#4: What is Optional & Importance of Optional in UPSC Exam

Which Optional subject should an aspirant select ? What is the ideal approach for Optional selection? Which subject is best and scoring? 

These are few questions which are always in the minds of an aspirant who is starting their preparation. Also the known fact that Optional selection becomes crucial as we have 2 Papers of Optional Subject in Mains Exam weighing of 500 Marks. A good score can sail through the merit list.

Opting for the correct optional gets the candidate halfway through the Exam. The main key is to select the right one and formulate a study plan .In the existing UPSC pattern  you can opt for only one Optional subject (in old pattern it was two) which will have two papers of 250 Marks each. So, one Optional subject carries 500 Marks in Mains. .  A wrong decision not only costs you the rank but leaves you remorseful of the same. Candidate appearing for the Exam hails from different academic backgrounds – Agriculture, Arts, Commerce, Engineering, Law, Literature, Management, Medical, Science etc. That is why UPSC has given aspirants to choose from an array of 51 Optional subjects (26 Literature +25 non literature subjects) based on their interests and academic background.

Following are the Optional Subject for UPSC CIVIL SERVICES

Agriculture Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Science Anthropology Botany Chemistry
Civil Engineering Commerce and Accountancy Economics Electrical Engineering Geography
Geology History Law Management Mathematics
Mechanical Engineering Medical Science Philosophy Physics Political Science and International Relations
Psychology Public Administration Sociology Statistics Zoology

Aspirants can also select Literature Subjects as their Optional as well. Below are the Literature subjects available:

Assamese Bengali Bodo Dogri Gujarati
Hindi Kannada Kashmiri Konkani Maithali
Malayalam Manipuri Marathi Nepali Odia
Punjabi Sanskrit Santhali Sindhi Tamil
Telugu Urdu English

Following are some criteria to be kept in mind while preparing for UPSC Civil services :

  • Friendliness with the subject: If you are a civil servant aspirant then your familiarity with subject can take you long way in the exam .optional has the most marks and aids in the interview process as the questions are directed  keeping the optional in mind. Choose a subject with which you are comfortable and friendly with.
  • Analyze the syllabus: Before selecting the optional an aspirant should go through the syllabus and understand the demand and nature of the subject.
  • Time bound approach:
    1. Having past exposure in the subject yields you good results, saves a lot of time especially  if you have less or 1 year time.
    2. Overlapping subjects with GS paper also proves to be a smart move as no separate preparation is required for similar topics.
  • Availability of resources and coaching : Select an optional whose books are easily available and are not complex. Availability of good guidance and  coaching material also helps in scoring well.
  • Success rate of the subject : Determine the subject whose success rate and marks fetching ability is higher.
  • Interest in News : See which areas of news you are more interested in. Think which topics of GS you like more. Some people like history, some like polity/sociology and keep reading those books as if you are doing masters in those topics. Think of short-listing them as your Optional subject. Make a list of 4-5 subjects that you think you have interest in.Go through the syllabus of each Optional Subject. Read all topics carefully. Underline/highlight the topics  that you think you know something about. Pay visit to the Previous Year Question papers (3-4 years) of the shortlisted Subjects. Read all the questions. Again gauge yourself the level of interest you have or residual knowledge you possess to answer each question. It’s just to know yourself how comfortable you are with a subject. Now that you are aware of the syllabus, pick one which best suits your interests and also help in time management. After all smart time management is what will differentiate you from the rest.

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