Public Administration Versus Political Science

Public administration and political science & international relations are both popular optional subjects in the UPSC Mains Exam. Both the subjects have a large number of takers although public administration trumps the other if you go by the absolute number of candidates taking public administration.

These subjects can be taken by candidates from different educational backgrounds because they are social sciences and easy enough to understand. This article compares public administration versus political science as optional subjects for the UPSC mains exam.

Difference Between Political Science and Public Administration

The Pros and Cons of Public Administration and Political Science.

The pros and cons of the two optional subjects have been highlighted below:

Public Administration

Pros Cons
  • Simple and easy to understand.
  • A lot of good study material.
  • Questions are generally straight forward.
  • Good overlap with general studies.
  • This subject will help in essay and interview also.
  • The useful subject for future administrators.
  • Highest success rate.
  • The syllabus may seem vast for some.
  • It is a very theoretical subject and some may find it dry.
  • Tremendous competition in this subject as a lot of people opt for this optional.
  • Paper-II is highly dynamic and a little unpredictable.

Political Science & International Relations

Pros Cons
  • There is a lot of overlap with general studies.
  • Many topics in polity, economy, modern India, world affairs, social issues, international political economy, international organisations, international relations, foreign policy, etc. finds repetition in general studies.
  • The syllabus is smaller and can be finished on time (because of overlap).
  • The questions are more balanced and not very unpredictable.
  • It is helpful in current affairs preparation.
  • This subject will help in the interview also.
  • You need to have good writing skills to score good marks.
  • Political ideologies can be quite complex sometimes to comprehend.

As you see, both subjects have their pros and cons. If you have a background or interest in either of these subjects, you would be better off taking that as your IAS optional. Otherwise, if both are neutral subjects to you, you should go through the syllabus of both. See for yourself the overlap with general studies. Also, see what subject interests you and excites you the most. If you go by the past data, more successful aspirants have taken public administration. But political science and IR is also fast emerging as a popular optional. GS overlap is more here, although public administration has a higher success rate.

The decision has to be taken by you after weighing the pros and cons of both subjects vis-à-Vis your own strengths and weaknesses.

In the event that you decide to go for either of the optional subjects, the following links will help you in studying them better:

You can find out about other civil services posts, by visiting the linked article. For more exam-related preparation materials, refer to the links given in the table below:

Related Links

NCERT Books Free Download  UPSC Exam Pattern NCERT Notes for UPSC
Intangible Cultural Heritage Indian Personalities PIB Summary and Analysis
Biological Weathering Safety Valve Theory WPI Index

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  1. I am still very confused about optional between political science and international relations and public administration .
    What should I do then ?

    • 1. Compare the syllabus of both the optional subjects.
      2. Check previous year questions from these optional subjects.
      3. If you are going to opt for optional coaching, then find out which subject’s coaching is nearby your place and also the quality of teaching.
      4. If you still remain confused, you can study both the subjects for 1 month, diving equal time for each. After 1 month, check for yourself, which subject you are more comfortable with.
      5. You can also refer to the success rate of optionals in UPSC.