Number of Optional Subjects in UPSC: Exploring Choices for Civil Services Examinations

Number of Optional Subjects in UPSC: A Comprehensive Overview

This article delves into the number of optional subjects available in the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) Civil Services Examinations. It provides insights into the significance of optional subjects, the selection process, and the considerations that candidates should keep in mind while choosing their optional subjects. By exploring the wide range of choices available, this article aims to assist aspirants in making informed decisions and maximising their chances of success in the UPSC examinations.

Candidates for the UPSC Civil Services Examinations must select one optional subject for the Mains exam. The choice procedure is critical because the optional topic contributes significantly to the final grade. There are several optional classes offered, covering a variety of academic fields like literature, physics, the humanities, and social sciences.

Number of optional subjects IAS

The new IAS test design only allows students to select one optional subject for the Mains exam. This modification means that choosing the best optional subject must be carefully thought out, as it has a considerable impact on the final score.

The General Studies papers in the civil services main exam now carry a total of 1000 marks under the new format, whereas each of the two Optional Papers only receives 250 points. As a result, selecting an optional subject has a significant impact on how well a candidate does.

General Studies Paper I to IV for IAS Mains Exam

Ethics, Integrity, and AptitudeTopics coveredTotal marks
General Studies Paper-IIndian Heritage and Culture, History and Geography of the World and Society250
General Studies Paper-IIGovernance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations250
General Studies Paper-IIIGovernance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice, and International relations250
General Studies Paper IVTechnology, Economic Development, Bio-diversity, Environment, Security, and Disaster Management250

What is the IAS exam’s optional subject?

In the UPSC Civil Services Examination, candidates are required to select one optional subject for the mains exam. The optional subject carries significant weightage, with two papers, each accounting for 250 marks. The list of optional subjects provided by the UPSC includes a range of disciplines, including literature subjects such as English and various Indian languages.

The descriptive mains test papers are each three hours long and have a descriptive theme. It’s vital to remember that the question papers will be available in Hindi and English, with the exception of literary or language papers.

Making the right choice for an optional topic is important since it can have a big impact on how well a candidate performs on the UPSC mains exam. Candidates have the chance to highlight their knowledge and experience in a particular field by selecting a subject from the offered list.

Optional subjects/optional list for UPSC’s civil services examination:

S. NoList of Optional Subjects in UPSCDetailed Syllabus
2Animal Husbandry and Veterinary ScienceSyllabus
6Civil EngineeringSyllabus
7Commerce & AccountancySyllabus
9Electrical EngineeringSyllabus
16Mechanical EngineeringSyllabus
17Medical ScienceSyllabus
20Political Science & International RelationsSyllabus
22Public AdministrationSyllabus

List of literature optional subjects in UPSC

Aspiring candidates for the UPSC Mains examination have the unique opportunity to select a literature subject as their optional, even if they did not pursue that language during their graduation. The optional literature subject consists of two papers, with each paper carrying 250 marks. It’s important to note that the languages available for selection are those prescribed in the Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution.

S.NoList of Literature Optional SubjectsDetailed Syllabus
15Odia Syllabus

Choosing the right optional subject for the UPSC IAS Mains exam is an important decision that can significantly impact your overall performance. Here are some steps you can follow to choose the right optional subject:

1. Opt for a subject that aligns with your interests and aptitude. Choose a subject that you genuinely enjoy studying and have a natural inclination towards. This will keep you motivated and make the learning process more enjoyable.

2. Analyze the syllabus of different optional subjects and assess the depth of coverage, overlap with General Studies papers, and the availability of study materials. Evaluate whether the subject’s syllabus is manageable and whether you can develop a well-rounded preparation strategy for it.

3. Research the scoring potential of different optional subjects based on previous years’ results and feedback from successful candidates. Some subjects have a reputation for higher scoring, while others may have a more unpredictable pattern. Consider subjects that have a good track record of yielding high scores.

4. Take into account your educational background, previous knowledge, and familiarity with certain subjects. If you have a degree or academic background in a specific subject, it may be advantageous to choose it as your optional subject. Existing familiarity can reduce the learning curve and give you an edge in understanding the subject matter.

5. Consider the accessibility of top-notch study resources, coaching, and support for the optional subject you have selected. To help you with your preparation, look for suggested textbooks, reference materials, internet tools, and coaching facilities. Your learning and performance in the subject can be greatly aided by having access to adequate materials and guidance.

When selecting your optional subject for the UPSC IAS Mains test, these points should help you reduce your possibilities and make a more educated choice.


  1. Which subject is best for IAS Mains optional?
  • Sociology, Geography, Literature Subject (Any), Anthropology, Agriculture, Medical Science, Public Administration, Psychology
  1. Is Psychology a good optional for IAS?
  • Yes, psychology is regarded as a strong UPSC Mains option.

It’s one of those disciplines where students can do well merely by brushing up on essential ideas. In addition, compared to other topics, psychology optional has a high success rate.

  1. What is the success rate of optional subjects in the UPSC exam?
  • According to data from 2016 and 2017, the IAS mains exam’s Literature papers have the greatest success rates. However, these success percentages should only be used as a general guideline given that few applicants choose these courses in the UPSC mains.

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