Strategy for Management Optional for UPSC

Management, although not a highly popular optional subject, is generally considered a safe optional. Its performance has been consistent and every year among those who clear the UPSC exam, there are a few candidates with the management optional. If you look at the functions that an IAS officer must perform such as administration, policy planning and implementation, allocation and usage of government funds, and so on, there is an uncanny resemblance to the functions that a ‘manager’ must perform in a corporate set-up. Even the traits that an IAS officer is supposed to have such as good leadership skills, inclination to take initiatives, moderating between disputing parties, conflict resolution, quick response to emergency situations and the like, these seem to be the kind of traits and capabilities a B-school graduate tries to imbibe. So, how is management as an optional for UPSC aspirants? We discuss this and more in this article.

How many take Management optional?

The number of people who take up the management optional is generally less than 200 although it varies. In any case, it is not as high as geography or public administration or political science. But, the subject has a decent success rate of around 12 – 15 %. In the following table, you can see the number of candidates who opt for management optional and clear the IAS exam.

Management optional success rate

Year No. of candidates appeared No. of candidates cleared Success rate (%)
2015 91 11 12.1
2014 176 20 11.4
2013 167 23 13.8
2012 167 24 14.4
2011 266 15 5.6
2010 35 5 14.3

IAS toppers with Management optional

The next table shows the names of a few IAS toppers with the management optional and their all-India ranks.

Name Year Rank
Ritesh Bhatt 2016 361
Manuj Jindal 2016 53
Asim Anwar 2015 149
Nagendra Singh 2013 120

Management optional pros and cons

There are pros and cons of taking management as an optional in the IAS mains exam, like any other optional subject. You have to assess the advantages and drawbacks associated with the subject and evaluate your own strengths and weaknesses before coming to a decision on the optional. In this section, you can read about the advantages and the pitfalls of choosing management as an optional. The key is to use your strengths to your advantage in the UPSC mains and avoid the drawbacks of the optional.

Management optional pros

  • The greatest advantage of the management optional is that the questions asked are generally pretty direct and straight-forward. The difficulty level is also easy to medium.
  • The questions have also been repeated over the years. So, if you go through the previous year UPSC question papers diligently and prepare accordingly, you should be able to perform well in the exam.
  • You will encounter far less competition in this optional than other subjects like pub ad, geography, etc.
  • Management is a logical and rational subject. It is not subject to interpretation unlike some humanities subjects like political science, sociology and so on.
  • Candidates with a background in management and commerce can take up this optional.
  • You can get almost the entire study material from standard management books.
  • The syllabus is largely static and very little is linked to current affairs.

Management optional cons

  • The syllabus for the management optional is lengthy.
  • The papers are also deemed lengthy and students often find it difficult to complete paper II.
  • The overlap with the general studies papers is minimal. In certain concepts like government-business interface, there is some overlap with the GS II and III papers.

Management optional syllabus

Let us take a look at the syllabus for Management for the UPSC mains exam.

There are two optional papers in the UPSC exam pattern. Both the papers are for a total of 250 marks making the total optional marks to 500.

UPSC Management Syllabus PDF:-Download Syllabus PDF

Management optional strategy

In this section, we discuss a few tips and approaches you can adopt in your preparation of the management optional.

Paper I strategy

Paper I for management is all theory. The topic-wise tips are given below.

Managerial Function and Process – this part is best covered from the book ‘Fundamentals of Management’ by DeCenzo, Agarwal, Bhattacharya and Robbins.

Example questions:

  1. Discuss the contributions of Fayol in the development of management thought. (10 marks, 2017)

Marketing Management – ‘Marketing Management’ by Philip Kotler will cover this section comprehensively.

Example questions:

  1. Explain the difference between needs, wants and demands. Which one of these is the starting point for marketing? Do marketers create needs? (10 marks, 2018)

Accounting for Managers – For this section, you can refer to ‘Cost and Management Accounting’ by MN Arora.

Example questions:

  1. Contrast the effect of FIFO versus (weighted) average cost on ending value of inventory and pre-income tax (PBT), when

(i) Prices are rising, and

(ii) Prices are falling                  (10 marks, 2018)

  1. Explain the Miller-Orr model of cash management. How is this model helpful in determination of appropriate cash balance? (10 marks, 2017)

Organisation Behaviour and Design – For this section, you can refer to ‘Organization Behaviour’ by Stephen Robbins.

Example questions:

  1. What are the major cultural characteristics which explain differences in organisational behaviour across cultures according to Hofstede? Why is cultural adaptation important? Illustrate with the help of suitable examples. (15 marks, 2018)

Financial Management – This part can be covered from ‘Financial Management’ by Prasanna Chandra. You can also use Rustagi’s ‘Fundamentals of Financial Management’ as a reference book.

  1. Explain the importance of management accounting in financial decisions. (10 marks, 2017)

Human Resource Management – HRM can be covered from ‘Human Resource Management’ by K Aswathappa.

Paper II strategy

Paper II is application-based. It contains numericals and case studies. This makes it scoring. However, it also makes practice essential if you want to do well.

Quantitative Techniques in Decision-Making – For this section, you can refer to ‘Quantitative Approaches to Management’ by Levin and Rubin. Repeated areas asked are: mean, median, mode, graphical method in linear programming, numerical on simplex method, Bayes Theorem, correlation and regression line.

Production and Operations Management – This is the lengthiest section in the entire syllabus. You can use ‘Operations Management’ by Heizer and Render.

Example questions:

  1. What is the difference between Production and Operations Management? Illustrate with the help of examples. (5 marks, 2018)

International Business – The best book for this section is ‘International Business’ by Hill and Jain.

Government Business Interface – This section can be covered from ‘Business Environment’ by AC Fernando. Please remember that only selective reading is needed from this book. Only about 10% of it is needed, so you do not have to buy this book.

Strategic Cost Management – ‘Strategic Management’ by Hill and Jones is a good  book for this section. About 60% of the topics are found in this book. The rest of it can be obtained from online sources.

Management Information Systems – For this section, you can use ‘Management Information Systems’ by either Laudon or O’Brien.

Example questions:

  1. Write short notes on: (i) Cyber Security (ii) Cryptography (iii) Ethical Hacking (15 marks, 2018)

General tips for Management optional

  • In paper I, you should focus on OB, HR, finance and marketing. In the accounting section, the UPSC has so far only asked small topics such as marginal costing vs absorption costing, budgeting techniques, inventory management and the like.
  • Even in finance section, they ask theory-based questions.
  • OB and HR are really important in Paper I because they make up about 80% of the questions asked.
  • You will have a choice in either marketing or finance. But as mentioned before, HR and OB is a must.
  • Even though it is a theoretical paper, try to write in points and with subheadings.
  • Since the questions are direct and everyone gives the same content, try to make the answer presentation good and appealing.
  • Draw diagrams and tables when necessary.
  • For case studies in this paper, it is advisable to stick to simple formulas and basic framework and models. Study basic concepts like the BCG Matrix, Porter’s Five, MCKinsey’s framework, etc. There is no need to get into advanced models.
  • Do go through previous UPSC question papers. At least 50% of the questions are repeated.

UPSC Management optional books

  1. Fundamentals of Management by DeCenzo, Agarwal, Bhattacharya and Robbins
  2. Marketing Management by Philip Kotler
  3. Cost and Management Accounting by MN Arora
  4. Organization Behaviour by Stephen Robbins
  5. Financial Management by Prasanna Chandra
  6. Financial Management by Rustagi
  7. Human Resource Management by K Aswathappa
  8. Quantitative Approaches to Management by Levin and Rubin
  9. Operations Management by Heizer and Render
  10. International Business by Hill and Jain
  11. Business Environment by AC Fernando
  12. Strategic Management by Hill and Jones
  13. Management Information Systems by either Laudon or O’Brien

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