Which is the highest scoring optional subject for UPSC

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Which is the highest scoring optional subject for UPSC

The subject options offered in the UPSC mains exam can be divided into technical and non-technical subjects. Generally, candidates go for the non-technical subject from both Arts and Science background as well. Here, we will discuss which ones are the best optional subject in UPSC among so many options. We will tell you more about the best optional subject in UPSC so that you may choose from it.

Candidates must choose optional subjects very carefully as it overall affects the score on the UPSC exam. These are the most scored optional subjects in the UPSC exam.

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Geography is not the highest-scoring optional subject in UPSC. Therefore, it is most popular among the candidates. In the recent past, there were a lot of toppers with Geography optional. Geography is a good combination of technical as well as non-technical. Therefore, it is equally popular with both art and science background students. 

Why should you choose geography?

A vast amount of information is available about Indian geography and World geography as well. The abundance of reading material on Geography both online and offline makes it the best optional subject for the UPSC mains exam.

A good portion is already covered in the General Studies paper; this means you will consume less time preparing this subject. You will read the same topics again while preparing Geography optional and revision helps increase retention of key terms and concepts.

Geography is not interesting to read but very scoring too. It is quite easy to understand for science as well as humanities background candidates.

There will be no dull moment while preparing geography and it is very scoring also due to its largely technical nature.

Geography is related to international relations, environment, current affairs, Ecology and even Economics to some extent. Most optional subjects are interlinked but none enjoy the commanding position of geography.

How to prepare – Geography

There is great emphasis on models and theories in the Mains paper, even the lesser-known ones. So you cannot miss out even on the seemingly unimportant theories that definitely lead to increased study hours.

There is great stress on regional planning and contemporary issues in the paper second which makes it very dynamic and hugely increases its scope. The tough part with it is not so much the content but rather the vastness of it.

The idea of mapping seems an onerous task for many candidates. But the deep knowledge of maps is mandatory for Geography Optional.

Political Science and international relations

Political Science and international relations is a scoring and popular non-technical subject. There are many reasons why this is considered the best optional subject in UPSC. It does not need a Political Science background and can easily be understood by any candidate. Candidates must have a basic awareness and should follow current affairs and editorials regularly. After this, you will have ample information about any question asked in the exam.

This subject requires elucidating the information in a creative manner so if you have good writing skills or have a flair for writing then this subject is perfect for you. Questions are almost like essays in this paper and need you to define certain terms where good writing skills are very useful. 

This subject consists of a section namely the Indian Government and politics and also includes topics like federalism, organs of government and constitution which are already prepared in the prelims exam. 

In the second paper, you will have India and the world and the topics you have already covered in the current affairs section. 

How to prepare – Political Science and international relations

Both papers include topics that require theoretical knowledge so if you are an expert at mugging up information and writing it well this is a great option for you. It may consume a lot of your precious time in retaining and understanding if you are absolutely new to them.

A lot of emphases is placed on current affairs due to the vast syllabus and dynamic elements. So, you will have to regularly update your notes and keep a track of contemporary events related to the topics. 

Public administration

Public Administration gained immense popularity when it was first added to the Mains optional list in 1987. The success rate for this subject is higher compared to other non-technical subjects which is why it is a hot favourite among the candidates. Since it is highly relevant to your future role as an administrator, it is naturally one of the most scoring and the best optional subjects in UPSC. It covers topics like personal and financial administration, accountability and organisation etc. You are going to be a part of the Indian Administration and the entire subject matter of the paper second will be useful in understanding the setting of the same. All these make the subject significant.

A large portion of the second paper overlaps with your Political Science and current affairs preparation for the Prelims exam. It covers topics like Union Government and Administration, public sector undertakings, urban local government and philosophical and constitutional framework of government that have already been covered in the General Studies paper. Also, the subject matter overlaps with the polity and governance paper in General Studies. It not only saves your time and energy but also provides abundant study material that is helpful to write better answers from different perspectives. 

How to prepare – Public Administration

The syllabus is very compact but shouldn’t be disheartened by this point. There will be a lot of reading and understanding of the subject because public administration is all about perspectives. The subject is well defined but the same topic may be viewed from many points of view. Mugging up will not work but needs conceptual clarity. 

The questions asked in the paper sometimes may be tricky and the topics are interlinked so you will have to be absolutely clear about every concept to avoid being misled by the question. Therefore, refer to the best public administration books for this purpose. 

There is a lot of competition since a large number of candidates go for this Optional. So you really have to shine out in your answer to score good marks. The ambiguous and confusing nature of the question makes it tough, generally. Therefore, read the question properly before answering it. 


Sociology is a high scoring optional subject in the UPSC examination for the candidates who already had done some basics in Sociology. Sociology is about the social interactions of cultures and the study of the pattern of society. It is not only one of the easiest subjects but also the most scored and best optional subject offered by the UPSC. Since it has been a very popular Optional among candidates you will find plenty of study material as well as guidance on the subject. 

Plenty of study material is of great help in any subject and also saves a lot of time. Moreover, you will also benefit from the strategy and experience of others who have taken it as their optional subject.

Sociology topics are interrelated in the paper first and second as well. The limited syllabus that is mostly static in nature reduces the time required for preparation. 

We are aware of important changes in society because the entire prelims preparation is Indo-centric. And after studying sociology, you will have in-depth knowledge and understanding of Indian society and structure. It also helps in the interview round since you have insight into the problems spreading in our society and also can offer some good solutions for the same. There is no need for any prior knowledge or special skills to understand the subject although it’s good if you have. It is all about what we see in our society. It includes topics like the structure and change in Indian society, caste, kinship agrarian structure, religion etc. We are already aware of them. So candidates can always write something based on common knowledge if they don’t have a proper technical answer to a question.

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