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Best Scoring Optional Subject for UPSC

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Choosing the Best scoring optional subject for UPSC exam is a critical decision for aspirants. Selecting a Highest scoring optional subject for UPSC exam is a strategic move that can significantly boost your chances of success. In this article, we will delve into the Most scoring subject in UPSC optional that have consistently yielded impressive scores for UPSC aspirants.

The optional subject for the UPSC Civil Services Examination helps students to perform well in the two optional papers in the Civil Services Exam, each worth 250 marks. It should be noted that the optional subject in the UPSC Mains is 500 marks out of the maximum of 1750. By the end of this guide, you’ll be well-informed about the High scoring optional subject for UPSC.

Best scoring optional subject for UPSC

This page will provide candidates with data on the success rate of each optional topic in the UPSC exam over the years, which will be useful for candidates while selecting the Easiest and scoring optional subject for UPSC.

Top 10 Best Scoring Optional Subject for UPSC Exam 2024

Selecting a beneficial optional subject can significantly boost an aspirant’s overall UPSC score. While aspiring candidates must thoroughly cover the extensive UPSC syllabus, the choice of a preferred optional subject can allow them to focus their efforts and avoid areas they might find challenging.

After careful consideration of the aforementioned factors, coupled with the latest UPSC Results, a compilation of the top 10 optional subjects for the IAS Exam 2024 has been made, which is as follows:

  1. Sociology
  2. Geography
  3. Literature (Any Subject)
  4. Anthropology
  5. Agriculture
  6. Medical Science
  7. Public Administration
  8. Psychology
  9. Law
  10. History

Previous Year Toppers’ Choice of Highest Scoring Optional Subject for UPSC

Over the past 21 years, UPSC toppers have chosen a diverse range of optional subjects that align with their strengths, interests and backgrounds. The following table provides insight into the optional subjects selected by the top-ranked candidates in their respective years:

  • Ishita Kishore (2022, IAS): PSIR
  • Shruti Sharma (2021, IAS): History
  • Subham Kumar (2020, IAS): Anthropology
  • Pradeep Singh (2019, IAS): Public Administration
  • Kanishak Kataria (2018, IAS): Mathematics
  • Anudeep Durishetty (2017, IAS): Anthropology
  • Nandini K. R. (2016, IAS): Kannada Literature
  • Tina Dabi (2015, IAS): Political Science
  • Ira Singhal (2014, IAS): Geography
  • Gaurav Aggarwal (2013, IAS): Economics
  • Haritha V. Kumar (2012, IAS): Economics & Malayalam Literature
  • Shena Aggarwal (2011, IAS): Medical Science and Psychology
  • S Divyadharshini (2010, IAS): Public Administration & Law
  • Shah Faesal (2009, IAS): Public Administration & Urdu Literature
  • Shubhra Saxena (2008, IAS): Psychology & Public Administration
  • Adapa Karthik (2007, IAS): Zoology & Psychology
  • Mutyalaraju Revu (2006, IAS): Electrical Engineering & Mathematics
  • Mona Pruthi (2005, IAS): English Literature & Sociology
  • S. Nagarajan (2004, IAS): Geography & Sociology
  • Roopa Mishra (2003, IAS): Psychology & Public Administration
  • Ankur Garg (2002, IAS): Physics & Chemistry
  • Alok Ranjan Jha (2001, IFS): Geography
  • Vijaylakshmi Bidari (2000, IAS): Kannada Literature

High Scoring Optional Subject for UPSC Preferred By Successful Candidates Since 2014

Lets explore some most scoring Optional Subjects that have consistently been favoured by successful UPSC candidates. Over the course of time, certain optional subjects have consistently gathered the attention of a significant portion of successful UPSC candidates. This preference for the most opted optional subjects can be attributed to their syllabus alignment with various aspects of the IAS exam, including UPSC Prelims, GS I, II, III or IV, as well as the essay paper.

Optional Subject

(Approx) Number of Aspirants

Scoring For Different UPSC Papers



Prelims, GS I



Prelims, GS I, GS II

Public Administration


Prelims, GS II

Political Science


Prelims, GS II



GS I, GS II, Essay



GS IV, Essay

When it comes to strategies for the UPSC exam, opting for an optional subject that has some degree of overlap with General Studies (GS) is a common approach. Nevertheless, it’s essential to acknowledge that many candidates diverge from these popular choices. Their decisions may be influenced by a greater interest in or familiarity with alternative subjects. Additionally, candidates often contend that achieving high scores in well-liked optional subjects can be challenging due to heightened competition.

Optional Subjects of UPSC Share Common Topics with GS Subjects

Several UPSC optional subjects show significant overlap with the General Studies (GS) subjects or other segments of the UPSC examination. This overlap improves candidates’ overall preparation and the consistency of their knowledge across different sections. Given below are some popular UPSC optional subjects known for their alignment with GS or other parts of the UPSC exam:

  • History: Overlaps with Prelims and GS Paper-I.
  • Geography: Offers overlaps with Prelims and GS Paper-I.
  • Public Administration: Demonstrates overlaps with Prelims and GS Paper-II.
  • Political Science: Aligns with Prelims and GS Paper-II.
  • Sociology: Provides overlaps with GS Paper-I, GS Paper-II and the Essay paper.
  • Philosophy: Corresponds with GS Paper-IV and the Essay paper.

Success Rates of Best Optional Subjects for UPSC Examination

The below table highlights that Animal Husbandry & Veterinary Science have emerged as the most favourable subject for UPSC, with the highest success rate of 18.8%.

Highest scoring optional subject for UPSC

Therefore, the choice of optional subjects plays a key role in candidates’ success rates, with Animal Husbandry & Veterinary Science showcasing the highest rate of accomplishment.

Highest Scoring Literature Optional Subjects for UPSC

For candidates possessing a strong command over literature subjects, considering them as optional subjects can be a strategic choice. Among the literature-based optional subjects for UPSC, Sindhi (Devanagari) Language emerges as the best optional subject for UPSC, with a remarkable success rate of 50%.

A comprehensive assessment of the IAS Mains 2019 data analysis showcases the success rates for various literature optional subjects, as given in the table below:

High scoring optional subject in UPSC English medium

How to Choose the Best Optional Subject for UPSC?

In order to identify the most suitable optional subject for UPSC, careful consideration of the following factors is important. The selection process of the best optional subject for UPSC should include the following:

1. Syllabus Scope:

Evaluate the extent of the subject’s syllabus. A comprehensive syllabus might require more time and effort for thorough preparation.

2. Preparation Time:

Assess whether you possess sufficient time to adequately prepare for the chosen subject. Adequate preparation time is helpful in achieving a strong grasp of the material.

3. Academic Background:

See whether you have previously studied the subject at the graduation or post-graduation level. A prior familiarity with the subject matter can provide a valuable advantage.

4. Syllabus Alignment with GS:

Examine whether the syllabus of the chosen subject intersects with the General Studies (GS) portion of both Prelims and Mains. Overlapping content can simplify your overall preparation.

5. Analyse Previous Year Papers:

Examine previous year question papers for the shortlisted subjects. Highlight questions you feel confident about answering. This assessment reflects your compatibility with each subject and provides insights into potential strengths.

6. Availability of Study Materials:

Ascertain whether there are sufficient study resources accessible for the selected subject. Sufficient study materials facilitate effective and thorough preparation.

7. Consider Literature Subjects:

Literature subjects, especially in native languages, have demonstrated success in UPSC. If you possess a strong command of your native language, choosing a literature subject can be advantageous.

Further, it is also important to consider the following in order to choose the best optional subject for UPSC:

  • Distinguishing between high-scoring subjects and the optimal optional subject for UPSC is important.
  • Historical achievements of top performers highlight that impressive scores can be achieved across all subjects.
  • Technical disciplines like mathematics can lead to high scores due to definitive answers.
  • Humanities subjects’ scores depend on examiner inclinations.
  • Lower scores in certain subjects may result from inadequate effort or misalignment with candidates’ capabilities.
  • Successful UPSC toppers have achieved over 320 marks in both technical and non-technical subjects.
  • Non-technical subjects overlapping with General Studies offer advantages in preparation time and materials.
  • This strategic choice enhances overall Mains performance.
  • Low-scoring perception often results from insufficient candidate effort, not inherent subject difficulty.

Which is the best scoring optional subject for UPSC?

Choosing the best scoring optional subject for the UPSC exam depends on individual strengths and interests. However, some popular and high-scoring options include Geography, Public Administration, Sociology, Political Science & International Relations, History, Anthropology, Medical Science, and Law. It’s essential to select a subject that aligns with your interests, background, and the availability of study materials. Your passion and comfort with the subject are key to scoring well.

List of UPSC Optional Subjects

Given below is a Best Optional Subjects for UPSC Examination Civil Services Examination (Mains), for candidates to choose the best optional subject for UPSC:

  1. Agriculture
  2. Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Science
  3. Anthropology
  4. Botany
  5. Chemistry
  6. Civil Engineering
  7. Commerce and Accountancy
  8. Economics
  9. Electrical Engineering
  10. Geography
  11. Geology
  12. History
  13. Law
  14. Management
  15. Mathematics
  16. Mechanical Engineering
  17. Medical Science
  18. Philosophy
  19. Physics
  20. Political Science and International Relations
  21. Psychology
  22. Public Administration
  23. Sociology
  24. Statistics
  25. Zoology

UPSC offers a range of literature options in various languages for candidates to choose as their optional subjects for the UPSC Mains examination. Aspiring candidates can select the language as per their proficiency and interest, thereby enhancing their preparation and performance in the examination.

The available literature languages for optional subjects in the UPSC Mains exam are:

  1. Assamese-Kannada
  2. Bengali-Kashmiri
  3. Bodo-Konkani
  4. Dogri-Maithili
  5. Gujarati-Malayalam
  6. Hindi-Manipuri
  7. Kashmiri-Marathi
  8. Konkani-Nepali
  9. Maithili-Odia
  10. Malayalam-Punjabi
  11. Manipuri-Sanskrit
  12. Marathi-Santali
  13. Nepali-Sindhi
  14. Odia-Tamil
  15. Punjabi-Telugu
  16. Sanskrit-Urdu
  17. Santali-English
  18. Sindhi

Important Questions Before You Choose Most Scoring Subject in UPSC Optional

What are the best optional subjects for UPSC in 2024?

The best optional subject varies for each candidate, depending on their academic background, interest, and the subject’s success rate. Popular choices include Geography, Sociology, Public Administration, and History.

Which optional subject has the highest success rate in UPSC?

Subjects like Geography, Sociology, and Public Administration often have high success rates. However, it’s important to choose a subject that aligns with your strengths and interests.

Can I choose my graduation subject as an optional in UPSC?

Yes, many candidates choose their graduation subject as their optional as it gives them an edge due to their familiarity with the subject.

What are the best optional subjects for UPSC for engineering students?

Engineering students often opt for subjects like Mathematics, Mechanical Engineering, or Civil Engineering. However, some also choose subjects from humanities due to their scoring potential.

Is there any change in the optional subjects list for UPSC 2024?

As of now, there are no announced changes in the list of optional subjects for UPSC 2024. Candidates should check the official UPSC notification for the most accurate information.

How should I choose my optional subject for UPSC?

Choose based on your interest, academic background, overlap with General Studies, availability of coaching and study material, and previous years’ question paper analysis.

Are there any optional subjects specifically beneficial for UPSC IFS (Indian Forest Service)?

For UPSC IFS, subjects like Forestry, Agriculture, Botany, and Zoology are beneficial due to their relevance to the service.

What are some recommended books for UPSC optional subjects?

Recommended books vary for each optional subject. Generally, it’s advised to refer to NCERT books, standard reference books, and previous years’ question papers for preparation.

Can I choose a language as an optional subject in UPSC?

Yes, candidates can choose literature of any language listed in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution as an optional subject.

What is the role of the optional subject in the final ranking of UPSC?

The optional subject plays a crucial role in the final ranking as it comprises two papers of 250 marks each in the UPSC Mains examination.


Choosing the Best scoring optional subject for UPSC is a strategic decision that can significantly impact your UPSC journey. Successful candidates have often leveraged subjects with Best and scoring optional subject for UPSC, manageable syllabi, and alignment with the GS paper. While these are some popular choices, it’s essential to remember that the best optional subject for you depends on your individual strengths, interests, and prior knowledge.

Before making your choice, thoroughly research the syllabus and past question papers of your preferred High scoring optional subject for UPSC. Seek guidance from mentors and experts to make an informed decision. Ultimately, your dedication and preparation will play a pivotal role in achieving success in the UPSC exam.

Best scoring optional subject for UPSC – FAQs

Why is the choice of the Best Optional Subject for UPSC important?

The optional subject in UPSC Mains carries 500 marks out of a total of 1750, significantly impacting the final rank. Choosing a suitable subject can play a key role in achieving a better rank.

Where can I find the list of UPSC optional subjects?

The list of UPSC optional subjects, along with detailed information about their syllabus, preparation strategies and booklists, can be found on the official UPSC website.

What factors should I consider when choosing an optional subject for UPSC?

Consider your interests, existing knowledge, syllabus scope, preparation time, availability of study materials and alignment with General Studies.

Does my graduation background determine the choice of optional subject?

While your graduation background can influence your choice, it’s not the sole determining factor. Flexibility allows candidates from various disciplines to choose any subject of interest.

Is it necessary to choose a subject related to my graduation background?

No, it’s not necessary. You can choose a subject based on your interest and compatibility rather than your graduation background.

Which optional subjects overlap with the General Studies syllabus?

Optional subjects like History, Geography, Public Administration, Political Science, Sociology and Philosophy have overlaps with the General Studies syllabus.

Are technical or non-technical subjects better for scoring high marks?

Both technical and non-technical subjects have potential for high scores. Technical subjects have objectivity, while non-technical subjects with GS overlap provide more preparation time and materials.

Are literature subjects good choices for optional subjects?

Literature subjects, especially if you have a strong command of the language, can be good choices due to their historical success rates.

Which literature optional subject has the highest success rate?

Sindhi (Devanagari) Language has the most success rate of 50% among all literature optional subjects.

What are the top 10 optional subjects for the IAS Exam 2024?

The top 10 optional subjects for the IAS Exam 2024 include Sociology, Geography, Literature (Any Subject), Anthropology, Law, Medical Science, Agriculture, Public Administration, Psychology and History.

Are there any subjects that consistently perform well in terms of success rates?

Yes, subjects like Sociology, Geography and Political Science have shown good success rates over the years due to their alignment with the GS syllabus

Can I change my optional subject after choosing one?

Generally, you can’t change your optional subject after submitting your application. It’s important to make an informed decision initially.

Last Updated : 30 Jan, 2024
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