Strategy for Zoology Optional for UPSC

Zoology is one of the optional subjects offered by the UPSC for the civil services mains exam. It is a reasonably popular optional subject among life sciences students who wish to pursue the IAS exam. Being a science subject, it is a specialised one, and therefore, only life sciences graduates or doctors (MBBS graduates) are recommended to take up zoology as their optional. Zoology is the scientific study of animals, including animal anatomy, physiology, genetics, biochemistry, evolution, ecology, conservation and behaviour. It is an interesting subject and one that has great potential for the UPSC exam. Read more to learn how.

How many take Zoology optional?

Although not as highly popular as some optional subjects such as pub ad, political science or anthropology, zoology is reasonably popular among life sciences students as an option for the mains exam. Every year, there are some among the top hundred successful candidates with zoology as the optional.

The following table shows the number of candidates who appeared for the IAS exam with the Zoology optional and cleared it through the years 2010 – 2015 (which is the latest official UPSC figure).

Zoology optional Success Rate

Year No. of candidates appeared No. of candidates cleared Success Rate (%)
2015 72 5 6.9
2014 79 9 11.4
2013 92 9 9.8
2012 228 29 12.7
2011 269 19 7.1
2010 421 23 5.5

IAS toppers Zoology optional

There have been many toppers who have had zoology as their optional subject. In 2013, the third rank-holder Rachit Raj had zoology as his optional. He had secured 133 and 139 marks in his two optional papers. The next table gives you the names and ranks of a few UPSC toppers who had zoology as the optional subject.

Name Year Rank
Preeti Malik 2016 265
Megha Bhardwaj 2015 32
Rachit Raj 2013 3
Arun Thamburaj 2012 6
Alok Ranjan Ghosh 2010 10
Himanshu Sharma 2010 49
Ashish Kumar Srivastava 2010 61
Nanak Singh 2010 84
Adapa Karthik 2007 1
Basant Garg 2004 2

How is Zoology as optional for IAS?

Zoology, being a science subject, has great potential for high scores in the optional papers. However, it requires hard work and sincere answer writing practice out of students. Although there are many benefits of having an optional like zoology, there are also a few pitfalls. In this section, we discuss the pros and cons of zoology as an optional subject for the civil services mains exam.

Zoology optional pros

  1. Scoring – Zoology is deemed a scoring subject because of its precise and scientific nature. It is not subjective and can fetch good marks provided the answers are presented correctly and neatly. You can also increase your score through neat and well-labelled diagrams, of which there would be plenty here!
  2. Well-defined syllabus – Zoology has a well-defined syllabus which is also pretty much static in nature.
  3. Overlap – There are some portions of the zoology syllabus which can help in the General Studies papers. They are:
    1. Ecology (Paper 1) – biosphere, ecosystem, population, biodiversity, wildlife of India, remote sensing for sustainable development, environmental biodegradation.
    2. Economic Zoology (Paper 1) – agriculture, major infectious and communicable diseases, cattle and livestock diseases, pests
    3. Evolution (Paper 2)
  4. Safe – Many consider Zoology as a safe optional because of the nature of questions asked in it. Unlike some of the humanities subjects like public administration or political science, the questions asked here are generally more direct and straight-forward. Also, there is a direct linear relationship between your performance and your score, unlike the humanities subjects.
  5. Less competition – You will face less competition in zoology as compared to some of the other popular optional subjects.
  6. IFoS – Zoology is also an optional for the Indian Forest Services exam and the syllabi have much in common with the CSE syllabus. So, candidates can take up both the exams if they so wish with this optional subject.

Zoology optional cons

  1. Only candidates with any of the following subjects as their educational backgrounds can opt for zoology because of its technical nature, although there is no official bar – zoology, medical science, botany, forestry, life sciences, agriculture and allied subjects.
  2. The overlap with the GS papers, although not absent, is minimal.
  3. The syllabus is vast and you will have to go in depth into the topics.

Zoology optional syllabus

Let us take a look at the syllabus for zoology 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.

UPSC Zoology optional syllabus PDF download:-Download PDF Here

Zoology optional strategy

General tips for Zoology optional:

  • Assuming that you have gone through the UPSC syllabus for zoology thoroughly, you should first buy or get hold of the past UPSC Zoology question papers (at least from 2010 onwards). You can download the question papers from 2015 from this website itself from the UPSC Previous Question Papers segment.
  • The next step would be to acquire any basic book of zoology. The recommended books are Modern Zoology by Ramesh Gupta or NEET Zoology (Wiley Publications), either one is sufficient.
  • The above books are very important for a fundamental understanding of the topics. Additionally, they explain topics with a lot of clarity. For example, the difference between mitosis and meiosis is explained and given in tabular form so well that you can straightaway pick it up and reproduce in the exam. These books help you write precise answers which are needed for the IAS exam.
  • There is no need to read the new NCERTs for zoology optional.
  • Diagrams are very important in this subject. For many questions, if you do not draw diagrams, you will lose marks. They are absolutely necessary. It would be great if you can colour your comparative anatomy diagrams. Even in topics like ethology and ecology, you should draw diagrams.

Zoology Paper I Strategy

  • All the theories of the section non-chordata and chordata should be done.
  • In the subsection, chordate description, the phyla should be compared anatomically and phylogenetically.
  • The subsections economic zoology, bio instrumentation and bio stats are scoring in nature. Since these topics are smaller, and the questions asked are predictable, you should be able to perform well if you study thoroughly.
  • Also, in economic zoology, you should focus on developments in India.

Zoology Paper II Strategy

  • In the topic genetics, you should also write about human welfare applications if possible.
  • Under this section, questions on peripheral topics are generally not asked.
  • Do the Hardy-Weinberg Law properly including problems, because if a 15-marker comes from this topic, chances are you will get the entire 15 marks if you do it accurately. This will save time and fetch you great marks.
  • The best book for the topic evolution is Organic Evolution (Evolutionary Biology) by Veer Bala Rastogi. This also covers a few topics from genetics.
  • For physiology, you should use Ganong’s Review of Medical Physiology, which is a very good book. Alternatively, you can use Guyton and Hall Textbook of Medical Physiology.
  • In biochemistry, practical biochemical pathways with structural formulas of molecules are important. Use a lot of flowcharts for this section.
  • The topic of developmental biology is very tough and huge. Practice diagrams very well from this section.

Zoology Optional Books

  • Modern Zoology by Ramesh Gupta
  • Organic Evolution (Evolutionary Biology) by Veer Bala Rastogi
  • Ganong’s Review of Medical Physiology
  • Guyton and Hall Textbook of Medical Physiology
  • Cell Biology by CB Powar
  • Genetics by PK Gupta
  • Modern Textbook of Zoology – Invertebrates by RL Kotpal
  • Modern Textbook Of Zoology: Vertebrates by RL Kotpal
  • Lehninger Principles of Biochemistry
  • An Introduction to Embryology by AK Berry
  • Ecology And Environment by PD Sharma
  • Applied And Economic Zoology by VB Upadhyay and GS Shukla
  • Animal Behaviour by Reena Mathur

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