The 25 subject options offered in UPSC mains can be divided into technical and non-technical subjects. Traditionally the trend among aspirants, from both Arts as well as Science backgrounds, has been to opt for the non-technical subjects. But amongst so many options, which ones are the best optional subjects in UPSC? Here, I am going to discuss six subjects that you may choose from. Read on to know more about the 6 best optional subjects in UPSC.
Most Scoring Optional in UPSC
Aspirants should choose optional subjects very carefully as it is going to affect their overall score on the UPSC exam. Given below are the most scoring optional subjects in UPSC.
#1. Political Science & International Relations
A popular non-technical subject, it attracted more interest after AIR 1, Tina Dabi, chose it as her optional.
Why Should You Choose It?
There are many reasons why this is considered as one of the most scoring and best optional subjects in UPSC.
# The subject can easily be understood by anyone and does not need a political science background, although having one will certainly give you an edge.
# If you have a basic awareness, follow current affairs and regularly read editorials, you will have some information about any question asked in the exam.
# For those who have a flair for writing, this subject is especially rewarding as it requires elucidating the information in a creative manner. A lot of questions are almost like essays or need you to define certain terms, which is why good writing skills will be very useful.
It consists of a section called the Indian Government & Politics. It contains topics like Organs of Government, Federalism, Constitution etc., which are already covered in Prelims prep. All the time you spent memorizing Lakshmikant will bear fruit here too. Part I is more or less static which limits the syllabus to some extent.
Here you will have India and the World, from which most topics are again covered in Current Affairs preparation. For example, you can easily write about India’s relations with other countries/ organisations by simply reading the PIB news and keeping a tab of treaties, visits etc.
H4-Things to Keep in Mind
# Both Part I and Part II contain topics that require theoretical knowledge. This is great for those who are good at mugging up information, as well as those who can write well. But if these theories are absolutely new to you, retaining and understanding them may consume a lot of your precious time.
# Vast syllabus because of dynamic elements. Both Part I and II have a lot of emphasis on current aspects. This means you will continually have to update your notes and keep a track of contemporary events related to the topics. So if you are prepared for that, only then take it up.
Anthropology is considered one of the best optional subjects in UPSC. It is increasingly being chosen by aspirants due to the scoring nature of this subject. While none of the toppers in the past 10 years had anthropology as their optional, a number of students with other ranks have opted for it as well as attained high scores.
For those who are thinking about anthropology?, well it is the study of human societies and their development. To be more specific, anthropology means – the study of human evolutions, it also involves their biological and physiological features.
Also Read:Check-out the Best Timetable to Ace the Upcoming UPSC IAS Exam
Why Should You Choose It?
# Anthropology is by and large a static subject. Not much research is carried out on it academically and therefore the influx of new concepts and theories is less. Concepts like Marriage, Kinship, Evolution, Prehistoric cultures etc., just require mugging and retention.
# It is a very interesting subject. The subject focuses on man, his evolution, society, culture etc. These topics are grouped under the headings of Social & Cultural Anthropology, Biological Anthropology and Archaeological Anthropology.
# If you are someone who likes to read new things and seek knowledge, then this is the right subject for you. Most of the subjects will be new to you and you will never face the boredom or lethargy you feel while studying other subjects which may seem repetitive due to their overlapping nature.
Advantage for Science Students
It is a boon for science students looking for a non-technical subject. It is the perfect combination of science and social science. Unlike other Arts subjects, the answer writing in anthropology is not based much on writing creative answers and showcasing your writing prowess. The answers will mostly be to the point and explained using diagrams, flow charts etc.
Things to Keep in Mind
Read the syllabus thoroughly and carefully and opt for it only if you find the subject matter interesting. In addition, having a good reading and grasping speed will be helpful in covering the subject matter in a limited time.
Be willing to draw lots of diagrams for every answer, from Neanderthal skulls to prehistoric. So if the idea of sketching makes you uncomfortable, you may want to rethink this option.
Although the question may not ask for diagrams, a graphic presentation will certainly fetch you more marks in this subject.
Also Read:A Detailed Guide to Choosing the Best Optional Subject for UPSC Exam
The aspirants, who already had done some basics in Sociology, for them Sociology can be a high scoring optional subject in UPSC examination.
What is Sociology? It is the study of the pattern of the society, social interactions, cultures etc.
It is another of the most scoring and best optional subjects in the UPSC Mains. It is also one of the easiest subjects offered by the UPSC. Since it has traditionally been an optional choice among aspirants, you will find plenty of material as well as guidance on the subject.
Getting ready to read material is of great help in any subject and saves a lot of time. You will also benefit from the strategy and experience of those who had taken it as their optional subject.
Why Should You Choose It?
# The syllabus is fairly limited and mostly static in nature. Also, various topics in both Paper I and II are inter-related, thereby reducing the time required for preparation.
# Almost the entire prelims prep is India-centric and as a result, we are aware of important changes in society, whether it be Government schemes or landmark Court judgments, this automatically takes care of any dynamic elements in the subject too.
# After studying the subject, you will have an in-depth understanding of Indian society and its structure. This will be of great help in the interview stage since you have an insight into the problems plaguing our society and be able to offer some solutions for the same.
# Direct correlation with what we see in society and the fact that you don’t need any prior knowledge or special skills to understand it.
Paper-II, which is Indian Society: Structure and Change, contains concepts like kinship, caste, agrarian structure, religion, etc. Now, these are already familiar to us and hence even if one does not know the technical answer to a question, they can always write something based on common knowledge.
Things to Keep in Mind
# The answer to writing for sociology will be largely subjective in nature. Be prepared to write elaborate answers in the UPSC exam but with just the information required by the examiner. The delicate balance between sticking to the word limit while compressing all the information is important here.
# While those from a science background will find it very easy to understand the syllabus, it’s purely non-scientific nature might be a big change from the usual. Opt for the subject only if you feel you will be comfortable learning a theoretical subject with no scientific undertones.
#4. Public Administration
Since it was first added to the Mains optional list in 1987, Public Administration has gained immense popularity and is a hot favourite among the aspirants. Also, the success rate for this subject is higher than some other non-technical subjects. All these naturally make it one of the most scoring as well as best optional subjects in UPSC.
It is highly relevant to your future role as an administrator. Topics like Accountability, Personnel & Financial Administration, Organisations etc., in Paper I, as well as the entire subject matter of Paper-II (Indian Administration), will be useful in understanding the setting you will eventually be a part of. This makes the subject very practical and significant.
Other than this, the following are the other reasons to choose this topic.
Why Should You Choose It?
# A very large part of Paper-II overlaps with your Political Science and Current Affairs prep for prelims. It contains topics like Public Sector Undertakings, Union Government & Administration, Urban Local Government, Philosophical & Constitutional Framework of Government etc., which have already been covered.
# The subject matter of this paper also overlaps with the Polity & Governance Paper in General Studies. It is highly beneficial to find such convergence in papers because it saves you time and energy and also provides ample material, as well as different perspectives to write better answers in both subjects.
Things to Keep in Mind
# As everyone will tell you, the syllabus is very compact. However, do not be fooled by this point. Even though the subject is well defined, public administration is all about perspectives. The same topic may be viewed from many lenses and as a result, there is a lot of reading and understanding that goes into the subject.
# Mugging up will not be as useful as conceptual clarity. The topics are interlinked and the questions asked can sometimes be tricky. So unless you are absolutely clear about every concept you will easily be misled by the questions. You can refer to public administration books for this purpose.
Other Points to Keep in Mind
Since a very large number of aspirants opt for it, there is a lot of competition. You really have to shine out in your answers to score well.
The questions asked in the exam are generally tough in nature due to their ambiguous and confusing nature. Take your time to read and re-read the question before answering it
A question in 2015 asked – “Delegated Legislation is a necessary evil.” Comment. Here, the content, as well as a coherent presentation, is equally important, and that is possible only if you comprehend the question well.
What is philosophy? it is the study of knowledge, values, existence, mind, language etc.
As per the UPSC exam, Philosophy had a success rate of 7% in 2015-16, higher than History, Geography, Public Administration and Political Science. It was also the subject of choice of Athir Amir, CSE 2015, Rank 2.
The most important reason to choose this one of the best optional subjects in UPSC, philosophy should be your interest in it. While reading Indian philosophy If the thinking of great Indians, as well as foreign philosophers, excites you, then this is definitely the subject for you. It is an extremely satisfying, knowledgeable and interesting subject, provided you have an inclination to it. And if you do, then no one can stop you from scoring high here. Let’s find out the other reasons.
Why Should You Choose It?
# Compact and amongst the shortest in syllabus UPSC. It is very clearly defined and absolutely static in nature. You just need to read about and understand the philosophical thoughts of the listed thinkers and be able to reproduce it in a coherent manner.
# The subject matter is interlinked with other Mains GS Papers like Ethics, and Essay writing. Ethics, in fact, derives from Philosophy, so you will find a lot of common ground. The essay paper too focuses on topics like gender, religion, justice, democracy, etc., which are covered when you study the various thinkers and their views on these themes.
# You virtually need little or no guidance to understand this paper. If you do get stuck somewhere, there is plenty of material available online that presents the thoughts of the philosophers in an easy and simplified manner. All you need is an appetite for this kind of knowledge and it can be one of the most scoring optional in UPSC for you.
Things to Keep in Mind
The paper requires very strong writing skills. But this should not be a problem if you have a genuine interest in the subject and are willing to put in extra hours of writing practice.
Most of the aspirants choose Geography as their optional subject because it is noticed that it is the highest-scoring option in UPSC and most popular among the candidates. Last year also there were a lot of toppers with this optional.
Geography is an interesting mix of technical as well as non-technical and that makes it popular with both arts and science background students. In the 2016 exams itself, geography was the subject of choice for 3 students in the top 20. In fact, rank 4 holder, Saumya Pande, an engineer, chose geography and cleared the exam in her first attempt.
Also Read: What are Endogenic and Exogenic Forces? IAS Geography Notes
Why Should You Choose It?
# A vast amount of information is available both online and offline about Indian geography as well as world geography. There is an abundance of reading material on geography, as this has been one of the best optional subjects for the UPSC mains exam.
# Less time consuming because major portions are already covered in GS. This means you will find yourself reading the same topics again. Repeated reading will help increase retention of key terms and concepts.
# While most subjects of the exam are interconnected, none enjoys the commanding position of geography. You will find that it is related to the environment, international relations, Current Affairs, ecology and even economics to some extent.
# Interesting to read and very scoring. There is never a dull moment when studying for geography. It is fairly easy to understand and aspirants from science as well as humanities backgrounds will be able to comprehend it comfortably. Also, it is very scoring given its largely technical nature.
Also Read:Tips to Prepare for Disaster Management Topic for UPSC Civil Service Mains Exam
Things to Keep in Mind
# There is great stress on models and theories in the mains paper, especially the lesser-known ones. This means you cannot afford to leave out even the seemingly unimportant theories, leading to increased study hours.
# In Paper II, there is an emphasis on regional planning and contemporary issues. This makes the paper very dynamic and hugely increases its scope. So the tough part here is not so much the content but rather the vastness of it.
# Deep knowledge of maps is mandatory for this subject. So if the idea of mapping seems an onerous task for you, then you may want to skip the subject.
These were a few non-technical subjects and some of the best optional subjects in UPSC that you can opt for. The only thing to keep in mind is your interest in the subject because that is the key to performing well. The aspirants who are preparing for the UPSC examination should join UPSC Pathshala as it provides you with better guidance, detailed and quality study material, one on one sessions to clear doubts and understand different topics and many more. So join now and get the best for yourself.
So, what is your take on this? Which subject are you going to prepare for? Share your thoughts with us by commenting below.
Also Read:UPSC Prelims Preparation Strategy: How to Prepare for UPSC Prelims?
6 Best Optional Subjects in UPSC: Guide to Choose Most Scoring Non-technical Subjects
Optional Subjects depend on the aspirant's interest in that subject. An optional subject plays a major role in the scores of the UPSC exam. Read on to learn more about the Optional subjects in UPSC.
best optional subject in upsc
- (Video) Best Optional Subject for UPSC CSE 2022 | Sumit Rathi #upsccse2022
Rakesh Singhon September 24, 2018
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archnaon September 26, 2018
your topic “Top 6 Most Scoring Non-Techincal Optional Subjects In The UPSC Exam” is very nice for upsc aspirant specially for new comer. It will increase success potential of students.
manik basuon January 5, 2019
I am a student of sociology and I am also preparing for the civil services. You have written in your article that science students may find sociology as interesting due to the non-science nature of the subject. I find your remarks contradictory to my understanding of this discipline as a social science. I am curious to know your view about what makes a subject to be regarded as a scientific discipline and non-science discipline? As far a my knowledge serves me, sociology is a science because it is committed to the use of the scientific methodology in understanding human societies. But you seem to consider it as non-science. Please do reply.
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One should read this article before giving the exam. It is a worth.
sanaya shahon May 11, 2021
This blog was really helpful. One should read this article before giving the exam. It is a worth. Can you also help with some preparation tips for optional subject?(Video) Choosing the correct optional is very important for UPSC exam | How to pick the right subject?
tanishq mograon May 14, 2021
One should read this blog and this is quite helpful for the exam, reading it was worth it and can you also help with some online websites for all the materials
Akshita Sanghvion September 13, 2021
Thanks for the information it’s very helpful
Mehul Banerjeeon September 14, 2021
This article is incredible. I have come to know about the best optional subjects for my exam.
Medha Patelon September 14, 2021
The most amazing thing about this article is that it has given the reasons for each optional subjects to be chosen. Thank you for sharing the information.
Ankit Rayon September 14, 2021
Thank you for such a detailed description of the optional subjects. It was very helpful
Katalog Stronon March 27, 2022
Dzięki za ten wpis jest ciekawy i inspirujący. Tylko nie zasypiaj gruszek w popiele czekam na więcej.
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About the Author
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.
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Which is the most scoring subject in UPSC optional? ›
Geography. Most of the aspirants choose Geography as their optional subject because it is noticed that it is the highest-scoring option in UPSC and the most popular among the candidates. Last year also there were a lot of toppers with this optional.Which optional subject is best for scoring? ›
Based on the general trend, the subjects which have the potential to help you score about 330 marks in optional exams (with your immense dedication, ofcourse) are Mathematics, Anthropology, Sociology, any Literature, Public Administration and Geography.Which is the easiest and most scoring optional subject in UPSC? ›
Which optional subject is easy in UPSC? Answer: Sociology, Geography, and Public Administration are easy subjects to score. Many candidates have scored more than 400 marks in these optional subjects as per the previous year's result.Which optional has highest success rate? ›
|No.||Optional Subject||Success Rate|
Which UPSC Optional Subject has Smallest Syllabus? Philosophy has the shortest syllabus out of all of the optional subjects for the UPSC examination and is the reason for it is a popular choice amongst UPSC aspirants.Which optional has most overlap with GS? ›
The syllabus of Geography Optional overlaps with almost 40% of the GS syllabus.Which subject overall percentage is best? ›
Clearly, this percentage is highest for Maths.Which is the least popular optional subject in UPSC? ›
|IAS General Studies Notes Links|
|UPSC Civil Services Exam Supreme Court||General Studies|
- Medical Science.
- Public Administration.
Take a look at the following table: If you look at the success rates, both the years show contrasting values. But yes, if you look at the number of candidates opting for an optional, sociology is up the ladder compared to anthropology. It seems more popular.
Which is subject to highest success rate in UPSC? ›
Interpretation of success rates:
It is also important to note that it a large number of candidates (i.e., greater than 1000) opt for subjects such as Geography, PSIR and Sociology irrespective of the higher success rates seen in subjects such as Law, Management and Commerce and Accountancy.
Success Trends of IAS Toppers' Optional Subjects.
|Success Trend of Optional Subjects 2018 for UPSC Toppers'|
|Optional Subject||No. of Candidates Appeared||Success Rate|
But, studying geography as an optional subject involves great effort because of the vast syllabus and complexity of the subject.How do I choose an optional subject? ›
Most popular optional subject. An optional subject that is easy to understand or which they find interesting. The subject for which notes and study materials are easily available. Optional for which best coaching is available.What was Tina Dabi optional subject? ›
|UPSC Books||Current Affairs Quiz|
|Success Rate of Optional Subjects in UPSC Exam||UPSC Mains Syllabus|
Who is the Geography optional topper 2021? Naman Goyal was the Geography optional topper in 2021. He scored (140 + 132), i.e., 272 marks in Optional-I and Optional-II of the 2021 IAS exam.Which optional is best? ›
- Literature Subject (Any)
- Medical Science.
- Public Administration.
Sociology, Geography, and Public Administration are easy subjects to score. Many candidates have scored more than 400 marks in these optional subjects as per the previous year's result. Which optional subject has the highest IAS Optional Subject success rate in UPSC?How many hours is optional UPSC? ›
Some aspirants claim to be studying 15–16 hours a day to prepare to take the UPSC exam. Some can pass the exam with just 6-7 hours of study per day. There isn't a perfect answer to this question, and candidates must determine the number of hours they spend studying each day based on their abilities and needs.When should I start studying optional? ›
When to begin preparing for the optional? It is ideal to begin preparing for the option in October of the year preceding the examination year. Since most optionals will take 4-5 months, your optional subject would be over by March of the year of examination.
Which optional helps in GS papers? ›
- Choosing optional subjects with maximum GS overlap: ...
- History. ...
- Geography. ...
- Political science & international relations. ...
- Economics. ...
- Public administration. ...
- Choosing the Right Optional Subject for UPSC Civil Services Mains. ...
- Related Links:
Both Sociology and Geography are popular optionals in the Civil Services Exam. Geography surpasses Sociology if you look at the absolute numbers of candidates opting for the subjects. In fact, both subjects are considered scoring.What subjects scale the highest? ›
Physics and Chemistry are the highest scaling sciences and scale significantly better than Biology, mainly because they contain a significant portion of numerical calculations.Which subject combination is best? ›
Here are a few recommended subject combinations: History, English Literature, Psychology. History, English Literature, Economics. History, Economics, one of Philosophy, Sociology or Theology.How do you get 100 percent in all subjects? ›
To retain the most information, it's best to study for at least 20-30 minutes every day in the weeks leading up to the test. Set aside a 30-minute block of time every day to review your notes, go over your flash cards, read new chapters, and work on practice tests.Is anthropology optional easy? ›
Anthropology is thought of as an easy subject for graduates of science. The subject is peppered with concepts of science.Is psychology better than anthropology? ›
If you are interested in human culture and its variety, anthropology is the social science that is more suited to your interests than psychology, which is more concerned with human behavior that takes into account both societal pressures and conformity along with virtues and odd behaviors that are found in varying ...Who got highest marks in anthropology optional? ›
As compared to other subjects, sociology is very easy to understand as it revolves around the various trends in society and relates to daily life. There are bright chances of scoring good marks in this subject if one has gone through the concepts thoroughly.Is there a luck factor in UPSC? ›
So, it is not only your preparation that matters but also how others prepare, and that is out of your hands. In the UPSC prelims where there are MCQs, you can get lucky or unlucky with your guesses. In the IAS mains exam, a lot depends on the 'mood' of the examiner, and also on the nature of the examiner.
Which field students crack UPSC most? ›
"Engineering students crack the UPSC exam because of the practical pedagogical methods they experience in their four-year engineering studies. This provides them with a better analytical aptitude as compared to Arts graduates," says JK Dadoo, former IAS officer who was in the services for more than 35 years.What is the last rank to clear UPSC? ›
Toppers with History optional.
|Ishwar Kumar Kandoo*||2017||187|
Sociology is a highly reliable and time tested optional for UPSC mains examination. One of the reasons behind this is its high score-ability. To get a high score in sociology, one needs to formulate the right strategy. Right strategy often requires right guidance.Is Geography optional less scoring? ›
Geography as an optional subject is a very scoring subject. Many candidates that there is a lot of mugging up required in this subject which is completely false. Geography is more of a conceptual subject. That is why candidates from a science or technical background find it very easy to score in geography.Is history optional easy? ›
If you are not interested in history, you may find studying it difficult. You must have good writing skills to score good marks in history. It is not a scoring subject when you compare it to science or maths. You do need to remember a few dates and names in history.Which optional is easy history or Geography? ›
Maps in Geography are easier because you have to mark the river or place that is mentioned in the question. Interest levels of a candidate determine the difficulty level. Interest levels of a candidate determine the difficulty level. History demands good writing skills.What if we fail in optional subject? ›
Further, in case of CBSE examination one needs to pass exam of each subject irrespective of whether it is additional or not to pass the board exams. In case of failing the additional subject exam he/she has to re-give the exam at appropriate time after registering for it as dictated by CBSE .Which optional subject is best with humanities? ›
- Home Science.
- Legal Studies.
- Fine Arts.
- Physical Education.
- Media Studies.
You should pick the options such as Philosophy, Political Science, Psychology, Economics, and Sociology along with your main subjects after the 10th. They will provide a good base for your preparation for the IAS exam in the future.
How do you score high in optional history? ›
Adding a historical perspective of things adds weight to your answers in every GS paper. Studying history will also help in the essay paper because you will get a deeper perception about current events. To understand the way things are today, you must understand the history behind them.Is physics optional hard? ›
As one of the hard sciences, Physics lets the candidate answer objectively. Answers are not open to interpretation and hence the possibility of scoring well is high.Is math optional scored? ›
High Objectivity and hence Scoring - Maths is and has always been a scoring subject, be it in the UPSC exam or any other exam.Is anthropology difficult optional? ›
Anthropology is thought of as an easy subject for graduates of science. The subject is peppered with concepts of science. This makes the subject easier to grasp for science students.Is geography optional less scoring? ›
Geography as an optional subject is a very scoring subject. Many candidates that there is a lot of mugging up required in this subject which is completely false. Geography is more of a conceptual subject. That is why candidates from a science or technical background find it very easy to score in geography.Is sociology tough optional? ›
Sociology is considered as a very safe optional subject as to master it doesn't require any special arena or particular knowledge or academic background. It has been proved many a times that candidates without previous knowledge of Sociology have scored very well here.Is sociology better than political science? ›
Sociology can help in the ethics paper as well with its focus on human nature, behaviour and society. This subject also helps to a great extent in writing on social issues topics in the GS and the essay papers. It is considered more scoring than political science and IR.