UPSC Civil Services exam is a three stage process comprising of Prelims, Mains and Interview. The final merit list is prepared based upon Mains and Interview score. The cumulative score of Mains and Interview is 2025 Marks. A candidate scoring 50% marks can easily get top 200 rank in the coveted list. As per Civil Services Exam 2018 merit list, a score of 1065 out of 2025 i.e. 52.5% marks can get you top 10 rank. The UPSC CSE Rank 1 generally has marks up to 55 –56 %.

Candidates have to choose an optional from the list of optional subjects given by UPSC. There are 26 optional subjects including literature as one subject ( Note:- If a candidate chooses literature optional, then he has to choose anyone of the 23 languages prescribed by UPSC).

The optional subject carries a weight-age of 500 marks. A score in the range of 280–300 is considered a good score. Thus, the optional subject can easily contribute around 30% to your final score which is significant. Moreover, Optional subject also provides a degree of certainty to your score as general studies and interview are highly unpredictable. Because of this, choosing the correct optional subject and preparing it thoroughly is vital.

While choosing any Optional subject, following things should be kept in mind:

  1. Length of Syllabus — some of the Optional subjects have too vast syllabus which compromises candidates’s general studies preparation.
  2. Whether your graduation subject is their in the Optional subject list? And if yes, then is the syllabus same or different?
  3. Average marks and highest marks being scored by candidates and total selections from that Optional subject in past 2–3 years. Anthropology, Mathematics outscore other subjects here.
  4. Books, study material, test series available. Some of the popular Optionals like Public Administration, Geography, Political Science have easily available study material, books etc.
  5. Degree of overlap of Optional syllabus with general studies syllabus. History, Geography, Public Administration, Political Science, Sociology cover a good deal of general studies syllabus.
  6. And most important, your interest in the subject. This is the single most important parameter because until and unless you can develop interest in that subject, you cannot study it at length, nor would you strive to dive deeper into the topics.

In case you are undecided about choosing Optional subject, it is better to first start with general studies preparation where you will be reading about History, Geography, Polity, Economics etc. Delaying about choosing Optional is better than making a wrong choice and then making a shift which can spoil your one year.

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