Civil Services Mains Optional Subject – List and Choosing The Best With Highest Success Rate

How to choose the best UPSC Civil Services Mains optional subject, this is one question that haunts most of the UPSC Civil Services Exam aspirants. It doesn’t matter if they are beginners or experienced in terms of attempting the exam.

Civil Services are widely considered one of the most prestigious jobs in India. The complete process of Indian Civil Services Examination starting from the official notification of the preliminary exam until the declaration of the final results takes place within a year. Candidates those who get selected are recruited and trained for various services by the Central Government and then different State Cadres are allotted as per preference and ranking.

UPSC CSE constantly changes the syllabus and pattern of the exam. After 2013 now an aspirant has to choose one subject for UPSC CSE Mains exam, that is of 250 marks each.

Tips for Choosing the Best Optional Subject for Mains

Following are the essential things one should follow before finalizing a particular subject as your optional subject:

  • First, go through the notification by UPSC CSE, including all the optional subjects. Read the descriptions of the subjects again and again for 15 minutes.
  • Now go back to your school days and think about your favourite subjects back then and in which you were good enough to score the good grades. Think about the subjects you excelled, in which subject you showed more interest, in which subject you got good marks.
  • After deciding- see which areas of news you are more interested in- Think which topics of General Studies you like more. Some people like history, some like sociology.
  • Now see the list of UPSC CSE optional subjects – to get the more precise overview.
  • Based on the criteria as mentioned earlier, shortlist at least a few subjects and make a list of 5-7 subjects that you think you are interested in.
  • Go through the syllabus and pattern of each optional subject separately. Read all the topics thoroughly. Highlight the topics you are familiar with —and in which you think you have some interest.
  • Go through the Previous Year Question papers regularly while deciding upon your subjects (3-4 years) or the shortlisted Subjects. Read all the questions and understand the pattern.
  • Finally, check the resources you have in terms of materials and notes because of the availability of notes and resources in the form of coaching matters a lot. For some subjects, it isn’t easy to get books, and you don’t usually have enough time to go through every single page of the book.
  • By now you should have decided on your subjects 2-3 as per your skill set and interest. Choose the subjects with which you are already familiar, like if you are an engineering or a science student then go with the same kind of pattern-based subjects and same nature-based subjects.

How does choosing the right Civil Services Mains optional subject matter for candidates?

Recent reports have shown that 70% out of 100 students remains confused about – which optional subject to select and how to select them. And, then we found the reports showing “how do they choose an optional subject”, and we were not surprised with their answers and by the reports.

They choose:

  • An optional scoring subjects.
  • Most popular optional subject- that has shown results in previous years
  • An optional subject which is easy to understand for them or which they find interesting as an individual.
  • The subject for which notes and study materials are easily available
  • Optional for which best coaching is available
  • The subject they have a background in graduation or post-graduation
  • And the optional subjects- with the help of which most candidates have cracked the UPSC CSE mains examination.

Note- For more details, check- UPSC CSE Syllabus

While choosing optional subjects, the ‘success rate’ matters. Usually, literature-based subjects are considered to have performed well in all the previous years, and most of them recommend to go with the high performing subjects only. But for some people who have worked in a big organization, Public Administration appeals a lot, and in fact, it has been the most popular optional with working aspirants or with those who have quit their jobs.

In the end, candidates should choose the subject they like the most and in which they are confident. If you like working or studying every topic in a particular subject, then you should go with it. Choosing subjects based on their popularity and their high-performance nature can create constraints in the long run.

For more details, click on- UPSC Posts and Ranks

UPSC Civil Services Optional Subjects/Optional List for UPSC:

S. NoList of Optional Subjects in UPSC
2Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Science
6Civil Engineering
7Commerce & Accountancy
9Electrical Engineering
16Mechanical Engineering
17Medical Science
20Political Science & International Relations
22Public Administration

List of literatureoptional subjects in UPSC

Aspirants can opt for a literature subject as their optional for UPSC Mains even if they had not taken that language as their graduation subject. There will be two papers. Each paper is of 250 marks. The languages prescribed here are from the Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution.

S.NoList of Literature Optional Subjects 


Choosing an optional subject for the UPSC Civil Services Mains Exam is something an aspiring Civil Service Officer should really think about. Choosing a subject just because of popularity can make or break a candidate’s chances in securing a Civil Services Job.

Areas covered in this topic

  • Tips on choosing an optional subject for the UPSC Civil Services Mains Exam

Note- For more details, visit-

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