10 Best Optional Subjects for UPSC

Are you dreaming of becoming a successful IAS officer one day? Regardless of your educational background, UPSC provides everyone a chance to fulfill their dreams with loads of rigorous perseverance.

One of the most prestigious exams, The Union Public Service Commission conducts Indian Administrative Service. So, if you have that determination to crack UPSC, start your hardcore preparation today! This examination follows three powerful stages of scrutinizing candidates via Prelims, Mains, and Personality Test.

So, here comes the decision of choosing one UPSC optional subject! Despite being a deep-rooted situation for UPSC aspirants, they can choose only one subject. That’s why it left candidates in the wonder which one to select from the endless lists!

After passing the Prelims exam, a candidate should opt for an optional subject containing 500 marks in two papers. That’s why choosing the best optional subject could make a significant difference!

In today’s article, we have summed up the 10 best optional subjects for UPSC, from which they can choose anyone according to their preferences. Read on to get vast information about the best optional subject from the top 10 lists.

We will let you know all the details regarding how to choose the best optional subject for UPSC, the success rate of candidates with UPSC optional subjects, and more. Let’s get started!

Best Optional Subjects for UPSC

Most Coveted Optional Subject in IAS Mains

Some outstanding and scoring subjects are there to ease the candidate’s preparation. As far as the broader scenarios can be seen, IAS toppers have generally scored more than 320 in non-technical and technical subjects.

The probable reason for the low scoring of the candidates is they can’t provide the required endeavor. Also, maybe they have chosen the wrong optional subject, which is not meant for them.

Technical subjects like Maths can bring higher marks as there are no chances of score reduction. Furthermore, unlike humanities subjects, examiners are unbiased while cutting the marks. On the other hand, non-tech subjects, those which are overlapped with the general studies syllabus, offer more preparation time and reading overall material. Hence, the overall Mains score can be maximized if studied diligently.

A few extraordinary subjects are consistently selected over the years by the majority of the UPSC aspirants. The most coveted optional subjects are overlapped with their general syllabus. So, the best optional subjects are shown below:

Optional Subject Number of Aspirants Syllabus Overlaps With
Public Administration 3000 Prelims, GS II
Philosophy 1000 GS IV. Essay
History 3500 Prelims, GS I
Sociology 1800 GS I, GS II, Essay
Geography 3500 Prelims, GS I and GS III
Political Science 1800 Prelims, GS II

Major Success Rate of Candidates with UPSC Optional Subjects

We have demonstrated the detailed chart of the UPSC optional subject success rate of 2017.

Serial No. Name of the Optional subject The number of Candidates appeared Selected candidates Rate of Success
1 Physics 140 14 10
2 Animal Husbandry 23 2 8.7
3 Mathematics 441 26 5.9
4 Psychology 193 21 10.9
5 Botany 44 5 11.4
6 Sociology 1421 137 9.6
7 Law 3041 43 4.1
8 Chemistry 126 11 8.7
9 Agriculture 89 11 12.4
10 Geology 37 2 5.4
11 Anthropology 880 85 9.7
12 Accounts 224 28 12.5
13 Electric Engineering 193 19 9.8
14 Medical Science 313 32 10.2
15 History 1074 59 5.5
16 Management 86 7 8.1
17 Political Science 1246 117 9.4
18 Statistics 3 0 0
19 Zoology 484 18 3.7
20 Philosophy 755 53 7
21 Mechanical Engineering 170 19 11.2
22 Public Administration 1165 119 10.2
23 Geography 2669 147 5.5
24 Economics 233 16 6.9
25 Civil Engineering 124 11 8.9

Another table is given below to check the success rates of the literature subjects in the UPSC exam 2017:

Serial No. Name of the Optional subject The number of Candidates appeared Selected candidates Rate of Success
1 English 21 2 9.5
2 Tamil 107 5 4.7
3 Bengali 3 0 0
4 Urdu 26 5 19.2
5 Marathi 17 0 0
6 Assamese 3 0 0
7 Telegu 72 1 1.4
8 Gujarati 101 8 7.9
9 Kannada 115 4 3.5
10 Punjabi 39 6 15.4
11 Manipuri 13 1 7.7
12 Hindi 267 19 7.1
13 Maithili 78 5 6.4
14 Sanskrit 70 5 7.1
15 Oriya 5. 0 0
16 Sindhi 2 1 50
17 Malayalam 111 8 7.2
18 Nepali 1 0 0
19 Bodo 1 1 100

Also Read: 6 Best Online Coaching for IAS Exam

10 Best Optional Subjects for UPSC

Various factors to consider while choosing the best optional subject for the UPSC exam.  In order to get started, that question mostly asked by the aspirants is: “How many optional subjects are there for IAS Mains?”

After considering every possible data mentioned above, the latest UPSC syllabus, and the IAS results, the top 10 Optional Subjects for UPSC are shown below in a tabular format:

Serial No. Name of the Optional subject
1 Geography
2 Medical Science
3 Law
4 Geography
5 History
6 Sociology
7 Anthropology
8 Psychology
9 Literature subject (any)
10 Public Administration

How to Pick the Best Optional Subject for UPSC?

The UPSC optional subjects play an inevitable role in the Mains exam. Out of 2025 marks, the portion of the optional subject contains a total of 500 marks. Therefore, if your selection is appropriate, these 500 marks could make a huge difference while optimizing the final total marks.

Students often make the wrong decision of choosing that particular optional subject based on the topper’s scores in that subject. Also, they have mistaken the process by considering factors like the availability and popularity of the study groups.

Therefore, you shouldn’t make the same things happen to you! Be wary of selecting an optional subject as choosing a subject on the parameters mentioned above, may futile your powerful preparation. So, take a look at the best factors, which you should consider while picking the best UPSC optional subject.

  • Competition level

According to some UPSC aspirants, a top-notch optional subject has a greater success ratio than the number of students appearing for the exam.

It’s not completely true! You should know that your copy must be assessed based on the comprehensibility of your answers. That’s why you must opt for an optional subject in which you are comfortable!

  • Overlapping Syllabus

History, Economics, Political Science, Geography, Sociology, Public Administration are some of the optional subjects that overlap with the syllabus of general studies. Therefore, choosing one of them will save your preparation time.

  • Availability of resources

An all total of 47 optional subjects are there for UPSC. The availability of the resources is highly limited in terms of study materials, educators, and relevant books. However, with the rise in online teaching, students can get full-fledged access to resources sitting right in front of their laptops. Therefore, it’s highly recommended to make the selection of an optional subject solely based on available resources.

  • Lengthy Syllabus

You already have the best four General Studies papers and a merit-based essay paper. Selecting an optional subject with a convoluted and lengthy syllabus will mean you have to devote more time for preparation. That’s why it is imperative to select one subject that you can finish its preparation in a definite time.


This is a brief discussion of the best optional subject of the UPSC Mains exam. The preference of which is an unprecedented optional subject for UPSC would be the sole decision of the candidates themselves. As the aspirants only know their shortcomings, strengths, and weaknesses, they can opt for anyone from the aforementioned top 10 lists.

GetJobsAlert brings you an insightful list of the best UPSC optional subject and what to consider while picking one. So go through the article and if you have any doubt, do let us know by commenting below!

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