UPSC Best Optional Subjects: Top 6 Optional Subjects For IAS Mains

  • utkarsh
  • Mar 30, 2021
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  • Blog English, UPSC,
UPSC Best Optional Subjects: Top 6 Optional Subjects For IAS Mains

UPSC exam is considered to be one of the most difficult exams to crack in the country. The IAS Exam is conducted by the UPSC (Union Public Service Commission) every year (also known as the Civil Services Examination) to recruit eligible candidates for various Civil Services of the Government of India, including the Indian Administrative Service, Indian Foreign Service, and Indian Police Service. 

The exam consists of three stages – Preliminary, Mains, and Personal Interview. Only the candidates who clear the Preliminary exam are eligible for the next one, i.e., the mains examination. The marks obtained by the candidates in the mains examination are added to their total and considered while preparing the final merit list. The candidates who score equal to or more than the cutoff decided by the commission in the mains exam are called for the personal interview. 

The mains exam is considered to be the most challenging stage among the three. The candidates need to have a very firm preparation strategy to ace this one. The preparation strategy also includes making the right selection when it comes to optional subjects. Choosing an optional subject can greatly determine your performance in the exam. Therefore, it is crucial that you make the right choice. 

In this article, we will discuss the top 6 optional subjects which can help you score well in the IAS examination. The subjects mentioned below have been chosen on the basis of their success rate in the previous year, the ease of availability of its study material, the availability of IAS Online Coaching and Offline coaching for the subjects, the length of the syllabus, and other such factors. 

  1. Agriculture: Agriculture is a highly scoring optional subject in the CSE Mains exam. Candidates with a background in Agriculture, Zoology, Botany, and similar fields can opt for this as their optional subject.
  2. Anthropology: It is considered to be one of the best optional subjects for UPSC.  Though none of the toppers in the past ten years had opted for this subject, a number of students with other high ranks have attained high scores by choosing it.
  3. Geography: Geography is a great mix of both technical and non-technical, making it a favorite of students from both science and humanities backgrounds. In the 2016 IAS mains examination, Geography was the subject of choice for three students in the top twenty.
  4. History: In the 2015 UPSC CSE, 1761 candidates appeared for the mains examination with history as an optional subject. Out of it, 150 candidates got selected, giving a success rate of 8.5% to the subject.
  5. Law: Law is a great choice for an optional subject in the UPSC IAS Mains exam because the syllabus overlap with GS Papers. Choosing this subject will allow you to cover multiple subjects at once and also increase your knowledge base. You won’t need start from scratch while preparing for this subject as you will already have a prebuilt base. 
  6. Literature: Following are the literature subjects in UPSC:
  • Assamese
  • Bengali
  • Bodo
  • Dogri
  • English
  • Gujarati
  • Hindi
  • Kannada
  • Kashmiri
  • Konkani
  • Maithili
  • Malayalam
  • Manipuri
  • Marathi
  • Nepali
  • Odia
  • Punjabi
  • Sanskrit
  • Santhali
  • Sindhi
  • Tamil
  • Telugu
  • Urdu

With the wide variety of literature subjects, the competition in these exams is comparatively low. Literature is full of stories and poetries, making it very interesting to study. Also, the syllabus of these subjects doesn’t need any update. Once you have prepared for an optional, even after a couple of years, it remains unchanged.

The success rate of optional subjects in 2017 is given below:

Success-Rate of Optionals in UPSC 2017
Optional SubjectNumber of Candidates Appeared Candidates RecommendedSuccess Rate
Agriculture891112.4
Animal husbandry and veterinary science2328.7
Anthropology880859.7
Botany44511.4
Chemistry126118.7
Civil Engineering124118.9
Commerce & Accountancy2242812.5
Economics233166.9
Electrical Engineering193199.8
Geography26691475.5
Geology3725.4
History1074595.5
Law3044314.1
Philosophy755537
Political Science & International Relations12461179.4
Zoology484183.7
Mathematics441265.9
Management8678.1
Mechanical Engineering1701911.2
Medical Science3133210.2
Physics1401410
Psychology1932110.9
Public Administration116511910.2
Sociology14211379.6
Statistics300
Zoology5511.8

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