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How to Choose the Right Optional Subject for the UPSC Mains?

Aug 06, 2021

Optional Subject UPSC Mains / PrepLadder UPSC

Choosing the right optional subject for the UPSC Mains exam that is easy to understand and scoring is a dilemma that every UPSC aspirant faces. Since the score in the optional subject becomes a determining factor in securing a place in the merit list, the dilemma to choose the right subject is justified!

As per the current UPSC syllabus and exam pattern, a candidate has to choose only one optional subject for UPSC Mains that has two papers for 250 marks each. Collectively the optional subject constitutes 500 marks in total. A good score in the optional can be a game-changer for any UPSC aspirant. Hence, the choice of an optional subject is extremely crucial and must be made cautiously.

In this article, we will try to answer the most frequently asked question of the UPSC aspirants “How to choose the right subject for the UPSC Mains”. But before we begin, let’s first look at the top 10 optional subjects in UPSC.

Top 10 Optional Subjects for UPSC

1. Public Administration

2. Anthropology

3. Geography

4. Political Science & International Relations

5. History

6. Sociology 

7. Medical Science

8. Psychology

9. Law

10. Literature Subject

Also read: Toppers Tips to crack UPSC Exams

Key Points to Consider for Choosing the Right Optional

Before choosing an optional subject in UPSC the below-mentioned important aspects should be kept in mind such as:

1. Interest and Educational Background of the aspirant

Be a smart candidate. Choose a subject that interests you and has relevance to your educational background. Half of the battle is already won if the chosen subject matches your degree background. For instance, if you have a medical background, the most obvious option for you would be Medical Science! Don’t just follow the “Trend” mindset while choosing an Optional subject. It may cost you an attempt.

2. Overlapping Syllabus

Choosing an optional subject that is relevant to the General Studies syllabus is always a wise decision. The following subjects are popular among IAS aspirants from both technical and non-technical point of view because of the high overlap with the General Studies syllabus or other parts of the UPSC exam:

  • Public Administration – Highly relevant with a compact syllabus. It is Paper-II (Indian Administration) and has a lot of overlap with the Polity and Governance part in General Studies (GS) II.
  • Sociology- The study of society, Sociology has a lot of material that can be used in GS I, Essay, and even in Ethics paper.
  • History- Relevant for Prelims as well as GS I.
  • Geography- Relevant for Prelims as well as GS I
  • Political Science-  Relevant for Prelims as well as GS II
  • Law - Relevant for Prelims as well as GS II

Choosing one of the aforementioned optional subjects will help you prepare effectively and save you some preparation time.  

Read more: How to Prepare for UPSC Mains 2021?

3. Vastness of the Syllabus

There is no denying that the UPSC Mains syllabus is vast. With four General Studies papers and an essay paper having vast areas of studies, it’s wise to choose an optional subject that isn’t lengthy. Go with the one that has a concise syllabus. It will save you precious time during Mains preparation.

4. Availability of Study Resources 

Coaching for UPSC exams is required at some point of time during your preparation journey. When it comes to choosing an optional subject, sometimes candidates face a shortage of resources in terms of educators, study materials, and relevant books. Therefore, it is imperative that you evaluate the choice of optional on the basis of the available resources. 

We hope the above-stated pointers will help you to select the right optional subject wisely.

Cracking the UPSC exams is not a cakewalk. It requires dedication, hard work, perseverance, and most importantly assistance from a comprehensive preparation resource like PrepLadder. It is an excellent source of quality education among UPSC aspirants and has everything you need to ace the UPSC exam on one single platform.

This includes concise, effective, and well-planned video lectures by our Dream Team for UPSC, a well-structured and high yield QBank, highly competitive PrepTests based on real exam patterns, and Previous Year Papers in the form of tests.

So, what are you waiting for? Start your Civil Services Exam preparation with PrepLadder and enjoy quality learning like never before.  

All the best for your exams. Stay tuned for more updates. 

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Auther Details

Raminder Singh

Raminder is a Content Manager at PrepLadder. He has worked in several aspects of the education industry throughout his career and has assisted numerous candidates in cracking major competitive exams.


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