How to Choose Optional Subject for UPSC Mains 2024?

How to Choose Optional Subject for UPSC Mains 2024?
How to Choose Optional Subject for UPSC Mains 2024?

Optional Paper, as a crucial component of the UPSC Mains, significantly contributes to one’s overall score and hence rank. The choice of the Optional Subject, therefore, is a critical decision directly linked to your success in the UPSC CSE. This article aims to provide a comprehensive guide on how to choose an Optional Subject for UPSC Mains.

With a weightage of 500 marks out of a total of 1750 marks in the Mains and a largely static nature of its syllabus, the UPSC Optional Paper provides the right opportunity to score high and ensure one’s selection in the UPSC CSE. However, leveraging this opportunity entails choosing an Optional subject that is the right fit for you. Here is a complete guide to help you choose Optional Subject for UPSC.

There is no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to choosing the right optional subject. What works for one candidate might not work for another. Choosing the right optional subject for UPSC requires subjective (personal) consideration of various factors.

Major factors that need to be considered by a candidate to choose optional subject for UPSC, which would be the right fit for him/her, are discussed in the sections that follow.

  • Your Interest should be the primary criterion for choosing optional subject for UPSC.
    • Choosing a subject that genuinely interests you will make your preparation enjoyable and less burdensome.
  • Hence, candidates are advised to go through the syllabus of all the optional subjects once and gauge if that fascinates them.
  • Your Aptitude is your inherent capacity and innate competence to acquire a certain skill or ability in the future through appropriate training.
  • One’s choice of optional subject should be in line with one’s aptitude for a subject.
  • The following pointers should be considered in this regard.

Each optional has a different nature of its subject matter. Evaluate your ability to grasp and understand the subject matter of a particular optional and choose optional subject for UPSC accordingly.

Some subjects require more memoization, while others require more analytical ability. Choose Optional Subject for UPSC as per your inclination.

Some subjects require regular updates based on current developments, while others are more or less static in nature. Choose optional subject for UPSC that suits your preference.

  • Your educational background can play a vital role in choosing your UPSC optional subject.
  • A subject you have studied during your graduation or post-graduation might be easier to comprehend and revise.

The availability of classroom courses and study materials is another crucial factor to consider while choosing your optional subject. In this regard, the following pointers are to be noted.

Standard textbooks, reference books, and notes for your chosen subject should be easily available and accessible. Thus, choose your optional subject for UPSC accordingly.

Comprehensive preparation of an optional subject demands expert guidance. Thus, one must also consider the availability of coaching institutes that offer courses and guidance for the subject.

Explore Optional Courses offered by NEXT IAS

Optional Foundation Courses
Economics OptionalGeography OptionalHistory Optional
Sociology OptionalMathematics OptionalAnthropology Optional
PSIR Optional
Optional Advance Courses
Economics Optional Advance Sociology Optional AdvanceMathematics Optional Advance
Anthropology Optional AdvancePSIR Optional AdvanceCivil Engineering Optional Advance
Electrical Engineering Optional AdvanceMechanical Engineering Optional AdvanceGeography Optional Advance
Optional Postal Courses
Optional Postal Courses

Apart from the above-mentioned main factors, one must also factor in the following strategic considerations for UPSC Optional selection.

While the syllabuses for some optional subjects are a bit lengthy, those for some other optional are relatively shorter. The length of the syllabus of the optional subject is a crucial factor that one should keep in mind while choosing UPSC optional.

Some optional subjects have considerable overlap with the General Studies syllabus. Choosing such an optional can complement your General Studies preparation and save you time and effort.

Some optionals offer high-scoring potential due to the very nature of their syllabus and question pattern. Analyze the trends of previous years to understand which subjects have been scoring well and decide accordingly.

Though changing every year, some subjects have a consistently higher success rate. Candidates are advised to research the success rates of different optional subjects and factor in this consideration as well.

Having discussed all the prominent factors above, it is pertinent to mention once again that one’s choice of Optional Subject should depend on one’s ability to pull off a particular subject. Thus, it is of paramount importance to carry out a self-assessment w.r.t. a particular subject before choosing it as your UPSC Optional. Attempting some Previous Year Questions (PYQs) or mock tests can help in this regard.

  • Don’t get influenced by what your peer candidates are choosing. Choose optional subject for UPSC based on your interests and strengths.
  • Don’t be swayed solely by the current scoring trends and success rates. These trends keep changing every year.

The ideal optional subject is the one where your interests, strengths, and strategic considerations converge. Thus, candidates are advised to explore different subjects before finalizing their decision. The above-discussed tips and strategies can help you choose Optional Subject for UPSC.

We wish you good luck in your preparation journey!


  • The Best Optional for UPSC is a subjective choice and depends on the individual’s interests and inclinations.
  • In other words, the best optional subject for UPSC for a particular candidate is the one for which the subjective considerations regarding various factors as mentioned above converge.
  • A candidate is advised to consider all the factors mentioned above in order to select the best optional subject for UPSC for him/her.

A candidate can choose any one of the following 48 Optional Subjects for the UPSC Mains Examination.

Agriculture Management 
Animal Husbandry and Veterinary ScienceMathematics 
Anthropology Mechanical Engineering
Botany Medical Science 
Chemistry Philosophy 
Civil Engineering Physics 
Commerce and Accountancy Political Science and International Relations (PSIR)
Economics Psychology 
Electric Engineering Public Administration
Geography Sociology 
Geology Statistics 
History Zoology 
Law Literature of any one of the following languages: Assamese, Bengali, Bodo, Dogri, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Maithili, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Oriya, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Santali, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu, and English.

How many Optional Subjects we have to choose in UPSC?

A candidate has to choose one optional for the UPSC CSE.

What are the 26 Optional Subject in UPSC?

The complete list of optional subjects offered by the UPSC is mentioned in the list above.

How should I choose my Optional Subject in UPSC?

A candidate can choose Optional Subject for UPSC based on his/her subjective consideration of the factors discussed above.

How should one choose Optional for the UPSC?

A subjective assessment of various factors as discussed above can help one choose the best optional for the UPSC.

Which is the best Optional for UPSC?

No particular optional subject can be called the best optional for UPSC. It is a subjective choice and depends on the individual’s inclination and interests.

Which is the easiest Optional Subject of UPSC?

No particular optional can be called the easiest optional subject of UPSC. With a smart preparation strategy, all the optionals can be prepared with equal ease.

Which Optional is the Best for UPSC?

The best optional for UPSC depends on an individual’s interests, aptitude, and many other factors as have been discussed above.


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