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UPSC 2019: How to choose the right optional subjects for Civil Services examination

Posted on Monday, July 1, 2019

Arts and Humanities are the top choices in UPSC Mains due to syllabus overlap with General Studies, reports Rajlakshmi Ghosh

The Union Public service Commission (UPSC) exam with its three stages involving Prelims, Mains and Interview may have several aspirants but only a few make it to the Mains where a candidate has to choose an optional subject (of 500 marks with two papers of 250 marks each). “It has been estimated that if around 11 lakh candidates apply for the exams, only 5 lakh candidates appear for the Prelims, out of which only 13,000 candidates are selected on merit basis for the Mains. If 3,000 candidates appear for the interview, there are around 1000 vacancies across the Civil Services (which include IAS, IFS, IPS and the Group A and Group B services). In such a scenario, candidates need to make a judicious selection of their optional subject to crack their Mains,” says VP Gupta, chairperson, Rau’s IAS Study Circle.

Sought-after subjects

Currently, optional subjects range from Agriculture, Animal Husbandry to Medical Science, Zoology, Mathematics, Law, History, Commerce and Accountancy, to mention just a few. “While UPSC gives students the flexibility to choose their subject irrespective of their academic background, the most in-demand subjects are those which resonate with the General Studies (GS) syllabus (in both the Prelims and Mains) and the Essay. Political Science, Public Administration, Geography, Sociology and History are considered to be most scoring and easy to master as most students do not go beyond them,” says Gupta. Since the subjects offered by UPSC are of the graduate/PG level, trying to master engineering or medicine in-depth would be a time consuming task. “Dearth of adequate resource materials and revising the entire MBBS/engineering syllabus is no mean task which accounts for the low pass percentage of technical and medical subjects,” Gupta says. 

Strategic choices

Going by the top ranks in the UPSC exams in the last five years, the toppers who are either engineers or management graduates have chosen to opt for Humanities subjects mainly because the syllabus overlaps with GS papers. “Such a strategic decision helps save on energy and time,” says Gupta. “It is a known fact that the best brains gravitate towards engineering or medicine. Engineers with their methodical approach often score more than Humanities students who may lack the necessary confidence. But the UPSC exam is a level playing field where Humanities candidates need to apply their skills and knowledge to scale up their scores,” Gupta says. 



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