What is an optional subject in UPSC ?

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What is an optional subject in UPSC ? UPSC Subject list

What Is an Optional Subject in UPSC?

The Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) is India’s premier recruiting agency responsible for selecting candidates for top administrative and civil service positions. Established under the Constitution of India, UPSC conducts a range of competitive examinations, with the Civil Services Examination being the most prominent. This examination aims to identify and recruit individuals for coveted positions like the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), Indian Police Service (IPS), and Indian Foreign Service (IFS), among others.

Optional subjects in UPSC exams are a crucial component of UPSC exams, allowing candidates to choose a specialized area of study in which they can demonstrate expertise. Aspirants select one optional subject out of a list provided by UPSC, that aligns with their academic background or interests. The importance of UPSC optional subjects lies in their potential to significantly impact an aspirant’s overall score and rank.

Section 1: Understanding UPSC Optional Subjects

UPSC optional subjects are specialized topics chosen by candidates in Civil Services Examinations. They allow aspirants to demonstrate expertise in a field of their choice, compensating for any general studies weaknesses. Optional subjects significantly impact an aspirant’s overall score and ranking, influencing service allocation in the UPSC exams.

1.1 What are UPSC Optional Subjects?

UPSC Optional Subjects refer to specific academic disciplines or fields of study that candidates can select for the Civil Services Mains Examination in India. These subjects allow aspirants to showcase their in-depth knowledge and expertise in a chosen area. UPSC offers a diverse range of optional subjects, including literature, sciences, social sciences, and humanities. Aspirants typically choose one optional subject that aligns with their interests or academic background. The performance in the optional subject plays a crucial role in determining a candidate’s overall score and ranking, thereby influencing their chances of securing their desired civil service position.

1.2 Significance of Optional Subjects

  • Specialization: Optional subjects allow candidates to specialize in a particular area of study, emphasizing their expertise and knowledge in that field.
  • Rank Improvement: Scoring well in the optional subject can significantly boost a candidate’s overall ranking in the UPSC examination, potentially opening up more preferred job options.
  • Personalization: Aspirants can choose optional subjects based on their academic background, interests, or career aspirations, tailoring their preparation to suit their strengths.
  • Career Alignment: Some optional subjects are directly relevant to specific civil service roles, making them essential for aspirants aiming for those positions.
  • Weightage: Optional subjects carry substantial marks, making them a critical component of the UPSC exam and affecting the final selection outcome.

1.3 How Many Optional Subjects to Choose

Candidates are tasked with selecting optional subjects for UPSC from a diverse range of academic fields. This single choice is of paramount importance as it allows candidates to showcase their expertise and in-depth knowledge in a specific area of interest or academic background. The performance in the optional subject carries significant weightage in determining an aspirant’s overall scores and rank, making it a decisive factor in achieving success in this highly competitive examination.

Furthermore, the selected optional subject can also influence the allocation of specific civil service positions. Different services and departments within the civil services may require candidates with expertise in particular subjects, making the choice of optional subject directly relevant to an aspirant’s career aspirations. Therefore, candidates must carefully deliberate their options, considering their own strengths and long-term career objectives when making this crucial selection.

1.4 List of Optional Subjects

Below is a table containing the List of UPSC Optional Subjects for the UPSC Civil Services Examination (Main):

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

Section 2: UPSC Subject List

The UPSC subject list comprises optional subjects for the Civil Services Examination (Main). Candidates choose one subject, which affects their overall ranking and service allocation in the UPSC exam.

2.1 Literature Optional Subjects

UPSC literature optional subjects offer a range of Literature subjects for IAS exam including English Literature, Hindi Literature, Sanskrit Literature, and others. These subjects allow candidates to explore literary works in-depth, showcasing their understanding of literature, critical analysis, and language proficiency in the Civil Services Examination (Main).

2.2 Science Optional Subjects

UPSC offers a variety of science subjects for the IAS exam. Aspirants with a background in science can choose from options like Physics, Chemistry, and Mathematics, among others. Opting for one of these science subjects allows candidates to demonstrate their knowledge, analytical abilities, and expertise in their chosen field, contributing significantly to their performance in the Civil Services Examination (Main).

How to choose Optional Subject in UPSC | UPSC Guide -

2.3 Humanities Optional Subjects

UPSC provides a range of Humanities subjects for IAS exam, including History, Geography, Political Science, and Philosophy. These subjects enable candidates to delve into the depths of human society, culture, politics, and philosophy, showcasing their expertise and analytical skills in these areas during the Civil Services Examination (Main).

2.4 Engineering Optional Subjects

In the UPSC Civil Services Examination, candidates with an engineering background can opt for Engineering subjects for the IAS exam. Some of these subjects include Civil Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Electronics and Communication Engineering, and Computer Science and Engineering. This allows aspirants to showcase their technical expertise and knowledge during the exam, aligning with their academic background and interests.

Section 3: Choosing the Right Optional Subject (200 words)

Selecting the right optional subject in the UPSC Civil Services Examination is a critical decision for aspirants. First and foremost, candidates should consider their personal strengths and interests. Choosing a subject that aligns with one’s academic background or passion can make the preparation process more engaging and effective.

Secondly, candidates should assess the syllabus and past performance trends. Some optional subjects may have more scoring potential or a history of producing successful candidates. A thorough analysis of these factors can help candidates make an informed choice. In conclusion, the selection of the right optional subject requires a balance between personal interests and practical considerations, as it plays a pivotal role in determining a candidate’s success in the UPSC examination.

3.1 Factors to Consider (100 words)

How to choose the correct UPSC optional subject involves evaluating your interests, academic background, syllabus content, scoring potential, and available resources. Opt for a subject that aligns with your strengths and passion to enhance your chances of success in the civil services examination.

Factors for Selecting Optional Subject

When choosing a UPSC optional subject, consider your academic background, personal interest, syllabus comprehensibility, past performance trends, study materials, and practical relevance to your career goals.

3.2 Common Mistakes to Avoid

Common mistakes in selecting UPSC optional subjects include choosing based solely on perceived scoring potential, ignoring personal interests or academic strengths, and overlooking the syllabus depth. Aspirants may also make the mistake of not considering available study materials or consulting mentors for guidance, which can impact their exam preparation negatively.

To avoid mistakes in IAS optional subject selection, carefully analyze your interests, academic background, syllabus comprehensibility, and past performance trends. Seek guidance from mentors and choose wisely for a successful outcome.


In conclusion, the selection of optional subjects for UPSC exams is a pivotal decision that can significantly influence an aspirant’s success. Careful consideration of personal interests, academic background, syllabus content, and past performance trends is imperative. It’s essential to seek guidance and thoroughly explore the provided UPSC subject list to make an informed choice. A well-chosen optional subject not only enhances one’s preparation but also plays a crucial role in achieving a competitive edge and securing a desired civil service position. Aspirants should remember that the right subject choice can make a profound difference in their journey towards becoming a civil servant in India.


1. What Is the Significance of Choosing an Optional Subject in UPSC?

Ans: It determines your expertise, impacts your scores, and influences your final rank and service allocation.

2. How Many Optional Subjects Can I Choose for the UPSC Exam?

Ans: You can choose only one optional subject for the UPSC exam.

3. Can I change my optional subject after I have chosen one?

Ans: No, once you have chosen an optional subject, you cannot change it.

4. What Are Some Popular Optional Subjects for the UPSC Exam?

Ans: Some popular UPSC optional subjects include History, Geography, Public Administration, and Sociology.

5. How do I Decide Which Optional Subject to Choose for UPSC?

Ans: To decide, consider your interests, academic background, and the subject’s scoring potential.

6. Is it Mandatory to Select an Optional Subject for the UPSC exam?

Ans: Yes, selecting an optional subject is mandatory for the UPSC mains exam.

7. Are There Any Restrictions On the Optional Subjects I can choose?

Ans: There are no restrictions as long as the subject is on the UPSC’s official list.

8. What is The Upsc Optional Subject List for The Current Year?

Ans: The list may change yearly; consult the UPSC notification for the current list.

9. How Can I Prepare Effectively for My Chosen Optional Subject?

Ans: Effective preparation involves studying the syllabus thoroughly, referring to recommended books, and solving previous years’ question papers.

10. Are There Any Changes In The Upsc Optional Subject Pattern?

Ans: Stay updated through UPSC notifications for any changes in the optional subject pattern.

11. Can I Select an Optional Subject That is not in the UPSC List?

Ans: No, you must choose from the official UPSC list.

12. What is The role of the Optional Subject in the UPSC Mains Exam?

Ans: It plays a significant role in the UPSC mains exam, impacting your overall score and ranking.

13.  Are there any Recommended Books or Resources for UPSC Optional Subjects?

Ans: There are various books and coaching materials available for each optional subject; aspirants can refer to these for effective preparation.

14. How Much Weightage does the Optional Subject Carry in UPSC Mains?

Ans: The optional subject carries 500 marks in the UPSC Mains, contributing significantly to your overall score.

15. What is the Process for Registering My Optional Subject Choice with UPSC?

Ans: You select your optional subject while filling out the UPSC Mains exam application form.

16. Can I Choose an Optional Subject that I Didn’t study During my Graduation?

Ans: Yes, you can select an optional subject that you didn’t study during your graduation; your choice should align with your interests and preparation abilities.

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