Agriculture or Botany Optional for UPSC Mains Exam

Agriculture and Botany are two related subjects that the UPSC offers candidates as optional subjects in the IAS mains exam. A lot of candidates with either of the two subjects in their educational backgrounds find it hard to decide between these subjects as both are viable optionals for them. This article compares both agriculture and botany optionals in the UPSC mains exam.

Botany vs Agriculture Optional for UPSC

Botany is the study of the physiology, genetics, structure, ecology, classification, distribution and economic importance of plants.

Agriculture is the science of farming, comprising the cultivation of the soil for growing crops and the rearing of animals to provide food, wool, and other products.

Candidates with Botany, Agriculture, Biology or Biotechnology as their graduation subject can take up either botany or agriculture in the IAS mains. Even candidates who haven’t studied these subjects previously are eligible to take them as optionals but this would be a risk as both require BA/MA level knowledge.

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Advantages of Botany Optional:

  • It is a science subject and so is scoring.
  • A good understanding of the foundations of the subject can enable you to write good answers and fetch more marks. You need only clarity of concepts.
  • Being a science subject, there is no room for interpretation. So, you cannot lose marks because of subjectivity.
  • The questions in Botany are generally direct and straight-forward.
  • The Botany portions are mostly static.
  • You can score through diagrams in this optional.

Advantages of Agriculture Optional:

  • The agriculture syllabus is short and can be covered on time.
  • Candidates with any background can try this optional since the concepts are related to nature.
  • This subject is scoring as seen from UPSC history.
  • There is overlap with general studies particularly in Geography and Economy sections.

Comparison of Botany and Agriculture Optional

Strategy for Agriculture optional for UPSC IAS mains
Tips to Prepare for Botany Optional in the UPSC Mains Exam
IAS Agriculture Optional Syllabus
IAS Botany Optional Syllabus

Paper II of both Botany and Agriculture are quite similar. So, aspirants from Botany background can take up Agriculture as well.  Generally, between the two subjects agriculture is more general. So, an aspirant from any background can crack agriculture if armed with the right strategy and study material. But Botany is recommended only for those with some background in this subject as it is a bit more technical.

How to choose between botany and agriculture?

If you are confused between the two, you are recommended to follow the steps outlined below:

  1. Go through the syllabus of both subjects in detail.
  2. Make a list of the topics you are confident in for both subjects.
  3. Make a list of the topics you are totally unsure of for both subjects.
  4. See for yourself which subject excites you most? Which subject makes you want to read more?
  5. Assess the lists you have made keeping in mind your strengths and interests. Your decision will come to your head.
  6. Once you have made a decision, let there be no going back and forth.

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Related Links:

UPSC Prelims Syllabus UPSC 2021
Topic-Wise GS 2 Questions for UPSC Mains Topic-Wise GS 3 Questions for UPSC Mains
Topic-Wise GS 4 Questions for UPSC Mains Daily News Analysis

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