How to choose an optional subject?

In order to succeed in the Civil Services Examination organized by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC), the candidates have to devise a different strategy for each of its phases (preliminary and main examination and interview). With all, They also have to devise a comprehensive strategy that can establish proper coordination between all these strategies. The question always arises to the new candidates (especially Hindi medium) that what is the meaning of the exact strategy? What they should do is to ensure that their strategy is justified at all levels of the examination. If you have landed in the field of this difficult examination, then understand the various aspects of it in full depth. The most important decision you take during the preparation of this exam is related to a particular aspect of the main examination and that is, on what criteria should the candidate choose the elective subject? This is the most difficult decision to be taken during the preparation of this exam and this decision is so important that it often determines your success or failure. Therefore

optional subject
How to choose an optional subject

Importance of optional subject 

  • It is not completely correct to say that general studies is of 1000 marks and elective subject is only 500 marks, so candidates should give more emphasis on general studies. Those who say so may not understand the strategic importance of the elective subject. 
  • In this exam, it does not matter exactly how many marks a candidate has scored. The importance is only on how few or more marks a candidate has scored compared to other competitors. 
  • If you look at the exam results of the last few years, you will find that almost all the serious candidates of Hindi medium got 325-350 marks in general studies (Nishant Jain scored 378 marks in the 2014 Civil Services Examination as an exception. ). In contrast, English medium serious candidates scored 20–30 marks on average, while almost all serious candidates in the elective subject scored 270–325. With this average, the importance of the optional subject becomes clear on its own. Keep in mind that you can get this benefit only if you have chosen the optional subject very thoughtfully. 
  • Even if the optional subject is only for 500 marks, choosing the wrong optional subject can leave you in a negative state of about 100 marks. The candidate does not have to bear this much loss even in the normal study of 1000 marks.   
  • In view of this situation, the appropriate strategy for Hindi medium candidates is that if they have some comparative disadvantage in general studies, then they should try to compensate or gain more from this loss in other areas.  
  • There are only two such areas – essay and elective subjects. The solution of the essay does not depend on our will, it is compulsory for all. Candidates of any medium have to write essays on the same subjects. But we have to choose the optional subject and if our selection goes wrong then there is a possibility that all our preparation will be wasted due to just one wrong decision.
  • Hindi medium candidates can score good marks (ie equal to or more than serious candidates of English medium) in the same subjects or question papers, in which there is little or no use of technical terminology, there is no expectation of updated information. And subjects on which books and examiners are readily available in Hindi.

Why is choosing a subject difficult?

  • Some believe that the U.P.S.C. From the list set by the candidate, the candidate should choose any one subject according to his interest, for this it is not necessary to pay attention to any other party. This is the most incorrect method of subject selection. 
  • The logic of choosing any subject from your interest or convenience works where the system of examination keeps all the subjects at an equal level. 
  • The only way to keep all subjects at an equal level is to arrange for scaling between subjects by the Commission, that is, the process of bringing the scores of all subjects to the same level should be adopted. 
  • It is unfortunate that U.P.S.C. In the Civil Services Main Examination, there is no scaling between different subjects. She claims to adopt a light process called moderation.
  • In moderation, it is broadly seen that there is not much difference in the score levels of different subjects or different examiners, but scaling is not done with full objectivity like scaling. 
  • Since U.P.S.C. Scaling does not provide, it is a natural consequence that not all subjects have the same result. Every time some subjects are considered super hit, then some subjects were absolutely flopped. Candidates also understand after preparing for a few years that the matter of equalization of elective subjects is just a fraud. The truth is that some subjects are the highway to success, whereas failure is almost fixed through the rest of the subjects.
  • This situation continues unabated today and for the candidates of Hindi medium, it poses a greater danger. There are at least 8-10 subjects in English medium in which good marks can be scored but this is not the case with Hindi medium.
  • Most candidates of Hindi medium choose those subjects by seeing marks and rank of successful candidates, but they do not even realize that all those candidates with good marks and good rank are of English medium. 
  • It takes them a long time to understand that a subject that remains a guarantee of success in the English medium can become a guarantee of failure in the Hindi medium as well. By the time he realizes this, most of his efforts are over.

Subject selection criteria 

  • Many criteria are often heard in relation to the selection of elective subjects. It is better that we consider all of them and then decide which criterion is of such importance?
  • Here our entire discussion will be in the perspective of Hindi medium. As mentioned earlier, no candidate in English medium has any problem that he will have to face the loss of his medium, but candidates of Hindi and other medium may have to face this crisis. Therefore, we will find a way to select only those subjects which are able to score between 270 and 325 marks for the candidates of Hindi medium. 
  • Its general criterion is that in the subjects where current affairs or technical terminology has more role, the candidate of Hindi medium is at a disadvantage because the newspapers or journals available in Hindi are not of such a level that they match the English newspapers or journals. Can. 
  • Similarly, subjects which have been developed originally in English and for which the proper vocabulary has not yet been developed or practiced in Hindi, also prove to be harmful for the Hindi medium because the language of translation does not produce that effect. Is in the original language.
  • This is the reason that subjects like Hindi literature, history, philosophy are very useful in Hindi medium because language does not matter in them and in other, current affairs have no role in them. Apart from these, geography is also a subject which often gives good results because in this also the role of current affairs is negligible, even if some part of it is under pressure of technical terminology, but the subject which is of very variable or dynamic nature. (Like public administration, economics or sociology), it becomes very difficult for a Hindi medium candidate to touch the level of equality.
  • It is not that no Hindi medium candidate is successful in these subjects. Some candidates are also successful, but the secret of success of most of them is not hidden only in the marks obtained in the optional subject, but hidden somewhere else. Sometimes it is also the case that the elective subject has tried his best to block the road, but due to exceptional marks in other fields, a candidate has been successful and the message in the new candidates was that this candidate was successful because of that subject Has happened. 
  • It is also true that sometimes some candidates get very good marks in these subjects, but the proportion of such candidates is so low that emulating them is similar to experimenting on their own.

Optional Subject Selection Basis


  • The most important basis of subject selection should be the deep interest of the candidate towards that subject.
  • This is also true because if we are interested in a subject, then we are able to study more in less time and our understanding also becomes deeper. 
  • While studying interesting subjects, we experience energy and enthusiasm instead of fatigue, which is also helpful in the study of general studies etc.
  • If the subject is against our interest, then reading it becomes a burden in itself. It becomes extremely difficult to get into such a serious competition with such a cumbersome subject.
  • The decision of whether the subject is interesting or not will generally be considered as subjective because if a person likes a subject then someone else, then it should be kept in mind that the interestingness of the subject is also largely dependent on How many interesting books or good teachers are available in that subject?
  • Many times it happens that a subject is interesting in its basic nature but due to lack of communication skills in the teacher and the inconvenience of the language of the books, he has started to find it distasteful to the people. 
  • There is also a problem that whether the subject is interesting or not, it can be known only by reading it, while choosing the subject, we have to decide about its interestingness before reading it.

Probability of high marks: 

  • The subject should be such that in which more marks can be expected on the basis of equal effort. 
  • It should be kept in mind that while estimating the average marks, you should base only the marks of the candidates of Hindi medium and not the marks of the candidates of English medium.
  • Which topic is the questionable and which one is not? To determine this, you should find the marks of the optional topics of the toppers of the last 4-5 years, which you will find in interviews published in various magazines or on the Internet.  
  • If you know the marks of 4-5 candidates in the subjects, then you take their average and assume that serious candidates get the same number of marks in that subject. Just keep in mind that Hindi is the medium of the toppers whose marks you base on.

Small course size: 

  • Many candidates attach great importance to the subject selection in the subject of which the syllabus is very short and can be completed in the shortest time.
  • There are some subjects which can be read properly in 3-4 months (eg Hindi literature, Sanskrit literature, Maithili literature, Philosophy, Sociology, Public administration etc.), while in some subjects this period will be around 5-7 months. (Eg Geography, History and Political Science). 


  • The subject should be such that it is multi-purpose ie that instead of being helpful at the level of optional subject only, it should help the examinee in the entire examination. 
  • From this point of view, those subjects are considered to be more good, which play a wider role in general studies, such as geography, history, political science, public administration and economics. Sociology can also be included in this list to some extent.
  • Philosophy proponents may say that their subject has a dominant role in General Studies Paper-4 (Ethics), but the fact is that such technical questions are not asked in that paper, having a background of philosophy gives a special edge. Ho.
  • If a topic is helpful for an essay or interview, it is considered better. Subjects which are considered better in terms of general studies (eg Geography, History, Political Science, Public Administration and Economics) are also helpful in essay. Sociology is also a helpful subject from the point of view of essays. 
  • Subjects like literature and philosophy also prove to be very helpful in essays, especially in the first essay, which is asked on some abstract or imaginary subject. 


  • This means how stable the subject matter is in its nature, that is, it changes or does not change with time.
  • As mentioned above, Hindi medium or medium of other Indian languages ​​have better results in those subjects in which the elements of variability or mobility are less or absent. From this point of view, Hindi (or any language) literature, history and philosophy are excellent subjects because their answers never change. Writing about Kabir, Akbar or Shankaracharya, you do not need to care about whether there has been any new development in this regard in the last one year. In relation to geography, this is also applicable to a great extent, because its theoretical aspects are very little changed. 
  • In these subjects, more and more it happens that sometimes a new ideology becomes effective in these, which the candidate has to study, but such changes happen once in 10-20 years and often in the time period of preparation of the candidate. One does not have to be a part of this change. That is, a one-time preparation only accompanies him without any change from year to year.
  • Conversely, subjects that are highly variable or dynamic in their nature (eg political science, public administration, sociology or economics), their candidates have to constantly be aware that there is some new research in relation to a topic. Yes or No? New case studies are published in various newspapers and journals and these topics change. 
  • Good marks in these dynamic subjects are available only to the candidates who are able to include these updated information in their answers without any scattering. 
  • The challenge here is not single but double. The first challenge is to gather this kind of information because often such information is available in English only. The second challenge is how to mix the new information with the old content in such a way that the two do not appear to be a pair between them, the two become one.


  • This implies that the elective subject which the candidate is choosing has studied that subject at undergraduate or postgraduate level or not? 
  • It is easier for a candidate to prepare a subject in which he has done graduation or later. 
  • Despite this, it is interesting to know that most of the successful candidates are successful in subjects in which they do not have a background. 
  • If you look at the result of any year, you will find that the proportion of candidates from engineering background is very high among the successful candidates, but perhaps one-fourth of the candidates from engineering background will not get those who have given their background subjects only for elective subjects. Be chosen as The same trend is seen in candidates from other backgrounds as well.
  • The reason for this is that in terms of success in the Civil Services Examination, not all subjects perform at an equal level. 
  • Many times candidates understand that they will not be able to score as many marks in their background subject as they would in just 3-4 months in any other subject. 
  • Despite this, it has to be accepted that if the candidate’s optional subject is the subject of his background, then the preparation process becomes much easier for him.

Other criteria:

  • Apart from the above mentioned major criteria, some candidates also discuss some other criteria like- 
    1. Whether books are easily available in any subject? 
    2. Will you be able to get suitable guidance for the preparation of this exam in that subject or not? 
    3. Can the candidate prepare for that subject at his / her own level or does the guidance necessarily be there?

Comparative importance of criterion 

  • Generally, there is no subject that will meet all the criteria, nor is there any subject that does not meet a single criterion. Every topic seems to be excellent on some criteria and then weak on some other criteria.
  • The simple way to set the right criterion is that we know our priorities properly. If our priority is to succeed in this exam in any way, then we will focus on which subject can get maximum marks, and will choose the subject in which maximum score can be obtained, even if it is read. Why should it not take too much time?
  • Our suggestion to the new candidates is that while choosing the optional subject, first of all, see that how many marks can be scored in it? 
  • In the second order, keep a criterion that how much that subject helps in general studies and essays etc.? If two subjects are equal marks and one of them joins the course of General Studies while the other does not, then the same subject should be chosen which will aid in General Studies.
  • The third criterion should be how interesting the subject is. If two subjects are equal marks and both provide equal support in general studies and essays, then the same subject should be chosen from among the two which the candidate finds more interesting. 
  • If the candidate is interested in a subject which is considered very negative in terms of success, then it is better that the candidate should study a useful subject like bitter medicine for 3-4 months. After getting success, he can work for his interest throughout his life, but if he does not get success, then decide that he will hate his beloved subject.

Evaluation of various subjects 

  • According to our evaluation, various subjects should be placed in the following hierarchy –
    1. Hindi literature or literature of any other language
    2. History 
    3. Geography
    4. Philosophy
  • Apart from these subjects, we have not put any other subject in this list because they usually do not meet the first criterion that the candidate will be able to score marks for success.
  • Apart from the above four subjects, a candidate with any other subject is generally successful only if he scores exceptional marks in the remaining question papers (General Studies, Essays and Interviews).  
  • Our clear advice to the candidates of Hindi medium is to avoid taking any subject other than these four subjects, irrespective of their background in that subject.

Hindi literature (optional)

  • Hindi literature is undoubtedly the best subject for Hindi medium candidates. The proof of this is that in the last few years Civil Services Examination Results, most of the starting ranks of Hindi medium belong to the same candidates who had this subject.
  • 2014 Hindi medium topper Nishant Jain scored 313 out of 500 in this subject, which is the highest marks in any subject other than Mathematics. Needless to say that Hindi literature played a major role in Nishant’s phenomenal success. Secondary topper Suraj Singh, who succeeded in Hindi medium, was also an alternate subject of Hindi literature. If you look at the results of previous years, you will find that almost every year Hindi medium toppers are from this subject.

Benefits of Hindi literature: 

  • There is no competition through English medium.
  • The tendency to give more marks to the candidates of their field is often seen in the examiners of literature, whose literature is clearly available in all languages.
  • It scores more than any other subject. 
  • It is a small and ready topic in just three months and there is no need to make any changes in its answers from year to year. 
  • The answers are not completely objective and there is a possibility of creativity of the candidate. Even if the candidate does not have any questions, he can score well by writing answers from his imagination. 
  • The result of these benefits is that even weak candidates of Hindi literature score as many marks as good candidates in subjects like public administration, sociology, political science and economics.
  • Just as Hindi literature is a very useful subject, similarly literature in Sanskrit, Gujarati, Marathi, Punjabi and Maithili etc. are also very beneficial subjects. They too have all the advantages that Hindi literature has. If you have a good grasp on any of these languages, then you should choose that subject without any conflict.

History and Geography (optional) 

  • Immediately after the subjects of literature we place history and geography. 
  • The major advantage of these subjects is that their preparation prepares a large proportion of general studies on their own. 
  • Both of these subjects have a big role in the general studies of the main examination, and even without them, success cannot be imagined in the preliminary examination. 
  • These subjects take 5-7 months, but about 2-3 months of these are left in normal studies. 

Philosophy (optional) 

  • This topic is small, perceptual and questionable. If your background is about this subject then you must choose it. 
  • If your background is not of this subject, then this subject should be taken only when you do not feel the problem in understanding the subtle concepts.
  • This subject does not help in general studies, but if you have a deep grip on it, then you can score almost as many marks as you can get in Hindi literature or other subjects of literature. 
  • Stability of marks is less seen in this subject, ie if you have got 270 marks this year, then it is possible that with the same preparation, you will get only 220 marks next year. Therefore, this subject should be taken only by those who have a deep hold in it and they can easily tackle even the most difficult questions.


Which optional subject is best?

Medical Science. Literature. Anthropology. Public Administration. Psychology. Law. Geography. History.

Can I choose any optional subject for UPSC?

In the Mains examination, the candidate is to choose one Optional Subject from the UPSC list of 26 Optional Subjects. Each Optional Subject has two papers of 250 Marks each thereby making about 30% of Mains Exam (500 Marks out of 1750 Marks).26

Which is the easiest optional subject for UPSC?

Sociology, Geography, and Public Administration are easy subjects to score. Many candidates have scored more than 400 marks in these optional subjects as per the previous year's result. Which optional subject has the highest IAS Optional Subject success rate in UPSC?

Upsc Syllabus Sociology | IAS Main Exam Syllabus Sociology (optional)

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