Choosing Optional in UPSC

Which is the best optional for UPSC. It is the most asked question especially for beginners and rightly so. It is a critical task as it determines 500 marks and whether you will qualify for interview or not. Often optional marks makes all the difference so one should take time before choosing optionals and weighs its pro and cons. 

Five Criteria must be considered while choosing optional.

1. Your Interest

2. Size of syllabus

3. Overlapping with GS Mains Paper

3. Scoring or not.

4. Success Ratio

5. Weighing what to choose.

Now Let's delve into detail on above points. 

1.Your Interest

Interest play a key role in determining the optional as it keeps a candidate involved in the subject. Candidate often get bored because reading a uninteresting subject often leads to boredom in long run. You become less inquisitive and UPSC Demands insights into topics of any optional subject. 

Often the gestation period of upsc preparation is two year and if you are not interested in a particular subject, then you may not be able to read contextual news item related to syllabus in current affair.


Like reading a news or a philosophical article regarding family or society must be read and understood from sociological or anthropological perspective if you have sociology or anthropology optional respectively. 

2. Size of syllabus

Most engineering students giving exam almost never take their graduation subject. Reason, is mostly size of the syllabus. Almost all subject of graduation is present in syllabus and covering all in short period becomes very lengthy and time consuming. 

On the other hand simply by deciding syllabus size is also not a wise advise. Like taking 'Pali' language, which have very short syllabus. It may help in completing the syllabus faster but it do not help in reading other compulsory subject. 

Choose a syllabus which is neither of above two. Choose the syllabus of optional which you can finish in 4-5 month maximum. Law, Pub Ad, Sociology and Geography are few of those.

3. Overlapping with GS Mains Paper

This is the most important criterion as it shortens the preparation time. The efforts halves if the overlapping is at maximum. All the subject which is covered in GS mains Paper have some degree of overlapping like law optional have almost total over paper - 2 or Geography optional Have with Some part of GS paper 1.

Overlapping of syllabus saves time which you can use to make other weak areas stronger. Mostly people with law optional write better answer in gs paper 2, it saves duplication of efforts.

3. Scoring or not.

It is a very arbitrary thing to determine as it varies wildly. Some subject are very scoring in a particular year, this is especially true for mathematics, Sanskrit etc but will that case for your year is difficult to say. 

Candidate should choose for consistency over scored achieved by a candidate in a particular year only. Look for subject which have achieved highest scores consistently over the years. 

4. Success Ratio

Success ratio is said to be the ratio of number of candidate appearing with mains and candidate actually gets to the merit list. Popular subject have consistent success ratio.

A success ratio between 10-20 percent is considered reasonable. All popular optional such as Pub ad, History, Geography, anthropology or law have good success ratio.

5. Weighing what to choose.

Some of the popular optional Choices Analysed in detail, Including its pro and cons and that is Offered at De Facto IAS.

1. Law

2. Philosophy

3. Sociology

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