Which is a Better Optional for IAS Mains: Sociology or Geography?

Both Sociology and Geography are popular optionals in the UPSC civil services exam with Geography surpassing Sociology if you look at the absolute numbers of candidates opting for the subjects. In fact, both the subjects are considered scoring and a lot of people from different academic backgrounds select either of these two optional subjects. This article tries to answer the question – ‘which is a better optional for IAS mains: Sociology or Geography?’

  • It is a scientific subject, one that students from all backgrounds can try their hand at.
  • It is a scoring subject. There is no room for interpretation here. You can also score marks through diagrams and maps.
  • There is plenty of study material available for this subject.
  • There is a good deal of overlap in general studies paper I and also in some parts of general studies paper III.
  • Geography is logical.

Cons of Geography Optional

  • You have to be absolutely correct in maps else you can lose marks entirely.
  • There is a lot of competition in this subject as a lot of people opt for this. Also, you will have to distinguish your answers from the pile.
  • UPSC syllabus for Geography is bigger than Sociology.


Pros of Sociology Optional

  • Sociology has a shorter syllabus.
  • It is easy to understand and is scoring too.
  • It is a pure social science and is popular with humanities students. Since it is easy to understand, even science background students can attempt it safely.
  • It helps with the essay paper since generally at least one essay is asked on social issues. It will also help in the interview round. Sociology also helps in the ethics paper.
  • It is interesting especially if social issues matter to you. It helps you understand society and its myriad layers and functioning.
  • There is overlap with general studies paper I.

 Cons of Sociology Optional

  • It is scoring but not as much as Geography.
  • It is not as ‘scientific’ as Geography. It is a social science and so, some aspects are subjective.


As you can see, both subjects have their own advantages and disadvantages. You must look at your own interests and prior knowledge levels before fixing on an optional subject.


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