The importance of Optional subject in helping an aspirant get through this examination stands unquestioned to-date. Remember, when you select the right optional you are halfway through in this examination.

In many of the cases, before joining the IAS coaching institute, students ask the question which optional paper he/she needs to take up. It is very difficult for the counsellor to decide the optional paper on the student’s behalf.

Therefore, this article here would help you to discard the optional dilemma to a great extent.

When we enquire the students as to which optional paper they are willing to take and on what basis, We come to know that they choose Optional papers on the basis of following parameters:

  1. What was the optional paper of previous year’s toppers?
  2. Which optional is more scoring?
  3. Which optional shares more syllabus with GS papers?
  4. Which optional are their friends taking?
  5. Subjects for which enough study materials are available?
  6. Best nearby coaching for any optional paper
  7. Based on graduation and post-graduation subject
  8. Based on most popular optional subject
  9. Based on real interest
  10. Based on syllabus length

Distribution of Candidates who Appeared vis-à-vis Recommended by Optional Subjects – Civil Services (Main) Examination, 2016

Table 5: Distribution Of Candidates who Appeared vis-a-vis Recommended by Optional Subjects - Civil Services (Main) Examination, 2016 Number of Candidates Appeared Recommended (3) 4 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 (2) Literature Of Bodo Language Literature Of Santhali Language Literature Of Bengali Language Of Language Of Sindhi(Devanagari Medic L Of Kannada Language Psy Cho logy Litera Of Manipuri Language Literature Of Sanskrit Language Botany Litera Of Hind i Language Literature Of Malayalam Language Animal Husbandry Veterinary Science zoology Mechanical Engineering Anthropo public Administra tion Success (Percent) (5) 1000% 500% 250% 20.0% 200% 166% 15.6% 15.6% 154% 15.0% 14.0% 125% 122% 11.9% 114% 11.2% 11.1% 10.6%
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How to Choose Optional Subject for UPSC Main:

The subject should:

  • Generate a lot of curiosity and enthusiasm in you particularly
  • Push you to learn more
  • Should not reduce your motivation to study
  • Make you think to apply it in the Indian context
  • Have books and study materials easily available
  • Have good faculty/mentor to guide you and clarify your doubts

It is well advised to all the candidates while choosing an optional subject not to think of the score. So, choose a subject with the above-mentioned qualities and one thing to keep in mind that these qualities may differ from one aspirant to the other.

Once you have understood the syllabus and have ample writing practice then nothing will stop you from scoring big.

Some Tips:

  • Don’t take an overlapping optional if you are weak in it, there is every chance that it can turn counterproductive.
  • Don’t take an optional subject which requires extensive preparation if the time left before you is limited (say less than 4 months)
  • A scoring overlapping optional subject, though which might require substantial preparation due to the vast nature of the syllabus can be adopted, if you have background/ previous exposure in the subject, or if there is adequate time left. If you are running short of time, select an optional paper which requires less time for a decent level of preparation.
  • If you are already aware of more than 50% of the syllabus of a particular subject due to graduation/post graduation study, then consider this optional paper
  • If you are good in science-based optional due to graduation/post graduation level exposure, go with science based optional paper.

There is no correct answer to the question ‘what is the best optional subject for IAS exam?’. An Optional paper can be best only to the person who chooses it, based on his/her interest and experience. We have provided you with inputs to ponder over before finalizing on an optional subject. It is better to go by your own judgment rather than on what other toppers did in the past. Whatever optional you select, you should study hard and turn it into the most scoring subject for you in the Final leg of IAS exam!

Good Luck

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