Tips for Engineering Students to Prepare for IAS Exam

In 2003, a parliamentary committee of 44 MP’s headed by the current President, Pranab Mukherjee, who was then an MP, had tabled a report to the Union Government recommending that engineers and doctors be banned from taking the UPSC civil service exam. The committee was of the opinion that this was a brain drain from the engineering and medical professions and that their technical knowledge was not required for an administrative job. However, many engineers and doctors who became IAS officers would tell us that their knowledge immensely helped them in successfully carrying out their duties which included developmental work in their allocated regions. In fact, in a developed country like Canada, applied mathematics is a compulsory paper for their governmental administrative services. And, the argument about brain drain also seems weak since every year many engineers and doctors go out of India. It is better if they render services to the country via the civil services. This article gives tips and useful information to engineering students who want to serve the country as IAS officers.

“Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” – John F.Kennedy


First of all, you must know what the UPSC exam is all about. What are the posts and services you can aspire to after clearing the UPSC civil services exam? When does the exam take place? What is the UPSC Syllabus?

Get the detailed IAS Exam pattern and syllabus here.

To get the UPSC Calendar 2020 PDF, click here.

Also, Read | Civil Services Post one may get into after Qualifying the UPSC Interview Round

For the IAS mains exam which you can take if you clear the UPSC Prelims, you have 9 papers out of which 2 are optional papers. You have to choose one optional subject and engineering is also offered by the UPSC as optional.


The UPSC offers three engineering optional subjects – civil, mechanical and electrical engineering optional.

Click on the links below to get the engineering optional IAS syllabus:


Choosing the right optional subject for the IAS mains is a dilemma for many IAS aspirants. For engineering background aspirants, more so because engineering subjects do not feature in the General Studies papers.

Also, Read | Choosing the Right Optional Subject for UPSC Civil Services Mains

If you are pursuing your civil/mechanical/electrical engineering or have just finished, it is advisable to take your graduation subject itself as the optional since the knowledge would still be fresh in your mind. You would be in touch with it. This will save a lot of time which you can invest in your preparation for other GS papers.

Or, if you have a strong foundation and knowledge in your engineering subjects you can still opt for these subjects as your optional. However, if you have lost touch and interest in them, it is advisable to opt for other subjects.

If not engineering subjects, what else?

You can take up mathematics or physics/chemistry as your optional, depending on your interest and knowledge levels. It is difficult to study these subjects from scratch but if you were good in them, you can always brush up your knowledge.

Mathematics is recommended since, with an engineering background, you should be able to tackle it with relative ease.

Again, since the UPSC doesn’t offer computer (software/hardware) engineering, you would perhaps be better off taking up maths optional.

Finally, you can always study arts subjects like history, public administration, political science, etc. If you have a liking towards them and wish to learn something new. They will hold you in good stead for your GS papers too.

Remember a science background student can always learn arts/humanities subjects but the reverse is not always true. (No offence to humanities students, it is just the nature of the subjects! Again – the human potential is unlimited, so nothing is impossible.)

Also, Read | Strategy for mathematics optional for UPSC civil services exam


So, if you are aspiring to serve the nation by becoming a civil servant, but is held back because of your engineering background, think again! The country needs good engineers for her progress. Steady your resolve, dedicate yourself to the IAS preparation and work really hard. Your efforts will bear fruits. Good luck!

Practice previous year engineering question papers and test your knowledge. Get the previous years IAS question papers here.

Boost your IAS preparation with BYJU’S All India Mains Test Series. Enrol Now!

Also, read | UPSC 2021 Calendar

Tune in to BYJU’S website more such articles and strategies on clearing the UPSC IAS Exam.

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