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How to Choose the Right Optional Subject for UPSC Exams?

Whether the candidate happens to be appearing for the first time or is repeating the exams more than once, the task of choosing the right optional subject has never been easy. In 2013, the UPSC changed the exam pattern by giving the aspirants the choice of choosing one subject instead of two for the Main exam. Hence, now the pressure on the candidates is more.

The optional subject for the Main exam has two papers to solve each holding 250 marks. One other change UPSC has made is that they have eliminated a few subjects of the preliminary level which relieves the students by allowing them to study less giving them room to study the Best Optional Subject in UPSC. However, it is best to choose and prepare for these optional subjects way ahead of the Main exam.

The main dilemma students face before diving into the preparation is the choice of the optional subject. This troubling question is often asked of the faculty before joining academies. Since there is no specific subject that could be considered easy and it often depends on students on what they consider easy. All the troubles and solutions mentioned above will be discussed in this article. Hope it is helpful to the reader.

Factors that make the Best Optional Subject in UPSC easy to choose

A scoring subjects

Many candidates appearing for this exam often choose a subject that is easy to score. The subjects considered most for this are public administration and geography for its laws and maps. However, for those who have no interest in these subjects such a choice is no good.

Popular subject

Time and again Candidates also go for the subjects that are chosen by other aspirants in the majority. This is mostly for the subject’s short syllabus, ease of scoring, or mostly because they are similar to the one candidates graduated with. The subjects that are popular among the students are anthropology, public administration, geography, history, sociology, and psychology. Yet if the subjects are of no interest, then choosing them would just cause the students to roll with punches and gain no benefit.

Still, if some candidates are willing to find interest in these subjects, then here are the reasons why such subjects are popular among the candidates:

  • Anthropology—a subject like this is popular, especially among science students. Mostly for memorizing diagrams, and learning the importance of tribal issues and topics relating to current affairs.
  • Public administration—this subject gets its popularity for its definite and limited syllabus, especially for Paper II. This subject is easily covered in 5 months with limited coaching and several topics are covered by self-study.
  • Geography—these subjects also have a definite syllabus but are vastly requiring students to concentrate on conceptual questions demanding deep analysis. Along with being good at India and the world map, candidates should also be better at current affairs. Geography, being a semi-scientific subject, is recommended mostly by doctors and engineers. For other candidates, it is preferred for its laws, principle, and map-based questions.
  • History—since school times this subject has been studied quite well. This subject is not only of great interest to many candidates but also gets scored easily in the Main exam. However, it is a subject calling for more understanding and interpretation. This is for the questions asked in exams where the candidate has to link their concept with some fact when answering.
  • Sociology—is one of the easiest subjects to understand and the topics concentrate on concern humanity and the existing society. It requires the capability to distinguish between abstract theories and concepts.
  • Psychology—is a subject many find interesting and is also an easy-scoring subject. The content of subjects allows the candidate to have different answers. Studying this subject also helps improve as a human being and improve human qualities and this subject can easily be studied when taking breaks from difficult subjects.

Coaching criteria

Candidates often choose a subject depending on whether the coaching for such subject is available or not. Also if the candidates have lost touch with the subject chosen similar to one studied during university times, then coaching can be of great help. Let’s also keep this in mind if the subject is of no interest, then coaching is then of no help. And If you have been searching for the Best IAS coaching in Delhi then SHRI RAM IAS is the best option to opt-in.

Study background

It is easy to choose the optional subject for the UPSC exam if the candidate shares a similar understanding of the subject that they are choosing. For example science, students will find subjects like anthropology, physics, etc. much easier to grasp both in grasping and in scoring in the exam. It is also recommended for the aspirants pick a subject related to their field of interest.

The best study material for UPSC

Study materials are greatly needed by the aspirants to get pass the exam. Hence the choice of the subject depends greatly on the availability of the study materials. These subjects include history, geography, anthropology, sociology, political science, psychology, and public administration.

How to choose the optional subject for UPSC Exam?

To choose a subject, it should be engaging enough to keep the interest of the student intact. If the subject is one the candidate is already familiar with, like a subject studied during school time or in university, can also be very beneficial. The easy availability of study material is another advantage the aspirants look for when choosing a subject.


Choosing a subject only based on its popularity and easily scoring is not enough. To get a high score in any subject effort of the student is what counts. If the student has understood the subject and practiced questions thoroughly then there is nothing stopping them from achieving the desired score.