Political Science and International Relations have been one of the most preferred optional subjects in UPSC Mains. Many all India toppers pick Political Science and International Relations Optional for UPSC Mains examination. In this article, we will give you a deep insight into Political Science and International Relations Optional for UPSC Mains examination.

Political Science Optional UPSC

Political science, along with international relations, is one of the optional subjects in the UPSC Mains. It covers topics from the Indian constitution, international economic trade and strategy, foreign policies and treaties of India with nations abroad, social justice, human rights, Indian and western political thoughts, etc.

As per UPSC’s annual reports, close to 1246 candidates took Political science and International relations as their optional subject in 2017. Among which close to 117 candidates or say 9.4% of candidates achieved success. Generally, the average number of candidates opting for Political science and International relations as an optional subject range between 1000-1500 every year. Also, a decent average success rate of around 6-7% is achieved by those candidates. 

Many UPSC toppers like Anand Vardhan, K Dinesh Kumar, Karn Satyarthi and Gunjan Dwivedi took Political science and International relations as their optional subjects and achieved impressive top 10 all India ranks. 

The UPSC Political Science Syllabus

This optional subject consists of two optional papers. Both papers comprise 250 marks each, making it to be 500 marks in total. 


The Paper I syllabus includes various important topics under subheads like Political theory, Theories of state, Equality, Rights, Justice, Democracy, Concept of ideology and power, Political ideologies, Indian political thoughts, along Western political thoughts. 

Paper I also includes various subheads under Indian Government and Politics like the making of Indian constitution, Indian nationalism, important features of the constitution, grassroots democracy, federalism, principal organs of state and union government, statutory institutions, social movements, economic development planning, and party system.


Paper-II consists majorly of topics related to comparative politics and International relations. The syllabus here covers approaches to comparative politics, politics of participation and representation, comparative perspectives of states, the study of international relations, globalisation, international political order, united nations world politics of trade unions, contemporary global concerns, and evolution of the world’s economic system.

Paper-II also comprises various subheads under India and its relations with the rest of the world like Indian foreign policy, India’s relations with South Asian countries, India’s hand in the Non-alignment movement, India’s relations with global centres of power and the UN systems, India’s nuclear relations, and recent developments and amendments in India’s foreign policy. 

Pros and Cons of Taking Political Science and International Relations as Optional


  1. No Technical Background Required – This optional subject does not require much background of technical knowledge. No prior experience or knowledge base required. If read from the right sources, productive books and positive interest, you are likely to pass this exam with decent marks.
  2. Also Helps in Current Affairs – Many aspects of this optional subject are also related to current affairs. It will help you prepare for current affairs alongside. Also, it comprises more of a complementary nature, so you can answer by quoting valuable examples and anecdotes as you read in the newspapers.
  3. General Studies Overlap – This optional subject is a perfect overlap to the general studies papers. It also overlaps the Indian polity segment in the UPSC Prelims. The general studies paper II is most significant to political science and international relations as this paper majorly deals with the constitution, governance, international competence, polity and social justice.
  4. Prepare for the Interview – In the UPSC interview, majorly the questions are related to current affairs and political science. A good understanding of political theories and ideologies will help you magnificently in gaining confidence for your UPSC interview.


  1. Theory-based Concepts – Political science involves an enormous information base of constitution, reforms, policies, etc., containing a fair amount of theory-based concepts. 
  2. No Easy Answering – The candidates are expected to write short, crisp and presentable answers for this subject. The word count should not be crossed, and there should be no room for irrelevant or unnecessary points. Well, honestly this applies to all subjects in the Mains examinations. You should be apt and skillful in your answer writing abilities. 

Important Political Science Books for UPSC


  • Democratic Politics Part 1 and Part 2 – NCERT Class 9th and 10th
  • Indian Constitution at Work – NCERT Class 11
  • Political Theory – NCERT Class 11
  • Contemporary World Politics – NCERT Class 12
  • Politics in India since Independence – NCERT Class 12


  • Indian Polity –Laxmikanth
  • Politics in India – Rajni Kothari
  • India’s Struggle for Independence – Bipan Chandra
  • Introduction to Political Theory – O.P. Gauba
  • Introduction to Constitution – D.D. Basu
  • History of Political Thought: Plato to Marx – Mukherjee and Sushila Ramaswamy


  • India’s Foreign Policy – V.P. Dutt
  • Global Politics – Andrew Heywood
  • Does the Elephant Dance? – David Malone
  • Challenge and Strategy: Rethinking India’s policy – Rajiv Sikri

Final Words

Among the list of 48 different optional subjects, most UPSC aspirants go for Political Science and International Relations as their optional subject. Aspirants believe it to be a major chance to utilise the overlap of general studies paper along with the Indian polity of UPSC Prelims. 

The topics under Political Science and International Relations are more theory-based and related to various aspects of India’s political theories, ideologies and policies along with India’s international ties with other countries, institutions and bodies. This optional subject could be a major scoring subject, and also a preparation plus for the UPSC interview. 

With UPSC Pathshala, the aspirants get access to top-notch quality videos by some of the greatest mentors of India. These videos are provided by UPSC experts and they focus on multiple subjects with checkpoint online tests after each module to test your knowledge. Stay updated with our regular blog and newsletters to get hold of more helpful content related to UPSC optional subjects and UPSC Mains preparation strategies, tips and techniques. 

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Introduction to Political Science & International Relations Optional for UPSC Mains Examinations
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Introduction to Political Science & International Relations Optional for UPSC Mains Examinations
Why do candidates choose Political science optional UPSC? Read this blog to find important Political Science books for UPSC to excel in your optional subject.
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