5 UPSC Optional Papers That Can Boost Your Mains Score

UPSC optional papers

Out of all the UPSC optional papers, choosing the right one is crucial for success in the UPSC Cil Services Examination (CSE) Mains exam. As these optional papers have a weightage of 500 marks, the best preparation for these optional papers can significantly boost your overall score in clearing the level. 

Here’s a table listing some popular UPSC optional subjects list, which are categorized by background:

BackgroundOptional Subject Options
HumanitiesPublic Administration
HumanitiesLiterature (Any language offered by UPSC)
ScienceMedical Science
EngineeringPublic Administration
Table for UPSC mains optional papers for different backgrounds

Additional factors to consider when choosing an optional paper:

  • Interest: You’re more likely to excel in a genuinely interesting subject.
  • Availability of resources: Ensure you can access good study materials, coaching (if needed), and previous year question papers for your chosen subject.
  • Difficulty level: Consider the complexity of the subject and the time required to master it effectively.
  • Overlap with General Studies: Look for optional subjects that overlap with some General Studies papers, allowing you to optimize your preparation strategy.

UPSC Optional Papers: Choosing the Right Weapon for Success

choosing the right UPSC papers

The UPSC Civil Service Examination (CSE) Mains exam is deemed one of the toughest exams on the planet, as it throws many challenges at aspiring candidates. Therefore to succeed amidst the complex battlefield, choosing a high-scoring optional paper could emerge as your potent and best weapon for clearing the exams and securing a high rank. 

The selected optional paper in the UPSC Mains encompasses two papers of 250 marks each, which in conclusion have 500 marks in total weightage in the UPSC Mains. Translating to a quarter of the total score in the Mains, this always becomes a significant chunk that could make or break the final ranking, affecting the preferred choice of service. 

There is always a chance of shining over the competition in UPSC Mains, unlike the General Studies (GS) papers, where high competition becomes fierce as scores tend to have wide coverage. It is ideal to strategically select a subject where you can excel, by doing this you can significantly boost the overall score rise on top over other candidates, and outshine the competition. 

The key to wielding this weapon effectively lies in choosing the right optional subject. This isn’t a one-size-fits-all situation. The ideal subject should resonate with your academic background, kindle your genuine interest, and complement your writing style. Here are some initial factors to ponder upon (further explored later):

  • Academic Background: Leverage your knowledge by choosing an optional subject related to your undergraduate degree.
  • Interest: Passion fuels perseverance. Select a subject you find genuinely captivating to sustain motivation throughout your preparation.
  • Writing Style: Can you express complex concepts clearly and concisely? Choose an optional subject that aligns with your writing strengths.

Always be careful while considering the factors, as you can transform optional papers from a daunting challenge into a powerful tool that could be the differentiator for achievement and success in the UPSC CSE Mains exam. Keep reading as we delve deeper into the aspects, which will equip you to make an informed decision and conquer the battlefield of UPSC! 

Top 5 UPSC Optional Papers to Score High

Top 5 UPSC Optional Papers to Score High

The right choice will take you ahead of the curve, the perfect selection of the optional paper is a strategic move in the UPSC CSE Mains exam. Let us look into the five popular options that are known to have the potential to boost your score: 

Public Administration

Public Administration (PA) is highly significant for individuals preparing for the UPSC examination. The syllabus encompasses the complexities of governance, administrative philosophy, and current concerns in Indian administration. The extensive similarity between this subject and General Studies topics such as Polity and Governance allows for efficient preparation. Moreover, there is a plentiful supply of study resources and past year’s question papers are easily accessible.


The increasing popularity of sociology can be attributed to its contemporary relevance. The syllabus explores the topics of social stratification, social change, and the intricacies of Indian society. The UPSC exam’s emphasis on social dynamics makes it especially attractive to those with humanities and social science backgrounds.


Comprehending geographical reality is essential for interpreting present events. The UPSC Geography syllabus covers the fields of physical geography, human geography, and an in-depth examination of India’s geography. Students fascinated with current events and maps typically discover that Geography is a captivating and fulfilling elective.


Studying history provides a UPSC aspirant with a comprehensive comprehension of the development of society. The syllabus encompasses the study of ancient, medieval, and modern Indian history, with a focus on developing critical thinking and analytical abilities. Students who possess a robust memory and the capacity to establish connections between historical events and present-day situations frequently demonstrate exceptional performance in this elective course.

Literature (Any Subject)

Opting for a Literature elective paper, such as Hindi or English, provides distinct benefits. The primary emphasis is on cultivating understanding, critical analysis, and answer writing abilities, which are all crucial for achieving success in the UPSC exam. Moreover, an extensive reservoir of study resources and past year’s question papers are accessible in the language of your choice, enhancing the effectiveness of your preparation.

It is important to understand that these examples are only the five of many potential high-scoring optional subjects that one can choose from. Always explore the complete list of optional subjects that UPSC has to offer as an option in the Mains exams, and use the factors discussed in this blog to make an informed decision that suits your comfort and preparation. 

Choosing the Best Optional Subject for You: A Comprehensive Guide

Selecting the right optional subject is a crucial step in conquering the UPSC CSE Mains exam. Here’s a roadmap to guide you:

Know Thyself:

  • Interest & Background: Your optional subject should ignite your curiosity and leverage your existing academic knowledge.
  • Writing Style: Does the subject suit your answer writing strengths? Analytical, factual, or critical thinking – choose accordingly.

Strategic Selection:

  • Syllabus & Overlap: Analyze the syllabus for depth, complexity, and overlap with General Studies papers to optimize preparation.
  • Resource Availability: Ensure the subject has ample study materials, coaching options (if needed), and previous year’s question papers.

Additional Considerations:

While not the sole focus, optional subject trends and success rates can offer insights (explored in separate resources).

By carefully evaluating these factors, you can transform optional papers from a burden into a strategic advantage.  Choose wisely, and watch your UPSC dreams take flight!

UPSC Optional Subject List and Resources

The Union Public Service Commission has a vast list of 48 optional subjects to offer, that cater to diverse academic backgrounds. During your preparation always visit the official website of UPSC and stay updated with the latest and most comprehensive list of optional subjects for the Mains exam. 

For further guidance and in-depth preparation, consider exploring resources offered by coaching institutes and online platforms. These resources can provide valuable insights and strategic guidance.

UPSC Toppers’ Strategies for Mastering Optional Papers

UPSC Toppers' Strategies for Mastering Optional Papers

UPSC toppers swear by strategic preparation for optional papers. Here’s their secret sauce:

  • Early Selection & Focus: Choose your optional subject early and dedicate focused time for in-depth understanding.
  • Conceptual Clarity & Application: Master core concepts and apply them to analyze current affairs, enriching your answers.
  • Practice Makes Perfect: Hone your answer writing skills by practicing UPSC-style questions and mastering time management.

By following these strategies, you can transform optional papers from a challenge into a stepping stone for UPSC’s success.

Empower Your UPSC Journey: Mastering Optional Papers

To summarize, optional papers offer a valuable chance to increase your chances of success in the UPSC. You can transform this opportunity into a competitive advantage by carefully choosing a subject that matches your interests and background and then devoting concentrated preparation utilizing the provided recommendations. Selecting the appropriate elective subject and mastering it thoroughly might significantly impact your performance in the UPSC CSE examination.

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