How to Select the right optional subject for your UPSC Preparation?

    tips to choose right optional subject for upsc
    tips to choose right optional subject for upsc

    The candidates preparing for Civil Sevice confuse over which optional subject to take. Optional subject has different meanings for different candidates. It may be one which is intended to score more marks, or the one which is easier to understand, the one whose study material is easily available, the most recommended one or the one for which the coaching is available.

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    While choosing an optional subject you need to be very careful. Choosing a wrong optional may cost you your precious attempt. Here are a few factors which the aspirants look for before selecting their optional paper.


    Most of the UPSC aspirants go for a simple option whose main motive is scoring. Irrespective of the likes and interests, they just choose the subject and mug it up in a perception for scoring good or attaining qualifying marks.  Some of the scoring subjects which are opted by most of the candidates are Geography and Public Administration.


    The selection of optional subject also depends on the popularity of the subject. Suppose the last exam topper has taken Sociology as the optional subject, the general trend follows opting Sociology as the preferred subject.

    Subject integration with GS syllabus

    The optional subject you have taken would be coming in your Mains exams. If your optional subjects have some linking with Prelims GS syllabus, it certainly adds bells and whistles to your preparation. This makes your half work done. Suppose you have taken up maths as an optional subject, you cover your basics in your prelims preparation leaving only the advanced level for your mains.

    Coaching/ Self Study

    Suppose you have joined a coaching center for the preparation and the center has a limited faculty for teaching. So, you are not left with many options. You are destined to take the subject for which the coaching is available.  But suppose you are preparing of your own, and then you can take subjects which require lesser coaching and more of self-study such as Public Administration, History etc.


    Suppose you are a medical graduate then you will definitely prefer medical sciences as the optional subject. It’s better and recommended to choose a subject of your interest or which you have already studied before. This will make sure that you have some basic understanding of the subject and have to focus on the application part of the concepts. People with engineering background prefer choosing Mathematics, geography as the optional subject.

    Always remember that the subject you choose should be of your interest and you should have a sound understanding of the principles and laws governing that. Choosing a wrong subject may help you clear the prelims but does not guarantee for mains. While on the other hand choosing a subject of your interest increases your chances of qualifying the mains with flying colors.

    Essentially, whichever subject you chose should

    • Not make you feel bored or sleepy
    • Have the capability to excite you to know more
    • Make you think innovatively
    • Makes you curious
    • Have the study material easily accessible either offline or online

    Some tips to help you in selecting your subject:

    1. Never choose an optional subject based over the top scorers of that year. The trend changes every year.
    2. Choose on the basis of your interest and don’t follow the popularity.
    3. Always prepare your subject whose resources are 100% authentic and readily available.
    4. Never choose a subject which you haven’t done in your graduation time.
    5. Analyze previous year question papers.

    Here is a quick list of top 10 subjects which are mostly opted by the UPSC aspirants. This list is just to give you an idea regarding the ongoing trend. The list is not exhaustive but just a trend which was followed in the last couple of years.

    1. Economics
    2. Law
    3. Public Administration
    4. History
    5. Geography
    6. Sociology
    7. Political Science
    8. Psychology
    9. Medical Science
    10. Mathematics

    Preparing the right way:

    No matter which subjects you choose, make sure that you have the right resources, right NCERT books, NCERT solutions etc.  Because, without proper study material, peers and good mentors one cannot prepare effectively for UPSC Civil Services Examination.

    Your decision should be dependent only on two factors: one, choose a subject that interests you and second, choose a subject whose study material is easily available either offline or online. Nowadays there are many websites offering free PDF NCERT textbooks and NCERT solutions for the aspirants to prepare for their UPSC examination.

    Best of Luck..!!

    How to Select the right optional subject for your UPSC Preparation?
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    How to Select the right optional subject for your UPSC Preparation?
    Tips to choose a right optional subject for UPSC: While choosing an optional subject you need to be very careful. Choosing a wrong optional may cost you...
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