What is the best optional subject for the UPSC mains?

Choosing an optional subject for the UPSC Main exam is an important decision as it can directly impact your overall performance. Which optional subject is best? There is no perfect answer to this question, but in this blog, you will get the full guide to selecting the right optional subject for UPSC Main. Every year, more than 10 lakh students apply for the UPSC exam, and most of them are not clear. The main reason behind this is the lack of cleanliness in the selection of optional subjects.

List of Optional Subjects Given by UPSC

Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) presses out the list of optional subjects on its official website in every term. The aspirant can shortlist or choose from this list as per their interest given below: 

  1. Agriculture
  2. Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Science
  3. Anthropology
  4. Botany
  5. Chemistry
  6. Civil Engineering
  7. Commerce and Accountancy
  8. Economics
  9. Electrical Engineering
  10. Geography
  11. Geology
  12. History
  13. Law
  14. Management
  15. Mathematics
  16. Mechanical Engineering
  17. Medical Science
  18. Philosophy
  19. Physics
  20. Political Science and International Relations
  21. Psychology
  22. Public Administration
  23. Sociology
  24. Statistics
  25. Zoology
  26. Literature of any one of the following languages:

Assamese, Bengali, Bodo, Dogri, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Maithili, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Odia, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Santhali, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu and English

How to select the best Optional Subject for UPSC?

There are two faces of optional subjects technical and non-technical. It fully depends on your interest in which subject or field that you enjoy during reading. Whereas technical subjects like Mathematics can give you an advantage of high marks as the answers. For humanities subjects, the examiner’s biases or preferences don’t impact much. On the other hand, non-technical subjects, likely which overlap with the General Studies syllabus, give you more time to subject and reading material overall, which will help you prepare well for the UPSC Mains exam.

To begin with, the scoring chances of a given subject have to be put in mind while selecting an optional one Study the previous patterns of scores and optional subjects. While other topics are ranked based on their objectiveness and clear syllabus. Subjects like Public administration, geography, and Sociology have been always the scoring subjects throughout the years.

If you have a narrowed field or a certain topic that you enjoy and are familiar with, choose it for your main area of concentration. When it comes to knowledge about your chosen subject, which you are genuinely interested in, the preparation process becomes more involving and interesting. You will also gain additional leverage where your background knowledge in the subject comes into play and helps you understand difficult concepts better.

Also Read: How do I improve my writing skills for the UPSC?

You can also choose a secondary subject as a compulsory as its contents are similar to that of the general studies. This can save you time and effort in preparation that you will spend studying common subjects across the different sections of the test. For example, students taking History, Geography, and Political Science courses will often learn relevant content very similar to GS papers.

Practicing mocks not only gives you the chance to take a test under simulation conditions but it also helps you to realize your strengths and weaknesses of various subjects. Mock tests will help you know your strong points and bottlenecks in each subject. The number of subjects will reduce as you perform well. You will end up wisely in examining and choosing a subject that best fits your interest and your ability.

Top 10 Optional Subjects in UPSC

After analysing the latest UPSC syllabus and recent IAS results, the top 10 optional subjects in UPSC can be listed as follows:

1. Sociology
2. Agriculture
3. Medical Science
4. Literature
5. Anthropology
6. Public Administration
7. Psychology
8. Law
9. Geography
10. History


While there is no one-size-fits-all approach, factors such as scoring potential, interest and background, availability of study material, overlap with general studies, performance in mock tests, and discussion can help you make a well-informed decision. Remember that the key to success lies in selecting a subject that aligns with your strengths, interests, and preparation strategy. With dedicated preparation and strategic selection, you can enhance your chances of taking the UPSC Mains exam.

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