Pros and Cons of Literature Optionals in UPSC Mains Exam

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UPSC Mains exam is the second examination of IAS. The first seven papers of the examination are fixed but for the last two papers, candidates have options. There are two papers of each optional subject that the candidate chooses.

The first paper of all the subjects mainly looks at language origin and literature history of the language. While the second paper looks at particular writers, poets, and artists. The idea is to analyse the understanding of the subject by the candidate through these papers.

So we will be learning about Pros and Cons of Literature Optionals in the UPSC Mains Exam.

Each paper is of 250 marks thus making it an important decision. The papers are complex in nature for sure but right preparation may prove lucky for you.

The preparation for these subjects does not require theoretical learning but a deeper and philosophical understanding of the texts. This is what makes the literature subjects so unique and different from others. There are 48 UPSC optional subjects in total.

Out of these 23 are literature subjects. These 23 subjects are mainly Indian languages from different states and unions. Let’s take a look at the list of optional literature subjects with their pros and cons.

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UPSC Mains Literature Optional Subjects

Let us first see the list of optional subjects of UPSC Mains Exam:

List of UPSC Mains Literature Optional Subjects 
1Gujarati Literature13Assamese Literature
2Kannada Literature14Kashmiri Literature
3Konkani Literature15Manipuri Literature
4Bengali Literature16Hindi Literature
5Sindhi Literature17Santali Literature
6Tamil Literature18Maithili Literature
7Telugu Literature19Dogri Literature
8Urdu Literature20Bodo Literature
9Sanskrit Literature21Odia Literature
10Nepali Literature22Punjabi Literature
11Malayalam Literature23Marathi Literature
12English Literature

Pros of taking Literature Optionals in UPSC Mains

  • The percentage of candidates applying for Literature Optional are less. This cut down the competition. 
  • The literature students have a plus point here. This subject is more developing analytical skills rather than learning theory. Students with an interest in this have a better edge at scoring well.
  • It can help you score well in essay papers as well. This is because you read multiple authors during preparation improving your skills. 
  • Another plus point is there is no word limit. All the literature lovers can understand that the ideas and analysis can go on and on. Well the good news is you can write as much as you want.
  • And because literature subjects revolve around poems and stories, they are a great stress buster you can go for between your general studies paper. This is a double deal for sure. 
  • And lastly and the most important point is that the syllabus doesn’t change. Yes, you read it absolutely right. The syllabus of literature optional subjects remains the same every year. This allows students preparation to get stronger with time and not deviate. 

Cons of taking Literature Optionals in UPSC Mains

  • The understanding skills need to be very high for this paper. If your answer is not out of the box, your score goes down. 
  • The nature of this paper is highly subjective. This decreases the score to some extent. You run out of ideas after a point and even deviate from your point often. 
  • It is advised for literature graduates to choose this subject because of its complex and rigid nature.
  • There are very coaching classes for optional subjects. And also except english, there are very few reference books for literature subjects. 
  • You prepare for this subject individually all together. For other optionals, some of their elements are present in general studies papers too. 

Tips for UPSC Optionals Literature Subjects

  • The first and the most important one is that it carries 500 marks. This can either make you one of the high scorers or fail you miserably. There is a thin line in between. Thus it is an important decision to make. 
  • This subject choice highly depends on your interest in this subject. If you are interested then this is the best option but if you are choosing just for the sake of it, then you should definitely reconsider. 
  • The candidates must go through the entire UPSC Optional Literature syllabus and previous year question papers before selecting the optional subject. This will mentally prepare you for what you are stepping into.
  • The more you read the more you score. This the most fundamental idea to prepare for optional literature subjects. You can read their novels, newspaper articles, sonnets, poetry and more to improve your vocabulary. 
  • This subject does not align with the idea of short cuts. You must write detailed and descriptive answers. This requires practice above all. Practising the answer writing can improve your speed and confidence during the exam. 


The UPSC Literature Optional Subjects are the most preferred subjects by previous year candidates. As mentioned above this subject has its own set of pros and cons. One must consider both the sides before making the final decision. The tips to choose the optional subject will be helpful if you are still exploring.

This article will guide you pros and cons of optional literature subjects. All the UPSC candidates must go through this article before choosing their UPSC optional subjects. This article will clarify your decision about choosing the right subject for better and higher results. 

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