Preparation Strategy for UPSC Maths(Optional)

Choosing Mathematics as an optional paper 

There are totally 51 optional subjects in Civil Service Examination(CSE). All aspirants stand on the same edge in GS. So, Selection of the Optional subject is a very crucial factor in CSE, UPSC.Abstract Classes is here to see your name in the rank list, not to master in any subjects. So, preparation is easier if aspirants take already studied subject. Every optional subject has its own advantage and disadvantage.

Choosing an optional subject can be a ticklish affair. There are many rules regarding what optional subject to choose for the UPSC civil services exam. A general rule of thumb is that you should take the subject in which you have some background and a genuine interest. In case you are a mathematics graduate and enjoy learning this subject, choosing maths as your UPSC optional might be a good idea. This article discusses all you need to know about mathematics optional for your UPSC civil services.

Now, it is true that syllabus for mathematics is not like an ocean, but it’s not short and simple either. Mathematics syllabus is longer than any humanities subject syllabus and definitely not simpler.  It requires a lot of devotion, hard work and practice. You have to be quick and accurate while solving problems because question paper is lengthy and Abstract Classes think UPSC gives more importance to well-structured answers, even in mathematics. One point that is mentioned in the question that if an answer is correct then the examiner cannot cut your marks, is a positive point but it is not a deal breaker. Because, we are not sure that UPSC allows step-marking, so if the final answer is incorrect then entire marks for that question could be lost.

There are two papers called Paper I and Paper II in the UPSC mains for the optional subject. Each paper is out of 250 marks with a total of 500 marks.

You Should Choose Maths optional subject if You have 

  • Genuine Interest→ One who loves studying this subject and have a genuine interest in this subject right from childhood can take mathematics. As most of the aspirants opt humanities subjects. Hence, competition is lesser.


  • Syllabus→Syllabus of mathematics is not like an ocean but not too shorter and simpler either. You can complete syllabus once studying for 8–10 hours every day under proper guidance. It needs a lot of dedication, determination, and practice. You need to be accurate with answers.


  • Point for Engineer graduate→Engineers find mathematics easier compared to other streaks as their syllabus( M1, M2, M3 and M4) covers about 85–88% of UPSC syllabus. Hence, cuts down preparation time. It’s not that a non-engineer cannot complete the syllabus but it takes more time. It’s all about practice. Hard work definitely gonna pays off at end of day. Here, Efforts you put is directly proportional to marks.


  • You know answers for half of the questions → Prove that- type of questions are asked in the examination. So, an answer is known to aspirants. You just need to arrive at the answer.


  • Full marks possibility→In humanities subjects, possibility of getting extremely low marks is high due to a difference between the perspective of aspirants and paper checker on a particular topic. But, this is not the same in Mathematics. You get full marks if you get a right answer.




 Abstract Classes would advise all candidates with maths optional to prepare such a summary for all topics. Due to the large syllabus, there is a natural tendency to skip a few chapters. But for the sake of compulsory questions, it is necessary to know at least basics of each chapter.

Preparing Physics Related Chapters of Statics, Dynamics, Mechanics

The physics related chapters of statics, dynamics, mechanics are generally left untouched while preparing maths optional. Regarding these chapters, my preparation was such that I would be able to solve the compulsory 10 mark questions. They are quite manageable once you know the basic theory and there is no point in unnecessarily losing marks.

Preparing Real Analysis/ calculus & Modern Algebra: Maths Optional

The real analysis/calculus & modern algebra chapters are time-consuming but candidates can’t afford to skip them. Just knowing the theory is not enough. It needs to be accompanied by consistent problem-solving practice. It is best to solve questions that have already been asked in mains. If some problem seems very non-intuitive, it would help if the trick to solve such problem is written in your notebook.


Your high school maths teacher was right when she reiterated the importance of practice to score well in your maths paper. Although answer writing is essential for any UPSC civil services paper, it gets double the import in the maths paper. Practicing makes you faster in your problem-solving.

Avoid silly mistakes 

Avoid silly mistakes like ignoring a ‘+’ or ‘-’ sign, copying numbers wrong, or making simple addition/subtraction mistakes. These can be very costly. Practice till you are perfect.Go through a problem carefully. Write down what is given in the question. Then work out the answer step-by-step.Always write the solutions neatly. Don’t make the examiner’s work harder by providing haphazardly written answers.

Always Do

  • Always understand the topic. Never try and learn the process by heart. It doesn’t work in mathematics.
  • Always understand the question correctly before venturing to work out the solution. Once you start writing the answer and it is incorrect, you lose precious space in the question answer booklet. And later, even if you figure out you have to rework your answer; you might not be able to because of a space crunch.
  • Always prepare and keep a formula sheet handy with you. This will help you memorize certain formulae that would be required to solve the problems.
  • Always solve mathematical problems with a relaxed mind. Panic can cause confusion and you will end up faring badly in your UPSC optional paper.


     Joining Test Series for Maths Optional

    Test series is very important for this optional. With enough practice, a candidate can achieve the ability to complete the maths paper in 3 hours. It is important to assess your performance after each test. Necessary steps should be taken to rectify common mistakes that you are committing in the test series. You should be alert not to repeat the same mistakes again & again. As your performance improves with every test, the actual mains paper will seem just like any other test & you will be able to comfortably complete it.

    Presentation Of Answers: Maths Optional 

    Presentation of your answer matters a lot. Your aim should be to make examiner’s life as easy as possible so that he/she will award you maximum marks. Only the final answer doesn’t matter. Writing proper steps is also important to show the logical flow with which you arrived at the solution.

    Specifically, mention whichever theorem or property you are using in a particular step. Wherever possible, draw neat diagrams with proper labeling. Such small things will collectively fetch you the extra marks that you are expecting from this optional.


    The habit of writing such detailed answers will not develop overnight and hence you have to consciously work through the test series in this direction.


    Maths: What To Do During Mains

    The mains exam schedule does not provide many gaps between General Studies & Maths papers. You will generally have 1 day in between. Your notebook containing important formulae & theorems will be very useful at such times.

    You will be able to go through this summary of each chapter and it will provide much-needed confidence before the actual paper.

    Then you can choose 3 out of remaining 6 questions. Easier questions like those from topics like linear programming, numerical analysis, linear algebra etc. should be the priority.

    Even if you don’t know the complete answer to any question, write as many steps as you can since partial marks also matter. Once you finish paper 1, don’t start immediately analyzing your performance. Irrespective of whether you are very happy or deeply unsatisfied about paper 1, try to forget about it and stay calm for paper 2.

    Preparing For Interview:  Maths Optional

    In the interview, you can expect some questions related to mathematics optional.

    Generally, you won’t be asked to solve a problem because that ability has been tested in mains. They would like to see whether you have a genuine curiosity regarding mathematics outside what is mentioned in the syllabus.

    In  UPSC interviews, They can ask about Ramanujan’s work. There may be questions on Vedic Mathematics, National Mathematics Day, important Indian Mathematical Institutions, Field medalist Manjula Bhargava etc.

    Hence while preparing for the interview, try to be aware of these non-theoretical aspects of maths as well.

    We hope above tips provide some clarity regarding maths optional to UPSC aspirants. All the best!

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    Enfj0T8SLWuyP03RKKQg_thumb_faf Preparation Strategy for UPSC Maths(Optional)
    Narendra Kumar Sharma

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