Is Math Compulsory for UPSC Exam? Mathematics as an Optional Subject in UPSC IAS Mains

Is Math Compulsory for UPSC Exam

Is Math compulsory for UPSC? Maths is not so necessary but you are going to become an IAS so you have to know mathematics up to a certain extent.  UPSC Prelims paper which is known as CSAT comprises questions from reasoning. mathematics and comprehension. Although you only need to obtain 33% to qualify in the paper even though if you are sound in math and reasoning then paper 2 will be a cakewalk for you or you might end up trapped in the exam.

Syllabus for Mathematics Required in Prelims CSAT Paper

  1. Linear Equation
  2. Number System
  3. %, profit loss, SI-CI
  4. Ratio Proportion Variation
  5. Speed Time Distance Work
  6. Averages
  7. Data Interpretation
  8. Geometry: Area Volume Perimeter
  9. Arithmetic Progression
  10. Coordinate Geometry
  11. Polynomials factorization

Mathematics as an Optional Subject of Choice in IAS Mains

A number of students choose Mathematics as it is entirely logic-based and you can either do a sum correctly or it will be wrong. While this means a student confident with their preparation can secure exceptional marks, those who are not very good at calculation should refrain from choosing the subject. It is hailed as one of the toughest subjects to choose from by many aspirants, but there have also been candidates who have emerged successful in the exam with flying colours by choosing this as an optional paper.

If you opted for maths optional, you have to follow a dedicated preparation strategy for the same. This post shares in detail the different approaches that you can have regarding this subject to ensure that your preparation does not fall short during the exam.

Mathematics Syllabus for UPSC Mains Optional Subject

Paper – I

(1) Linear Algebra

(2) Calculus

(3) Analytic Geometry

(4) Ordinary Differential Equations

(5) Dynamics & Statics

(6) Vector Analysis

Paper – II

(1) Algebra

(2) Real Analysis

(3) Complex Analysis

(4) Linear Programming

(5) Partial differential equations

(6) Numerical Analysis and Computer programming

(7) Mechanics and Fluid Dynamics

Benefits of Choosing Math as an Optional for IAS Mains

  • Mathematics is a scoring subject. There is no theory to memorize, and your performance entirely depends on your understanding of the underlying logic behind the different topics. If your preparation is good and you have speed and accuracy in calculation, you can score way more than what is possible with any humanities subject.
  • The syllabus is static and hence you need not worry about the preparation for a year going to waste since it got updated by the upcoming exam. Candidates who are attempting for IAS the second time or more, find this feature very advantageous.
  • The competition is much less than other optional papers as very few candidates choose maths.
  • Assessing the performance right after the exam is much easier since there is no subjectivity in maths and the marks depend only on right or wrong calculation.
  • Maths is particularly suitable for candidates who are not fond of or have the ability to memorize.

Also Read: UPSC Maths Optional Question Papers

Disadvantages of Having Math as an Optional Subject

  • It takes up a long time to prepare the entire syllabus and its syllabus does not overlap with any other general studies paper.
  • Since the topics are not subjective and nothing is left to the interpretation of the examiner, there are no marks for attempted but incomplete answers. Hence, the margin for error becomes very less.
  • The paper is thoroughly technical and hence, candidates who do not have an aptitude in technical studies will find it difficult to grasp the syllabus.

Also Read: IAS Mathematics Book List of Recommended Study Materials And Practice Papers


Many students, despite their technical background, have apprehensions about choosing the subject. This is primarily because they lack confidence in their logical, calculative, and analytical ability and also their speed and accuracy with such topics. But if you do not have such troubles and think you can complete the syllabus, maths can prove to be very advantageous as it is very scoring. Many of the topics in the syllabus are from higher secondary level and common to all but there are also several important topics that are taught in graduation or B.Tech, making the subject a difficult choice for candidates with a Humanities background. The syllabus calls for 4-5months of preparation with 12-14 hours of weekly practice.

Is Math Compulsory for UPSC Exam? Mathematics as an Optional Subject in UPSC IAS Mains
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Is Math Compulsory for UPSC Exam? Mathematics as an Optional Subject in UPSC IAS Mains
A part of the CSAT paper consists of mathematics that is expected for every candidate to know. That part of the syllabus is compulsory. Apart from that candidates can opt for it as an optional subject.
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UPSC Pathshala
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