UPSC Physics Optional Strategy

One of the science related subjects in the list of optional subjects in UPSC Exam is Physics. This subject is not as popular as Geography or Public Administration. It can be taken up by those with a science or engineering background in college. This article talks about how to prepare for Physics optional for the UPSC mains exam. Though it is considered one of the best optional subjects for IAS for engineering students, others who may choose this subject are:

  • Candidates with a Physics major in their graduation.
  • Candidates with a background in STEM(Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).

Advantages of UPSC Physics Optional

  • As one of the hard sciences, Physics lets the candidate answer objectively. Answers are not open to interpretation and hence the possibility of scoring well is high.
  • Numerical problems boost scores if you practice well enough and are reasonably well -versed in them.
  • Diagrams and charts can be used to illustrate concepts in a better way in physics.

Physics for UPSC: Tips for Preparation

  • It is very important to be thorough with concepts in the UPSC Physics syllabus. Higher order problem-solving skills should be developed to score good marks.
  • One of the important parts of your answers is derivations. Assess the number of marks allocated to a question and decide if you would derive the whole equation or just give the equation. If it is a 20-marks question, you should derive the relevant equation. Analyse the space and time constraints and decide. Derivations can be done in multiple ways and hence require practice.
  • For Paper I, practice numerical problems. Multiple methods to solve the same question should be studied. Paper II has more theoretical questions, so developing a good knowledge base in classical and modern physics is a must. Practice using previous years’ UPSC physics optional question papers.
  • You must know the definitions of terms and various equations related to a concept. If a question about a particular phenomenon is asked, you must explain the underlying theory as well as the mathematical solution.
  • You should make IAS physics notes for every chapter. This will make your revision easier.

Important Topics for Physics Optional

Here are a few important topics to study for UPSC Physics Paper I:

Section A:

  • Classical Mechanics
  • Special Relativity
  • Wave Motion
  • Geometric Optics
  • Physical Optics

Section B:

  • Electricity and Magnetism,
  • Electromagnetic Theory
  • Black Body Radiation
  • Thermal Physics
  • Statistical Physics

Physics Paper II

  • Quantum physics
  • Modern physics
  • Electronics

IAS Physics Books

The following is a list of important Physics optional UPSC books:

  • A Dictionary of Physics – A.M Goldstein
  • Advanced Level Physics – Nelkon & Parker
  • Atomic Physics – J. B. Rajam
  • Electronic Devices and Circuits – Allen Mottershead
  • Experiments in Nuclear Physics – Gautam Sharma & Nishant Patel
  • Fundamentals of Magnetism and Electricity – D.N. Vasudeva
  • Concepts of Modern Physics – Arthur Beiser
  • A Textbook of Sound – Khanna & Bedi
  • Atomic & Molecular Spectra -Rajkumar
  • Classical Mechanics – R.G Takwale
  • Integrated Electronics – Millman & Halkias
  • Engineering Physics – Satya Prakash
  • Introduction to Electrodynamics – David J. Griffiths
  • A Textbook of Optics – Brijlal & Subramanyam
  • Principles of Physics Vol I&II – David Halliday and Robert Resnick
  • Properties of Matter – B. Aggarwal
  • Quantum Mechanics – A Ghatak
  • Quantum Physics- Resnick & Eisberg
  • Solid State Physics – Mircea S. Rogalski
  • Special Relativity-Robert Resnick
  • Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics – Richard Fitzpatrick
  • Thermal Physics – Satya Prakash
  • University Physics – Sears and Zemansky
  • Waves and Oscillations – Brijlal & Subramanyam

The physics optional syllabus for the UPSC is vast, though aspirants can focus on a few topics at a time. Dividing the syllabus into blocks and covering the key concepts first is helpful. The preparation for this optional requires aspirants to devote at least 2 hours a day for eight to ten months. This would enable aspirants to cover the syllabus thoroughly.

To know more about UPSC preparation, visit:

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *