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The decision of selection of the IAS Mains Optional is an age-old dilemma for Civil Services aspirants. As per the latest syllabus, the number of optional subjects to be selected is reduced to one, but aspirants are still confused if they make the right choice or not. Though the weightage of the optional paper is only 500 marks out of 2025 marks as per the latest pattern of UPSC Civil Services exam, it is still a deciding factor in the final ranks due to the unpredictability associated with General Studies Papers (1000 marks  GS + 250 marks essay) and Interview (275 marks).

But what does the Best Optional for IAS mean?
I am sure it means differently to different people but what does it mean to you:

-A scoring optional?
-The most popular optional?
-Easy to understand or which you find interesting?
-Subject with the easy availability of study materials like books and notes?
-Optional for which one ‘best’ coaching is available?
-Subject with some previous base in graduation or post-graduation?
-The optional with the best results in the IAS exam?

UPSC Optional Subjects:
This is the complete list of UPSC Optional subjects for civil services main examination. You have to opt for any one subject.

-Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Science
-Anthropology
-Botany
-Chemistry
-Civil Engineering
-Commerce and Accountancy
-Economics
-Electrical Engineering
-Geography
-Geology
-History
-Law
-Management
-Mathematics
-Mechanical Engineering
-Medical Science
-Philosophy
-Physics
-Political Science and International Relations
-Psychology
-Public Administration
-Sociology
-Statistics
-Zoology
-Literature of anyone the following language: Assamese, Bengali, Bodo, Dogri, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Maithili, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Oriya, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Santhali, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu, English.
-Agriculture

How crucial is the decision of IAS Mains Optional?
If you are so strong in all your GS papers with consistent newspaper reading and note making habits, the decision of IAS Mains optional might not play a big difference in your results. But unfortunately very few aspirants fall into the “strong GS” category of students and it’s not easy to get into the club without serious long-term preparation.

For all others, ClearIAS.com call them “average GS” category, the decision of IAS Mains optional is very crucial. You need to select an optional subject in which you are comfortable to score high in UPSC mains. The level of comfort depends on many factors like the – familiarity of the subject, availability of books and other study materials, availability of faculty, the scope of peer discussion, recent trends of marks, the level of difficulty as per the syllabus and previous question papers etc. If the subject you took for graduation is available in the list of subjects given, in most cases the same option will turn out as a comfortable option. All others (who don’t have an option for optional subject:-)), look for an optional subject which you can finish in a time-bound manner without encroaching the time for GS preparation.

Conclusion:
The decision of selecting the optional is a personal choice of each aspirant according to his/her strengths and weakness. We get many queries from aspirants to select the right optional for them, but normally we don’t give personal advice regarding optional subject selection. Though we try to reply to most emails we get, it’s practically impossible for us to know each aspirant personally. We know these queries are quite normal at the early stage of the preparation and we can understand the anxiety of every aspirant. But only you know your strength, weakness, taste, and availability of study materials. We can give broad guidelines, but let the decision be yours. Let this selection of optional subject be part of the decision-making process you will be starting soon in your career. The guidelines and statistics listed above by ClearIAS.com might help you clarify a few of your doubts. Do research and take the best decision. All the best!

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