The Important things to keep in mind while selecting an Optional for UPSC

“Nothing is more difficult, and therefore more precious, than to be able to decide”-said Napoleon Bonaparte.


The similar idea applies to one’s choice of selecting optional subject in the course of UPSC preparation.It is often said that deciding a correct optional for oneself can make or break your preparation.

General idea about optional:

Currently, there are 47 optional subjects available.The optional papers carry a total of 500 marks out of the 2025 marks in the UPSC Mains exam.

Out of the total nine papers in UPSC CSE, the two optional papers that candidates need to choose play a significant role in determining the final score and rank.

Factors to keep in mind while selecting optional paper are:

Taking a note of the syllabus and time availability:-An optional subject with a lesser syllabus can help you easily cover the subject within a predetermined time frame.

Some optionals that can be considered are - Sociology,Anthropology,Geography etc.

Overlapping syllabus with General studies paper:-This will help you save a lot of time.Some optional subjects, such as history, political science and international relations, sociology, geography, economics, and public administration, have syllabuses that overlap with the general studies (GS) syllabus in both UPSC Prelims and Mains.

For example: Sociology can help you to bring forth points in essay and ethics paper and help you with better understanding of societal problems.

Developing interest in the subject:-Preparation of optional requires significant amount of understanding of the subject nearly upto post graduation level.Interest in the subject will keep you binded in the long run.

Other ways in which you can decide are:

  • Go through the previous year question paper thoroughly.
  • Read basic NCERT of the subject.
  • If your graduation subject is available you can go for it but yes make sure the syllabus is minimal .
  • Availability of resources and proper guidance is also important. Some optionals are lacking in this aspect.



I hope this helps you to make a decision regarding your optional subject.