IAS Mains Optional

IAS Mains Optional

Selecting the most relevant IAS Mains Optional goes a long way in helping a student score well in Civil Services Mains Exam.


Choosing IAS Mains Optional

The Civil Services Main examination is designed to test the intellectual prowess of an aspirant. It is intended to assess the overall intellectual traits and depth of understanding of candidates. This is why the most appropriate IAS Mains Optional needs to be selected before beginning preparation.

Date of Preliminary Exam June 18th, 2017
Date of Mains Exam October 28th, 2017 onwards
Number of Vacancies 980

Complete IAS Mains Optional List 

The complete list of Civil Services optional subjects are being given below.

Animal Husbandry & Veterinary Science
Mechanical Engineering
Medical Science
Civil Engineering
Commerce and Accountancy
Political Science and International Relations
Electrical Engineering
Public Administration
Indian History


IAS Mains Optional: Various Literatures

Arabic Gujarati Manipuri Sanskrit
Assamese Hindi Nepali Sindhi
Bengali Kannada Oriya Tamil
Chinese Kashmiri Pali Telugu
English Konkani Persian Urdu
French Marathi Punjabi  
German Malayalam Russian

For viewing the detailed syllabus of each IAS Mains Optional, please visit www.upsc.gov.in

IAS Mains Optional: Basis of Selection

  • Specifically defined and comparatively small syllabus
  • Easy availability of study material
  • Interesting and short subject material
  • Scoring nature of the subject
  • Availability of experienced guideline

IAS Mains Optional: 10 Key Points to Consider

1. First go through the list of all the IAS Mains optional subjects thoroughly. Invest a lot of time in reading and understanding the syllabus.
2. In case you do not want to opt for a subject you studied during graduation or if that optional is not a part of the official list, then go back to your school and college days.

Think about your favorite subjects. Think about the subjects you excelled in, in which subject you showed more interest and in the subject in which you scored the most.

3. Now contemplate on your current situation. See which areas of news you are more interested in. Think which topics of General Studies you like more.

Some people like history, some like polity, some sociology, so on and so forth. Think of shortlisting them as your IAS Mains Optional subject.

4. Based on above criteria, make a list of 4-5 subjects which captivate your interest and which will keep you hooked till the very end of your preparation.
5. Now go through the previous year question papers (at least 3 years) of the shortlisted Subjects. Read all the questions.

Again gauge yourself the level of interest you have or residual knowledge you possess to answer each question. It’s just to know yourself how comfortable you are with a subject. Don’t worry if you don’t know answer to any question.

6. Analyse the syllabus and ponder over the fact that whether it will keep you interested throughout your preparation. This is really important.
7. Finally, the availability of materials and guidance in the form of coaching matters a lot. For some subjects it is difficult to get standard books, for some coaching may not be available.
8. Non technical subjects can be prepared by doing self study provided you regularly practice writing.
9. By now you will have a clear picture about choosing the subject best suited to you.
10.  Your task is done.


Popularity of Some IAS Mains Optional Subjects

Certain IAS Mains Optional subjects are most scoring than compared to others.

Though the number of candidates selecting each Civil services mains optional can vary year to year, the below table gives an average estimation for the coming years based on past year trends of optional subjects (as per latest syllabus).

Optional Approximate Number of Aspirants Opting for it
History 3000 +/- 50
Geography 3000 +/- 50
Public Administration 3000 +/- 50
Sociology 3000 +/- 50
Philosophy + Psychology + Political Science + Economics 2000-3000
All other science/art subjects

(in total)

All Other Literature Subjects Less than 1000
TOTAL Around 15000

IAS Mains Optional: Should Toppers Choice Matter ?

The never ending questions and queries like best IAS Mains Optional, most scoring IAS Mains optional, highest success ratio of a IAS Mains Optional etc queues up every year, but these questions are relative. So never ever base your decision on what others are doing – NOT EVEN THE TOPPERS. Choose the optional that suits you. Period.

If you examine the background of toppers in the exam, you will be amazed to see wide representation from almost all optional papers listed by UPSC, and that itself tells half of the story.


Civil Services Mains Pattern & Marking Scheme

The old pattern of Civil Services Examination has been done with. The latest pattern along with the marking scheme is as follows –

No.  Paper Subject Marks
1 Paper A Indian Language (Qualifying) 300
2 Paper B English (Qualifying) 300
3 Paper I Essay 250
4 Paper II General Studies – I 250
5 Paper III General Studies – II 250
6 Paper IV General Studies – III 250
7 Paper V General Studies – IV 250
8 Paper VI Optional Subject Paper 1 250
9 Paper VII Optional Subject Paper 2 250
  Total   1750
Interview (Personality Test) 275
Grand Total   2025

Thus, the Main examination has 9 papers.  All of them are subjective in nature.

Civil Services Mains Pattern in Detail

There are 2 qualifying papers –

One is English and the other is a paper on any of the enlisted Indian languages. Both carry 300 marks each.

However, their marks will are NOT taken into account in the main examination.

According to the new pattern there are 4 General Studies paper each comprising of 250 marks with a total of 1000 Marks.

According to the new pattern there are 4 General Studies paper each comprising of 250 marks with a total of 1000 Marks. The syllabus of General Studies for Mains is of degree level.


The Four Papers of General Studies are divided as mentioned below –

Paper-I General Studies-I 250 Marks

(Indian Heritage and Culture,

History and Geography of the World and Society)

Paper-III General Studies-III 250 Marks

(Technology, Economic Development, Bio-diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management)

Paper-II General Studies-II 250 Marks

(Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations)

Paper-IV General Studies-IV 250 Marks

(Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude)

Marks carried by General Studies was

4 X 250=1000



IAS Mains Optional : What Should Engineers Choose ?

There are only 3 engineering subjects in the list of optionals by UPSC

  1. Mechanical Engineering
  2. Civil Engineering
  3. Electrical Engineering

If you don’t belong to any of these branches then the best thing would be to choose another IAS Mains Optional subject of your interest.

Please keep in mind that all IAS Mains optional subjects are high scoring if you have knowledge in the subject and if you can answer the questions in an analytical frame of mind in line with the latest requirements of UPSC.


IAS Mains Optional: 4 Things to Avoid

  1. “My Friends and Family have suggested it.”
Do not choose an optional because a friend or a family member suggested it.
2. Most students opt for it.” Do Not opt for an optional just because it is what most of the aspirants have chosen. Believe it or not many serious candidates fall prey to this and waste attempts before they even realize it and still many realize it after exhausting their attempts.
3. “Its a high scoring IAS Mains optional” Candidates have cleared this exam with almost every optional  and not just with the so called high scoring optional. In UPSC there is no high scoring-low scoring optional but only a paper, an innocent examinee and a ruthless examiner. High scoring-Low scoring optional is a myth.
4.”The topper chose this subject last year”  Don’t let your judgment be guided by the optional chosen by the previous year toppers. Probably they topped the examination because they did not base their choice of options on the subjects chosen by still past toppers.


Beneficial Articles for Civil Services Aspirants 

Article on Civil Services Preparation Link to Visit
How to Read the Hindu for CSE Preparation  VIEW HERE
How to Prepare General Studies ? VIEW HERE
Civil Services Mains Preparation VIEW HERE
3 popular IAS Mains Optional VIEW HERE
IAS Exam Analysis 2016 VIEW HERE

Civil Services Exam: Mock Tests

IAS Mains Optional


  1. Is political science and international relation is combined or i will take international relation as a solo subject

  2. i want to write all papers in english and my medium for writting is english but at the same time can i take hindi literature as my optional .plz reply

  3. hlw mam
    I have the query about the optioal subjects mentioned in the list are 2 i.e paper 1 nd paper 2.
    Are the two papers are different ?

  4. Ma’am, I lost both ibps po mains and ibps clerk mains. This is my first attempt. But I will continue my struggle. Because I know one day, I will surely shine.

  5. Hi madam, I have completed B.E. but I am intrested in geography then can I choose this subject for upsc or not….
    Plz madam reply me….
    I am confused…

  6. Ma’am, I am in a very trouble. Whether I got any PSB through clerk mains 2016 or not. Only 10 in reasoning and overall 96 attempt in SC category of UP state. I don’t know what will happen to my future.

  7. Hi Amit,

    See the cutoff can be predicted only when the exam is held. Right now its too early.

    You just focus on your preparation. Best wishes.

  8. Ma’am, please tell me the expected cut off for NIACL Assistant pre exam 2017, for each category.

  9. Its valid as long as UPSC wants it to remain this way.
    There have been speculations about removing optionals but as of now there is no official confirmation.

  10. See your choice of optional should depend on 2 factors –

    Interest in the subject
    Availability of the material/Guidance

    If you feel , you’re prefered optionals will fulfill the above criteria, go for them.
    In case you need any additional guidance, feel free to ping me on my blog. I conduct daily doubt solving sessions there.


  12. Hello maam, I am pursuing PhD in microbiology and I have done my graduation in BSc hons in biotechnology and msc in microbiology. Which subject I will choose for mains , I am very confused. Plz rply me.

  13. My graduation subject is mathematics but I have interest in history and knowing about our india past. Please provide me book list for history as optional and tips for preparation

  14. Mam i have done my graduation in commerce.. so should i take commerce or geography …, I m interested in both…

  15. sir,can i choose economics and statistics as optional? what is percentage of qualifying upsc as these optional subjects?

  16. See, if your subject of graduation is not hindi , then I will not suggest you to opt for it unless you have an extremely strong grip of the subject. I understand your point on liking Hindi but the UPSC expects you to have a thorough knowledge of the subject.

    This applies to history or any other optional as well. As mentioned in the article above, an optional should be decided on 3 criteria –

    Interest in the subject
    Availability of resources
    Guidance Available

    So I insist you ponder a little and then make an informed decision.
    All the best.

  17. Sir, I want to take Hindi literature as my optional though i’m from a typical Bengali family. I like this subject as well as the language. But many people are suggesting me to take history as an optional. I know that many aspirants who are appearing for this Exam have done specialization in Hindi literature. They will write beautiful answers with beautiful languags. But I really like this subject. I’m totally confused. What should I do? Should I stick to my decision or change my optional and opt for history? Please suggest me…

  18. Swati, i insist you go through the syllabus in detail before making a final choice.

    You’re in the final year of B.Tech so yes you are eligible.

  19. I am an engineering student in final year of B.Tech(IT). What optional should i select ? Will i be eligible for exam this year ?

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