IAS (UPSC CSE) Mains 2021 Preparation Strategy for Political Science Optional

Updated On -

Mar 22, 2021

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Sudeshna Bhar

Exams Prepmaster

Political Science and International Relations is one of the options that is offered by the UPSC in IAS (UPSC CSE) Mains. Aspirants who choose Political Science and International Relations as their UPSC Mains Optional subject can start the preparation along with IAS (UPSC CSE) prelims

In both papers, there will be 10 questions of 10 marks each, 6 questions of 15 marks each, and 3 questions of 20 marks each. There are word limits to 135 words (10 marks) and 225 words (15 marks). 

To know more, check  IAS (UPSC CSE) Mains Preparation Tips

Success Rate

Success Rate of Political Science and International Relations Optional

In the annual report of 2018 - 19, UPSC has shown a report of 1246 candidates who appeared in 2017 with Political Science as an optional subject. Only 117 candidates got recommended.

Year Appeared Candidates Recommended Success rate
2014 907 57 6.3%
2015 989 68 6.9%
2016 1218 107 8.8%
2017 1246 117 9.4%

By looking at the abovementioned chart you can easily predict the success rate of 7 - 8 %. And the average number of candidates who choose Political Science and International Relations is around 1000 - 1500.

Reasons to Choose

Reasons to Choose Political Science Optional

There are many advantages and a few disadvantages also of choosing Political Science Optional for civil services examination.


  • Indian Polity is a crucial part of UPSC Prelims.
  • If any candidate chooses Political Science International Relations as their UPSC Mains Optional subject, they can align their study of  IAS (UPSC CSE) Mains with  IAS (UPSC CSE) Prelims. It will save a lot of time.
  • In General studies Paper -II, 20 - 25% of questions come from Indian Polity.
  • Being a slightly non-technical subject, the aspirants can easily comprehend and study this subject even if they don’t have political science as their background.
  • The concepts are general and anyone who reads newspapers regularly would be able to understand and study this subject.
  • The impression that the syllabus for political science is vast is only partially true. But here is a thing maximum part of the syllabus is covered by the UPSC Prelims syllabus and General Studies Syllabus.
  • Being aware of the contents in this subject can also help in your IAS Current Affairs preparation.
  • In the  IAS (UPSC CSE) Interview, a good knowledge of topics in Polity such and governance, international relations, etc. can become really helpful and handy.
  • Part I is more or less static which limits the syllabus to some extent.
Who should Choose

Who Should Choose Political Science And International Relations?

When you are choosing Political Science and International Relations as your optional subject, a few things should be in your mind because though this subject will save your time of preparation but it is not always fruitful as it looks from distant:

  • Political science has a lot of theory-based concepts.
  • The answers should be presented in a very crisp manner.
  • Memorizing scholar views is very important.
  • When you compare with more technical subjects like maths, science subjects, it is especially important to present your answer in a really good and effective way.
  • If you have a basic awareness, follow current affairs and regularly read editorials, you will have some information about any question asked in the exam.

Must Read: How to read a newspaper for IAS (UPSC CSE) exam

Answer Writing Technique

Tips for Answer Writing in Political Science Optional

Always remember, writing answers is very important in  IAS (UPSC CSE) Mains because the mode of answering is offline as well as descriptive. Here are some tips to what primary things you must follow:

  • Try to remember that the answers of the General Studies Paper should look different from the political Science and IR optional paper.
  • Use scholar views, facts, technical words in the optional subject to score well in this subject.
  • Use quotations while referring to scholar views.
  • Always give importance to current political perspectives.
  • When examples are given, they should be relevant and contemporary.
  • While writing answers for this optional, keep in mind the Four Cs – Compare, Criticise, Contemporary, Conclude.
Political Science Syllabus

IAS (UPSC CSE) Mains Political Science Optional Syllabus 

Preparing for Political Science Optional, each candidate looks for a detailed syllabus thoroughly and understanding how much to cover for the examination. Political Science and International Relations Optional Syllabus is divided into two papers: Paper - I and Paper-II.

Check Best Books For UPSC CSE Prelims Exam 2021

 IAS (UPSC CSE) Mains Political Science Optional Paper- I: Syllabus

 IAS (UPSC CSE) Main Political Science and International Relations Optional Paper -I have been divided into two sections:

  • Political Theory and Indian Politics
  • Indian Government and politics
Paper I – Section A (Political Theory and Indian Politics) 
Name of Important Topics Details of Topics
Political theory  Meaning, Definition, and approaches
Theories of the state Pluralist, Liberal, Neoliberal, Marxist, Post-colonial, and Feminist.
Justice Concept of justice concerning Rawl’s theory of justice
Equality  Relationship between freedom and equality and; Political, Social, and economic; Affirmative action.
Rights  Meaning and theories; the concept of Human Rights
Democracy  different models of democracy - deliberative, participatory and representative, Contemporary and Classical theories
Political Ideologies  Marxism, Liberalism, Fascism, Gandhism, Feminism, and Socialism.
Indian Political Thought  Dharmashastra, Arthashastra, and Buddhist traditions; Sri Aurobindo, B.R. Ambedkar, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, M.K. Gandhi, M.N. Roy.
Western Political Thought  Plato, John S. Mill, Machiavelli, Aristotle, Locke, Hobbes, Gramsci Marx, and Hannah Arendt.
Paper- I: Sections - B ( Indian Government and politics )
Indian Nationalism Political Strategies of India’s Freedom Struggle: Civil Disobedience, Non-cooperation; constitutionalism to mass Satyagraha, Peasant and workers’ movements, revolutionary movements.
Making of the Indian Constitution Different political and social perspectives, Legacies of the British rule
Salient Features of the Indian Constitution Fundamental Rights and Duties, Judicial Review and Basic Structure doctrine, The Preamble, Directive Principles, Parliamentary System, and Amendment Procedures.
Principal Organs of the Union Government Executive, Envisaged role and actual working of the Legislature, and Supreme Court.
Principal Organs of the State Government Executive, Envisaged role and actual working of the Legislature, and High Courts.
Statutory Institutions/ Commissions Election Commission, Comptroller, and Auditor General, Finance Commission, Union Public Service Commission, National Backward Classes Commission, National Commission for Scheduled Castes, National Commission for Scheduled Tribes, National Commission for Women; National Commission for Minorities.
Federalism  Changing nature of center-state relations; Constitutional provisions; and regional aspirations; integrationist tendencies, inter-state disputes.
Planning and Economic Development  The Role of Planning and Public Sector; Land Reforms and agrarian relations; liberalization, Green Revolution, and economic reforms.
Party System  National and regional political parties, ideological and social bases of parties; trends in electoral behavior; patterns of coalition politics; Pressure groups, changing the socio-economic profile of Legislators.
Social Movements  Civil liberties, women's movements; environmentalist movements

Check IAS (UPSC CSE) Practice Papers

 IAS (UPSC CSE) Mains: Syllabus for Political Science Optional Paper-II 

 IAS (UPSC CSE) Main Political Science and International Relations Optional Paper -II is also for better understanding divided into sections:

  • Comparative Politics and International Relations
  • India and the World
Section - A (Comparative Politics and International Relations) 
Name of Important Topics Details of Topics
Comparative Politics  Political economy, Nature and major approaches; limitations of the comparative method.
Globalization  Responses from developing and developed societies.
Approaches to the Study of International Relations Idealist, Functionalist, Realist, Marxist, and Systems theory.
Key concepts in International Relations  Security, World capitalist economy and globalization; Balance of power and deterrence; National interest, and power; Transnational actors, and collective security.
Changing International Political Order  Arms Race and Cold War; Rise of superpowers; strategic and ideological Bipolarity, nuclear threat; Non-aligned movement: Achievements and Aims; The collapse of the Soviet Union; and Unipolarity and American hegemony; relevance of non-alignment in the contemporary world
Evolution of the International Economic System From Bretton Woods to WTO; Globalisation of the world economy; Socialist economies and the CMEA (Council for Mutual Economic Assistance); Third World demand for new international economic order.
United Nations  Envisaged role and actual record; Specialized UN agencies-aims and functioning; the need for UN reforms.
Regionalization of World Politics  ASEAN, SAARC, APEC, EU, NAFTA.
Contemporary Global Concerns  Human rights, Gender justice, nuclear proliferation, Democracy, environment, terrorism.
Section: B (India and the World) 
Indian Foreign Policy  Continuity and change: Institutions of policy-making, Determinants of foreign policy
India and South Asia  South Asia as a Free Trade Area Regional Cooperation: SAARC –past performance and future prospects Impediments to regional cooperation: ethnic conflicts and insurgencies; river water disputes; illegal cross-border migration; border disputes. India's "Look East" policy
India and the Global South  Relations with Latin America and Africa, Leadership role in the demand for NIEO and WTO negotiations
India and the Global Centres of Power  USA, China, EU, Japan, and Russia.
India and the UN System Role in United Nation Peace-keeping
India and the Nuclear Questions Perceptions and Changing policy
Recent developments in Indian Foreign Policy India's position on the recent crisis in West Asia, Growing relations with the US and Israel; Afghanistan and Iraq, the vision of new world order

Check How to read a newspaper for  IAS (UPSC CSE)  exam

Previous Years' Papers

Previous years Question papers of IAS (UPSC CSE) Political Science Optional

The first thing we waste our time is in looking for previous year's question papers. For the internet, now you easily can download the previous years’ question papers of IAS (UPSC CSE) Political Science by clicking on the link mentioned below in the chart:

Year Name of the Paper Link to Download
2020 Political Science and IR Paper - I Download
Political Science and IR Paper - II Download
2019  Political Science and IR Paper - I Download
Political Science and IR Paper - II Download
2018 Political Science and IR Paper - I Download
Political Science and IR Paper - II Download 
2017 Political Science & IR Paper - I Download
Political Science & IR Paper - II Download
2016 Political Science & IR Paper - I Download 
Political Science & IR Paper - II Download
2015 Political Science & I R Paper I Download
Political Science & I R Paper II Download
2014 Political Science & IR Paper I Download
Political Science & IR Paper II Download

Check IAS (UPSC CSE) 2021 Preparation Tips, Important Books, and Exam Pattern

Books for Political Science

Booklist for IAS (UPSC CSE) Political Science Optional

The choice of books for each subject really matters. When it comes to IAS (UPSC CSE) Political Science Optional, it really plays a great role in gaining scores. In the following section of this article, there are few books that toppers have followed as well:

Books for Political Science and International Relations Paper I

Section - A (Comparative Politics and International Relations) 
Name of Book Author/ Publisher
Political Theory O.P. Gauba
Political Theory Ray & Bhattacharya
Political Theory J.C. Johri
Political Theory  Eddy Ashirvatham 
Modern Political Theory Madan Gandhi
Modern Political Theory S.P. Verma
For Manu & Kautilya: Foundations of Indian Political thought V.R. Mehta
A History of Political thought J.P. Suda
Paper- I: Sections - B (Indian Government and politics)
Comparative Govt. & Politics J.C. Johri 
Comparative Govt. & Politics  Ronald Chilkote
Modern Indian Political Thinkers V.P. Verma
Foundations of Indian Political Thought V.R. Mehta
Govt. and Politics of India W.H. Morris Jones
Politics in India Rajani Kothari

Books For Political Science and International Relations Optional Paper-II

Name of Book Author/ Publisher
India’s Foreign policy V P Dutt
International organizations Spectrum Books Publication
Challenge and Strategy: Rethinking India’s Foreign Policy Rajiv Sikri
Global politics- Andrew Heywood
MPS-004 Comparative Politics: Issues and Trends by Expert Panel of GPH IGNOU
Does the Elephant Dance?: Contemporary Indian Foreign Policy Paperback – 20 David M. Malone 
Theoretical aspects of International Politics Mahendra Kumar

NCERT Books for Polity:

  • Polity: NCERT Standard IX – Political Science: Democratic Politics Part – I
  • Polity: NCERT Standard X – Political Science: Democratic Politics Part – II
  • Polity: NCERT Standard XI – Political Science: Indian Constitution at Work
  • Polity: NCERT Standard XI – Political Science: Political Theory
  • Polity: NCERT Standard XII – Political Science I: Contemporary World Politics
  • Polity: NCERT Standard XII – Political Science II: Politics in India since Independence

General Books for Political Science:

  • Our Constitution By Subhash C Kashyap
  • Our Parliament By Subhash C Kashyap
  • Perspective on Constitution (ED) by P.M Bakshi
  • Indian Polity by Laxmikanth

Other Books for Reference:

  • An Introduction to Constitution by D.D. Basu
  • Indian Polity by Laxmikanth
  • Indian Govt and Politics by M.P. Singh, Himanshu Roy
  • International Politic by Bookhives
  • World Politics in the Twentieth Century by Paul Kenedy

Must Read: Mistakes to avoid in IAS(UPSC CSE)  Exam

If you are just beginning your preparation, start it with NCERT books and you can get the NCERT books online very easily in soft copies and other books in the online market are very available. But due to COVID - 19 outbreak, online business has been forcefully seized to stop the virus from spreading more. In the meantime follow the current affairs like The Hindu, The Hindustan, the Indian Express, etc to stay updated and focused.



Ques. Why are Political Science and International Relations (PSIR) popular among aspirants

If you are to analyze the reason for the popularity of Political science and International Relations, here are the most logical reasons:

  • Political science and International Relations as a subject is interesting and easily comprehensible.
  • One should choose their optional as per their interest and not because someone advised them to.
  • The subject is relevant and relatable. It is dynamic in nature, makes it easier to bridge the gap between static and contemporary issues.
  • Political science and International Relations students write specialist answers in General Studies Mains as they can quote various thinkers and theories, fetching better marks in General Studies Paper 2.

Ques. Is political science a scoring subject in  IAS (UPSC CSE) Main?

Ans. Yes, “Political Science and International Relations” as an optional subject for UPSC does have its own pros which are pretty high in number.

Ques. Who got the highest marks in Political Science Optional of IAS (UPSC CSE) Mains ever?

Ans. Pooja Ranawat got the highest marks of 319 in Political Science and her rank was 258.

Ques. Who got the highest marks in UPSC optional?

Ans. The highest marks ever scored in the UPSC exam were by Anudeep Durishetty, the topper for UPSC 2017. He scored 1126 (55.60%) out of 2025 marks. He scored 950 out of 1750 marks in Mains and 176 out of 275 on the personality test

Ques. Can we prepare for Political Science and International Relations without coaching?

Ans. UPSC Prelims can be prepared on your own very easily. But in  IAS (UPSC CSE)  Mains, Political Science is included in General studies and is also chosen as your optional paper, outsource guide and advice are always better because optional papers contain 500 marks out of 2025 marks and descriptive type questions. But if you are confident enough, you are always welcome to achieve it on your own.

*The article might have information for the previous academic years, please refer the official website of the exam.