Many candidates lose their minds over the options they should choose for the UPSC. For the optional, there are 2 papers, each for 250 marks. The optional in the UPSC mains exam is worth a total of 500 marks.

As a result, it is critical to exercise caution while picking an optional because it might make or break your IAS aspirations. Every student is unique, with their own set of preparation strategies, study methods, hobbies, and academic backgrounds. As a result, there is no one-size-fits-all optional subject.

Read on to see the highest scoring optional in UPSC as well as whether or not an aspirant should choose his or her optional based on statistics.

Highest Scoring Optional in UPSC

Before choosing the best optional subject for the IAS test, various aspects must be considered, such as syllabi, time available for preparation, and so on. The UPSC topics have a curriculum that falls halfway between graduate and postgraduate levels.

Points to Keep in Mind

# Science articles tend to be more objective, with less opportunity for interpretation. Zoology, Physics, Mathematics, Botany, Chemistry, and other subjects are included. There is no justification for the supervisor to withhold marks if you knew the answers to the questions and have written it correctly. As a result, science disciplines can be graded.

# Statistics might be a scoring alternative if you are skilled at math.

# Economics and geography are also high-scoring subjects, particularly for students with a scientific background.

# History and political science are strong alternatives for applicants with a humanities background. While history is not exactly a scoring subject, it may be because the sections are more or less unchanging. You can get good grades if you prepare rather well.

Some More Points to Keep in Mind

# Geography is also a high-scoring subject due to the opportunity to earn points using diagrams and maps.

# A well-defined curriculum and clear questions make public administration a high-scoring subject.

# Literature topics may also fit you if you have an interest in them. Maithili Literature, for example, is believed to be a high-scoring subject. You must, once again, have a prior understanding of the language.

UPSC Optional Subjects Success Rate

Annually, the Department of Personnel and Training publishes the optional subject rate of success. As of present, the UPSC 2017 success rate is the most recent report. This information will aid you in deciding on your optional subject.

The number of applicants who took the optional test, their advice on which topic to take, and the success percentage based on it will all be discussed. We have information from 2017 and 2016.

Also Read: English Literature Optional Subject UPSC: Pros and Cons of Choosing English Literature

UPSC Optional Subjects Success Rate 2017

No Subject Candidates Appeared Candidates Recommended Success Rate %
1 Agriculture 89 11 12.4
2 Anthropology 880 85 9.7
3 Chemistry 126 11 8.7
4 Accounts 224 28 12.5
5 Electrical Engineering 193 19 9.8
6 Geology 37 2 5.4
7 Law 3041 43 4.1
8 Mathematics 441 26 5.9
9 Medical Science 313 32 10.2
10 Physics 140 14 10
11 Psychology 193 21 10.9
12 Sociology 1421 137 9.6
13 Animal Husbandry 23 2 8.7
14 Botany 44 5 11.4
15 Civil Engineering 124 11 8.9
16 Economics 233 16 6.9
17 Geography 2669 147 5.5
18 History 1074 59 5.5
19 Management 86 7 8.1
20 Mechanical Engineering 170 19 11.2
21 Philosophy 755 53 7
22 Political  Science 1246 117 9.4
23 Public Administration 1165 119 10.2
24 Statistics 3 0 0
25 Zoology 484 18 3.7

UPSC Literature Success Rate 2017

No Subject Candidates Appeared Candidates Recommended Success Rate %
1 English Literature 21 2 9.5
2 Assamese Literature 3 0 0
3 Manipuri Literature 13 1 7.7
4 Hindi Literature 267 19 7.1
5 Maithili Literature 78 5 6.4
6 Bodo Literature 1 1 100
7 Odia Literature 5 0 0
8 Punjabi Literature 39 6 15.4
9 Marathi Literature 17 0 0
10 Gujarati Literature 101 8 7.9
11 Kannada Literature 115 4 3.5
12 Bengali Literature 3 0 0
13 Sindhi Literature 2 1 50
14 Tamil Literature 107 5 4.7
15 Telugu Literature 72 1 1.4
16 Urdu Literature 26 5 19.2
17 Sanskrit Literature 70 5 7.1
18 Nepali Literature 1 0 0
19 Malayalam Literature 111 8 7.2

Also Read: Tips to Prepare for Disaster Management Topic for UPSC Civil Service Mains Exam

UPSC Optional Subjects Success Rate 2016

No Subject Candidates Appeared Candidates Recommended Success Rate %
1 Agriculture 220 41 18.6
2 Medical science 98 16 16.3
3 Animal husbandry 65 8 12.3
4 Economics 326 37 11.3
5 Psychology 1061 116 10.9
6 Anthropology 345 37 10.7
7 Public administration 3201 337 10.5
8 Political science 1320 85 6.4
9 Geography 4049 236 5.8
10 Sociology 1555 89 5.7
11 Chemistry 124 7 5.6
12 Accountancy 266 15 5.6
13 History 3870 212 5.5
14 Law 365 19 5.2
15 Philosophy 2092 84 4
16 Zoology 484 18 3.7
17 Mathematics 277 8 2.9

UPSC Literature Success Rate 2016

No.  Subject Candidates Appeared Candidates Recommended Success Rate %
1 Assamese 5 2 40
2 Punjabi 19 5 26.3
3 Gujarati 42 7 16.7
4 Kannada 84 14 16.7
5 Marathi 42 7 16.7
6 English 40 6 15
7 Urdu 29 4 13.8
8 Tamil 225 29 12.9
9 Sanskrit 122 10 8.2
10 Malayalam 67 5 7.5
11 Pali 255 18 7.1
12 Telugu 147 9 6.1
13 Hindi 974 56 5.7

What is the Highest Scoring Optional in UPSC?

Some subjects are more difficult to score than others. However, while looking at the whole picture, we can observe that IAS toppers earned 320+ in both technical and non-technical topics.

Some subjects are viewed as low scoring because applicants are unable to put up the necessary effort or because they have chosen an optional subject that is not appropriate for them.

Technical topics (for example, mathematics) might theoretically get you excellent grades since the “subjectivity quotient” is restricted. In general, unlike in humanities disciplines, the examiner’s prejudices or inclinations have less influence.

Non-technical topics, particularly those that overlap with the GS syllabus, however, provide more study time and reading material in general, resulting in a higher total Mains score if studied properly.

Most Opted UPSC Optional Subject

Subject Number of Candidates
History 3500
Geography 3500
Public Administration 3000
Political Science 1800
Sociology 1800
Philosophy 1000

Also Read: What are Endogenic and Exogenic Forces? IAS Geography Notes

Top 10 Highest Scoring Optional Subject

Here are the top 10 most scoring optional subjects in the UPSC exam:

#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. Any Literature Subject

How to Choose Your Optional Subject?

# Before making a decision, have a look at all of the optional subjects. This is to ensure that you don’t miss any important information. Give each subject some time, if not more, before deciding on one.

# Consider picking a topic about which you already have some knowledge. This might be a subject from high school or a college major. This would undoubtedly assist you in covering the curriculum more quickly and comprehending it better.

# Then decide on a topic that interests you. Because the UPSC examines each issue in depth. As a result, it is critical for a candidate to have had some interest in the subject in order to comprehend and score higher.

Guide to Choose an Optional Subject

# If English is your first language, literature is one of the greatest disciplines to study. This is due to the fact that it is extremely simple to learn, and individuals who are fluent in a specific language may read the stories and poetry in the past or during GS breaks. Another of the reasons why literary success rates are greater is because of this.

# You may also check through UPSC exam papers from past years to see if this is your cup of tea or not. Then see what preparatory resources are available in your area. Due to a lack of resources, certain disciplines are difficult to study.

# Another factor to evaluate is your aptitude for both practical and theoretical topics. Mathematics and statistics are the most practical UPSC courses, and if you are engaged in them, they are the finest in this area. History and politics are the most popular disciplines among those who enjoy theory.

Also Read: A Detailed Guide to Choosing the Best Optional Subject for UPSC Exam

All IAS Toppers with Optional Subjects

Here is a list of all the IAS toppers with the highest marks scored in UPSC optional:

AIR 1 Gaurav Agarwal (Economics) 2013

Gaurav Agarwal, an IIT graduate and an IIM MBA, topped the UPSC with Economics as his optional subject. In his optional topic, he scored 296 out of 500 marks.

AIR 1 Ira Singhal (Geography) 2014

Ira Singhal’s optional was geography. Ira earned a Dual MBA in Marketing and Finance from the Faculty of Management Studies, University of Delhi, after studying Computer Engineering at Netaji Subhas Institute of Technology. She attained 305 marks in Geography.

AIR 1 Tina Dabi (Political Science and International Relations) 2015

Tina Dabi was ranked number one in India in 2015. Tina earned her bachelor’s degree in political science from Lady Shri Ram College in 2014. Political Science and International Relations was also an elective for her. In the optional subject, she obtained 299 marks.

AIR 1 Nandini KR (Kannada Literature) 2016

Nandini KR works in the field of civil engineering (B.Tech). She chose Kannada Literature as an optional subject and obtained 331 marks out of a possible 500.

AIR 1 Anudeep Durishetty (Anthropology) 2017

Anudeep Durishetty holds a Bachelor of Technology degree in Electronics and Instrumentation. When Anudeep was ranked first in the UPSC Civil Services Examination, he chose Anthropology as his optional subject. In Anthropology, he scored 318 marks.

AIR 1 Kanishak Kataria (Mathematics) 2018

Kanishak holds a B.Tech in Computer Science degree from IIT Bombay. He chose Mathematics as an optional subject and received a score of 361 marks out of 500.

AIR 1 Pradeep Singh (Public Administration) 2019

Pradeep Singh is a computer science graduate with a bachelor’s degree in engineering. Public Administration was optional for him. He scored 148 marks out of 250.

Also Read : 3 Months Preparation Plan for UPSC Prelims: A Step Towards Success

OS for Medical Field

Medical Science is a natural fit among the various alternatives. Many IAS toppers with a medical background have chosen medical science as an optional subject.

Subjects like Animal Husbandry, Zoology and Veterinary Science can be included to some extent. If a student with a medical background does not want to choose medical science as an optional topic, they must choose non-technical disciplines that have some crossover with GS.

OS for Engineering Candidates

In the IAS test, several students with a technical background have done well. If a candidate wants to select an optional topic based on prior knowledge, the choices are limited to Civil, Mechanical, and Electrical engineering.

Clearly, no one would choose a technical subject unless they had already studied it at the college level.

Math, physics, and chemistry are examples of subjects that can be considered. These subjects decrease subjectivity in marking to some level, but they require a significant amount of preparatory time and work. As a result, it’s usually a good idea to look over the syllabi and previous exam papers prior.


The UPSC Optional Subjects are difficult to crack, and applicants should exercise caution when making their selection.

The success rates of all optional topics were discussed, as well as the most popular optional subject, the optional subject with the largest syllabus overlap with other examinations, and a guide to choosing an optional subject.

Before taking the mains examinations, every applicant should read this article at least once.

For more informative articles on the UPSC exam, visit the blog section of UPSC Pathshala and to take your preparation a level higher, do not forget to check out this Free Demo.

Also Read: Check-out the Best Timetable to Ace the Upcoming UPSC IAS Exam

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About the Author

Madhurjya Chowdhury

Madhurjya Chowdhury, a web content writer in Ufaber EduTech has a very strong passion for writing and alluring the readers. You can find him writing articles for the betterment of exam aspirants and children. With immense interest in research-based content writing and copywriting, he likes to reach out to more and more people with his creative writing style. On the other side, he is an Electronics and Communication Engineer from LPU, Jalandhar. In his leisure time, he likes to play badminton or read about space discoveries. Apart from this, he is a pro gamer on PC, PS and Mobile gaming platforms.

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