how to select optional subject

Optional Subject: How To Select Optional For UPSC.

Optional Subject selection for upsc mains exam is very crucial decision in IAS exam preparation. Optional subject consists of two paper each having of 250 marks . These 500 marks can make you topper in the exam if you choose optional with care and at the same time you can fail upsc exam just because you choosed the optional in hurry without well preparation.

So now it is very clear that optional subject is very much important in ias mains exam if you want top the list. Though all the papers are very important but optional subject has some advantages to get high score in the exam.

  • You are free to choose any subject for your optional as per your choice and comfortably.
  • There are more than 25 subjects in the list and you need only one to choose so you have lots of option on the table.
  • The syllabus is almost fixed for optional paper so you can assume the expected questions for mains exam and score well.
  • Your educational background can be the edge over others in the same optional subject .
  • If you have done Ph.d( Master in that subject ) in any of these subject you are in better position than those who are new to this subject .

Best Way Select Optional For UPSC Exam ?

So here you can not take risk loosing these marks just because you have selected wrong subject for optional paper.

There are four GS paper which are almost un-predictable so you can not expect much out of them but in optional paper you can make sure that questions will come from these books only.

So you can expect some questions and score high which will help you in getting good rank in the end.

Also read –

How To Clear IAS Exam In First Attempt Proven Methods

There are more than 20 optional subjects and you need only one to score high in the exam. Here is the list of optional subject for UPSC exam. Lets have a look-

  1. Agriculture- Books for this subjects –
  2. Animal Husbandry & Veterinary Science-
  3. Anthropology
  4. Botany
  5. Chemistry
  6. Civil Engineering
  7. Commerce and Accountancy
  8. Economics
  9. Electrical Engineering
  10. Geography
  11. Geology
  12. History
  13. Law
  14. Management
  15. Mathematics
  16. Mechanical Engineering
  17. Medical Science
  18. Philosophy
  19. Physics
  20. Political Science and International Relations
  21. Psychology
  22. Public Administration
  23. Sociology
  24. Statistics
  25. Zoology

Find Complete Book List For Prelims And Mains Exam –Click Here

If you are still confused about the books for Geography Optional ,here is the list of complete books required for UPSC exam Mains for english & Hindi Medium aspirants .

Books For  Geography optional- English Medium

Paper -1

Paper -2


Hindi Medium Books for Geography Optional


Books For History Optional -English Medium

Indian History Optional-हिंदी माध्यम 


There are more books available here for your optonal so you can visit this link and buy these books at very

affordable price.

When To Start Studying Optional For UPSC Exam ?

  • There is no hard and fast rule for this topic but it is suggested that you should start studying your optional subject along with your prelims preparation. So that you can complete your whole syllabus before actual exam.
  • usually optional takes 4 to 6 months ( depends on the subject ) to complete so you must start your optional well before your prelims exam.
  • Many people start mains preparation just after prelims and this is biggest mistakes ( Most of them could not clear mains ) they commit.

Let me tell you why-

  • After prelims you get 4 months for mains preparation which is very less as comparing to syllabus.
  • Mains marks are important for your selection so you can not take it lightly as you did in prelims ( Because it is just for qualifying ).
  • You will have to prepare 9 paper in these 4 month ( 2 language ,4 GS , 1 essay and 2 optional ) which seems very difficult.
  • GS paper requires depth study so it will take time to make grip on all the topics of general studies.
  • At the same time you will have to complete your optional syllabus which is already very vast and new to you so you can imagine the situation how you will cope with this.
  • So best way to prepare you optional is well before prelims or along with prelims ( it can be one year earlier ).

Books For The Optional subjects Click here

Follow my 5 point Guideline for Optional Selection-

1-Choose Optional Subject Based On Your interest


  • UPSC exam takes almost one year to complete so your interest is first thing which can be big hurdle in your success path. Due to very vast syllabus of upsc exam ,you need sufficient time to prepare it same for the optional too.
  • So here you are suggested that choose those subject as an optional for your exam where you are most interested in reading and writing . Your interest matters a lot in upsc exam specially for optional preparation.
  • If you choose a subject which has less syllabus but you are least interested ,there are chances that you will not able to concentrate for longer time. So interest is the first step which is must for your UPSC exam optional selection.
  • Don’t worry about the length of the syllabus ,if you are interested then go for it.

2- Select Your Optional Subject Based On Your Background-

  • Your Graduation and educational background is the second and another important factor which must be considered while selecting optional for upsc exam.
  • If you have done your graduation /degree in political science then you should go for political science for ias mains because you have read that subject for more than 3 to 4 year . so all the basics of the subject will be well understood to you.
  • Most of the content will be familiar for you so you will feel like revision . And revision is the key to success in upsc exam specially for mains exam due to its vast syllabus .
  • As you have read that subject for more that 3 year , it will also help you in making short notes for you which will help you in the last time of revision just before actual exam.
  • Many people could not score good marks in optional because they choose very unfamiliar subject and start losing interest in few months.
  • so it is sincere advice to you choose the subject based on your interest and which is well familiar to you.

3- Syllabus Of The Optional Subject-

  • There are more than 20 subjects for optional but some of the are so vast that you will feel reading like noble or big data of any country. at the same time some subjects have very small syllabus like Public Administration ,psychology etc.
  • If you are a student who do not have specific interest and strong background for a subject then you can choose the subject which has less syllabus to read .
  • Less syllabus mean less content and limited study material so you can read this subject very easily in less time. and rest of time can be utilised for other subject revision and note making.
  • As i said time is very important in UPSC exam so choosing the subject with less syllabus can be turning point for your success in the UPSC exam.
  • Due less syllabus you will have a psychological advantages over other aspirants who are reading subject which have 10 to 20 books .

4-Popularity Of The Optional Subject-

  • There are some subject in which aspirants score very good marks all the time called popular subject for upsc exam mains.
  • Geography,Public Administration are some best example where people tends to score very good marks.
  • Some expert suggest to choose these types of subject which has good track record in scoring .
  • there are some subjects like Animal Husbandry & Veterinary ScienceAnthropology which are taken by few aspirants .
  • But make sure that these subject have high competition due to large number of choice of the subject.
  • Bigger competition means you will need more quality content to look different from the public. So you will have to work hard to score high in these subject .

5-Availability Of The Study Material For The Optional subject-

  • Another big issue is the availability of the study material of the subject to study at home.
  • If you are one who is away from big cities where study material is not available . You will have to face some problems to access good quality of study material when online and offline facility is absent.
  • There are some subject which are new to study and do not has sufficient study material yet. You should try to avoid all these subject for optional selection.
  • Now a days UPSC ask questions in dynamic format and they ask questions related to current problems present in the society related to that subject.
  • So you need some online sources for that subject to study so that you can stay in touch with the current scenario related that subject.

6-Mistakes Committed By Aspirants While Optional selection-

  • Optional selection seems easy but it is not that much simple without proper guideline that’s why many people change their optional every year.
  • It is highly suggested that keep one optional for all your attempts and don not change every year. Changing optional has many side effects.
  • You will face very new subject every year and you have read each and everything from beginning . So loss of time and hard work which you have sacrificed till now.
  • You will need all new set of books and other study material , new coaching ,notes etc.
  • You will need new notes for new optional so extra work every year . To avoid all these work you are requested to decide an optional for all the attempts . Take your time then decide ,no need to hurry because it is the matter of 500 marks .
  • Don’t follow what others say blindly , decide your optional based on your capabilities and knowledge base.
  • Don not choose it one go ,research the subject material ,books ,coaching, guidelines etc before selection.
  • Mind your interest first and then syllabus of that the subject as i have already mentioned above.
  • There are some optional which seems easy to read and understand but in reality it differs a lot. Subject which seems simple needs more quality stuff in writing to look different and shine in the exam then only you can grab the attention of the examiner.
  • It is better to pic a subject which has good track records in the past in terms of score. Like Geography ,History etc.
  • These subject has overlaping syllabus which will help you in General Studies papers.
  • Geography optional will help you in paper 1 and prelims papers where lots of geography questions are asked every year.
  • If you choose history as an optional then it will help you in GS paper 1 and prelims .so it is a good decision to choose a subject which has other benefits .
  • If you are a science student ,you would like to read subject which is in scientific nature and Geography,Psychology are the better options for you.

All these guidelines are based on deep thought process and topper suggestions so you can apply them for Optional selection. These are the tips which will help you in getting right subject for optional but your hard work and knowledge of that subject will pay you in the exam.

So it does not matter so much about the subject but your preparation and right approach towards mains exam. Maintain balance between your optional and others GS papers so that you can score high marks in all the papers.

Good luck.

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