Sociology and Public Administration: Choose The Best Optional for UPSC

The choice of an optional subject for UPSC is one problem that many aspirants face while applying for the IAS exam. There used to be two optional subjects in the Civil Service Main Exam till 2013. Now there is only one which needs to be selected out of a list of 48 optional subjects. IAS aspirants should keep the following factors in mind while selecting an optional:

  • Subject Knowledge: The aspirants should choose the subject that they are very knowledgeable in. This would increase the chances of scoring well and also reduce preparation time.
  • Interest: Next comes an interest in the subject. If the aspirant finds a subject uninteresting, it will be very difficult to prepare for the UPSC exam.
  • Availability of Study Material: Aspirants should have easy access to study material for their chosen subject. Otherwise, a lot of time will be wasted in finding the right sources instead of preparing for the exam.
  • Length of the Syllabus: A shorter syllabus will be easy to prepare when compared to a longer one. Fewer concepts will have to be covered in the same time period, allowing aspirants to prepare more thoroughly.
  • Usefulness in an IAS career: Aspirants should also see if the optional they have chosen would be useful in their job as a Civil Servant. A higher priority should be given to those which would be useful even after clearing the IAS Exam.
  • Level of Competition: Generally, a lower level of competition will increase the chances of success for UPSC aspirants.

The UPSC optional syllabus is at an honours degree level. This means that the level of knowledge required will be more than a typical graduate but less than a postgraduate.

Difference Between Sociology and Public administration

In this article, we will discuss the pros and cons of Sociology and Public Administration. Both are part of the list of optional subjects for UPSC Mains.

Public Administration Optional: Pros and Cons

Here are a few arguments for and against choosing Public Administration as an optional:

Pros of Choosing Public Administration Cons of Choosing Public Administration
  • Simple and easy to understand
  • Easily available study material
  • Straightforward questions
  • Large overlap with General Studies syllabus
  • Useful subject for future IAS officers
  • The highest success rate in the UPSC so far.
  • Some aspirants may find the syllabus to be vast
  • The syllabus is more theoretical in nature as compared to other optionals
  • Paper II of Public Administration is highly dynamic and unpredictable.
  • The syllabus requires reading ARC reports and other government reports apart from traditional textbooks and notes, which increases preparation time.
  • Very high competition.

Sociology Optional: Pros and Cons

The following table lists the advantages and disadvantages of choosing Sociology as an optional subject:

Pros of Choosing Sociology Cons of Choosing Sociology
  • Relatively short syllabus
  • Some overlap with General Studies for Mains
  • Interesting content about human behaviour, society etc.
  • Useful while working as a Civil Servant
  • Less competition as compared to many other optionals.
  • Overlap with General Studies not as large as Public Administration
  • Many sensitive topics and political theories are included in the syllabus. This increases the risk of getting focused on a few topics during preparation.
  • Not a highly scoring subject when compared to others.

As we can see from the above tables, both optionals have their pros and cons. An IAS aspirant should choose according to his competency and interests as stated in this article. The choice of a subject should be based on a dispassionate evaluation of one’s capability and free of outside influence. This would ensure success in the UPSC  exam.

In case you decide to go for either of the subjects the following links will help you in studying them better:

To read more about UPSC preparation, check out:

Related Links:
Interesting statistics about UPSC optionals How many attempts does it take to clear UPSC?
IAS toppers who cleared in the first attempt Important books for Sociology
Important Books for Public Administration Optional NCERT Books for UPSC


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