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How to choose UPSC Optional Subject, Check Out Pros and Cons

The candidates of UPSC frequently inquire how to choose optional for the UPSC no matter if they are beginners or not. The UPSC exam’s second stage offers complete choice in selecting optional subjects. Given that it receives a total of 500 points in the UPSC Mains exam, this could make candidates stand out from the competition. This is why care should be used when selecting the optional subject. For applicants, understanding how to choose optionals for the UPSC would be crucial. Many applicants receive nearly identical grades on their General Studies and Essay Papers each year, but the Optional subject determines where they place in the final merit list.

How to Choose Optional Subject for UPSC?

The Civil Services Exam has 48 optional subjects that you can select from, according to UPSC. Candidates may choose to take two papers in any one of the optional subjects. The following are important considerations for selecting an optional for the UPSC:

  • Read the UPSC’s list of optional subjects and choose three to four from the list after making sure they are comfortable for you.
  • After you’ve narrowed them down, look at the UPSC previous year question papers for that optional subject to gauge your position and determine whether you are confident in your ability to grasp the question’s demands.
  • The accessibility and availability of study materials, coaching, and advice are other frequently used criteria for selecting optional subjects.
  • To learn the contents of an optional and to practise writing answers, the availability of study materials and coaching services becomes essential.
  • When choosing an optional paper, considerations such as overlap with the UPSC General Studies syllabus, background knowledge, etc., should come second to interest.

How to choose optional for the UPSC is a matter of perspective; there is no correct solution. No matter which optional subject you pick, success depends only on your dedication and hard work. Therefore, after you’ve selected an optional, be sure to stick with it and remain committed.

Read more about List of the UPSC Optional Paper

Things to Avoid While Choosing Optional for UPSC

We must first comprehend what an excellent subject is stated in order to explain how to choose an optional subject for the UPSC. The aspirants claim that some characteristics distinguish one optional topic from another in the UPSC, including:

  • It must receive points.
  • It must be a widely-accepted topic.
  • They ought to have taken that course in undergrad or graduate school.

These are the main considerations, in the aspirants’ opinion, while selecting an optional topic. However, in practise, these characteristics might not apply to you when you select an optional for the UPSC, and we have described why below.

  • No such scoring subject exists. Depending on the candidate’s performance. You shouldn’t choose a topic based on its track record of success.
  • A subject’s popularity is purely a matter of opinion and has no bearing on the UPSC test. Many candidates who chose unpopular subjects for the exam were successful.
  • Candidates who choose subjects unrelated to their backgrounds frequently performed exceptionally well in the UPSC Mains. It’s just that they picked a topic that actually interested them.

As you can see, selecting the optional should not be based on these criteria. What therefore should the proper strategy be when selecting an optional subject? Let’s discuss the best method for selecting an optional for the UPSC below.

Popular Options to Select Optional Subject for UPSC

As we just stated, there is no ideal way to decide on an optional for the UPSC. If you have sufficient preparation, you can choose any optional and receive decent scores. However, we have included a few of the most well-liked electives below and explained why.

Popular Options to Select Optional Subject for UPSC
Popular Optional Subjects Details
  • A subject like geography has a set curriculum, yet it takes a long time to finish. Additionally, a profound mental grasp is needed. Examine the UPSC Geography Syllabus to acquire a better understanding.
  • Because of its semi-scientific aspect, it is well-liked by students in engineering and other fields.
  • Additionally, geography as a subject is beneficial for the preliminary exam and nicely relates to General Studies Paper 1.
Public Administration
  • A specific syllabus for public administration can be completed in two to three months. Download the UPSC Public Administration Syllabus to gain a better idea, then decide if you’re interested in it.
  • Additionally, there are excellent study guides and coaching services on the market, and self-study is a simple way to get the information.
  • Every student has studied history in school and in certain cases during their graduation, which contributes to its popularity. Examine the UPSC History Syllabus before making a choice.
  • Many people also regard history to be an engaging and fascinating topic, however in order to provide qualitative responses for the Mains examination’s questions, applicants must connect the concepts with the facts.
  • Because the subjects are intriguing and the subject is simple to learn, sociology is a popular academic field.
  • Both the essay paper and a component of the general studies paper are helped by it. Check the overlap between the UPSC Mains Syllabus and the UPSC Sociology Syllabus by downloading the syllabus.

Toughest Optional in UPSC

  • Geography is the toughest optional in UPSC.
  • In Paper II, there is a focus on regional planning and contemporary matters.
  • It makes the paper very dynamic and hugely advances its scope

Easiest Optional Subject for UPSC

  • Philosophy subject has the least syllabus of all the UPSC optional subjects.
  • Other options like Anthropology, Sociology and Public administration are also considered to have less syllabus when compared to the rest

Importance of Selecting the Best Optional for UPSC

The UPSC Optional subject consists of two papers, each worth 250 marks, as was before indicated. This indicates that the optional topic will receive 500 total marks for the UPSC Mains test. Every candidate should strive to get the highest possible score in this elective subject because it will be extremely important to passing the Mains exam. If you pick the correct optional subject, getting high marks in it becomes simple.

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How to choose UPSC Optional Subject? FAQs

How do you choose optional subjects for UPSC?

How to choose optional for the UPSC is a matter of perspective; there is no correct way to choose it.

How should I choose my optional subject?

Aspects for choosing the right optional subject include having enough study materials and proper guidance from seniors and teachers.

What is the easiest optional subject in UPSC?

Sociology is the easiest subject to be considered in UPSC.

Which is the toughest optional in UPSC?

Geography is the toughest optional in UPSC.

Which optional has highest success rate in UPSC?

Public Administration is one of the most popular optional subjects in UPSC and it has consistently been among the top performers in terms of success rate.


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