UPSC IAS Toppers Optional Subjects

by Vajiram & Ravi


02:50 PM

Choosing the right optional subject for the UPSC Main Exam is super important for candidates aiming to become UPSC toppers. Their scores in the Main Exam play a big role in determining their final ranking. We'll take a look at the optional subjects chosen by recent UPSC toppers and explore what factors help them make the best choice.

In this article, we'll provide a list of optional subjects chosen by UPSC toppers in recent years like 2023, 2022 and 2021. We'll also discuss how these optional subjects impacted their final scores. According to UPSC rules, candidates can pick one subject from a list of optional subjects provided in the syllabus. Each optional subject has two papers, totalling 500 marks.

Optional Subjects for UPSC Toppers

In the UPSC Civil Services Main Exam, each topper chooses different optional subjects. But some common ones picked by recent toppers include Public Administration, Geography, History, Sociology, Anthropology, Political Science and International Relations, Philosophy, and more. It's crucial to pick a subject you're interested in and understand well, based on your background.

For example, Ishita Kishore chose Political Science and International Relations as her optional subject in the Mains exam. Below is a table showing the optional subjects chosen by UPSC Toppers in 2022.

NameRankUPSC Topper Optional Subject
Ishita Kishore1PSIR
Garima Lohia2Commerce and Accountancy
Uma Harathi N3Anthropology
Smriti Mishra4Zoology

List of UPSC Toppers 2021 Optional Subjects

When choosing the right optional subject for the UPSC exam, it's important to see what subjects the toppers picked in the previous year's exam. In the UPSC 2021 exam, 685 people were recommended for different posts. Here's a list of the optional subjects chosen by the top ten All India Rank holders:

All India RankNameIAS Toppers Optional Subject
1Shruti SharmaHistory
2Ankita AgarwalPolitical Science and International Relations
3Gamini SinglaSociology
4Aishwarya VermaGeography
5Utkarsh DwivediPolitical Science & International Relations
6Yaksh ChaudharySociology
7Samyak S JainPolitical Science International Relations
8Ishita RathiEconomics
9Preetam KumarMathematics
10Harkeerat Singh RandhawaPolitical Science & International Relations

How do UPSC Toppers Choose Optional Subject?

Your choice of Optional Subject should be solely based on your interests, understanding, strengths and weaknesses. Good scores in Optional Papers 1 & 2 can significantly impact your final UPSC Rank. If you're unsure how to pick an optional subject for UPSC Mains, consider the choices made by previous IAS toppers and seek professional advice. Here's some guidance based on their experiences:

  • Play to your strengths: Everyone has different abilities, so choose a subject that aligns with yours. If you're a great writer, consider subjects like political science or sociology where writing skills matter. Pick something you've studied before and found interesting—it'll motivate you to study and improve your scores.
  • Review the syllabus: Look at the syllabus for each subject you're considering and weigh the pros and cons. Saving time on a topic can be beneficial, but don't choose a subject just because it has a shorter syllabus. Make sure there are enough study materials available for your chosen subject.
  • Check past trends: Look at past performance and patterns before deciding. Some subjects might seem easy to score in, but success rates vary. For example, psychology was popular among students a decade ago, but its success rate fluctuated over time. Analyzing historical trends can help you make an informed choice.
  • Consider overlap: Choosing a subject that overlaps with other papers can save you time and effort. If a subject is relevant to general studies, essays, or interviews, it's a bonus. Also, consider how many marks the subject contributes to your overall score. Some subjects may offer more marks for less effort.

UPSC Toppers Optional Subjects Over the Years

To understand how things have changed, candidates can check the optional subjects chosen by UPSC toppers in recent years. When picking an optional subject, remember the factors we discussed earlier. You can refer to the UPSC syllabus and pattern and start preparing for your optional subjects accordingly. Here's a list of optional subjects chosen by previous top-performing toppers:

YearTopper’s NameOptional Subject
2022Ishita KishorePolitical Science and International Relations
2021Shruti SharmaHistory
2020Shubham KumarAnthropology
2019Pradeep SinghPublic Administration
2018Kanishak KatariaMathematics
2017Anudeep DurishettyAnthropology
2016Nandini K. R.Kannada Literature
2015Tina DabiPolitical Science
2014Ira SinghalGeography
2013Gaurav AgarwalEconomics
2012Haritha V. KumarEconomics
2011Shena AggarwalMedical Science and Psychology
2010S DivyadharshiniPublic Administration