Strategy for Electrical Engineering Optional for UPSC

Electrical engineering is one of the optional subjects in engineering that is offered by the UPSC for the IAS mains. The other two engineering subjects are civil and mechanical engineering. How viable is electrical engineering as an optional subject? How many candidates actually take up this optional and get through the exam? We look at all this, and more, in this article on electrical engineering optional for the civil services examination.

How many take Electrical Engineering optional?

On an average, between 100 and 150 candidates select the electrical engineering optional for the mains exam. In the 2017 UPSC exam, all-India 27th rank was bagged by Rishi Raj, who had electrical engineering as his optional subject. The following table has the number of people who appeared and cleared the IAS exam with this optional.

Electrical Engineering optional success rate

Year No. of candidates appeared No. of candidates cleared Success Rate (%)
2015 143 13 9.1
2014 192 15 7.8
2013 113 13 11.5
2012 126 8 6.3
2011 171 9 5.3
2010 132 7 5.3

IAS toppers electrical engineering optional

Name Year Rank
Rishi Raj 2017 27
Rushikesh Reddy 2017 374
Rahul Gupta 2016 20
Surabhi Gautam 2016 50
Ashish Kumar 2014 9
Mayank Agrawal 2012 67
Prakash Rajpurohit 2009 2
Mutyalaraju Revu 2006 1

Electrical Engineering optional pros and cons

Electrical engineering is a highly specialised subject and only electrical engineering graduates or postgraduates are recommended to take it up as an optional in the mains exam. There are both advantages and disadvantages associated with this optional subject and at the end of the day, it is up to the individual candidate to assess his/her own strong areas and weak points and then match it with what the subject offers to and demands out of candidates. Let us take a look at the benefits of this optional first.

Electrical engineering optional advantages

  • As a graduate of the same subject, you would not have to start from scratch.
  • Being an engineering subject, it is technical in nature and hence, scoring. There is no room for interpretation in this subject unlike the humanities subjects.
  • You can score marks through diagrams, circuits, flowcharts and numericals.
  • Even the theory part is scoring in this subject provided you write well and correctly.
  • About 50% of the questions asked in the IAS exam are repeated. The questions are also direct and straight-forward. With good practice and conceptual clarity, you should be able to score decent marks. So, the questions are predictable and the difficulty level is never very high.
  • You can also write the engineering services (IES) exam with this optional. You can make a comparison of the Indian Engineering Services and the Indian Civil Services examinations to find out if you are eligible for both.
  • In the worst case scenario, you have a back-up plan with this optional. You can, as mentioned above, take the IES exam. You can also write the other exams related to engineering.

Electrical engineering optional disadvantages

  • The subject itself is tough and requires a lot of effort out of students. A lot of practice is needed, particularly in the numericals.
  • The syllabus for electrical engineering is vast.
  • The overlap with the general studies papers are nil.
  • Unless you are well-versed with your university subjects and have lost completely out of touch with the subjects, it is better to stay clear of this optional and go for a subject with significant GS overlap.

Electrical Engineering syllabus

Let us take a look at the syllabus for electrical engineering for the UPSC mains exam.

There are two optional papers in the UPSC exam pattern. Both the papers are for a total of 250 marks making the total optional marks to 500.

Download the electrical engineering syllabus PDF.

UPSC Electrical Engineering optional strategy

Paper I Strategy

Circuit Theory

The best book for this section is Circuit Theory: Analysis And Synthesis by Abhijit Chakrabarti. The important chapters in this book are basic network theorems, graft theory and two-port networks. Mostly, the questions from this section are numericals. Sometimes, 20-marker questions involving theory and proofs with examples are asked.

A frequently-asked doubt candidates have in this section is if filters are to be studied. Filters were there in the syllabus prior to 2008 and now, they have been scrapped off the syllabus. So, you DO NOT have to study filters from circuit theory.

Signals and Systems

You should refer to Signals and Systems by Ramesh Babu for this section. You may use Signals and Systems by Alan V. Oppenheim for solved examples only. The focus areas should be Laplace transform, Z-transform, Fourier analysis, and also the basic signal representation. Please remember that till now in the UPSC exams, the topics DFT and FFT have never been asked. So, you can skip this portion in case you are hard pressed for time.

E.M. Theory

The book to read for this section is Principles of Electromagnetics by Mathew Sadiku. The solved examples from this book are very important as many times, the UPSC lifts questions directly from there. Even the exact numbers are used! For the section on transmission lines, you can refer to Electromagnetic Theory by Bakshi. There are many solved examples that you should read. Focus on numericals from E.M. Theory. The part on electrostatics and magnetostatics are NOT THERE in the syllabus.

Analog Electronics

For this section, you should read Analog Electronics published by Technical Publications (authored by Godse and Bakshi). Alternatively, you can use Basic Analog Electronics by JB Gupta. In this section, study as many solved examples as you can. Also, practice derivations thoroughly. Focus more on OPAMP. Study single-stage amplifiers from BJT in depth. You can ignore multi-stage. Biasing is very important in this section as well.

Digital Electronics

Digital Electronics by Godse and Godse (Technical Publications) is a good source for theory as well as solved examples. Many questions are asked from PLA and FGPA. From this section, a theory-based 20-marker is mostly asked.

Energy Conversion

For this section, the best book (which is sufficient for the exam) is Electric Machine by Ashfaq Husain. Read it thoroughly and completely. Autotransformers have never been asked by the UPSC. Do read 3-phase transformers. Focus more on DC motors (especially numericals). Practice problems on speed control, flux control and voltage control. Practice curves of DC generators. Torque versus current questions should also be practiced. Focus on 3-phase induction motors. Special machines are not in the syllabus.

Power Electronics and Electric Drives

For this section, you can refer to Power Electronics by PS Bimbhra. Practice all the solved questions from this book as they are often directly asked by the UPSC. The four important chapters are chopper, rectifier, inverter and drives.

Analog Communication

This would be a new topic for electrical engineering students as this is a part of electronics engineering. The best sources for solved examples for this topic would be Modern Digital and Analog Communication Systems by BP Lathi and An Introduction to Analog and Digital Communications by Simon Haykin. The theory part can be covered from Communication Systems by Sanjay Sharma. Important topics in this section are Phase Log Loop (PLL) of FM demodulation. Questions from this section are asked repeatedly.

Paper II Strategy

Control Systems

For this section, you can refer to Control Systems by A. Anand Kumar. Do the solved examples from this book thoroughly as similar questions are asked by the UPSC. Focus on plots, root loci, block diagram analysis, etc. From this section, numericals are mostly asked. So, practice them.

Microprocessors and Microcomputers

This is considered a tough section, especially the topic programming. Most candidates are wary of the programming questions. A trick to avoid answering them (in case you find it extremely undoable) is to study the theory part very well. For this, go through the previous years’ question papers because most of the questions are repeated in the theory section. For this section,  you can refer to Fundamentals of Microcontrollers and Applications in Embedded Systems by Ramesh Gaonkar.

Measurement and Instrumentation

This is an easy topic though it is considered a bulky section because theoretical section is huge. Mostly, even in the UPSC exam, theory is asked as opposed to numericals. In the theory section, use diagrams extensively. This section can be read from Measurements and Instrumentation by AK Sawhney. Focus on transducers, potentiometers, power factor measurement, power and energy measurement. The portion on digital instrumentation can be ideally covered by Google Books search, although it can be done from Sawhney also.

Power Systems

The best book for this section is Electrical Power Systems by CL Wadhwa. The theory part will be covered from the book by Wadhwa. For the numericals, you should refer to A Course in Power Systems by JB Gupta. The important topics from this section are fault analysis, power system stability, equal area criteria, critical clearing time, critical clearing angle, load flow analysis, Gauss Seidel, Newton Raphson, basic transmission line, economic load dispatch, etc. You can also cover the solved examples from Wadhwa.

Power System Protection

The theory section can be covered from the book by Wadhwa, which is sufficient for this section. For numericals, the solved examples from JB Gupta are sufficient.

Digital Communication

This section can be sufficiently covered from Communication Systems by Sanjay Sharma. The important areas in this section are pulse code modulation, delta modulation, BPSK, phase shifting, error control, convolation theory, linear block coding and different types of codes. For the subtopic Data Networks, refer to chapters 1 and 2 of Data Communications and Networking by Behrouz A. Forouzan. Only simple questions are asked from this section.

General tips for electrical engineering optional

  • Practice numericals on a daily basis. Calculators are allowed in the exam and use them while practicing also.
  • Avoid silly mistakes in the numericals.
  • Enrol in a test series for optionals. This will give you good exam-simulation practice.
  • Presentation is very important. Draw circuits and graphs with pencils so that they look neat. Additionally, any mistakes can be erased and redone. Also, the main answer for any numerical can be given in a box for better visibility.
  • Solve numericals in the same manner that they are solved in the standard textbooks.
  • Have separate sheets for formulas, divided into topics. Have this as a ready-reckoner for revision.

UPSC Electrical Engineering Books

  • Circuit Theory: Analysis And Synthesis by Abhijit Chakrabarti
  • Signals and Systems by Ramesh Babu
  • Signals and Systems by Alan V. Oppenheim
  • Principles of Electromagnetics by Mathew Sadiku
  • Electromagnetic Theory by Bakshi
  • Analog Electronics published by Technical Publications (authored by Godse and Bakshi)
  • Digital Electronics by Godse and Godse (Technical Publications)
  • Electric Machine by Ashfaq Husain
  • Power Electronics by PS Bimbhra
  • Modern Digital and Analog Communication Systems by BP Lathi
  • An Introduction to Analog and Digital Communications by Simon Haykin
  • Communication Systems by Sanjay Sharma
  • Control Systems by A. Anand Kumar
  • Fundamentals of Microcontrollers and Applications in Embedded Systems by Ramesh Gaonkar
  • Measurements and Instrumentation by AK Sawhney
  • Electrical Power Systems by CL Wadhwa
  • A Course in Power Systems by JB Gupta
  • Data Communications and Networking by Behrouz A. Forouzan

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