Political Science Vs. Sociology for UPSC

Political Science Vs. Sociology for UPSC

The UPSC offers a variety of subjects that you can choose from as your optional subject for the mains exam. The decision to select an optional subject should be made with a lot of contemplation. Factors like your educational background, interest, time in hand and overlap with the GS papers; all go into making this decision.

Political science and sociology are two popular optionals candidates opt for every year. The 2015 rank 1 holder Tina Dabi had chosen Political Science and International Relations as her optional. The same year, Sharanya Ari had bagged the 7th rank with sociology as her optional. If you are confused between political science and sociology as your optional subjects for the IAS exam, read on for a comparative analysis of both subjects.

Political Science & International Relations

Political science is a social science dealing with systems of governance, political thoughts and political behaviour, and the analysis of political activities. International relations also forms a part of this subject in the UPSC exam.

Pros of Political Science

  • There is a huge overlap with general studies. Indian polity is a big component of GS paper 2.
  • Even in the prelims exam, you have to cover a lot of Polity, so taking this optional will help you cover a lot of ground faster.
  • A lot of topics in political science are related to current events and as such your current affairs preparation will also be aided.
  • The syllabus is relatively smaller and can be completed on time.
  • Having this subject as your optional will also help you in the interview.
  • You don’t need a background in political science to select this optional. Anyone can learn this subject provided they have the interest since it is not too technical.
  • On average, a lesser number of people takes up political science as compared to sociology, so there is lesser competition.

Cons of Political Science

  • Sometimes, political ideologies can be difficult to comprehend.
  • This is a subjective social science and you do need good writing skills to score marks.

See Political Science and International Relations Syllabus for UPSC Mains Optionals


Sociology is a social science that studies social behaviour or society, including its origins, development, organisation, networks and institutions. It deals with the functioning of human society and also of social problems.

Pros of Sociology

  • There is some overlap with the GS papers.
  • The syllabus is relatively shorter.
  • It is an interesting subject and a good understanding of the concepts in sociology will help its students to develop a good understanding of human behaviour and society.
  • The average success rate of sociology optional is 9.52% between the years 2010 and 2014. This is higher than the corresponding figure for political science & IR which is 8.12%.
  • This subject can also be taken by candidates of any academic background, as it is not technical.
  • Sociology can help in the ethics paper as well with its focus on human nature, behaviour and society. This subject also helps to a great extent in writing on social issues topics in the GS and the essay papers.
  • It is considered more scoring than political science and IR.

Cons of Sociology

  • The overlap with GS is far less when compared to political science.
  • This requires the study of statistical tools which can be a problem for some candidates.

See, Sociology Syllabus for UPSC Mains Optionals

Also See | UPSC Mains: Sociology or Anthropology Optional?

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