UPSC Optional Subjects – List of Subject Paper and Syllabus
UPSC Optional Subjects – List of Subject Paper and Syllabus

UPSC Optional Subjects – List of Subject Paper and Syllabus

In this article, you will be knowing everything about the optional subjects in IAS mains and it will help you to have a good perspective when choosing the right optional subject. As we know, there are three stages in the IAS exam, it is essential for every candidate to clear all the three stages to top the exams. Optional subject is included in the second stage of IAS exams and it has 9 papers from which seven papers will be added to your ranking marks. The other two papers or qualifying papers namely language papers.

The total number of UPSC optional subjects that you have

As per the new exam pattern, every student has to choose two optional subjects from a list of several subjects. For general studies papers, you will be allotted a thousand marks and 2 optional papers are provided 250 marks. So it is essential to choose the optional subjects wisely and the below information will certainly help you to understand the subjects available in the optional subject list and for your question, how to choose the best optional subject?, you will find the answer. 

Optional subject -An overview

Union public service commission offers more than 40 optional subjects for the IAS exams and candidates should choose the optional subject which will inculcate two papers. Each paper carries 250 marks and the total will be 500 marks.Unlike the preliminary exam, the UPSC mains exam is descriptive in nature and you will have three hours to provide the right answer for the questions asked in the exam. The question papers are set and both Hindi and English medium except the literature paper. Here is the list of optional subjects available in every domain and you can choose one subject that is easier for you and also based on your educational qualification.

UPSC Optional subject list for the domain – Social Science 


Economics is the best optional subject offered by UPSC but it not the most popular subject. A few toppers chose the subject and there are both pros and cons while taking up the subjects. Moreover, the study materials are also available and the syllabus. Candidates can easily answer the question as you will have conceptual clarity while preparing for the exams. Candidates will get a piece of good knowledge as there are sufficient learning resources. Candidates with no prior knowledge of the subject can also be finished.

Books to refer for Economics  

  • Sanjiv Verma’s Indian Economy
  • Neethu’s National Income Accounting
  • Ramesh Singh’s Indian Economy
  • Dutt and KPM Sundaram’s Indian Economy
  • B. Gupta’s Banking
  • Mishra and Puri’s Indian Economy
  • Bo Soderston’s International Economics
  • M L Jhingan’s Growth and Development
  • S. Sayers’s Modern Banking
  • L. Bhatia’s Public Finance
  • A.C.I. Day’s Outline of Monetary Economics
  • Mayer and Baldwin’s Economic Growth and Development
  • Paul A. Samuelson’s  Economics
  • E. Baxter, Ray Rees’s Dictionary of Economics
  • Kenneth Kurihara’s Monetary Theory and Public Policy
  • Koutsweanik’s Economics Choice
  • G. Mannur or Salvatore’s International Economics
  • Bo Soderston’s International Trade
  • Edward Shapiro’s MacroEconomic Analysis
  • Andley and Sundharam’s Public Finance

Topics that you should give more importance  

Though there are countless topics in Economics optional, you can go through the important areas that are crucial from an exam point of view. Here is the list of topics that you shouldn’t miss. Make use of the above-specified books and complete the Economics preparations successfully

You should read the characteristics of the Indian Economy such as

  • Separation of economic activities
  • Poverty and Steps to eliminate poverty
  • Unemployment
  • HDR

When it comes to rudimentary Economic indicators like

National Income – basic plot along with calculation methods

  • Price index
  • Production
  • Population increase, census, and others
  • foreign trade

While going through the topic Agriculture, you can check

  • Crops
  • Seasons
  • agricultural credit agencies
  • Kisan Credit agencies
  •  land reforms
  •  Insurance
  • Irrigation

One of the important topics in Economics is Industry and here are the areas you should concentrate more

  • Industrial policies
  • Small scale industries
  •  key industries
  • industrial sickness
  •  the different committees
  •  disinvestment
  • PSU policy
  •  industrial finance

Started reading Foreign Trade? Do not forget these important topics

  • Composition
  •  direction
  • EXIM policy
  • WTO
  • balance of payments
  • measures to improve foreign trade

Banking is a crucial topic in Economics optional subject, so don’t skip topics like

  • Money market
  • credit control
  •  commercial banks
  •  cooperative banks
  •  NBFCs committees
  •  SEBI
  •  stock market developments
  •  insurance industry
  •  new banking sector reforms
  •  money supply measures
  •  Inflation
  • deflation
  • International organizations


Geography is one important subject in UPSC optional and there are several advantages of taking up the subject. Many candidates who topped the exam scored more marks in the subject and here is everything you need to know about the Geography Optional subject. Thousands of students prefer Geography as their optional subject due to the success rate and other advantages. Geography is easy to learn and it is mostly preferred by candidates having science backgrounds. You don’t have to memorize the topics as you can just understand the concept and prepare for the exams. Morever, the Prelims and mains syllabus of GS overlaps with the Geography optional subject syllabus and you can wrap up the preparation soon. Moreover, the essay paper will have various topics in which they can choose Geography. Unlike other subjects, you have the scope to give precise understanding and map based questions will help you to score more marks. Geography optional also overlaps with many subjects so it is given much more importance than any other subject.

Books that you can utilize for Geography optional

  • C. Chandna’s A Geography by Population
  • Majid Husain’s Agricultural Geography, Human Geography, Evolution of Geographic Thought,  Geography of India
  • S.Lal’s Climatology
  • Knowles & J.Wareing’s Economic and Social Geography
  • Hartshorn & Truman A’s Economic Geography
  • C.Chandna’s Environmental Awareness, Geography of Population
  • Savindra Singh’s Environmental Geography, Geomorphology, Physical Geography
  • H M Saxena’s Environmental Geography
  • Critchfield’s General Climatology
  • Richard H Bryant’s Physical Geography
  • Alan Strahler’s Introducing Physical Geography
  • Bunnett’s Physical Geography in Diagrams
  • D.Dixit’s Political Geography
  • D. Thornbury’s Principles of Geomorphology
  • Chand & Puri’s Regional Planning in India
  • Ramachandran’s Urbanization & Urban Systems in India
  • Gopal Singh’s A Geography of India
  • Goh Cheng Leong’s Certificate Physical and Human Geography
  • B. Mamoria’s Economic and Commercial Geography of India
  • Sharma & Coutinho’s Economic and Commercial Geography of India
  • B. Mamoria’s Economical and Commercial Geography of India
  • L. Sukhwal’s Modern Political Geography of India

Indian History

History is one subject that’s considered to be an important part in UPSC exam preparations. Be it UPSC prelims or Mains, you should definitely read History without any doubts. As an UPSC aspirant, you can never skip the subject. Most people love but many candidate aren’t that interested due to the vast syllabus. Having said all, it is still the best UPSC subject that a candidate should utilize. It’s not going to take a long time for the UPSC History preparations. A few months is certainly a necessity to wrap up your IAS History subject preparations. The overlap of the syllabus in Prelims and GS preparations will make it more easier. When you are starting, make use of the NCERT books as they are way too essential for your exams. When you have completed the NCERT books thoroughly, you have to utilize the other reference book mentioned below. The Old NCERT books are more reliable and you will be able to prepare in a chronological order. Make notes of whatever topics you go through as there are several attributes that have more importance and requires highlighting. Give importance to the reference books like A.L.Basham’s The Wonder that was India and more.

Romila Thapar’s Books

  • First Volume of History of India
  • Ashoka & Decline of the Maurya (Medieval Indian History)

R.S.Sharma’s books

  • Ancient India
  • Indian Feudalism
  • Material culture & Social Formation in Ancient India

Satish Chandra’s books – Medieval India (Macmillan)

Suhash Chakravarty’s books for Medieval Indian History

  • Anatomy of the Raj (PPH)
  • The Raj Syndrome (Penguins)

Bipan Chandra’s books for Medieval Indian History

  • India’s Struggle for Independence
  • Freedom Struggle (NbT)
  • Modern India (NCERT)

Pravin Kumar’s books for Medieval Indian History

  • Constitutional History
  • Freedom Struggle
  • Administrative History
  • Social History

E.J. Hobsbawm  books (World history)

  • Age of Capital
  • Age of Empires
  • Age of Revolution
  • Industry & Empire

Arjun Dev’s books

  • Contemporary World History (NCERT)
  • The story of Civilization, Vol. 2 (NCERT)

Other Medieval Indian History Books For UPSC

  • A History of South India written by K.A. Nilkantha Sastri
  • The Agrarian System of Mughal India 1556-1707  written by Irfan Habib
  • The Mughal Empire written by J.F. Richards
  • The Wonder That was India (Volume.2) written by S.A.A. Rizvi
  • Urban Dynamics written by H.C. Verma

Other Modern Indian History Books For UPSC

  • Peasant Movements in India written by D.N. Dhanagare
  • Gandhi written by Judith Brown
  • Modern India (Macmillan) written by Sumit Sarkar

Other World history books For UPSC

  • C. Craig’s Europe Since 1815
  • James Joll’s Europe Since 1870
  • David Thompson’s Europe Since Napoleon
  • J. Moore’s The social basis of Democracy & Dictatorship


Philosophy optional subject has been pursued by many candidates in the recent years and the syllabus is very short when compared to other optional subjects which makes it the best optional subject. The candidates from any background can pursue taking up the course here. Moreover, the candidates are finding it easier to prepare for the Philosophy optional subject. If you are interested in this subject, then you should certainly give it a try without any doubts. As said earlier, the shortest syllabus makes it easier to complete the UPSC preparations within a couple of months. Also, the static state of the syllabus makes it a reliable option while you are concentrating on the static and dynamic syllabus of Main subjects. Philosophy will let the examiner know about the logical and analytical skills of the candidates. The time and space complexity makes it essential to choose a subject that’s easier to finish on time and Philosophy is a great choice.

When you are starting with History & Problems of Philosophy, you can go for books like Frank Thilly’s A History of Philosophy, C D Sharma’s Survey of Indian Philosophy,  Dr Daya Krishna’s Indian Philosophy, A Counter Perspective and finally, Dr S. Radhakrishnan’s Indian Philosophy II Volume.


David Cooper’s Existentialism: A Reconstruction is an amazing book which the students shouldn’t miss out and you can also check out Jean Paul’s Existentialism Is A Humanism.

Don’t skip S Chatterjee’s An introduction to Indian Philosophy and A critical Survey of Indian philosophy while you are reading about Indian Philosophy.

When it comes to Western Philosophy, you should prefer Frank Thilly’s book which has enough information. Y Masih’s A Critical History of Western Philosophy and Contemporary Western Philosophy are essential to study.Dr B.K. Lal’s Contemporary Western Philosophy will also come in handy.

Other books you can follow.

  • An Introduction to Political Theory
  • Philosophy of Religion
  • Introduction to Religious Philosophy
  • Philosophy of Religion

Political Science

Many candidates are going for Political Science as nearly fifty percentage of the topics goes with General Studies. It is one of the dynamic subjects in the optional list and you can easily finish the preparation. The aspirants get an opportunity to think out of the box and answer the questions from their perspective. This is not a completely technical subject and candidates belonging to any domain can pursue the studies without any hindrance. The syllabus is altered and the factual parts have been removed. The subject’s syllabus is not vast as numerous topics are redundant and a few topics are interrelated which helps the candidates to correlate the topics and complete the preparations.

Books to refer 

Start Political Science Paper I preparations by following the importance books such as Dd Basu’s An Introduction To Constitution, O.P Gauba’s An Introduction To Political Theory, Ian Adams And R W Dyson’s Fifty Major Political Thinkers, Subrata Mukherjee’s A History Of Political Thought: Plato To Marx, Niraja Gopal Jayal And Pratap Bhanu Mehta’s An Oxford Companion To Politics In India, V.R Mehta’s Foundations Of Indian Political Thought, B.L Grover And Alka Mehta’s A New Look At Modern Indian History, Bipan Chandra’s India’s Struggle For Independence, B L Fadia’s Indian Government And Politics

When it comes to Political Science Paper-II, you can for books like V P Dutt’s India’s Foreign Policy, International Organisation, Rajiv Sikri’s Challenge And Strategy: Rethinking India’s Foreign Policy, David M. Malone’s Does The Elephant Dance?: Contemporary Indian Foreign Policy, Andrew Heywood’s Global Politics and more to refer.


If you are choosing Psychology, then there are several advantages which certainly helps you to prepare well. Psychology is the study of human mind, functions of the brain and human behavior. If you have a proper plan and correct ideology, you can acquire more marks in the exam.
By taking up psychology as an optional subject, you can easily take more marks. Although it has positive and negative aspects it is considered as a good decision to take up psychology as your optional subject. Not just psychology in any optional subjects available in the UPSC main exam there are pros and cons so if you are interested in taking up psychology then start learning without any doubts.

Psychology is very interesting and you will be curious to learn about amazing facts of the human mind and your preparation will be referred less as each and every topic will be curious. It will also make you think from a different perspective of how the human brain works for the study materials available and students can be completing the preparation easily. You can score more by infusing real life examples as psychology is easy to relate to everyday routine. There is no need for an educational background in this particular domain to take up this optional subject and physicians who are not interested in medical science can go for psychology. Psychology is a subject that you can definitely learn without any doubts.

If you are starting psychology optional subject preparation,, then it is essential to know the fundamentals of studying psychology. The first thing is that you have to understand the basic concept and it reminds the baseline of your preparation. So if you take any topic, understand it clearly and then move to the next steps of learning. Once you have understood the basic concept then you can experiment. experimental studies can be providing more insights about a particular fat and it will also be helpful to memorize the concepts easily. While answering the questions in psychology optional you can make use of real life examples and it will be increasing the scope of your mark scoring.

Books to Refer

Morgan & King’s Introduction to Psychology, Krawiec & Chaplin’s Systems & Theories of Psychology, Ciccarelli’s Psychology, Baron & Byrne’s Social Psychology, Hall & Lindzey’s Theories of Personality

Robert A Baron’s Psychology, Aron, Aron, Coups’s Statistics for Psychology. Other books of Robert Baron that can help you out is Social Psychology and more. You can go for AK Singh’s Tests, Measurements and Research Methods in Behavioural Sciences. There are more books which can help you out in the long run.

Public Administration

Public administration is considered as a good choice among UPSC aspirants and it is a renowned optional subject due to its syllabus and there are several reasons for students to take up this subject. Public administration optional is considered as a scoring subject and students should follow the available books for best preparations. If you start public administration preparation in tandem with general studies, then you can complete the preparations easily. The main advantage of choosing public administration as an optional subject is due to its success rate and several students have successfully chosen public administration as an optional subject. Candidates who are trying to clear the UPSC mains exam preferred public administration as their first choice because of its success rate and the syllabus overlap. 

Public administration is very important for an IAS aspirant as it provides a proper understanding of government mechanisms and being a future IAS bureaucrat you should know about public administration. Moreover, the study materials available makes it easier for the students to prepare and the questions in the previous year’s question papers are easy to answer and they or to the point questions. The only concern about taking up public administration optional is that the syllabus is huge and the subject it is exhausting when you start studying. However, you will be able to complete general studies preparation side by side.

Books that you should miss while preparing for Public Administration

  • Prasad and Prasad’s Administrative Thinkers
  • Arora and Goyal’s Indian Public Administration
  •  Mohit Bhattacharya’s New Horizons of Public Administration
  • Fadia’s Public Administration
  • Maheshwari’s Public Administration In India 1st Edition
  • Laxmikant’s  Public Administration
  • Nicholas Henry’s Public Administration and Public Affairs 12th Edition
  •  Robbins, Sanghi and Judge’s Essentials Of Organizational Behaviour 10th Edition


Sociology optional is a subject which has been chosen by many candidates and even toppers had selected this subject in the past. The subject is definitely the most chosen subject because of several reasons. Educational background can be anything and it is not essential for you to belong to the same domain. A minimum of thousand students will take up the sociology optional and it has been the same case in the past few years. 2017 topper Anu Kumari chose sociology as optional and it certainly helped in increasing the merit ranking not just Anu Kumari but many toppers like S Nagarajan, Amrutesh Aurangabadkar, Neha Jain and numerous toppers have chosen this subject.

The syllabus of Sociology is shorter when compared to other optional subjects and you need only a few months to wrap up your preparation. As the subject is popular, the study materials are also available abundantly. The difficulty level is also lesser when compared to other subjects and the topics are quite similar as you will be studying about family religion and more relevant topics. Also, the topics overlap with the general studies papers and you should also know that nearly 50 marks in the sociology subject is related to general studies paper 1. 

Answer writing practice is way too essential and it is not a technical subject where you can solve problems and score marks. You have to provide a proper format to your writing which elucidates everything that the question requires. You can also add real life examples and conclude the answer with a proper conclusion. There are several test series offered by coaching centres across the country which can be helpful. You might require time to master the writing skill and make use of the guidance provided by the educators in the coaching centre if you have joined 1. It is also essential to make notes while you are preparing for the sociology optional subject.

Books you need to follow 

If you start with Sociology Optional Books Paper 1, then you can read the Sociology books of famous authors like Anthony Giddens, Ritzer George and Haralambos & Holborn, Oxford Dictionary Of Sociology,  M Francis Abraham and John Henry Morgan’s Sociological Thought and finally,  O P Gauba’s Political Theory.

Sociology Optional Books Paper 2 preparations require you to start with some incredible books like M N Srinivas’s Social Change in India, Caste Its Twentieth Century Avatar, Veena Das’s Handbook of Indian Sociology, Nadeem Hasnain’s Indian Society and Culture,  Yogendra Singh’s Modernization of Indian Tradition, M.V. Rao’s Persistence and Change in Tribal India, S L Doshi’s Rural Sociology and A R Desai’s Social Background of Indian Nationalism.


Law is one of the optional subjects in the UPSC exam which is considered to be the least preferred optional subject. However, it is not true because there are candidates who take up law optional because of the success rate. Law optional doesn’t require an educational background that is related to law. Candidates can choose law optional and score more marks easily. So every year only e hundred students or more will take up law as an optional subject. Moreover, the success rate is very high which makes it a reliable subject to start the UPSC optional subject preparation. There are several advantages to choosing law as an optional subject. Toppers who have pursued law as an optional subject and they secured the top three ranks in the previous year result. Based on the facts available, it is understood that law is a good option for anyone who’s trying to  score higher and the competition is also less which gives you more opportunity to score

When it comes to the law, everybody should know the basics and fundamentals of law. It is the responsibility of the citizens to know about the laws that are available in the country. You are going to be an IAS professional and it definitely requires you to know about laws prevailing in our country for each and every category. It is the responsibility of every citizen to know about the laws that are accessible so they can be aware of the basic rights. You don’t have to be an expert in Law while opting for the law as an optional subject and you can still score marks. Law is interesting to learn and newspapers can be a great source for you to prepare. You don’t have to memorize all the syllabus of law optional subject. Moreover, there is an overlap of subjects Polity and constitution. There are also several topics that are very related to law optional. Moreover, the syllabus of law is very short when compared to other UPSC optional subjects which makes it easier for the students to complete the preparation easily. The law is considered as one of the easiest subjects but there are also concerns in preparing for the exams.

When it comes to law optional you will be using vocabulary that is very new and it might be difficult for you to remember those new words and you have to utilize these words while answering the questions in UPSC optional subjects. So it might be difficult for non-law graduates to remember all the technical words that are used in law optional subjects. Moreover, you cannot write answers on your own because it is completely legal terminology and you have to maintain a particular standard.

If you have started the preparation then here are a few tips that will help you to learn exceptionally well for the law optional subject. 

Constitutional and Administrative law is very important in law paper 1. You can at least expect three questions from this section and international law is also important so make sure you also cover this topic. When it comes to paper 2 do you have to go through the recent cases. 

Here are the books that you can use for the UPSC optional subject.

UPSC Optional subject list for the domain –  Science


Agriculture is one optional which is chosen by many civil services aspirants as they can score more particularly in this subject. If you don’t have any background in agriculture then it will be difficult for you to prepare. It is essential for you to know the basic and fundamental concepts of Agriculture and you can learn steadfastly only with the nitty-gritty knowledge. When it comes to the syllabus it is quite crispy and you can finish the preparations and a few months. There are also topics that overlap in certain sections and these topics overlap with Geography and economy.

Agriculture optional is considered to be a great choice as it is interesting and you’ll get to know about the basic problems that farmers are facing in the country. It will be easier for students who are coming from remote areas to understand the topics better and this is also a quiet short which helped you to complete the preparation soon.

The first and foremost thing that comes to mind while taking up Agriculture as an optional subject is that you should have a basic knowledge and educational background and it is an advantage for those who are taking up Agriculture optional. It is essential for you to be familiar with several concepts as paper2 is solely based on rudimentary topics. While you start, you have to simultaneously work on notes, diagrams, and flow charts to refer to the last leg of preparation. It is also essential for a candidate to check on agriculture related statistics and keep you posted by checking the government resources.

Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Science

Animal husbandry is one subject which has had a good success rate in the past few years and there are both pros and cons while choosing this subject. First off, you have to be familiar with the topics available in the animal husbandry subject so you can get more marks. When it comes to the syllabus there is no ambiguity and you can easily complete the preparation as you will not find any redundancy of topic. and you don’t have to keep on shaking for dynamic information. The competition is also lesser when compared to other papers and this gives an opportunity for the students to Score marks.Regupathy’s A guide on forest Entomology, G C Banerjee’s A Textbook Of Animal Husbandry, D. V Reddy’s Advanced Animal Nutrition,  S Subba Reddy’s Agricultural Economics, Gyan Deep Singh’s  Animal Husbandry, Kavita Juneja’s Animal Physiology, Arun Katyayan’s Fundamentals of Agriculture Volume-1, Muniraj S Rathore’s General Agriculture, Manoj Kumar Rai’s  Handbook Of Animal Husbandry, K. S Manikandan’s A breakthrough approach to forest service


Botany is one subject which is chosen by only a few students because it is more like a technical subject that can be chosen by students who belong to a particular domain such as medicine. Students who have biology as their major can also go for Botany optional subject. Even if there is a long gap between your graduation it doesn’t matter as you will be curious to learn about the topics in biology. As it is a Science subject, you will be able to score more marks. The portions are also quite static and will be able to finish up the preparation on time. It is essential to have a proper understanding of the subject before you start writing.B.R. Vasista’s Cryptograms, S. L. Kochhar’s Economic botany in the tropics, S P Bhatnagar’s Embryology Of Angiosperms, Dr. Veer Bala Rastogi’s Elements of Genetics, Powars’s Microbiology, Esau’s Plant Anatomy, B.P. Pandey’s Plant Anatomy, R Nair’s Taxonomy, S C Datta’s Systematic Botany


Chemistry optional is one subject that is chosen by candidates who have science as their core subject. Moreover, it is also a complex topic and only a few candidates from a hundred candidates write the exam. If you are strong in chemistry, then you can take up this subject as an optional or else to some other subject that is easier. There are advantages as well as disadvantages in choosing the UPSC chemistry optional subject. When it comes to paper 1 of UPSC chemistry optional, you will be having two categories physical chemistry and inorganic chemistry. There are several topics in chemistry that are straight to the point and you need to memorize whatever given and the reliable textbook.Peter Sykes’s  A guide to mechanism in organic chemistry, S.S. Dara’s A textbook of environmental chemistry and pollution, Bahl & Ba’s A textbook of organic chemistry,  K.L. Kapoor’s A textbook of physical chemistry, Gurdeep Raj’s Advance physical chemistry, J.D. Lee’s An advanced inorganic chemistry, O.P. Agarwal’s Organic Chemistry Reactions and reagents,


If you are ready to take up Maths and optional subjects, then you should definitely know the advantages and disadvantages of choosing Maths. You should also follow certain strategies and practice regularly for clearing the paper. Unlike other subjects, even a + and – symbols make a significant difference and in your answer. However, you can complete the maths exam in a very short span of time while other subjects require you to provide a proper elucidation of each and every topic. Moreover, you will obtain full marks if the answer is correct and there is no mark reduction unless or until you make a silly mistake.M. Ray’s Dynamics, Statics and Hydrostatics, PK Mittal’s Differential Calculus,Shanti Narayan, PK Mittal’s Vector Analysis and K.C. Prasad, K B Datta’s Linear Algebra, SD Sharma’s Linear Programming & Theory of Games, K C Prasad, KB Datta’s Algebra, GK Ranganath’s Complex Analysis


Statistics is one of the optional subjects available in the civil services main examination and there are only a few students who take up Statistics as an optional subject. For example, in the past few years only 5-15 students have chosen statistics as optional in the UPSC mains exam. The difficulty  level seems to be high so most of the students stay away from Statistics. However, there are also benefits in choosing Statistics as your optional subject. The very first benefit is that the competition is very little and you have maximum opportunity to clear exams and rank higher than others. If you have already known the basic concepts, it will be easier for you to finish the preparations on time.

Medical Science

Taking up Medical science is a great choice and candidates based on MBBS domains will choose medical science. Nearly 300 candidates in a year will go for medical science and the success rate is also high on an average 30 to 60 students clear the optional subject out of 200 to 300 students. There are also toppers who chose medical science as an optional subject. Shah Faesal topper in 2009 scored medical science and acquired the first place in all India ranking. So medical science is considered as a good optional subject and there are many pros like the syllabus being started questions for direct and the difficulty level for MBBS professional will be slightly lower.


Physics optional subject is very popular like Geography and Public administration and those who have engineering or science background in graduation will go for Physics optional subject. If you are preparing for Physics optional subjects, then you have to follow certain methods and strategies for learning the topics effortlessly. Moreover, you should also have problem solving skills when it comes to the UPSC optional physics subject. A few definitions will necessitate you to memorize them as you cannot change the available information derivation and other physical terms.


Zoology is an optional subject that is mainly based on ecology, cytology and genetics theoretical and applied zoology topics are mostly inculcated under the zoology optional UPSC subject. The candidates who appeared for the zoology optional exam keep on varying and the success rate is quite less. However, many toppers who ranked in the first ten ranking in the past few years have chosen zoology as their optional subject and that is why the subject is famous. While studying you have to acquire the best learning resources because you need to follow the reliable books which inculcate all the topics. You have to utilise different strategies for zoology paper 1 and zoology paper 2 due to the difference and syllabus and you need to practice the diagrams regularly.


Anthropology is considered as an easy subject and many students will pick this subject to get more marks and more than 500 students every year will take up this optional subject. In the past few years there have been top 5 rankers who chose Anthropology optional.For example, three candidates in the first 10 all India ranking 2017 shows Anthropology optional subject. Anudeep Durishetty was the first ranking candidate followed by Sachin Gupta in the third place and Koya Sree Harsha in the sixth place. All the three candidates chose anthropology as their optional subject.


Geology optional is considered as one of the best optional subjects but only a few people. zoology is considered a highly scoring optional subject and it is also a scientific subject so there is no interpretation required. You can easily understand the core concept and the syllabus is also providing conceptual clarity. Over there a few disadvantages of choosing geology as an optional subject. First off, you need real knowledge before choosing this subject as an optional and the syllabus is also vast and you will require more time to complete the syllabus. Moreover, the subject can be quite boring at times and if you are interested in learning geology then you can go for this subject.

UPSC exam Optional Subjects List of Engineering

Civil Engineering

Civil engineering is one subject chosen by students with an engineering background because it belongs to their domain  and students will be easily finishing the preparation. It is apparent that science based subjects are scoring subjects and You can expect more marks. Moreover, you will also have a strong foundation as you have been learning the same concepts in your engineering College. Remember that diagrams also play an important role as it is civil engineering and you have to be very clear while providing a proper figure.

Electrical Engineering

Electrical engineering is one optional subject which needs specialisation in the same field. If you have graduation or post graduation in Electrical engineering, then you can choose this as an optional subject. The basic concepts can be easily understood as that is your domain during college. Engineering subjects are scoring subjects and you need to be practicing the diagrams and circuits which are crucial in Electrical engineering optional subject. One important thing that you should know about choosing this option and subject is that the questions are repeated in the IAS exam and you have to make use of the previous year question papers to prepare for the civil services exam. While writing the UPSC mains exam, you can also prepare for the IES exam.

Mechanical Engineering

Mechanical engineering is one subject which is chosen by at least 100 students every year and there are only a few toppers who chose mechanical engineering. If you are still indecisive, you can check out the advantage and disadvantage of choosing Mechanical engineering as an optional subject and start your preparation. The strategy is totally different for paper 1 and paper 2 so study well. Go through the previous year question papers to get a better understanding of how the questions are provided and which are the important topics that you should never skip. If there are diagrams, you should also concentrate on factual figures like graphs.

UPSC optional subject list for the domain – Commerce and Management


Commerce is an exceptional Optional subject which provides more scope to score marks. If you have a strong foundation in Commerce, then you can definitely choose Commerce as an optional subject. You might require a lot of time to prepare for Commerce optional subject due to the presence of several different learning resources and it takes time to follow certain sources to complete all your preparation. You should involve note making, practicing diagrams and working out numerical problems is also essential. By drawing diagrams, you can enhance your scope of scoring marks in the examination.


If you choose Management as an optional subject, then you definitely have competition because at least 200 students every year take up the same subject. And, it is also popular among the students. Like any other optional subject, there are advantages and disadvantages in choosing the Management optional subject. The success rate is quite less and the rank holders have not chosen Management optional. Management optional subject is a better choice and you can make use of the previous year question papers to score more. It is a more logical subject you can prepare for exams easily.

UPSC Optional subject list for the domain – Indian Languages


If you are choosing Assamese, then you can score more marks. First, you should know the syllabus well and make use of the reference books. Once you have a quiet all the best reference books, then it is essential to prepare a study plan. You have to make notes and also practice writing while referring to the previous year question papers. Books of famous authors like Madhava Deva padmanath, gohain Maheshwar Neog will come handy in your preparation. You can provide one hour for Assamese optional paper 1 and another hour for Assamese optional paper 2. You can take up upto 4 to 5 months to complete Assamese preparation. Only aspirants who have good command over the language can go for Assamese optional subject. The success rate is high and the competition is also less so you can rely on assemblies optional to gain more marks.


Bengali subject can be chosen by candidates who have good command over Bengali. If you don’t have proper knowledge in Bengali, it is definitely hard to finish the preparation and mark. So it is better to go for other subjects. If you are starting with Bengali, you should know that literature is good for candidates who are creative and who love reading philosophy. It is essential to improve your writing skill and schedule at least one half for each paper and totally you have to provide two hearts for Bengali optional subjects alone while giving equal importance to other mains optional subjects.


When you start the preparation for Bodo language, It is essential to make use of the books that are available for the subject. You should start by checking the Bodo syllabus. If you are ok with the syllabus, then continue your preparation. Or else you have to choose another subject only. The important topics that you shouldn’t miss while preparing for the Bodo optional subject are history of Bodo language and history of Bodo literature. These two topics come under Bodo paper 1.


Preparing for the Dogri language is now easier than ever and it is chosen by most candidates due to the success rate. If you are interested in scoring more marks by learning a limited syllabus, then you can choose the Dogri language paper without any doubts. You have to use books of famous authors like ok ok Mohan Singh, Jitendra Sharma, Lalit Magotra, Mohan Sharma and more. The very important books of Dogri language include Dogri language: origin and development through different stages. There are several books that you have to refer for better preparation but ensure that you use reliable books Dogri language optional subject.


Gujarati is one language that is chosen by many candidates. There are several books that students can make use of while preparing for the exam. Books like Bhasha vigyan written by Jayant Kothari history of Gujarati literature by Dhirubhai thakar Rajendra Shah’s Dhvani, Suresh Joshi’s Janantike, Balan’s Kadambari.  Sitanshu Yashaschandra’s Ashwatthama, Chandra-Chandrawati Varta written by Shamal, Dhvani by Rajendra Shah, Farbas Virah by DalpatRam, Hind Swaraj by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, Janantike by Suresh Joshi,Kaavya ni Shakti by RamNarayan Vishvanath Pathak, Balan’s Kadambari, Manvi ni Bhavai by Pannalal Patel, Narmadashankar Dave’s Mari Hakikat, Patan ni Prabhuta by Kanaiyalal Munshi,  ‘Kant’ ManiShankar Ratnaji Bhatt’s Purvalap, Ramanbhai Nilkanth’s Raino Parvat

Saptapadi by UmaShankar Josh, GovardhanRam Tripathi’s Saraswatichandra I part, Zaverchand Meghani’s Part I by Saurashtra ni Rasdhar, Premanand’s Sudama Charitra


If you are preparing for Hindi literature optional, then you have to commence your preparation with good novels. For example, you can prefer Godan as it is simple yet powerful and the writer Munshi Prem Chandra had done an exceptional job. While preparing for Hindi literature, you can have a dictionary to understand the meaning of tough words and noted down in your notebook so that you can refer while you are preparing for the exam at the last date. The Hindi literature optional is for candidates who love and are curious to learn Hindi literature. You should have a very good knowledge of Hindi so the preparation will be easier for preparation. In the first paper of Hindi literature there are two categories Hindi bhasha and Nagari lipi and Hindi sahitya ka ethihas. In the second paper of Hindi, literature you have two parts Padhya sahitya and gadya sahitya. If you are preparing for Hindi exams, then you should have good books to start the preparations. Ensure that you follow the famous author’s book and complete learning with the books like Aadhunik Sahitya ki Pravritiyan by Namavar Sinha, Sadanand Shaahee’s Jaayasee Aakalan ke Aayaam, Param Anand Srivastav’s Kabeer, Kabeer ke Sabad written by Dr. Sukadev Sinha, Nilesh Jain’s Khadi Boli ka Prarambhik Swaroop, Sadaanand Shaahee’s Mahaabhoj Mulyankan ke Paripekshy, Gireesh Rastogi’s Mohan Raakesh aur Ashadh ka Ek din, Dr. Surya Prasaad Dikshit’s Niraala Rachita Raam Kee Shakti Pooja Bhaashy, Dr. Rēvatīramana’s Prasāda Aura Skandgupta


There’s a whole lot of books when it comes to Kannada language preparations. You will start the preparations with the books of M.H.Krishnaiah, R.S.Mugali, R.Y.Dharwadkar and R.S.Mugali for Kannada Paper I. When it comes to Kannada Paper II, you have a lot of options such as Shivarama Karanth’s Bettada Jeeva, Arupama Niranjana’s Madhavi, Devanuru Mahadeva’s Odalaala, A.N. Moorty Rao’s Devaru, Dr. H.M. Nayak’s Janapada Swaroopa, Janapriya Kanakasamputa by D.G Javare Gowda J.S. Paramashivaiah. These books can be of help. You should ensure that you utilize the study materials and last year question papers to find the repeated topics.


If you are ready to prepare for the Kashmiri Literature, then you have to prepare with the best books. You should always find good study materials. When you start with books like Anhar’s Kashmir University Journal,  Shafi Shouq’s Kasher Adbuk Tawareekh and another book Kashiruk Grammar. Kashiry Luki Beeth, Kashur Luki Theatre, Marun’s Ivan Ilyich and Mujrim by G.N. Gowhar.When you start the preparations, you will be able to complete the preparations.


Konkani is yet another optional subject under the literature category that is chosen by many candidates who were exceptional in certain literature. The first paper of the Konkani syllabus includes the history of the Konkani language and history of Konkani literature. You will have to learn about the origin development variants and the linguistic feature of Konkani along with grammatical and flexographic work in the language. You should also know about the old standard new standard and standardization problems in Konkani. The history of Konkani literature includes the emphasis of eminent works writers and movements. You should also learn about the cultural and social background of literature along with the Indian and western influences. When it comes to paper 2 you will have to learn several novels of renowned writers and thus come under section a prose whereas section B is poetry that you have to read the poems of popular poets like Madhav Pratap Naik Bruno de Souza and more.


Maithili is one subject that is selected as an optional by many students. The syllabus is quite short and you will be able to finish the learning easily. The part 1 UPSC Maithili syllabus is that you need to know the history of the Maithili language like origin, development and the place of this language in the Indo-European language family. You should also know about the different dialects of the Maithili language and the relationship between Maithili and other languages such as Oriya, Bengali and Assamese. In part B, you should know about the periodic division of Maithili literature, pre vidyapati literature, medieval, Maithili drama, Maithili folk literature development of various literary forms in the modern era such as novel, short story, drama essay on criticism memoirs and translation. The paper involves several topics like vidyapati geet Govind Das Bhajanvali, Krishnajanm,  and more check out the syllabus so that you don’t miss out any important topic


Manipuri is a commonly spoken language in North eastern India and it is used as an optional subject by the candidates from who are residing in the region. There are a few important topics that you should learn for the Manipuri optional subject. The important topics include the history of Manipuri language significance for literary history of Manipuri and Manipuri folk literature. You should also go through  prose novel short stories and drama for paper to do well. You should remember that optional subject is crucial and it also plays an important role in your ranking list so you should be very careful and read for acquiring the best marks.


Marathi is the superior language used in the state of Maharashtra and certain parts of Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Odisha as well. If you are familiar with the syllabus, then you should know certain books that will help you to prepare for the Marathi optional subject. Books like balakvinci Kavita, Brahman kany, damayanti swayamvar and more books should be referred for better preparations. If you are well-versed in Marathi literature, you should start preparing as the competition will also be less.


Nepali is one language that is spoken across several places like Assam, Sikkim, west bengal Bihar, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh. It is one of the official languages in India and has been added as an optional subject. The syllabus of Nepali optional subject comprises the history and development of Nepali literature grammar and diverse categories of literature in the language system. It is essential to make use of the syllabus that is available for your references. You can read Himalayan voices : An introduction to Nepali culture gems of Nepali culture Robert Ferguson’s Nepal.


Being one of the languages in indo-aryan family, Odia is spoken in Odisha and other places like Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand and certain parts of West Bengal. It was initially called as Oriya and the language is considered as one of the classical languages in the country. If you are well versed in Odia language, then you should know about the syllabus and book list that will help you to prepare for the Odia optional subject. You have to keep in mind that the Odia literature optional subject can certainly improve the chances of success and the study materials are available abundantly so it will not be a problem for you to prepare Odia optional subject.


For UPSC aspirants who have selected Punjabi as the optional syllabus, it is going to be easier to prepare as there are good study materials available outside. Moreover, the syllabus is static and it is a suggested option for candidates who are well versed in Punjabi literature. Unfortunately, this is considered as a disadvantage as only people who know Punjabi can choose it as a literature optional. The books you can refer include Punjabi Bhasha Da Janam Te Vikas, Sidhantak Bhasha vigyan. These two books are written by Dr.Prem Prakash Singh. There are also other books that will come in handy while you are preparing. So prepare well with the available study materials.


If you choose Sanskrit as an optional subject, then you will have a lot to prepare. Sanskrit is considered as one of the classic languages in which many epics are written. Although it is a very important subject in the country, only few students take up this as an optional subject. As you know Sanskrit also has two papers and those two papers are again subdivided into part A and part B. Taking up Sanskrit subject can be beneficial as the question paper pattern remains the same. Syllabus is also the same and all you need to have is good knowledge in Sanskrit and you can finish the preparation within a few months. Candidates who chose Sanskrit as optional subjects have done well in the past. So it is one of the best optional subjects that you can choose for acquiring a good mark.


Santali is one subject that is included in the list of optional subjects for UPSC civil services examination. It is predominantly spoken in many regions like Bihar, Assam, West Bengal, Odisha, Tripura, Mizoram, Jharkhand. If you are well versed in Santali, then you should learn the topics like history of Santali language history of literature of all country and Santali modern literature and Santhali which includes novels, stories, drama, criticism, essay, sketches and more when it comes to literature paper to the ancient literature, poetry, modern literature, stories, drama and biography.


Sindhi literature is one of the best UPSC optional subjects that you can choose. Sindhi language that is recognised by the constitution of India and it is spoken across the country. The languages are prominently used in states like Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Gujarat. When you start studying Sindhi, you will know about the religious, philosophical and scientific texts available in the language. In Sindhi paper 1, you will find the origin evolution socio-cultural conditions in certain periods.


Tamil is one subject that is included in Optional subjects of Civil Services exam. It has a good success rate and the books are also available more. Being considered as one of the oldest living languages in the world, Tamil is one subject that candidates who are well versed in Tamil language. Tamil is spoken in several countries like Sri Lanka, Singapore and more. It is the official language in Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Singapore and Sri Lanka. Candidates with a great command over Tamil can certainly take up the subject without any doubts. If you are not having a background in Tamil, then you can utilize other optional subjects. There are numerous advantages in taking up Tamil. The syllabus is small when compared to many other Tamil subjects. The syllabus is static and you don’t have to refer to current affairs. It is mostly the same case in any Literature. You will be able to score more marks in Grammar and it is essential to learn poetry, stories and more. Though there are countless benefits, you still have to take up the subject only when you have adept knowledge in Tamil. In the past few years, the literature optional question paper has acquired unprecedented questions. The scarcity of coaching for Tamil Literature and it might be tougher for you to learn without any expert help.


Being a Classical language in the country, Telugu belongs to the Dravidian family and it is spoken in several places like Andhra Pradesh, Yanam, and Telangana. The rich literary works incorporating beautiful poems, novels and short stories will increase your curiosity to learn the language. Telugu is considered as one of the best optionals as candidates with prior knowledge and proficiency in Telugu can learn without any doubts. You can score more marks only when you have a good command over the Telugu language. Paper I and Paper II preparations may vary as you concentrate more on the second paper due to the difficulty level. You have to follow the Kavya style of writing and the Paper has Vyakhyanam for several padyalu composing. You can make use of books like Akella Raghavendra book, Andhra Bhasha Charitra, Dushyanta Charitra Nannayya, Tikkana, Andhra Sahitya Charitra and Pingali Soorana.


When it comes to Urdu, you need to utilize the books like Ansaf-e-SuKhan Aur Sher Haiyyaten, Mokqadwa, Urdu Adab Ki Tarikh, Urdu ki Lisani Tashkil , Urdu Nasr ka Tanquidi Mutala and best important books for better preparations. Candidates can make use of the above specified books to do extremely well in the exams and finish up the preparations. It is essential for you to prepare with the help of proper study materials and utilize the experienced educators’ instructions while following the books. You should have to complete the preparations swiftly and utilize the right books for sure.


English literature is not a popular literature subject and on an average, only fifty candidates will take up the UPSC Optional subject. However, the success rate is great and it is quite a good optional subject. There are both pros and cons while preparing for the UPSC preparation and it is the same in the English literature as well. If you are interested in English Literature, then you can certainly start the preparations without any doubts. English is one subject that will be easier to prepare and the difficult is lesser. English Literature subject competition is very less and your writing should be better than your contender and that is what your examiner will expect for sure. You have to use a couple of months to finish the UPSC preparations. The syllabus is very important to prepare well and you should check with the syllabus before starting your preparations. This optional subject will also help you with the essay paper for sure. You should make use of the History of Europe which overlaps with the General Studies I paper. There are a few concerns when it comes to English Literature optional. The professional coaching for the subject is hard to obtain and you have to make use of the available materials. The test series is also very less and a quality test series is hard to obtain. Overlapping of GS paper syllabus is trivial. To score more marks, you should practice continuously.

Choosing the best UPSC optional subject for civil services exam

UPSC optional subject is very important to clear the mains exam and acquire a good rank. you will get a maximum of 500 marks out of 2025 marks and if you are preparing extremely well, then there is no doubt that you can score the maximum marks and it will also add value to the merit list ranking.

You might be confused about choosing the right optional subjects as there are 40 plus subjects available on the list and candidates might be quite overwhelmed because of the multiple options available out there. It is not about using random optional subjects or checking the most chosen subjects of toppers and other gimmicks like the study group availability. Here are a few things that you can keep in mind while choosing the UPSC optional subjects or provided below. All you have to do is, read and choose the right subject without any hindrance. 

Syllabus Overlap

The first and foremost thing you have to consider is the overlap of the syllabus. When it comes to UPSC preparation, you will be learning about History, Geography, Political science, Economics, Public Administration, Sociology, International relations, and more. 

These subjects play a very important part in both UPSC preliminary exam and the mains exam so choose a topic that comes in both the exams so it will be easier for you to learn one specific subject and make use of the information into different papers. 

You will save a lot of time by doing so and you can learn one subject extremely well instead of referring to a new subject and starting the preparation after completing your UPSC preliminary exam. Considered this point to prepare for the UPSC mains exam

Subject with the short syllabus

UPSC preparation requires a lot of time and every subject in the UPSC exam will have a huge syllabus which makes it harder to finish the preparation in scheduled time. If you can find a subject that has a very less syllabus compared to other subjects with a huge syllabus like general studies and essay paper. You can save time to concentrate on other subjects and also the optional subject as you will have a balanced schedule. Taking up a subject that has a lengthy syllabus is quite difficult for the students to prepare.

Cease the competition

It is not about the success ratio of an optional subject and it is just an evaluating factor. The success ratio will not assure success in any optional subject and it is purely your preparation and endeavors. Moreover, the subject which has more success ratio will be chosen by most of the candidates as they stick to the factual information which makes the subject more competitive. You can ignore it and go for a subject which has less competition.

Verify the learning resources availability

Though there are 40 plus subjects in the optionals list. It is essential for you to choose one subject that helps you to prepare well and clear the UPSC exam with more marks. For a strong preparation, you need reliable study materials and more reference books to finish your learning. Lately, you can acquire all the resources online and you can start your preparation without leaving the comfort of your couch. So, ensure the availability of learning resources before you start the UPSC mains exam preparation not only for the optional subject but it is essential to check out the books available for the main subjects as well. 

It is also essential to select one subject that will be related to the field that the candidates are going to work in as you are going to be an IAS officer and it is essential to learn a few subjects that will help you in the long run. 

Final consideration is that you need to have a similarity with the subject. You cannot start a very new subject for the optional subject. You can still start and complete the preparation. There is no problem but it takes more time. It definitely takes a lot of time to complete your optional subject preparation and you have to learn theories and grasp them into your mind and finally take notes and revise them all when you are in the last leg of preparation and it is your responsibility to learn the subject completely. 

Here are a few things that you can do while choosing the optional subject

As there are 40 subjects, you will certainly have 5 to 6 objects of your interest and you might be confused about choosing the best from the subjects you like.

First off, you have to go through the optional subject syllabus clearly. It is important because you are going to learn each and every topic in the syllabus in a precise manner. Now, you’re curious to learn and you already know. A few topics even if it is new, you will be interested to learn about the topic. For instance, if you have always wondered about how civilization rose to fame, thousands of years ago, then you will definitely like the subject in which these topics are included and relevant information is available. So you can go for history as most topics will be interesting for you. Similarly every candidate will be curious to learn something new in the topic which they are interested in and be sure that you highlight them while reading the syllabus. 

Repeat the same step for every subject you choose and see which subject has topics that have been highlighted several times. You might have two to three subjects that you are curious about and the interest in those subjects will definitely be good. So you can go for those subjects but you have to choose only one subject and check out the availability of resources. This is one of the main criteria that you need to check while choosing the optional subject because the basics of learning will start from a good study material and you need to have the best for your preparation.

If you still have two to three subjects listed under your favorite criteria, then go for other factors that will help you to pick the right option. Check out the success rate of the subjects that you have on your list. You can also give preference to your domain expertise and educational qualification. For example, students who completed their medicine can go for subjects like anthropology zoology or medical science which is very related to their domain. 

Top 5 UPSC optional subjects

If you are still confused about choosing the right optional subject, then we have a curated list which comprises 5 best optional subjects that will help you to score extremely well in the exam. Check out the list of top 5 optional subjects in UPSC and select the right subject to start your preparation.

  • Agriculture
  • Medical Science
  • Literature Subject (Any)
  • History
  • Psychology

These are the perfect 5 optional subjects that can be selected. We have chosen these after in depth research and analysis of various data available. However, this subject may not be your option and you can still choose other subjects that are available in the list. This is a general list which is based on the success rate availability of study resources and students who don’t have any ideas about choosing the UPSC mains optional subjects can prefer this list. 

Frequently asked questions regarding the optional subjects

Ques. Which subject has the highest success rate of optional subject in UPSC exam?

Ans. Medical science has the best success rate among other optional subjects in the UPSC exam. 

Ques. Which optional subject is easy for the UPSC exam?

Ans. If you are interested in knowing about the best and easy subject that has been opted by most candidates are History, Geography, Psychology, Public Administration, Sociology and Agriculture. 

Ques. How many optional subjects can we choose?

Ans. You will be able to choose only one optional subject from the list of optional subjects available.

Ques. How to choose an optional subject?

Ans. To select an optional subject, you have to analyse yourself and know which subject you’re interested in learning. If you are curious about a certain subject, then you can definitely go for that. However, it is essential to check the availability of subject resources and the length of the syllabus. There are several subjects for which has a lesser syllabus in the UPSC exam it is essential to keep it less when it comes to optional subjects.

Ques. Which is the optional subject of Tina Dabi?

Ans. Tina Dabi chose political science as her optional subject and got more than a thousand marks. 

Ques. Which optional subject has less syllabus in the UPSC exam?

Ans. Philosophy has a very short syllabus when compared to other top subjects and it is also popular among the UPSC candidates due to this reason.

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