UPSC Mains Optional Subject - Chemistry

Chemistry is one of the optional subjects offered by the UPSC for the Civil Service Mains Exam. This article throws light on advantages of this optional subject, the success rate in this optional subject spread over a decade, and the important reference books while preparing for Chemistry optional subject.

Aspirants would find this topic very helpful while preparing for the IAS Exam.

Aspirants can check their preparation by subscribing to UPSC Prelims Test Series 2020 now!!

To complement your preparation for the upcoming exam, check the following links:

Chemistry Optional – Advantages

It is a core science subject and usually opted by those with a science background at their graduation level. Being a science subject, the topics are very precise with very little scope for subjectivity by the examiner. So, you can be sure of how you fared in the exam unlike the humanities subjects.Certain topics in this subject are related to current affairs topics like environment, climate change, etc.

Given below is a table giving the success rate of candidates with Chemistry as optional subject from 2002 to 2013.

Year No. Of candidates appeared No. Of candidates recommended Success rate percentage
2002 75 2 2.6
2003 133 7 5.3
2004 109 0 0
2005 84 4 4.8
2006 89 5 5.6
2007 110 9 8.18
2008 124 7 5.6
2009 109 9 8.3
2010 107 7 6.5
2011 123 11 8.9
2012 104 11 10.6
2013 85 6 7.10
2014 98 7 7.10
  1. The first thing to remember is to understand the UPSC syllabus for chemistry
  2. There are two papers for the optionals. Each paper is of 250 marks making it a total of 500 marks.
  3. The major branches in paper I are physical chemistry and inorganic chemistry.
  4. The topics atomic structure and chemical bonding are straightforward and should be studied from the basic books.
  5. You can expect numerical problems in the sections solid state chemistry and gaseous state.
  6. Other topics where you need to practice numerical problems are thermodynamics, chemical kinetics, photochemistry and electrochemistry.
  7. It is recommended that you study the section coordination chemistry as lengthy questions can be expected from it.
  8. Paper II mainly covers organic chemistry. It is scoring because of more numericals, factual questions, and objective questions.
  9. Take care to include diagrams in your answers wherever necessary.

Chemistry Optional for Civil Service Mains Exam – Recommended Books

Multiple reference books have been provided below for Physical, Organic and Inorganic Chemistry.

Physical Chemistry

  1. Principles of Physical Chemistry – Puri, Sharma & Pathwa (for gaseous state, phase rule, solutions, thermodynamics, colligative properties, electrochemistry, catalysis and colloids)
  2. Advanced Physical Chemistry – Gurdeep Raj (for chemical kinetics)
  3. A Text Book of Physical Chemistry (Volume IV) – K.L. Kapoor (for photochemistry)

Inorganic Chemistry

  1. Principles of Physical Chemistry – Puri, Sharma & Pathwa (for atomic structure)
  2. Advanced Inorganic Chemistry – J.D. Lee
  3. Chemical Periodicity, Chemical bonding, Coordination compound- Maden, Malik and Tuli
  4. Theoretical Principles of Inorganic Chemistry – G.S. Manku

Principles of Inorganic Chemistry – Puri, Sharma, Jauhar (for extraction of metals)

Organic Chemistry

  1. Bonding and shape of organic molecules, Stereochemistry of carbon compound – Reactions and reagents – O.P. Agarwal
  2. A Guide to Mechanism in Organic Chemistry – Peter Sykes
  3. A Text-Book of Organic Chemistry – Bahl & Bahl


The above details would help candidates prepare for UPSC 2020.

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