In the UPSC Civil Services Main Examination (written), candidates are allowed to choose one optional subject. Which is the favourite optional subject of most aspirants? Any guesses?
The Most Popular Optional Subject in UPSC Civil Services Main Examination:
Geography is now the most preferred subject among the optional subjects chosen by the candidates, followed by History, Public Administration and Sociology.
Among the candidates who qualify to write UPSC Mains (written exam) every year, around 3000 candidates prefer Geography as the optional subject.
Geography is chosen by more than 3000 candidates who write UPSC Mains
Number of candidates who wrote Mains with Geography as optional
- 3391 candidates (in UPSC Mains 2015)
- 3515 (in UPSC Mains 2014)
History is chosen by more than 1500 candidates who write UPSC Mains
The number of candidates who had written UPSC Mains with History as optional
- 1821 candidates (in UPSC Mains 2015)
- 1560 candidates (in UPSC Mains 2014)
Public Administration is chosen by more than 1500 candidates who write UPSC Mains
The number of candidates who had written UPSC Mains with Pub Ad as optional:
- 1795 candidates (in UPSC Mains 2015)
- 2852 candidates (in UPSC Mains 2014)
Sociology is chosen by around 1500 candidates who write UPSC Mains
The number of candidates who had written UPSC Mains with Sociology as optional:
- 1479 candidates (in UPSC Mains 2015)
- 1819 candidates (in UPSC Mains 2014)
Are candidates choosing the subject of their graduation as their optional subject?
Analysing the previous year trends, it can be seen that candidates prefer a Humanities subject as an optional irrespective of their background – engineering, medicine, science, or humanities.
In 2015, as far as academic backgrounds of the recommended candidates are concerned, 55.2% were from Engineering, followed by 25.3%, 13.7% and 5.8% from Humanities, Medical Science and Sciences respectively.
However, 84% of optional subjects opted by the recommended candidates were related to Humanities (including the literature of languages), followed by 7.2%, 6.1% and 2.7% related to Science, Medical Science and Engineering respectively.
This shows that most of the candidates have made a cross-domain shift from their original stream (i.e., Engineering, Science and Medical Science) to humanities.
What can be the reason for the preference of Humanities optional subjects?
It’s actually a herd mentality.
Earlier most of the coaching institutes had only a few faculties for taking optional subjects. Their expertise was in subjects like Public Administration, History, Geography, Sociology etc. Whatever be the academic background of candidates, these ‘civil service gurus’ brainwashed candidates to pick one of these optional subjects. They spread the notion that so optional subjects are high scoring while others are not.
Are there easy or high-scoring optional subjects?
Whether a subject is easy or difficult is relative.
One candidate may find History easy, while another candidate may find memorizing history very hard.
In actual UPSC exam, there is a process of scaling or normalisation across optional subjects to ensure parity. So taking these popular optionals does not mean that you will score high.
How should you choose your UPSC Mains optional subject?
We recommend the following process:
Go through the previous year UPSC CSE Mains question papers (at least 3 years) of the optional subjects you like. Also, go through the UPSC syllabus of optional subjects. Which subject do you feel comfortable now?
Do you have a passion for that subject?
Will you be able to find study materials (online or offline for the same) and practise model question papers?
Choose that subject as your optional subject, whether or not that is your graduation subject. All the best!