How to choose an Optional for UPSC CSE

How to choose an Optional for UPSC CSE

UPSC Basics

Why this can make or break your game.


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Of all the things that you give a f*%# about in the UPSC journey, your optional is something that you should give most f*%#s about.

Why should you care?

Your optional is worth 500 of the total 1750 marks that you can attempt in Mains. That’s a solid 28% of the total. And there are a few reasons why this choice can be crucial for success:

  1. Scoring Potential. If you score well, you can cross 60% marks in your optional. This is in contrast to around 40-45% marks that you can expect in any of the GS papers.
  2. Focused area. Since the syllabus is limited and the thinkers mostly dead, there’s not a lot of current material to add (except for examples). This means questions tend to repeat and fall into recognisable patterns.

So take your optional seriously.


How to choose your optional?

First and foremost, there is no “best” optional subject. You can gauge the relevance of an optional on these points:

Your interest in the subject.

Mathematics may be a high scoring subject but if you have a hard time understanding it rest assured it will be extremely difficult to score those marks.

Scoring potential.

For example highest score in Maths can go upto 370, while sociology highest scores go up to 320. But keep in mind that these trends can change at any given moment as seen in Mains 2019. These are indicative at best and can be used to choose between options if you’re unsure between 2/3 subjects that you’ve short listed.

Time required to complete syllabus.

Some subjects take more time to cover than others. Point no. 1 above is obviously a factor in this because if you’re interested in a subject you can study it for longer without getting bored or distracted. Yet you should also keep in mind the size of the syllabus. For example for Mathematics can take a good 6 months to cover the entire syllabus while you can do the same in about 3 months for Sociology.

Resource availability.

It’s easy to ignore this but it’s the crucial factor in choosing an optional for a lot of people. You may want to study philosophy in Hindi language but if you have a hard time finding resources for it you may have to settle for something else. Ensure that you have access to the relevant test series and mentorship for your optional, atleast if you’re not willing to make that effort for yourself.


Sociology optional courses

If out of the 40+ optional subjects, you choose sociology, we can help with improving your understanding. Check our courses.


Why did I choose sociology?

I’m an engineering graduate who gave CSE with sociology (scoring 280 in 2017 and 260 in 2018 and 2020).

My reasons for choosing it were quite simple, in that I was always reading about new trends and patterns emerging in society, I was interested in learning more about these areas.

And I figured that it might help me do a better job as a civil servant.

It didn’t hurt that plenty of great resources were available for free online and the syllabus was relatively short.

So to find the best optional for you, take out the list of optionals in UPSC and go through their syllabus. See what catches your attention and shortlist subjects based on interest and ease.

And finally, best of luck on your journey!


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