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A Detailed Guide to Choosing the Best Optional Subject for UPSC

The decision of selecting an UPSC Optional Subjects is a deep-rooted situation for civil services aspirants. According to the latest syllabus, the...

Akshay Palande Written by Akshay Palande · 3 min read >

The decision of selecting an UPSC Optional Subjects is a deep-rooted situation for civil services aspirants. According to the latest syllabus, the number of optional subjects for UPSC to be chosen is reduced to one, yet aspirants are still befuddled in the event that they settled on the correct decision or not.
In spite of the fact that the weightage of the optional paper is just 500 marks out of 2025 marks according to the most recent pattern of UPSC Civil Services exam, it is still an integral factor in the final ranks because of the inconsistency related to General Studies Papers (1000 marks GS + 250 marks essay) and Interview (275 marks).

1. How important is the decision of IAS Mains Optional?

With newspaper reading and note-making tendencies, the choice of IAS Mains optional won’t play a major difference in your outcomes. Be that as it may, lamentably not very many aspirants fall into the “strong GS” category of students and it is difficult to get into the club without serious long-term preparation.
The choice of IAS Mains optional is exceptionally crucial. You have to choose an optional subject in which you are comfortable to score high in UPSC mains.
The level of comfort relies upon numerous elements like the familiarity of the subject, accessibility of books and other examination materials, availability of staff, recent trends of marks, the scope of peer discussion, the level of difficulty according to the syllabus and previous question papers and so on.
In the event that the subject you took for graduation is available in the rundown of subjects given, in most cases, a similar alternative will turn out as a comfortable option. All others (who don’t have a choice for an optional subject), search for an optional subject which you can complete in a period bound way without encroaching the time for GS preparation.

2. Important steps to consider for choosing the optional subject

  1. First, go through the list of all the Optional Subjects. Read the names of the subjects over and over again for the time period of 15 minutes.
  2. Now backpedal to your school and college days. Take into consideration your most favorite subjects at that point. Think about every subject in which you exceeded expectations, in which subject you showed more interest, in which subject you got great marks.
  3. Now come to the present. See which parts of news you are more interested in. Think which subjects of GS you like more. A few people like history, some like polity/sociology and continue perusing those books as though they are doing masters in those topics. Consider short-listing them as your Optional subject.
  4. Some individuals likewise have a pastime of reading the literature of their mother language.
  5. Now go through the..

List of UPSC Optional Subjects once more.

Sl. No.Optional SubjectNumber of candidates appearedNo. of candidates recommendedSuccess Rate
1Agriculture2204118.6
2Medical Science981616.3
3Animal Husbandry & Veterinary Science65812.3
4Economics3263711.3
5Psychology106111610.9
6Anthropology3453710.7
7Public Administration320133710.5
8Political Science1320856.4
9Geography40492365.8
10Sociology1555895.7

Following the above mentioned 10 best optional subjects, below mentioned are the other subjects that are taken as optional by aspirants who appeared for the UPSC 2016 Exam and were recommended:

Sl. No.Optional SubjectNumber of candidates appearedNo. of candidates recommendedSuccess Rate
1Chemistry12475.6
2Commerce and Accountancy266155.6
3History38702125.5
4Law365195.2
5Philosophy2092844
6Zoology484183.7
7Mathematics27782.9

Additionally, there were numerous applicants who chose literature as their optional subject, however, few literature subjects made it in the 10 best optional, read through to know the top literature subjects as optional.

Sl. No.Literature Optional SubjectNumber of candidates appearedNo. of candidates recommendedSuccess Rate
1Assamese5240
2Punjabi19526.3
3Gujarati42716.7
4Kannada841416.7
5Marathi42716.7
6English40615
7Urdu29413.8
8Tamil2252912.9
9Sanskrit122108.2
10Malayalam6757.5
11Pali255187.1
12Telugu14796.1
13Hindi974565.7

3. How to shortlist from the initial list of optional subjects.

  1. Based on the above-mentioned criteria, prepare a list of 4-5 subjects that you think you have interest in.
  2. Now, go through the syllabus of each Optional Subject. Read all topics precisely. Underline/highlight the points that you think you know something about or have some interest in the syllabus of each shortlisted Optional subject.
  3. Now go through the previous year question papers (3-4 years) of the shortlisted subjects. Read all the questions. Then again, measure yourself the level of interest you have or the knowledge you hold to answer each questions. It’s just to know yourself how compatible you are with a subject, don’t stress on the off chance that you don’t know the answer to any question.
  4. Finally, the availability of materials and guidance through training matters a lot. For a few subjects, it is hard to get standard books, for some subjects coaching may not be available. Non-technical subjects can be prepared by doing self-study provided you consistently work on writing.
  5. By now you will have a reasonable picture about choosing between 2-3 subjects. For instance, if you are from the engineering background and especially good at your engineering subjects, in the meantime if you have broadly read the literature of your native language, might be since your childhood, you will be in quandary to select between these two subjects.

In this scenario, the ‘success rate’ counts. Generally, literature subjects have performed well in all years. You may wind up choosing literature of your native language as your Optional subject. It’s a decent choice.
For a few people who have worked in a big organization, Public Administration is a great choice and in fact, it has been the most prevalent optional with working aspirants or with the individuals who have quit their jobs.
Medical students may settle on Medical Science, Zoology or Anthropology as these subjects are related to their field.
At last, what makes a difference is the measure you love the subject. If at all you love every point in it, then it is the ‘One’ you should go along. Not with the ‘best’ or ‘the most popular’ ones.

Top 10 optional subjects for UPSC IAS Exam

After analyzing the above data, here are the list of best optional subject for UPSC.

  1. Agriculture
  2. Medical Science
  3. Animal Husbandry & Veterinary Science
  4. Economics
  5. Chemistry
  6. Commerce and Accountancy
  7. History
  8. Law
  9. Psychology
  10. Literature Subject (Any)

4. Conclusion

The choice of selecting the optional is an individual decision of every competitor as indicated by his/her qualities and shortcomings. In any case, only you know your strengths, weaknesses, taste, and availability of study materials.
The rules and statistics mentioned above may enable you to illuminate a couple of your questions. IAS Aspirants’ who will take the UPSC 2018 exam or any year in future can go through the rundown as they have time left to settle on which optional subject to pick and then to go ahead with their UPSC Preparation.
Do the research and settle on the best choice. All the best!

Written by Akshay Palande
Akshay Palande is a passionate teacher helping hundreds of students in their UPSC preparation. With a degree in Mechanical Engineering and double masters in Public Administration and Economics, he has experience of teaching UPSC aspirants for 5 years. His subject of expertise are Geography, Polity, Economics and Environment and Ecology. Profile

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