UPSC Mains – How to Write Answers for UPSC Literature Optionals

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UPSC Mains exam is the second round of the IAS examination. This exam makes your final score of the paper and decides your rank. Only the candidates who clear the preliminary exam can appear for this exam. There are a total of nine papers in the UPSC Mains examination.

The general studies and essay papers are fixed but in the case of the last two papers, candidates can choose their subject. These papers are the Optional Papers. There are 48 UPSC optional subjects in total.

Out of these 23 are literature subjects. These 23 subjects are mainly Indian languages from different parts of the country. 

The first paper of UPSC Literature Optional focuses on the history of the language and the literature. While the second optional paper looks at particular writers, poets, and artists. Previous surveys reveal that choosing literature optional subjects gives more edge to the students if they prepare well.

There are certain tips that you can follow to improve your literature score and boost your UPSC preparation. Let us take a look at tips to write Answers for Literature optional Subjects in UPSC Mains Exam.

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Exam Pattern for UPSC Optional Subjects

Exam Pattern for UPSC Optional Subjects
No. Paper Questions Marks NatureTime 
1Optional I8250For Merit3 hours
2Optional II8250For Merit3 hours

List of Literature Optional Subjects in UPSC Mains

There are 23 UPSC Literature Optional Subjects. They are –

  1. English Literature 
  2. Gujarati Literature 
  3. Assamese Literature 
  4. Kannada Literature 
  5. Kashmiri Literature 
  6. Konkani Literature 
  7. Manipuri Literature 
  8. Bengali Literature 
  9. Hindi Literature 
  10. Sindhi Literature 
  11. Santali Literature 
  12. Tamil Literature 
  13. Maithili Literature 
  14. Telugu Literature 
  15. Dogri Literature 
  16. Urdu Literature 
  17. Bodo Literature 
  18. Sanskrit Literature 
  19. Odia Literature 
  20. Nepali Literature 
  21. Punjabi Literature 
  22. Malayalam Literature 
  23. Marathi Literature 

Tips for writing Answers of Literature Optional Subjects in UPSC


The optional subjects are very lengthy in terms of size. They require a good understanding of the text in order to answer. Often students tend to deviate while answering the question. They will jump from one topic to another and ruin the answer structure and missing out some important points.

This is why it is important to be consistent. Your answer should be structured well with a uniform flow of ideas. And with this you language and handwriting should remain consistent too. 


A messy paper puts the examiner in a bad mood. The more clear you write the easier it is for the examiner to check. Even if you are making mistakes, neatly make a strike on them with a pencil. A simple way to avoid making mistakes is to mind map before starting your answer.

This will also help you structure your answers. Use the rough space to make a flowchart that you can follow while writing the answer. This will make sure that you are covering all the ideas in a proper order. 


While one cannot improve handwriting after a certain age, we can make sure to write neatly. This is important because the examiner must be able to understand your handwriting in order to mark you.

There are chances of covering all the ideas but if you are not writing neatly, the examiner will not understand anything. We understand the time limit but avoid scribbling in the main exam. 


Nothing can excite a literature lover more than writers, thinkers, philosophers, and poets. Use as many references as possible to keep your answer interesting.

This will also make you look well-read in the eyes of the examiner. But this no shape or form means that you write about them everywhere. Quoting them is a good idea but don’t overdo it. 

No Language Barrier

The literature is all about expressing yourselves. And when it comes to analyzing, don’t control your mind. The language is not a barrier here. Feel free to quote writers from different languages than your subject.

This actually makes your answer more interesting. You can very well write about Valmiki in English Literature if the answer demands. 


All the writers and poets were creative when it came to literature. And when you start studying about them, you tend to develop their ideologies as well. This helps you to create your own written pieces.

The language paper demands creative answers and this is where you impress the examiner with your skills. If your idea aligns with the answer, there is nothing better. 


The idea is to study literature and to create an opinion. All the famous literature pieces stood out because of their originality and uniqueness. And the examiner expects the same from literature students. Your original ideas make up the whole answer.

If you copy the opinions, your examiner most probably marks you on average. But an original answer definitely fetches more marks. 

Don’t waste words and Word Limit

As much as we encourage you to spill your mind in the paper, there is a certain word limit for each answer. Here again, mind mapping helps. If you know your structure, you will know where to invest more words and where to invest less.

And on the opposite end, please don’t write just to meet the word count. Literature sees the quality not the quantity. If you feel you are done with all the ideas, it is better to stop than write nonsense things. 

Answer the question

Anything is better than nothing. There are times when you will be unclear about what to write in a particular answer. Don’t worry there, because it is literature you can get away with writing even the basic ideas already mentioned in the question.

The advice is to not leave any questions. Writing something might fetch lower marks but it can make a huge difference to your final rank.


All the languages have a basic structure they follow. You must be aware of them. Because often questions will ask you to identify certain technical ideas. These terms can make you sound smarter in the paper.

For example, saying alliteration sounds more sophisticated than saying repeating words. This was just an example. It may make you sound smart but overdoing it will ruin your main answer badly. So remember to balance everything out. 


The literature optional has its own sets of pros and cons. But once you have made a final decision, you must work very hard on it. This article will clarify you on the UPSC Literature Optional Exam pattern, the language choices, and most importantly how to write your answer.

The literature paper is comparatively easy to score if you prepare well. You must know basic strategies to score well in this paper.

Practicing and Reading will always top the chart but there are other important elements too. This article will guide you on these elements and will definitely help you score well in the exams. 

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