Optional Subjects for Civil Services Main Exam

This is the complete list of optional subjects for the Civil Services Main examination. You have to opt for any one subject out of 26 subjects. Optional paper consists of two papers of 250 marks each. Click on the subject name to view its syllabus.

  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

  26. Literature of any one following language: Assamese, Bengali, Bodo, Dogri, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Maithili, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Oriya, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Santhali, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu, English

The question papers are of conventional (essay) type. Each paper is of three hours duration.

 “Tips and Strategies for Optional Papers”.

Well any serious aspirant must have, by far known about the importance of Optionals in the mains examination. If not, let me remind you, the optional papers, both 1 and 2 cumulatively hold 500 marks out of a total of 1750 marks in the written examination, the most. This in itself describes the importance.

There are almost 25 optional subjects to choose from and the number goes up-to 48 in case the literature papers are added. The primary dilemma faced by the aspirants is which optional to choose? Any mistake in taking decision can cost dearly. To avoid this, you need to first of all do a detailed research and choose the most optimum of the subjects.

We will try to help you out here. Below mentioned are some of the things which you need to consider in deciding the optional papers:


The subject you choose must be something which you can study for hours together without getting bored. Preparation for optional papers requires extensive smart/hard work and without proper interest it is bound to become more cumbersome. The subject can be anything, the one which you studied in your graduation, a subject which you love to explore. It all depends on one’s self-assessment and judgment.

  • Availability of Study Materials:

The availability of the study materials should be considered seriously. As the need is extensive, one should be very careful. There are certain optional for which references are readily available, but there are the ones for which you cannot find even a small trail. So, do your homework properly before making the decision.

  • Syllabus Analysis:

With a wide variety of subjects available to choose from, aspirants should look for a short and simple syllabus which can be completed timely. A limited syllabus can be covered within 5-6 months and will have more time for other subjects. You need not be the master of your optional papers at all. But at least, an aspirant is expected to be very thorough with it and what else can be better than a short syllabus to cover.

  • Previous Year Trends:

This will give you an insight into the popular optional subjects as per current trends. Popular subjects i.e. the subject preferred by most number of students and its success ratio. But popularity of any subject should not be confused to something such as that it will surely get you through the mains. Consider this, in last two years, literature subjects registered the highest success ratio, but this is because very few opt for those papers. Every subject has its own perks and all the subjects have an equal chance delivering success.

  • Overlapping Papers:

It would be helpful if you choose optional papers, syllabus of which overlaps with that of the GS papers. For example, taking Sociology as optional will help you with the essay paper and even tackling questions from social issues. Political Science and International (PSIR) will help you in the GS-2 paper etc. The aim is to prepare holistically for everything. This way, it seems the burden is shared!!!

Once you decide as to what subject you are going to opt for, then starts the important part i.e. justifying the decision. To be true, Optional Papers require a minimum of 3-4 hours of individual study daily right from the start. Here are some of the advice we have for you

  • The syllabus is the most important document for you in terms of preparation for optionals. Be well versed with all the topics and keywords mentioned in it.
  • Devote time for the optionals right from the start. Once the prelims end, one will not be able to find enough time.
  • Make use of limited number of references and prepare notes in your own words. If attending coaching for optionals then make separate notes.
  • Try making legit links between the topics mentioned in the syllabus and contemporary events. This way, you will have examples and case studies in hand to prove your points in the answers.
  • Your aim should be to score at least 300 marks combined in the optional papers. Else the way to secure a rank becomes difficult. Be very particular about it.
  • Practice answer writing on daily basis. While attending test series, make sure you are able to attend all the question within 3 hours.

So, these were some of the things we wanted you to know before you choose any optional.
We will repeat again, all the optional subjects have their own perks and equal chance of success.
As someone wise rightly said, whatever decision you take, its up-to you to prove it right.

Last thing, our parting words for you, the same old UPSC mantra:

“Read, Re-read, Write, Revise, Repeat”
For any query, do drop us a mail or visit us, we will be more than happy to assist you.
All the very best for your UPSC Journey..!!
And always….Think Positive, Stay Healthy…..!!!!!