Pros and Cons of taking Literature Optionals in UPSC Mains Exam

A lot of IAS aspirants ponder over what optional subject to take for the mains exam. As the two optionals contribute towards 500 marks in the final tally, it is an important decision and one that should be made after some consideration. The most popular optional subjects are public administration, geography, sociology, etc. Literature subjects as optionals are not as popular for some reason. But there have been toppers in the past with literature subjects as optionals. Read on to find out the pros and cons of taking literature optionals in the UPSC mains exam.

List of literature optional subjects UPSC:

  • Assamese
  • Bengali
  • Bodo
  • Dogri
  • Gujarati
  • Hindi
  • Kannada
  • Kashmiri
  • Konkani
  • Maithili
  • Malayalam
  • Manipuri
  • Marathi
  • Nepali
  • Odia
  • Punjabi
  • Sanskrit
  • Santhali
  • Sindhi
  • Tamil
  • Telugu
  • Urdu
  • English

As is the case with any optional, the rules for selecting an optional are simple:

  • You should have an interest in the subject.
  • You should have an understanding of the subject.


Pros of taking literature optional in IAS mains:

  • There are fewer takers for these optionals, so you have far less competition.
  • If you have a love for literature, you will find preparation for the subject easy and less strenuous than other subjects. Literature is full of stories and poetry and if this excites you, you should definitely think of taking literature optionals.
  • There is no limit to how well you can write here. If you have been in the habit of reading since your schooldays, you can surely shine in the exam.
  • You can always take the heat off your GS preparation by reading something from your optional syllabus.
  • Generally, the syllabus doesn’t need any updation. Once you have prepared for this optional, even after a couple of years, it remains unchanged.


Cons of taking literature optional in IAS mains:

  • Your answers have to be really unique for them to stand out.
  • They are considered less scoring since a lot of things are subjective here.
  • Generally it is recommended that you take any of the literature optionals only if you have studied the subject before in depth during your graduation. This is because a lot of material has to be read during the preparation.
  • There is a dearth of coaching available for these optional subjects.
  • There is virtually no overlap with general studies if you take literature optionals.


Also Read | Few Thumb Rules to Choose the Right Optional Subject for IAS Exam Mains 2016-17

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  1. Can you pls suggest book list for tamil optional?

    1. You can refer to the books from the Tamil Literature Optional Booklist page. Keep in mind that all books are not be read from cover to cover. Refer to these to meet the requirements of the syllabus.

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