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How to Choose the Right Optional Subject for UPSC Exam

How to Choose the Right Optional Subject for UPSC Exams

UPSC civil service exam is conducted in three stages prelims, mains and interview. In the mains exam, there is one optional paper which is only the type of subject that you can choose and whose marks are considered in the final merit calculation. So, the choice of an optional subject is one of the most important decisions of the exam.

In this article, we will discuss “how to choose the right optional subject for UPSC mains and provide valuable information and strategy to help you make an informed decision.

Best Strategy for Choosing the Right Optional Subject in UPSC Mains

According to the latest UPSC exam syllabus, there are 48 optional subjects in UPSC so it can be challenging to make the right decision. Here are some best strategies for choosing the right optional subject in UPSC civil service exam:

Interest and Passion

Select an optional subject that genuinely interests you to provide an advantage in understanding and make studying more enjoyable. Your passion for the subject will drive motivation throughout your preparation. 

Syllabus and Overlap

Analyse the syllabus of each optional subject that overlaps with the general studies papers. If you choose a subject that lot of overlaps with GS papers like public administration reduce the burden of preparation.

Availability of Study Material

Ensure that your chosen optional subject has enough study material available. Quality books, online resources and study materials can make your preparation journey smoother.

Easy-to-understand Subject

Select a subject that is easy to understand, has clear concepts and straightforward topics that help you to high score on your chosen optional paper.

Coaching and Guidance Availability

When choosing an optional paper, check the availability of coaching institutes and guidance. Enrolling in a reputable coaching institute like ProdEgyIAS helps you maximum scores on optional subject.

Scoring Potential

The optional papers carry 500 marks out of the 2025 marks in the UPSC Mains exam which almost adds up to 25% of the marks making the merit list. So, choose subjects that have a higher success rate and also align with your strengths.

Previous Performance

You can analyse the performance of toppers in previous years and their optional subject choices. And also research the previous years’ question papers to get an idea of what kind of questions are asked in your chosen subject.

Time Commitment and Preparation Strategy

Choose an optional subject that has a short syllabus and ensure that complete syllabus can be covered in a short time. If you save one or two months then you can focus on other mains GS papers.

One of the Best Optional Subjects for UPSC IAS Mains

We have already mentioned above that there is no perfect answer to how to choose the best optional subject for UPSC. You can take any optional but below, we have mentioned one of the best optional subjects public administration and the advantages of taking public administration as an optional for UPSC mains:

  • Public administration has a definite syllabus 
  • The subject covered within a short time span of 3-4 months. 
  • It is generally considered as easy and simple to understand.
  • The questions are generally straightforward.
  • It is a lot of overlap with the UPSC GS papers.
  • This subject helps you even essay papers and IAS interview.

Also, good UPSC coaching like ProdEgyIAS is available in the market and you get guidance from one of the best UPSC faculties Ashutosh Sir.


There is no doubt optional subject can make a huge difference in your overall rank that’s why choosing the right optional subject for UPSC exams is very important. We hope the strategy we have mentioned above in this article can help you to choose the right optional subject for your IAS mains exams.

FAQs on Best Optional Subject for UPSC Mains

In this article, we have discussed above how to choose an optional subject for UPSC mains like academic background, personal interest, scoring potential of the subject, availability of study materials and other factors in detail. So read this article carefully and select the right optional papers for your mains exam.

The most preferred optional subject in UPSC exams depends on your academic background and interests. One of the popular and preferred optional subjects is public administration for its scoring potential, availability of study materials, short syllabus, overlap with GS paper etc.

Coaching institutes are not necessarily for optional subject preparation in UPSC exams. But a good IAS coaching institute like ProdEgyIAS can provide structured guidance, study materials, and comprehensive support needed to better score.

If you have chosen your optional and want to change it after prelims, you can definitely do that by filling out a new form with a suitable alternative and continuing your preparation. 

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