Optional Subjects for UPSC Mains 2021

The UPSC Main Examination consists of 2 Qualifying papers and 7 merit ranking papers listed below:

  • Qualifying Papers
    • English
    • Any One Indian Language from the Eighth Schedule of The Constitution of India
  • Merit Ranking Papers
    • UPSC Essay
    • General Studies Paper I
    • General Studies Paper II
    • General Studies Paper III
    • General Studies Paper IV
    • Optional Paper I
    • Optional Paper II

In this article, we will discuss the subjects and syllabus for UPSC Optional Papers I and II.

The UPSC Optional Subject list consists of 48 subjects, out of which one can be selected by the candidate for both the papers. Each optional subject comprises of two papers (Paper I and Paper II) each of 250 marks, making it a total of 500 marks

The syllabus of the optional papers is at the honours degree level, which is higher than an undergraduate degree level but lower than a masters degree level. Candidates can also take literature subjects as an optional paper. Your choice of optionals can substantially influence your chances of success in UPSC 2021.

In this article, we have collated the detailed UPSC Syllabus for Civil Services Mains Optional Subjects that will help you decide on your Optional Subject for IAS exam. Given below is the list of optional subjects in UPSC and the links to UPSC Optional Subjects syllabus PDFs.

Optional Subjects Syllabus PDF and Strategy Links

The following is the list of Optional Subjects in UPSC 2021 along with link to download the optional subject syllabus PDF:

Choosing an Optional Subject for UPSC should be based on the following factors:

  • Average success rate of UPSC optional papers, a higher success rate would be a good indicator of the availability of IAS study material for those subjects
  • Candidates’ expertise in the optional subject, for example, a practicing doctor would have considerable expertise on Medical Science and should ideally choose this as the optional subject to reduce effort and time spent on IAS preparation.
  • UPSC optional subjects chosen by IAS toppers in the past also indicate high scoring potential and availability of preparation material for IAS topper’s optional subjects.

To read more about UPSC preparation, please visit:

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30 Comments

  1. Can, I take fine arts subject in optional paper 1 and 2?

    1. You have to choose an optional subject from the list of 48 optional subjects (including literature subjects.)

  2. Please tell me books for Agriculture optional

    1. Hi
      Refer to the Agriculture Optional Books at the linked article.

  3. Sir i am from commerce background
    But can i choose Agriculture in my optional paper

    1. Yes, you can choose Agriculture as your optional.

  4. Sir
    Kannada optional subject syllabus plz

  5. Sir,
    I have a small confusion. In Indian language paper we can choose our regional language and in optional paper also there is another chance to select our regional language as optional. Is it correct or not? can u clarify this doubt for me

    1. Yes, in both the papers, regional languages can be selected.

  6. sir,
    what is the essay paper means?
    can u give a brief explanation about essay paper?

    1. Hi
      Please get detailed information about essay paper and how to write an essay for UPSC in the linked article.

  7. Priyanshu Priyadarshi Meher

    How should I start my preparation during graduation? Pls help me 😭😭

  8. Sir please tell me the name of the books for physics optional

  9. Sir
    How to prepare for economy pri +mains

  10. Sir I am physics background (tamil student) but can I choose tamil literature in my optional paper

    1. Yes, you can choose.

  11. hi sir/madam iam reshma wil u advise which subject is best and better for optional papers

    1. Hi,

      Optional subject you can choose as per your educational background and/or relevance in Mains General Studies Papers. Popular options are – Anthropology, Sociology, Pub Ad, History, Geography but it depends on the individual

  12. sir, what is syllyabus for marathi literature

  13. hii sir,
    Actyually i am from B Sc horticulture background [AGRICULTURE] can choose agriculture as optional subject?

    1. Yes, you can choose any subject given in the list of optional subjects.

  14. Dear mentor,
    May i write gs1&2 in hindi,
    And gs3&4 in english.
    Please clarify.

    1. Hi,
      A candidate has to select one medium of language for UPSC Mains. Except for the Indian Language paper, a candidate has to write the rest of the papers in that language.

  15. i have a doubt in optional there are 2 optional subject so one the normal subjects like history ,political etc and second optional is regional language. is it correct or correct me if i am wrong.

    1. Hi,
      There are 48 optional subjects (25 Subjects, and 23 Literature). One has to choose one subject out of these. In UPSC mains, there will be two papers of the same optional subject you will select. Read more here

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