Best IAS Mains Optional Subjects

The prestigious IAS exam conducted by UPSC requires candidates to go through 3 successive stages: prelims, mains, and the personality test; In the mains stage of the exam, a candidate must choose an optional subject, and this plays a great role in being a score differentiator for the UPSC aspirant. Prior to 2013, an aspirant could choose 2 optional subjects but now the overall weightage is completely dependent on one subject. Also, given the fact that marks scored in the main exam and the interview – form the basis of the final merit list, it becomes very crucial for a candidate to identify a subject that can help them score well with reasonable efforts.

Best Optional Subjects

In total, UPSC offers 48 optional subjects; generally technical subjects like mathematics that consists of answers that are absolute, making it easier to score higher marks. But in the case of subjects like humanities or political science, the score depends completely on the examiner’s biases. Given these facts, it’s always ideal for a candidate to put their effort into a subject that’s right for them.

Therefore, let’s check out a few questions which can help candidates make an informed decision regarding the choice of subject as compared to just deciding on a subject impulsively.

  • Preparation time required to study the optional subject
  • The amount of syllabus overlaps between the optional choice of subject and general studies in mains/prelims
  • Is study material/coaching available?
  • How vast is the syllabus of the optional subject?
  • Any prior knowledge of the subject at the graduate/PG level?
  • The amount of interest in that particular subject

Based on the answers to the above questions, a candidate must choose his optional subject wisely. As a candidate, if you’re in dilemma concerning 2 or 3 subjects, then referring to past question papers can help you choose the best optional subject.

Generally, optional subjects like Sociology, Geography, History, Public Administration, Political Science, and Law consist of topics that overlap with many subjects in prelims and GS I or GS II. Thus, these subjects are a popular choice amongst IAS aspirants from both technical and non-technical backgrounds as this can save them a lot of time in terms of preparation.

Best Optional Subject for Medical Students/Doctors: While medical science is naturally an ideal choice, candidates can also consider taking up subjects like Animal Husbandry/Zoology/Veterinary Science. In case a candidate prefers non-technical subjects, then subjects that overlap with general studies are an ideal choice.

Best Optional Subject for Candidates with Engineering Background: Subjects likeCivil, Mechanical and Electrical engineering make an obvious choice for candidates who’ve studied the same at the graduate level. Candidates can also consider subjects like Mathematics, Chemistry and Physics – while these subjects require extensive effort while preparing, they reduce the subjectivity in marking.

While UPSC imposes no restrictions in terms of choosing optional subjects, candidates should choose optional subjects that have the highest success rate in IAS exam. If you’re a candidate that’s enrolled at BYJU’S for IAS coaching, then your mentor can help you make the best choice based on your interests and performance. Visit BYJU’S today to enroll for IAS coaching now!

Chandan D

I am a digital marketer by profession and a gamer in my spare time. Nowadays I am more involved in the kitchen and learning how to prepare some delicious dishes.

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