Law – A Game-changer Choice as Optional

Updated: Jul 13, 2021

“Justice in the life and conduct of the State is possible only as first it resides in the hearts and souls of the citizens” - Plato

Plato’s quotes precisely highlights duties of a civil servant. One of the most important is to build a connection between the Government and it’s People, while working for the “Welfare State” as envisaged in the Constitution of India, while sticking to legal framework. It is evident that knowing law thoroughly plays a crucial role in the life as a civil servant. Therefore, law has become a popular subject as optional in UPSC CSE main exam year after year.

Before selecting optional subject, one must seek clarity on following points:

Interest in the subject: Law being a bit technical subject, it must interest one initially. If not, process may get boring and cumbersome.

Syllabus: Law has neatly defined syllabus.

Paper one consists of Constitutional Law, Administrative Law and International Law. Questions asked are generally combination of static points & analysis of current events.

Paper two consists of Law of Crimes, Law of Torts, Law of Contracts & Mercantile Law, & Contemporary Legal Developments. Questions asked in this paper are static but application orientated & requires analysis of current events as well.

It is observed that questions in both the papers are repeated often.

Entire GS 2 paper is covered under law paper 1. Substantial part from GS paper 1, 3, & 4 also overlaps with it. Topics like Environment, Disaster Management, International Organisations, Sustainable development, Post Independent Consolidation, Secularism, Government Budgeting, etc. can be combined together with topics from law optional such as International Law, International Organizations, Treaties, Legal and Constitutional History, etc.

Law also is helpful in enhancing score in GS 4, Essay paper & Personality test. Essays like “Trial by Media”, “Water disputed between states in federal India”, “Judicial activism & Indian Democracy” can be seen as topics letting law optional students directly ascend over other with ease.

Availability of reference material: Availability of quality reference material in every form such as articles, notes, textbooks, reference books, etc. is a significant point in law becoming popular choice as optional

Success rate: Success rate of law optional is also seen to be quite high & consistent. According to UPSC annual report it is around 21%. Apart from that; amongst all optional subjects law has best conversion rate i.e. 23% (Meaning that out of 100 giving mains 23 received call for personality test)

Trend in last few years:

Time at disposal for studies v/s Time required: One of the crucial but overlooked point for law is, it can be covered in less amount of time. Which consequently let one invest more time in revisions & writing practice.

Pros & Cons of law optional can be seen as follows:


1) Scoring subject – magic number 300+ is achievable

2) Consistent & High Success Rate

3) Availability of quality study material

4) Overlaps entirely with GS 2, partially with GS 1, 3 & 4 also

5) Helpful in essay writing & personality test

6) Neatly defined syllabus

7) Can be covered entirely in less time than other exhaustive optional subjects


1) A bit technical

2) Non availability of classes & test series

Law as a subject is certain & constant in a life of a civil servant. That is the core area of work for a civil servant. It is scoring subject with precise & crisp syllabus. Thus, it is always better to sweat in practice than bleed in battle.

How to win a battle with “Law” as armour?

● Don't be intimidated with section numbers, maxims, titles & citations of landmark judgments.

● Conceptual clarity & revisions will help in retrieval of all necessary things

● Check at what stage of preparation you stand, decide when you want to go for UPSC CSE attempt & then accordingly plan your schedule

● Once you are equipped with your schedule, divide it into small achievable targets

● Selection of reference material will also play crucial role in attaining the magic number of “300+”

● Stick to handful of good reference books and revise it along with your notes again & again

● Start solving previous year questions only when at least one proper reading of syllabus is done

● Get checked all your solved questions and update them with suggestions & important current events

● Invest time in making land mark judgments’ bank, doctrines’ bank, maxims’ bank etc & revisit it often

Reference Books:

● Constitutional law – M P Jain/ D D Basu/ Granville Austine/ J N Pandey + Bare Act

● Administrative law – IP Massey/ C K Takwani/ Sathe

● International law- Malcolm Shaw/ S K Kapoor/ V N Shukla

● Law of Crimes- K D Gaur/ R K Bangia/ Ratanlal & Dhirajlal/ PSA Pillai +Bare Act

● Law of Torts- R K Bagia/ A Pillai

● Law of Contracts- Bangia/ Avtar Singh + Bare Act

● Jurisprudence – P K Tripathi & Dias

● Important websites – Lawctopus, India Kanoon, PRS India, PIB, Bar & Bench,

PathLegal, Manupatra, LiveLaw, SSC online,Legacrystal,etc.

● Documents like UN handbook on important topics, ARC Reports, Reports of various committees and commissions, ICJ Handbook, Stockholm conference document, etc can also be referred to for value addition

Necessary Bare Acts than mentioned above must also be used.

All of the books for law optional must be read selectively & topic wise only.

Law is a smart choice as optional subject. Unlike exhaustive subjects like political science or history law syllabus is crisp & well defined. Choosing law is more like preparing for UPSC CSE along with investing in prosperous future.

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