Choosing the Right Optional Subject for IAS A Key to Success

Introductory Note
The Indian Administrative Services are formed in 1893 as Imperial Civil Services.

According to research around 5.5 lakhs aspirants appear for the civil services examination yearly & out of this, 50% of the candidates get cleared for mains examination and only 0.001% became an IAS officer. The number of vacancies vary every year. Every year Department of Personnel and Training, Government of India, elucidates the number of vacancies after encompassing the vacancies from each state. The exam of Indian Administrative Services known as the toughest in India to get through. Yearly lakhs of aspirants applied for this exam but according to the ratio only few among got clear in this examination. Once selected, an officer got selected in Indian Administrative Services gets indulge in very diverse roles in country like the head in the public-sector units, the

Collector, Commissioner, etc.

I.A.S Officers hold key strategic positions in the union government, states and public sector undertakings.

The exam for the Indian Administrative Service consists of three stages as follow:

-The Prelims: The Prelims exam is only for the qualification in the scope and the marks obtained in The Mains and The Interview Session are counted for the ranking of the candidate

-The Mains: Mains exam is the written examination to test the academic ability of the particular candidate that how he/she present the answers in clear manner.

-Interview Session: The interview session carries 275 marks with no mentioned qualifying mark limit. So, we can say that it could be the deciding factor sometimes, for someone to get the service of their choice or being in the merit list.

As we all know this fact that to get through the IAS examination is arduous thing. So, it’s a predominant decision to choose a right optional subject for a candidate.

Choosing an optional subject (A Daunting Task)

Choosing a right Optional subject for a candidate is a crucial step for the preparation of the UPSC civil services exam. A wrong decision will not only cost you poor rank in the exam but also leaves you in a situation of thinking about yourself about the regret.
According to the new pattern that has been changed in 2013, now student only need to select just one optional subject instead of two.
As we all know before selecting a subject for the particular stream or the path there are many ups and downs for the candidate!
The candidate who is selecting a subject as an optional, will he/she be able to handle it or grasp it in memory whether he/she will able to take it as a challenge or it will be easy to study.? This all matters, though selecting an optional subject is not that easy for the candidate.

Before choosing an optional subject for the Indian Administrative Services exam a candidate must remember these points as follows: -

    Key points-

  •  Popularity (An Advantage or Disadvantage)
  • Short Term Preparation
  •  Straight Forward Pattern of Questions Leads to Higher Scoring
  •  Enthuse you.
  • Coaching criteria.

Popularity (it’s an advantage or not)-
Now a day everybody bend towards the popularity, that how popular the subject is? But as we talk about choosing a subject! Does popularity really matter? Yes!
Popular subjects with higher success ratio can get you a place in ranking but popular subjects with lower success ratio will drown you out to achieve your goals. But what really matters is, the success ratings of the subject … a straight forward content to understand or a facile goal victory.

Short Term Preparation- Time consumption for study is an important aspect but, as we talk about the examination preparation for IAS, time management is the most important factor. Before selecting any optional subject the main thing which candidate should know about is that how much time he/she will take to cover up the whole syllabus before time. The less time the subject takes to study the more time a candidate has to revise and prepare for the exam.

§  Straight Forward Pattern of Questions Leads to Higher Scoring
A higher scoring subject is mainly based upon two factors and the Pattern of Questions:
If the pattern of the questions that will going to be asked in the examination is based upon above two factors, then it will be easy for a candidate to solve it in lesser time and get higher ranking.
The subject should be easy for the student to understand and takes less time to study. So, it will be convenient for the student to grasp all the things in the memory easily and in return he/she will be able to achieve high scores as they expected. The Pattern of Questions which are asked regarding law are not the tricky ones so the candidate wouldn’t get tangled among. They are such straightforward so, the candidate can lead to get marks easily to score higher and law deals with daily happenings it doesn’t depends on history or something, it’s totally a part of theoretical study and conceptual base questions they are not such complex ones.

It should enthuse you-
The optional subject you choose for your UPSC exam should enthuse you because if there ain’t any interest then what’s the use of choosing a subject which cost you a poor rank in exam and a failure. So, for better marks and a good rank in the exam one should choose a subject in which a candidate has interest to opt as an optional and in which he/she can score good marks.

Coaching Criteria- The candidate must know if there’s any good coaching available for the optional subject which he/she have selected for the preparation and if they really in need of that coaching then they can apply for it.

      By above data Law seems to be a pre-eminent as an Optional Subject.

“LAW – less popular, higher scoring; Go for it"

As studied, law is not far popular enough but the success rate in 2013 was 24.3% which was highest among other subjects as recorded. So, for those candidates who choose law will be beneficial to score good marks easily.


Law doesn’t depend on history of something it is totally a part of theoretical study. It hardly takes 4-5 months for a candidate to cover up the syllabus including GS paper-ll.


Choosing law as an optional subject is far better than to choose other subjects, because law deals with real time study, by this a student came to know about its effect on our country’s reality happenings and how law rely on people’s daily life routine. It’s not that much boring as its rumoured spread among students.


Law covers the major portion of essay and GS paper. According to the structure of general paper-ll, the questions asked in the examination are mostly rely upon social justice and constitution, which is a part of law. Though, choosing law can help you in getting higher marks as it almost covers the syllabus of GS.

“Still the question keeps popping up in mind that a non-law student can select law as optional subject?"

The study of Indian political system and the Indian legal system coupled with the evolving contemporary issues and contemporary legal developments is an integral part of general studies matter for both non-law students and law students as well. Therefore, non-law students opting for law as a optional paper in civil services (mains) examination, cannot at all be apprehensive of the subject matter because it will only strengthen their grip on the aforesaid subject matter. Following examples for issues will an eye opener to them.

a)     Freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1) insures freedom of press and right to information (contemporary issues).

b)    the status of right to die under article 21 and right to be killed (mercy killing) widely interpreted by judicial decision and the recent step taken by the Government i.e. the mental health bill to decriminalise section 309 of IPC is also are important subject matter of studding for each irrespective of this status.

c)     The latest decision of Hon’ble Supreme Court upholding the Bombay High Court landmark judgment to establish gender equality guaranteed in the Indian constitution by way of opening entry to Muslim women in south Bombay famous. Hazi Ali Dargah inner Santorum is important for all the students.

d)    Application of sedition law (124A of IPC in view of anti-Indian slogans in case of JNU episode or Amnesty international slogans in Bengaluru is also an important subject matter of study.

Thus, there are a number of constitutional, international and contemporary legal developments which are essentially an integral part of law optional which needs to be gone through by both law and non-law students as well.

Secondly the pattern of question since the beginning with respect to law optional paper have always been straight forward and to the point. The aspirants have only to refer to one or two land mark cases along with relevant provisions (part of polity also) and the percentage of marks will be mathematical unlike history or geography which are vast, twisted, source base and highly technical/scientific, not earning comprehensible to the students. This is true with the public administration and sociology also. The basic problems with candidates is prima facie the understanding of the questions in other subject unlike the law paper. The law paper only demands practice of test series which is being successfully provided by Pahuja Law Academy in 2016. Besides, sound conceptual structure is also evolved in international relations by going through international public law. The percentage of results is yet another measuring rod for non-law students. The line of common understanding is the same between law student and non-law student. So, it is fallacious to nurture an apprehensive within non-law aspirants with respect to law optional paper altogether.

Thirdly the real-life examples of non-law students coming out with flying colours in civil services examinations are many and varied as for example the success of a medico opting law as an optional paper (Saloni) in 2015 is quite inspiring. The students of humanities in comparison to medico and engineering students will have a better perception of law paper in civil services examinations.


Some examples as mentioned below: -

1- Munish Sharma (Rank-2, CSE 2013) On Civil Services examination.
 I took up law as an optional, even though I am not a lawyer. It was Fun.
A very dear friend of mine had taken math in CSE 2012 and in spite of being so good at it, and even on being from a premier engineering institute, he got very low marks in one of the papers. He deserves to be in top 5. Now he has opted for law and you’ll see him in the list next year.

Law is not all that difficult. It can be prepared in less than three months with good guidance.
2- Saloni Sidana (AIR 74/CSE 2015) Law Optional
Dr. Saloni completed her MBBS from Lady Hardinge Medical College and Associated Hospitals College of Nursing. Being a doctor, she has produced brilliant result with Law as optional subject and has accomplished her dream of being IAS.
3- Tapasya Raghav (Rank 78/ CSE 2012) Law / Pol. Science Optional in Both Attempts.
While making final choice for optional subjects, one should be comfortable with the subjects you opt and focus should be on understanding the basic concepts rather than mugging up the facts.
4- Avi Prasad (Rank 13/ CSE 2013) Law Optional in both Attempts.
I appeared with LAW as an option in both my attempts, and owe my selection to good marks in Law Papers. Further, in prelims a good number of questions are based on polity and constitution, which most law student find easy.  As most of the social and economic issues are addressed through the legislative mechanism, students of law optional are at an advantage in extracting the intention, mechanism and other relevant information from the dreary language of an Act/proposed Bill.

In addition to the above there is always a topic invariably in the essay paper in relation to Indian political system, constitutional law, contemporary legal developments and international relations. This paper consists of 250 marks which can be easily tackled by aspirants opting for law as an optional paper and therefore will not require additional study of topics concern with law and justice.


We seek to untangle the state of mind of non-law students with respect to select an optional subject as law. The students as a whole are bound to study the Indian political system and current national and international affairs to build up a base for further studies. P.L.A. is highly coveted institute for the preparation of civil services examination. Classes are very interactive and helpful. The teaching style of P.L.A. is very unique and extremely helpful in understanding the concepts. The best part of the academy is, coaching and test papers are now available online on their website. The result ratio of Pahuja Law Academy is best among all the institutions offering same. We strongly recommend those students who are irrespective of their stream to opt law as an optional subject for UPSC examinations. In this academy, we are working with the team which is 30 years experienced as faculty who are ready to guide students in the most productive manner and also within time duration of 4 months in the forthcoming examination of 2017. It will not be a chance but a golden opportunity for a guaranteed success, provided the non-law students are ready to co-operate with our academy to achieve the goals as desired.

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