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UPSC Civil Services: How to Select The Right Optional Subject For IAS Exam


The optional subject chosen for the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) Mains can make or break the deal. It is critical to scoring well in the civil services mains exam. Aspirants should therefore choose their optional carefully and wisely in order to maximise their chances in both the mains and the personality test.

The questions asked to aspirants in personality interviews are frequently determined by the subject you choose. It is common knowledge that the interviewing board at UPSC Mains will question you more about the topics from your optional. It is, however, important to note that each aspirant’s personality test is unique and thus highly personalised. Nonetheless, it is critical to understand that your choice of optional will follow you not only through the UPSC CSE selection process, but also throughout your life.

There is enough evidence to suggest that aspirants with almost every optional subject are chosen and called for a personality test. As a result, no year has a preferred optional subject. Although some options are far more popular than others. These include history, geography, public administration, political science and international relations (PSIR), and philosophy.

The following are some things that aspirants should think about before deciding on an optional subject:

Interest: The most important factor is interest. The UPSC Mains syllabus is already extensive, so it is critical that we maintain our interest in our subjects. It will make your UPSC CSE preparation easier.

Familiarity with the subject: If you are new to a subject and want to take it as an optional for UPSC, consult standard textbooks. The best approach would be to go over the syllabus once and identify standard textbooks. Read a few chapters of the book to see if it’s something you’d be interested in.

Examine previous years’ question papers: It is critical that you go over previous year’s question papers and assess your ability to handle them. If so, go ahead and do it. If not, give some thought and time before making a final decision.

Overlap with other subjects: Its is important that you consider the availability of time and your preparation level for the exam. The syllabus is extensive and therefore to chose some optional that is already a part of either of the compulsory papers can be a good strategy.

Look for the availability of notes and courses for your desired optional. Certain options are frequently chosen, and thus their notes and class lecture are easily accessible. Popular UPSC Mains optional among students from both science and humanities backgrounds include subjects like geography, philosophy, political science and international relations, anthropology, history, etc.

— Authored by Shabbir A. Bashir, cofounder, Edukemy

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