UPSC Optional Subjects Notes PDF | Best Optional Subjects

upsc optional subjects

Now , get Best UPSC IAS optional subjects notes PDF , a complete study material package for UPSC civil services exam preparation. Aspirants have to be very careful in selecting optional subjects for their IAS preparation, Because weightage of optional subjects in UPSC’s final merit list is very high, that is 500 marks. Carefully selecting an optional subjects can fulfill your dream of becoming an IAS/IPS officer. This article mainly talks about , how to select optional subjects for UPSC civil services exam preparation. Here, we also provide notes of some of the best IAS optional subjects with highest success rate.

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UPSC optional subjects list pdf | Download Optional Subjects Notes

You can download latest UPSC optional subjects notes in pdf format from below lists. These optional subjects notes cover entire UPSC syllabus. Aspirants may not have to consider multiple books for optional subjects if you download notes from below lists:

  1. Geography optional notes Shabbir sir , from Vajiram and Ravi ( printed + handwritten )
  2. Sociology optional notes Mahapatra sir from Vajiram and Ravi | premium notes complete study material.
  3. PSIR Optional notes by Shubhra Ranjan Mam Handwritten.
  4. Public Administartion Optional Notes From Vajiram And Ravi
  5. Anthropology Optional Notes Latest

Detailed description of UPSC Optional subjects

Let’s discuss about UPSC civil services examination in brief , before going into detail. Every year , union public service commission (UPSC) conducts all India level exam for the selection of posts in various civil services in India like Indian administrative services (IAS) , Indian revenue services (IRS) , Indian foreign services (IFS) etc.

The subjects mentioned in UPSC IAS syllabus are the same subjects that we cover in our school level studies. So if your basics since schooling is good , then it will be very beneficial for you to understand the advanced topics covered in UPSC subjects.

Well, UPSC examination team is very intelligent and design UPSC IAS syllabus in such a way so that it can judge your understanding of things happening around you. Indian administrative services , mostly deal with people and policies. So only a well informed officers can take a well informed decision as civil servants.

UPSC Syllabus & How many optional subjects for IAS?

The UPSC CSE syllabus is divided into 3 sections , Let’s discuss in brief:

  1. Preliminary syllabus
  2. Mains syllabus
  3. Personality test (interview)

Of all these 3 section , the mains & Optional section are the most important because this portion is responsible for 75%  marks of the final result of UPSC exam (1750 marks)

UPSC Preliminary syllabus

The preliminary stage is meant to test aspirants’ understanding of current affairs and current events of national and international importance.

The marks of preliminary papers are not added in final merit list. This stage is purely qualifying in nature. You have to qualify preliminary papers first to appear in UPSC Mains exam.

UPSC CSE Subjects In Prelims

There comes two papers of multiple choice objective type in UPSC preliminary exam paper-1 and papaer-2 of 200 marks each.

Paper-1: 200 marks of two hours duration

(This paper will be counted for the merit rank in prelims)

  • Current events of national and international importance.
  • History of India and Indian National Movement.
  • Indian and World Geography – Physical, Social, Economic Geography of India and the World.
  • Indian Polity and Governance – Constitution, Political System, Panchayati Raj, Public Policy, Rights Issues, etc.
  • Economic and Social Development Sustainable Development, Poverty, Inclusion, Demographics, Social Sector initiatives, etc.
  • General issues on Environmental Ecology, Bio-diversity and Climate Change – that do not require subject specialization.
  • General Science

Paper-2: 200 Marks of Two Hours Duration

(This paper is only qualifying in nature and just needs 33% marks to qualify)

  • Comprehension.
  • Interpersonal skills including communication skills.
  • Logical reasoning and analytical ability.
  • Decision-making and problem-solving.
  • General mental ability.
  • Basic numeracy (numbers and their relations, orders of magnitude, etc.) (Class X level), Data interpretation (charts, graphs, tables, data sufficiency etc. – Class X level).

UPSC Preliminary Syllabus Subject List:

  1. History
  2. Geography
  3. Political Science / Civics
  4. Economics
  5. General Science – Physics, Chemistry & Biology
  6. Environmental Science
  7. Sociology

We suggest aspirants to complete NCERT books first, related to these subjects.

UPSC Mains Syllabus

Mains section is very important because the marks scored in mains are counted for merit list. The mains portion contains 1750 marks , while interview is of 275 marks.

upsc optional subjects

Mains Exam Include:

  1. General studies papers- 4 papers of 250 marks each.
  2. Essay – 250 marks , any language as medium.
  3. English – qualifying, 300 marks.
  4. Indian languages-  qualifying , 300 marks

Best Optional Subjects for UPSC IAS

The role that optional subjects plays in the UPSC civil services examination cannot be under-estimated. These subjects can either fulfill or break your dream of being an IAS/IPS officer.

“George orwell” in his novel “ animal farm” writes all animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others. Similarly, for your examination all papers are equal but there are some subjects which are more equal than others.

Which are these subjects or papers?

  1. Essay
  2. Gs paper-4: which deals with ethics , integrity , and aptitude
  3. Optional subjects

If you are stronger in these 3 areas , then there is no power on earth that can stop you from clearing this upsc civil services examination & that too with good rank.

But what is the reason?

We will tell you the reason. If you look at GS paper- 1, 2, & 3 they deal with history, geography , polity, economy, international relation so on and so forth. These 17000 or 18000 aspirants who write the mains examination every year , where do they get content for these three papers GS 1,2, & 3.

All these aspirants would read the same set of NCERTs , all these aspirants would follow the same set of standard reference books for example M.Laxmikant for polity , Ramesh singh for economy , Bipan chandra for modern history so on and so forth. And when they write answer in their mains , these answers more or less is the same Because all these aspirants have the same source from which they get the information

But when we look at these three areas – Essay , GS-4 , Optional subjects. No two individuals can write a similar essay in UPSC examination despite the fact that they may share a similar ideology. Similarly no two individuals are going to write same answers to the case studies that are provided in your GS-4 paper and an optional subject.

All these UPSC aspirants don’t choose a common optional subjects. They choose a variety of optional subjects. Some choose public administration, some sociology , some anthropology , some literature subjects etc. So there we find a diversity of the answers and remember 500 marks are allocated to an optional and if you are stronger in your optional subjects. If you can break this level of 250 , if you can score more than 250 in the range of 300 marks in your optional subject. Then definitely , you are in the merit list. You will definitely clear this examination.

So, you may ask what is the significance of optional subjects?

In all these papers GS-1,2,3,4 and essay, 250 marks each are allocated to these papers but for an optional subject 500 marks are allocated, because of the sheer amount of marks allocated to an optional subject, this makes the optional subjects one of the most important subjects  in your UPSC civil services examination process. So that is the significance of an optional subjects.

But this is also where the aspirants face a dilemma like how do I have to choose an optional subject. What are the factors I have to keep in my mind before I can start an optional subject preparation. This is where we are going to help you with.

How to Choose Optional Subjects For UPSC Preparation?

There are three factors that you have to keep in mind before you start an optional subject. Three factors shall determine which optional subject is best suited for you.

Factor-1: Interest

This is the most important factor on the basis of which you should decide upon your UPSC optional subjects.

Why interest?

To prepare for an optional subject you have to devote at least two to three months of your preparation time and during this preparation time you should have interest in that subject, if you do not have interest in that subject , you cannot devote two to three months of your preparation time to prepare for that optional. So you should be interested in a subject then you should opt for that subject.

Lets say , for example, you choose an optional subject without any interest , after a week you will decide to switch your optional. Stay you are not interested in this optional then after another week, you will change this optional.

So by the end of the year , you have touched almost all the optional subjects provided by the UPSC. So that’s a sheer strategy of wasting time. Please don’t do that. See in which optional you have more interest & if you are interested in a particular optional , you are one step closer to choose that subject as your optional subject. But interest alone will not help. So there second factor play at the role.  

Second factor: Optional subject with short syllabus

Try to choose an optional subjects whose syllabus is short, this is the second factor that you have to keep in mind.

Why short syllabus optional subjects?

 When we look at the UPSC notification , they tell us that the standards of questions that will be asked in your optional subjects, is going to be one degree higher than your graduation standard and one degree lower than your post graduation standard, that means somewhere in the middle. So the difficulty level of questions asked in your optional subjects will be one degree higher than your graduation level and one degree lower than your post graduation level.

But for engineering subjects  or medical science subjects , the level will be of graduation. That is what UPSC tells us. But when we look at UPSC, “U” in UPSC stands for unpredictability. So never ever anticipate what UPSC can do or cannot do. So UPSC is a big liar as well. Because when we look at the standards of these questions that are asked in the optional subjects , the standard more or less is of post graduation level.

A post graduation degree normally takes two years. Here for your UPSC examination , you have to cover the optional subjects in two to three months. Now with hand on your heart, tell me , is it possible for you to cover a subject which normally takes two years in less than three months. It is not possible ,  so what is the alternative ? the alternative is that you should choose an optional , whose syllabus is short.

If both these conditions (interest + short syllabus) are satisfied, you are again one more step closer to decide this as your optional subject. But third factor is of even more important , more significant and that is the past record of this optional.

Third factor- past record of UPSC optional subjects

The optional subjects for UPSC examination should be scoring as well because ultimately why do you choose an optional? you don’t have to conduct researches in that optional subject , you don’t have to publish papers in that optional subjects. You are choosing this optional subject, so that you can get good marks in excess of 275 or closer to 300. So that you can see your name in the list released by UPSC because you ultimately want to clear this examination. Considering all this, you have to choose an optional which is scoring as well, the past record of that optional should be scoring and that is how you can decide upon your optional subject. So three factors you have to keep in mind.

  1. Interest
  2. Short syllabus
  3. Past record of optional

But based on these 3 factors , which are the best optional subjects for your UPSC civil services examination. I will give you a list-

1. Literature subject-

Tamil , telugu , kannada literature etc. If you are stronger in these literature subjects please opt for it. UPSC & Word Reports tell us that  the best performing optional subject in UPSC civil services examination are these literature subjects.

But there is a catch here , if you are good in a literature subject please opt for it and if you are not good at literature subject don’t opt for it. In this case, you can opt optional from list 2 given below.

2. Any science based subjects-

Physics, chemistry, botany , zoology , civil engineering , mechanical engineering , mathematics etc. Should be opted.

But why, what is the reason?

Well, the answers to the questions of science based subjects are either correct or incorrect, that means there is a possibility that you can score good marks in these upsc optional subjects provided your answer is correct. That means in these subjects we focus on objectivity and not on subjectivity. What do i mean here? Let’s say for example I take “Humanity” as optional subject. There is an element of subjectivity involved. If i am evaluating your answers I can tell myself- no i am not happy with this answer , you should have written it like this , you should not have written this , you should have quoted this scholar , you should not have quoted this scholar so on and so forth. So that means there is an element of subjectivity involved when i am evaluating your humanity based subjects.

But science based subjects are all based on objectivity, so there is a higher possibility that you can score good in science based subjects.

So if you are good in science based subjects, please opt for it. Even if you are scoring 500 out of 500 in lets say mathematics , you will not be awarded 500 marks. Your marks will be scaled down but even after scaling down these marks you will still be somewhere around 275 to 300 or even sometimes more than 300 as well. So that means you will have an edge over others.

So how can you decide upon an optional subject? If you are good in a literature subject please opt for it, if not, if you are good in science based subject please opt for it, if not , then all these optional subjects more or less are same.

But even here , there are some upsc optional subjects which are better than others. Which are these optional subjects? The list is mentioned below.

  • Sociology
  • Anthropology
  • Geography
  • PSIR( political science and international relation)
  • Public administration
  • Philosophy
  • Psychology

So that means , if you are not good in a literature subject, you are not good in a science based subject, then you can choose any of these optional subjects mentioned in the UPSC notification and these subjects have an edge over other subjects in one aspect and which is that aspect?  You have ready made content available for these optional subjects. That means since these are very popular optional subjects , just go to a book shop and you will find ready made content available for these optional subjects. So that all you have to do by that content , read it, underline the important areas and appear for the test series. You don’t have to read multiple books.

But how can you decide whether i should choose a literature optional subjects or a science based subjects or any one from this list?

Take a look at the UPSC IAS syllabus and take a look at previous three years question papers. Now, when you look at the upsc syllabus, when you look at previous 3 years question papers, it is possible that you may not be in a position to answer any of these questions , but at least you will have an idea , know the topics mentioned in the syllabus which are very interesting , I think I should opt for it. I think if I can study honestly , I will be in a position to answer these questions. That is how , you will have to choose an optional subject.

Take a look at the upsc syllabus of 2, 3 or 4 optional subjects and compare them. See in which optional subjects your inclination is more as against the other optional subjects.


UPSC Optional subjects plays the most important role in your success. If you are stronger in an optional subject , definitely , you will clear this examination and these are things ( Interest + Short syllabus + Past record) which can possibly help you in deciding the right optional subjects for your UPSC examination and before we end this article , let us re-iterate.

You have to choose an optional subject only for one selfish reason, so that you can get good marks in this examination. Don’t let emotion decide your optional subject. Be practical in deciding your optional subject because this optional subject is going to decide the next phase of your life.

If you need further information , about an optional subject, please write your comments below. Our expert counsellor will reply you. You can also email us at [email protected] so that we can get back to you.

Please share this post with your friends and needy people.

All the Best

XaamAdda- Companion In Your Preparation.

1 thought on “UPSC Optional Subjects Notes PDF | Best Optional Subjects”

  1. Sir is chemistry optional good or public administration optional good and scoring
    If I opt chemistry as optional where should I got the study materials
    What should I refer for chemistry optional

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