosen subject.
  • Evaluate how much time you can dedicate to preparing the optional subject alongside the general studies.
  • Consider if your chosen subject has overlaps with the UPSC's General Studies papers, as it can aid in holistic preparation.
  • If opting for a literature subject, ensure you have a good grasp of the language and its literature.
  • Don't follow trends blindly. Choose a subject that genuinely interests you rather than selecting something merely because it's perceived as scoring.
  • If you have a degree or background in a certain subject, it might be easier to grasp and excel in it.
  • Ensure your interest in the subject remains steady over the months of preparation.

Different subjects have varied evaluation methods – some might have objective questions, while others might require detailed essay-type answers. Choose according to your strengths.

Scoring Optional Subject in UPSC Mains Exam

The optional subject with the highest scoring potential in the UPSC exam has been chosen by a significant number of candidates in past years. Its syllabus shares common elements with various sections of the UPSC exam, including Prelims, General Studies (GS) papers I, II, III, IV, and essays.

According to certain candidates, the ideal optional subject for UPSC should closely relate to the exam. Let's take a look at the table below, which outlines the available optional subjects.

SubjectSyllabus OverlapNo. of Aspirants Choosing the Optional Subject
GeographyPrelims, GS I and GS III3500
HistoryPrelims, GS I3500
Public AdministrationPrelims, GS II3000
SociologyEssay, GS I and GS II1800
Political SciencePrelims, GS II1800
PhilosophyEssay and GS IV1000

Top 10 Optional Subjects for UPSC 2024

Choosing an Optional Subject with scoring potential in the UPSC exam can aid aspirants in achieving a strong overall score. While candidates must tackle the extensive UPSC syllabus, they can strategically skip certain subjects they may struggle with by opting for their preferred optional subject from the available choices.

Taking into account the aforementioned points, data, and the most recent UPSC results, we have compiled a roster of the top 10 recommended optional subjects for the UPSC exam 2024, as detailed below:

  1. Public Administration
  2. Geography
  3. Sociology
  4. History
  5. Philosophy
  6. Anthropology
  7. Law
  8. Psychology
  9. Political Science and International Relations
  10. Agriculture

In the end, the decision should be well-informed, considering your strengths, interests, resources, and the demands of the UPSC syllabus.

List of Optional Subjects Given by UPSC

Every Year, UPSC releases a list of Optional Subjects in its Official Notification. The aspirant can choose his/her preferred subject for UPSC Mains Optional Exam from the list given below:

List of optional subjects for Mains Examination:

 (i) Agriculture

 (ii) Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Science

 (iii) Anthropology

 (iv) Botany

 (v) Chemistry

 (vi) Civil Engineering

 (vii) Commerce and Accountancy

 (viii) Economics

 (ix) Electrical Engineering

 (x) Geography

 (xi) Geology

 (xii) History

 (xiii) Law

 (xiv) Management

 (xv) Mathematics

 (xvi) Mechanical Engineering

 (xvii) Medical Science

 (xviii) Philosophy

 (xix) Physics

 (xx) Political Science and International Relations

 (xxi) Psychology

 (xxii) Public Administration

 (xxiii) Sociology

 (xxiv) Statistics

 (xxv) Zoology

 (xxvi) Literature of any one of the following languages:

Assamese, Bengali, Bodo, Dogri, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Maithili, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Odia, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Santhali, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu and English.

FAQs on Best Optional Subject for UPSC

Which is the Best UPSC Optional Subject for Doctors or Students with Medical Background?

The choice of the best UPSC optional subject for doctors depends on the individual's strengths, interests, and background. Medical professionals might consider subjects that complement their medical knowledge and offer a manageable syllabus. Some common optional subjects that doctors often find suitable include Medical Science, Anthropology, and Physiology. However, it's essential to thoroughly research each subject's syllabus, success rates, and your own comfort level before making a decision.

Which is the best UPSC Optional Subject for Students with an Engineering Background?

The best UPSC optional subject for engineers varies based on personal strengths, interests, and familiarity. Some optional subjects that align well with engineering backgrounds include Engineering-related subjects like Mechanical Engineering, Civil Engineering, Electrical Engineering, and Mathematics.

Which is the toughest Optional Subject for UPSC?

The perception of the "toughest" optional subject for UPSC can vary from person to person based on their individual strengths, background, and familiarity with the subject matter. Some optional subjects are often considered challenging due to their intricate concepts and vast syllabi. Subjects like Mathematics, Philosophy, Anthropology, and Law are often perceived as relatively tougher due to their complexity and the depth of knowledge required.

Which is the easiest Optional Subject for UPSC?

Some Optional Subjects are generally considered relatively easier due to their comprehensible syllabi and alignment with the general studies. Subjects like Sociology, Public Administration, Geography, and Literature languages (English, Hindi, etc.) are often perceived as more accessible because they can be connected to everyday life and have manageable content.

Which is the most scoring optional subject for UPSC?

Some optional subjects are often perceived as having higher scoring potential due to factors like manageable syllabus, objective evaluation, and previous success rates. These subjects might include Mathematics, Public Administration, Sociology, and Political Science & International Relations. Ultimately, the key is to choose a subject you are comfortable with and can prepare effectively rather than solely aiming for perceived scoring potential.