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The decision of selection of the optional paper for IAS exam is an age old dilemma for Civil Services aspirants. As per the latest syllabus, the number of optional subjects to be selected is reduced to one, but aspirants are still confused if they make right choice or not. Though the weightage of the optional paper is only 500 marks out of 2025 marks as per the latest pattern of UPSC Civil Services exam, it is still a deciding factor in the final ranks due to the unpredictability associated with General Studies Papers (1000 marks GS + 250 marks essay) and Interview (275 marks).
If we analyse the question papers and mark-list of last 5-10 years of UPSC Civil Services Exams, we can collect a lot interesting and valuable data. The UPSC questions have evolved and now the bias is more towards current related aspects of polity, economy, international relations etc than conventional topics. (Please also keep in mind that there is no guarantee by UPSC that the case will remain the same for future exams!) Due to high standard of questions and valuation, the marks scored by top candidates are coming down every year. The percentage of top ranks in IAS exam has come down from 58-60% in 3-4 years back to 50%, while the last rank of a successful candidate in General category is around 40% marks.