Preparing For UPSC With Law Optional Subject - A Definitive Guide (Part - 1)

Aditya Tiwari

9 May 2020 7:09 AM GMT

  • Preparing For UPSC With Law Optional Subject - A Definitive Guide (Part - 1)

    After my previous article comparing both civil and judicial service, I got a lot of emails with regard to queries related to law optional in UPSC. This is the first part of a series of two articles and it will attempt to answer all those questions in brief.

    Mostly Students wanted to know the book list for UPSC law optional or non-law graduates wondering whether they should choose law optional at all in UPSC Mains? or what preparation strategy one should follow and What are the chances of clearing UPSC with law optional as they have this wrong notion that it is not as scoring as other popular choices such as Sociology, geography, History et cetera.

    Few of the judicial officers emailed thanking me and appreciated my effort and insight comparing the two services and some of them suggested improvements. I will try to answer all the major queries in the following paragraphs. Use these articles as starting points for preparations.

    Chances of success or Success ratio

    Law as a subject has not been a very popular the choice among UPSC aspirants and even law graduates have been choosing Non-law subjects to appear for mains examinations. Things have however changed dramatically after 2013 reform introduced in the pattern and syllabus of the UPSC Civil service examination.

    As per UPSC Latest Report, Candidates with law optional subjects have the highest success ratio last year and have been consistent since 2013. Almost averaging 22 %.

    The reason for such good success ratio with law optional can be briefly summed up as -

    1. The overlapping of Law optional Syllabus with compulsory GS paper - 2, 3 and Essay is almost forty percent thus freeing up more time to focus on other areas of Syllabus.
    2. As a law graduate, a niche habit of writing good english comes in handy while writing crisp answers.
    3. Any Current development always involves legal aspects of the issues.
    4. Easy Nature of prescribed law syllabus, which i will discuss next

    Syllabus Analysis

    Law optional syllabus prescribed in UPSC mains Examination are practically less then what a law graduate study in their typically five- or three-year course. NLU graduates specifically would find it much easier and shorter.

    Absence of procedural laws ( CpC, CrPC and Evidence) makes it a very manageable syllabus. It can easily be covered from end to end in four to five months.

    Briefly Speaking it consists of Paper -1 (Part A- Constitutional and Administrative Law, Part -B: International Law) and Paper - II (Part - A: Criminal and Tort, Part - B: Contract and Contemporary Legal Development).

    One important shift that can be seen after the 2015 paper is that the questions in mains are from each part of the syllabus so you cannot pick and choose what to study and what to skip.

    There are around 32 Topics in each Paper and the number of questions asked is 25 -27 (you have to attempt only 19-20 of them). There are rarely two questions from any one topic, even the topic as important as fundamental rights. So candidates should keep that in mind.

    Syllabus is comparatively so easy that nowadays even a non-law background student takes law optional and qualifies UPSC with top Ranks.

    Now a Detail analysis of each topic of prescribed subject syllabus would be useful but it will make this article too long. You can De Facto Law website for the same.

    Books list recommendations

    There is no single book that can be exactly prescribed for all the subjects primarily because of the reason that each of the standard textbooks, although very scholarly and good on content, are written mainly for academic purposes.

    The requirement and demand of the UPSC syllabus are very different and require a very targeted study with microscopic precision. If you start reading MP Jain for Constitution in its entirety it would be meaningless. You will have to read selected chapters. The same is the case for all standard textbooks of any prescribed subjects.

    There are some topics in the syllabus for which you can not find any standard books so I will suggest keeping an eye on articles on them on this website or my articles that i keep sending in telegram groups and De Facto Law Website.

    So keeping in mind the above facts let me recommend some books in Brief -

    1. Constitutional law (M.P Jain or VN Shukla) - Select Specific Pages and chapters to study based on previous year Papers.
    2. Administrative Law (S.P Sathe) - A very popular book read only the first few chapters which is part of law optional syllabus. Language is very simple and Lucid.
    3. International Law (Stark's international law by IA Shearer) - almost all topics of International law is covered.One point thought that this book is for international audiences so Indian case laws are missing that you have to add on in your notes by your own.
    4. Law of Crime ( KD Gaur) - It remains a classic book and comprehensively covers all parts of IPC but so remember to read topics mentioned in our syllabus only.
    5. Law of Contract ( Avtar Singh0 - Philosophical aspect of contract law provisions should be read, such as interpretation of commercial law should follow the trade not the other way around.
    6. Law of Torts ( R K Bangia) - Standard textbook and covers everything comprehensively vis a vis law optional UPSC syllabus. Read and make precise notes for effective revision.
    7. CLD ( No specific book but read Major Concepts of mentioned Acts In brief) - All the major acts mentioned should be read-only limited to its impact on the overall field that they are enacted for. Not going in much detail.

    Lot of Emails were asking a million dollar questions (pun intended) How is Dukkis for the law optional preparation. For Non DU graduates, dukkis are a sort of guide book found on campus. Well it is good for revision and maybe for some smaller acts but i will not suggest you to completely rely on them for major subjects. It is UPSC not Law Faculty, Delhi University Semester Exam !

    Aditya Tiwari, He has been teaching UPSC aspirants in Delhi since 2013. He runs the website , Which is dedicated to UPSC law optional students. He holds a bachelor Degree in Civil Engineering from Motilal Nehru National Institute of Technology (MNNIT), Allahabad and an LLB from Delhi University. Can be reached at

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