Pros and Cons of Taking Public Administration Optional in the UPSC Mains Exam

Public administration is one of the most popular optional subjects candidates opt for in the UPSC civil services exam. For instance, in 2012 almost 50% of the successful candidates had public administration as their optional subject. That is indeed a high number. This article talks about the pros and cons of taking public administration as the IAS optional subject. Choosing an optional is a tough decision and candidates break their head on this. Read on to see if public administration is suitable for you or not. Honestly, there is no best or worst optional, only the best fit for an individual. It is a decision you must take weighing the pros and cons of the subjects.

Pros of Public Administration Optional

  • The subject basically gives you an idea about government mechanism. As future administrators, you should have this knowledge.
  • The subject is generally regarded as easy and simple to understand.
  • There is ample study material for public administration.
  • The questions are generally straightforward.
  • There is a lot of overlap with the general studies papers.
  • Studying this subject will help you even in the essay paper and in your IAS interview also.

Cons of Public Administration Optional

  • Some people say the syllabus is rather vast.
  • It is theoretical and for those with a science background, this subject might seem dry.
  • The competition is immense in this subject as most aspirants select this optional subject.

Public administration overlap with General Studies:

Public administration covers almost 60% of the GS papers.

General Studies Paper-II – Topics Overlap with Public Administration:

  • Governance
  • Indian constitution – evolution, features, amendments, etc.
  • Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States
  • Separation of powers between various organs
  • Dispute Redressal Mechanisms and institutions
  • Parliament and State Legislatures
  • Structure, organisation and functioning of the Executive and Judiciary
  • Ministries and Departments of the Government
  • Constitutional, statutory, regulatory and quasi-judicial bodies
  • Government policies and interventions for development in different sectors
  • Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections
  • Issues relating to poverty and hunger
  • Aspects of governance, transparency and accountability
  • E-governance
  • Role of civil services in a democracy

General Studies Paper III – Topics Overlap with Public Administration:

  • Disaster Management, Planning and Budgeting
  • Planning issues
  • Inclusive growth
  • Government budgeting
  • Environment
  • Disaster management
  • Challenges to internal security through communication networks
  • Role of media and social networking sites in internal security
  • Security forces and agencies and their mandate.

General Studies Paper IV (Ethics) – Topics Related to Public Administration:

  • Ethics and Human Interface (foundational concept of Administrative values & ethics of Public Administration)
  • Attitude: content, structure, function; its influence and relation with thought and behaviour; moral and political attitudes; social influence and persuasion.

Public Administration and Essay Paper:

There will mostly be an essay topic from ‘Polity, Governance and Democracy’.

A few examples from previous UPSC question papers are given below:

  1. Role of media in Good Governance. (2008)
  2. Evaluation of Panchayati Raj System in India from the point of view of eradication of poverty to power to people. (2007)
  3. Justice must reach the poor. (2005)
  4. How should a Civil Servant conduct himself? (2003)
  5. Liability of Media in Democracy. (2002)
  6. Need for Transparency in Public Administration. (1996)
  7. Politics, Business and Bureaucracy – a fatal triangle. (1994)
  8. Whither Indian Democracy. (1995)


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here