Pros and Cons of taking History Optional in UPSC Mains

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History is a popular optional subject chosen by candidates in the IAS mains exam. It is a very important subject in the UPSC scheme of things because history is included in the IAS prelims exam and in the IAS mains general studies papers as well. If you are an IAS aspirant you cannot get by without studying history. Now the question is, ‘is it a good optional subject for the IAS mains?’ Read on to find out the pros and cons of taking history optional in UPSC mains exam as we try to answer the questions, ‘How is history as optional for IAS?’, ‘Is History a scoring optional in IAS?’ etc.

In the 2015 UPSC civil services, 1761 candidates appeared for the IAS mains with history optional. Out of that, 150 candidates got selected which gives it a success rate of 8.5%. Thereby assuring the aspirants that the success rate of history optional in IAS is quite promising. One cannot really say if history is a good or bad optional but only that it is a candidate’s interests and aptitude in a subject that makes it suitable or not for the civil services exam.

Pros of history optional in IAS mains

  • General studies (prelims + mains) contain portions from history. So here, you can optimise time by preparing for optional and GS papers.
  • Topics in history will also be helpful in the essay paper.
  • History is an interesting subject. It explains a lot of things in the economy, socio-politics, etc.
  • It is easy to understand as it is like a story. There are no big formulas or concepts to follow.
  • Studying history develops a good reading habit.
  • It is by and large a static subject. So, if you cover this subject once, it will not change in the next two-three years. So, if you are in your second or subsequent attempts, your preparation will get easier.
  • In general studies papers, writing about the historical perspective of things gives depth to your arguments. Here, history preparation can help.
  • There is ample study material available for this subject.

Cons of history optional in IAS mains

  • If you are not interested in history, you may find studying it difficult.
  • You must have good writing skills to score good marks in history.
  • It is not a scoring subject when you compare it to science or maths.
  • You do need to remember a few dates and names in history. A good memory is required to ace history.
  • A lot of things are subject to interpretation, unlike the sciences. So, your marks may vary from expectations in this subject.
  • A subject like public administration or geography might help you as administrators in the future.
  • The UPSC syllabus for history is vast.


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