August 11, 2022
IAS Mains

Choosing the right option for IAS Mains is a serious matter, as the right optional subject can make an aspirant’s dream of IAS glory, real.

There are many optional subjects to choose from in the IAS mains (For the uninitiated, IAS full form is the Indian Administrative Services). So it is prudent to know what are the factors that can influence the selection of the right optional for IAS mains.

This article will elaborate upon those factors.

What is the weightage given to optional papers?

Before going into details about the factors that help in choosing the right optional papers, it is crucial to understand the marks weightage of the optional papers.

As per the latest UPSC exam pattern, the optional paper is allotted 500 marks out of a total of 2025. Due to the unpredictable nature of the GS papers which are for 1000 marks, 250 marks for the essay, and a further 275 marks for the interview, choosing the right optionals can tilt the odds in your favor.

Factors for choosing the right IAS Mains

Here are some of the factors that you may consider, when choosing the best option from the list of optional subjects for UPSC:

  1. Syllabus Overlap: There are some subjects like History, Political Science, Geography, Sociology, Public Administration, etc., whose syllabi overlap with that of General Studies. It is applicable in both Prelims and Mains, thus saving valuable study time.
  2. Extensive Syllabus: It’s prudent to choose an optional subject whose syllabus you can cover in a short time. Of course, one can choose a subject with an extensive syllabus if one is comfortable with it; but this will also mean focusing primarily on that subject while possibly neglecting general studies. Thus, a proper decision must be made keeping these factors in mind
  3. Availability of study materials: Not all optional subjects will have study materials available readily. Some relevant books are limited in number. Now, this can be mitigated to an extent through online education, but even that is not a guarantee, in itself. So it is necessary to evaluate the choice of an optional subject keeping in mind the resources at hand.
  4. Subject Familiarity: This factor, without a shadow of a doubt, is one of the most important factors when it comes to choosing an optional subject. If it is a subject one has studied during graduation, or post-graduation, or at least has a passionate interest in, then that subject should be the first choice. If a subject is of personal interest, then it will be a breeze studying it for the mains. Most optional subjects are usually chosen because of this factor alone.

Other than the ones listed above, additional factors for choosing an optional subject are:

  • Relevance to the civil services job role
  • The consistent choice of subject among high rankers
  • Scoring potential

Now that you are familiar with the factors to consider when choosing an optional subject, it will be somewhat easier to choose the IAS optional subject. Making the right decision will give you the necessary edge in the competitive exam.

Candidates for the exam can refer to the IAS Questions page which will provide short format answers and explanations that will help in making notes for both IAS prelims and mains.

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