Civil Service Exam Optional Subjects – Science, not popular, but scoring

Science Stream can be scoring, predictable & a good optional subject for Civil Service Exam

Civil Service is amongst the most prestigious service in India, offering 24 services including IAS, IPS, IFS etc. for the UPSC conducts Civil Services Examination (CSE) for selecting the candidates.

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With the changes brought in from the year 2013, weightage of optional papers in Civil Services Mains exam has been reduced from 52% to around 24% owing to the shift from two optional subjects to one. And yet the importance of the optional subject can be seen in the allocation of marks- 500, which is double of 250 marks given for per paper of general studies, thereby doubling the scope of cracking mains. It is upon the selection of the optional subject that the conundrum arises.


Subject of Interest vs That fetches most marks

The ecumenical question of subject of interest vs scoring that fetches most marks plagues the aspirants.  But as Ira Singhal, CSE-AIR 01 2014 says, "Pick an optional in which you can hope to clear the exam. It’s wrong to say that this optional is good than that optional is bad. You have to ask- can I study this thing subject again and again? I chose Geography which is the worst optional in practical sense because takes minimum six months to complete, still I picked because I loved it." So instead of going for conventional subjects like History or Public Administration, choose the subject that you like the most.


Selection of your optional subject is a task that has to be done after an in depth analysis and with utmost care. We, at SuccessCDs, intend to ensure that only the best assemblage of nmesisis made available to you in our articles, hence we bring to you a series of three articles, focused intently upon the selection of optional subject, ranging from Science and Technology to Literature and Arts.

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Civil Service Exam – Optional Subjects in Science and Technology – Not very Popular, But SCORING !

In this first part, we will explore the subjects belonging to the stream of Science and Technology, which are not very popular but are immensely scoring.


1. Engineering Subjects: Having studied the subject for 4 years, the most natural choice for the engineer-aspirants is to choose the subject in which they have majored in. A great optional could be Civil engineering. The syllabus is vast, from eccentric formulae of Transportation Engineering & theory to building construction. But the best thing is that the papers are related to each other unlike other branches of Engineering. For example, Survey, Soil Mechanics, SOM, Fluid Machines are exclusive sets. The questions are diverse but mostly predictable. Another suggestion is to memorize diagrams & not data. Let the answers flow from your perfect diagrams. Abhijeet Thorat, CSE 2014 Rank- 478, says, "Actually it’s good to have such optional as GS & Essay are subjective. Studying such subjective GS at a stretch can be monotonous. So mix of CE & GS would be a wonderful combination."


2. Mathematics:It is one of the safest and most scoring optional in the civil services examination. This is the only subject which allows the students a scope to score as high as 400+ marks. Another plus point with mathematics is that the CSE and IFoS exams are joined together, so there is an opportunity for the Mathematics optional students to write the IFoS exam along with the IAS exam simultaneously.

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The aim of the aspirant there should be to improve the problem solving ability and enhance the accuracy. NiteshK, CSE  2014 Rank 8 and Mathematics topper, suggests, “try to do both Maths and GS every day. Don’t lose touch of Maths. The last one month before mains is very important. During this period keep on revising formulas and practicing problems."


3. Chemistry: Being a science subject, the topics are very precise with very little scope for subjectivity by the examiner. The most important topics are thermodynamics, chemical kinetics, photochemistry and electrochemistry. Charchit Gaur, CSE- 2016 Rank 96, says, "You should definitely take chemistry as an optional but only if you have interest in it. For chemistry, it would be appropriate if you do coaching. They define the boundary for you and since there are not much up and down in science optional marks, it will definitely help you."


Also See : UPSC Exams


4. Animal husbandry and veterinary: it deals with the management and care of farm animals by humans, in which genetic qualities and behavior, considered to be advantageous to humans, are further developed. It can be taken up by anyone who has academic background in Agriculture, Life Sciences, Botany, Biomedical Sciences, Biotechnology, Zoology, Dairy and other related fields. Owing to standard questions asked, an easy study of 4-5 months for 12-15 hours per week would be sufficient. Bilal Mohiuddin Bhat, CSE-2016 Rank 10, suggests, "Make certain areas very strong . they are- a) animal nutrition b) animal breeding and population genetics c) milk and milk production technology d) meat and meat product technology. In the recent past, there is increased focus on medicine, surgery, pharmacology and toxicology."


5. Botany: Nothing is left to interpretation and the examiner’s personal views do not play any part in marking. The portions are pretty much static. Candidates need only to have their foundation clear and have conceptual clarity to write good answers. You can score through diagrams in this subject. The questions in this subject are direct and fundamental. Under cell biology, molecular aspect should be given importance. Genetics, evolution and molecular biology are important areas with high scoring potential.

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6. Medical Science: With legends like Roman Saini, Vinay Goel, Artika Shukla and numerous others taking up Medical Science, this optional subject has put itself up as one of the most popular optional for the upcoming time. So, if you are a doctor or have done studies in allied branches, go for it. The level of difficulty is somewhat lower than the questions asked in MBBS professional examination and since most of the syllabus has been covered through your college syllabus, you will just need time to consolidate the material. Some of the must read topics as suggested by Dr. Roman Saini are:


1. Cancer – Mode of spread


2. HIV


3. Heart development & congenital abnormalities


4. Vitamins


5. Alcoholic Cirrhosis ; Portal Cirrhosis


6. Barbiturate poisoning


7. DNA fingerprinting

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8. Name of organophosphorus and their poisoning


9. CML (Chronic myeloid leukaemia)


10. DM (Diabetes Mellitus)


11. CAD (Coronary Artery Disease)


12. Benign vs Malignant tumors


13. Bronchogenic Carcinoma


14. Infertile Female


15. Amebic liver abscess


16. Courvoisier’s law and fallacy


17. Water borne infections


18. Chemical carcinogens


19. Contraception


20. Anti cancer drugs


Khushaal Yadav, Rank 28, CSE – 2014, advices, "Med Science can be a rewarding Optional provided you have the necessary background, study resources, friend circle and perseverance." The ‘Must Dos’ for medical science optional are

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  • Be brief, to the point, answer specific

  • Draw diagrams wherever relevant.

  • Neat, legible.

  • Underline/ Highlight.


These were a few unconventional optional subjects for Civil Service Exam which are full of potential for aspirants with science background. In our next article of this very series, we’ll bring to you Literature related optional subjects, till then, happy preparation!


Author: Anushka Mishra