UPSC IAS Mains Preparation Strategy for Electrical Engineering Optional

A highly specialized and unconventional subject, electrical engineering is also available as optional for IAS Mains. The other engineering subjects available as optional in IAS Mains are civil and mechanical engineering. While there are many other subjects from arts and science, many candidates often choose these unconventional options solely because they have specialised in the subject. However, there are always few takers of such specialized subjects and the success rate is hence high. The key to preparing and ace such a specialised subject is to be familiar with the syllabus and make a proper study routine that is dedicatedly followed until the exam starts. We have shared a few tips and study plan ideas so that your preparation for IAS Mains optional can be done in an organized manner.

Why choose Electrical Engineering Optional?

Electrical engineering optional is a professional degree which is a highly specialized subject to be chosen for IAS. It is best to choose the subject if you have a graduation or post-graduation degree in it and also confident about your knowledge base. The following are a few advantages and disadvantages of the subject that should be considered before you choose it as an optional paper.


  • Most graduates in the subject choose it and as a student of this stream, you do not have to start studying from scratch.
  • Since it is a technical subject with no scope for the examiner’s interpretation, it is generally very scoring, provided you have a clear concept.
  • Diagrams, circuit drawings, flowcharts, and numerical can be used in support of your answer and hence you have much more scope to substantiate your answers better.
  • The theories related to electrical engineering are very scoring too which means you have more scope of getting better marks through this optional paper even when the questions are conception-based.
  • Almost 50% of the questions are repeated from previous years. Therefore, if you can solve the past 5-7 years of electrical engineering optional papers with 100% accuracy, you can expect to get more than average marks through these optional papers.
  • Simultaneous preparation for IES is possible when you choose electrical engineering. Hence if you are eligible for IES, and appearing for it, you can strategize a common preparation plan.


  • The subject is tough and there is not much material available except for reference books. Hence the preparation requires a lot of time and effort. You have to invest maximum time in preparing the numericals.
  • The subject does not overlap with your IAS prelims and general studies paper which means it requires much more time individually which many candidates do not have before the exam.
  • The syllabus is vast.
  • If you are no longer in touch with the basics of the subject or studies related to the subject, the syllabus will prove to be very challenging indeed.

Who can choose electrical engineering?

The subject is mainly chosen by engineering graduates who are aspiring for IAS. If you do not have a technical background that is specific to this subject, it is better to steer clear of this optional. Many engineering students who are no longer in touch with their graduation studies often go for other humanities subjects which they feel are easier to prepare than their graduation stream.

Success rate of electrical engineering

From 2010 to 2015 the number of students appearing for electrical engineering optional paper has been between 120 and 190. The number of students clearing IAS with this optional usually varies between 7 and 13. Top rank holders with electrical engineering optional paper include Muthyala Raju Revu in 2006 whose rank was 1, Prakash Rajpurohit who ranked 2 in 2009, Asish Kumar ranked 9th in 2014 and so on.

Know your syllabus

Before you begin your preparation, it is essential to get familiar with the syllabus. Electrical engineering syllabus is vast for both paper 1 and 2. The following are the umbrella-topics which you will have to study in details to ace this optional-


  • Circuit Theory
  • Signals and Systems
  • E.M. Theory
  • Analog Electronics
  • Digital Electronics
  • Energy Conservation
  • Power electronics and Electric Drives
  • Analog Communication


  • Control System
  • Microprocessors and Microcomputers
  • Measurement and Instrumentation
  • Power System- Analysis and Control
  • Power system protection
  • Digital Communication

UPSC Main Electrical Engineering Question Paper

UPSC Electrical Engineering questions papers are listed below for candidates’ reference. This question bank comprises question papers of 5 years, which enable aspirants to get familiar with the question paper pattern and the syllabus to focus on while preparing for the exam.

The question papers you find are Union Public Service Commission papers. Go through the papers carefully for further reference and preparation. The practice of these question papers will help the candidate to be well versed in Electrical Engineering.

We have uploaded 7 years question papers from 2013 to latest 2019 question papers for the subject Electrical Engineering.

Download Question Paper

Topic-wise preparation tips for Paper-1 and 2

Here is a detailed topic-wise preparation tips for every topic in paper-1 and paper-2. Do note that dedicatedly studying for 3-4 months for 12 hours a week is elemental to complete the syllabus of this Mains paper-


  • Circuit theory
    • The best book for this subject is Circuit Theory- Analysis and Synthesis by A- Chakraborty.
    • Lay emphasis on preparing basic network theorems, graft theory and two-port theories.
    • Most questions from this chapter are numerical and hence, they should be practiced thoroughly.
    • 20-marks questions that involve proving theories are also asked which have to be done by substantiating with examples. Hence, practice writing and formatting your answers accordingly.
    • Filters section need not be studied as it has been scraped from the IAS syllabus after 2008.
  • Signals and systems
    • Study the Laplace transform, Z-transform, Fourier analysis and basics of signal representations which are very important from this chapter.
    • Signals and systems by Ramesh Babu is a good book for this chapter alone.
    • DFT and FFT related questions have never been asked so far in UPSC which can lead to the conclusion that they are not that important in the exam. However, it is in the syllabus and hence to be on the safer side, prepare a gist of these topics just in case.
  • E.M. Theory
    • Go through solved examples from a good book, especially from principles of Electromagnetics by Mathew Sadiku as UPSC often directly lifts these questions and asks them for the optional paper.
    • Focus on numericals related to the different concepts of E.M. Theory as they are asked more.
    • Electrostatics and magnetostatics are not there in the UPSC syllabus and can be safely skipped.
  • Analog electronics
    • Practice and study solved examples- as many as you can.
    • Also, practice the various derivations in this chapter which are frequently asked in UPSC.
    • OPAMP, single-stage amplifiers are very important sections under this chapter. Biasing is also important.
    • However, you can skip multi-stage.
  • Digital electronics
    • PLA and FGPA are important topics.
    • Mostly a 20-marks theory based question is asked from this chapter.
  • Power electronics and electronic drives
    • Again, practice all the solved questions from Power Electronics by P.S. Bimbhra as the questions are directly lifted from here.
    • Chopper, rectifier, drive and inverter are particularly important from this chapter.
  • Analog communication
    • This is a part of electronics engineering but included in the electrical engineering optional for UPSC. Hence this is a new topic for the candidates in most cases.
    • Phase Log Loop of FM demodulation is an important topic.
    • Theoretical and numerical questions come from this chapter and practicing the solved examples will be good enough for this. You will also find a number of repeated questions from previous years are from this chapter.

Paper – II

  • Control systems
    • Practice the solved examples from the control system by A. Anand Kumar. Similar questions are asked in UPSC.
    • Plots, root loci, block diagram analysis, are important topics.
    • Mostly numerical based on this chapter are asked so this topic will require rigorous practice.
  • Microprocessors and microcomputers
    • The topic programming from this section is rather tough but also a very important section that cannot be skipped for paper-2. However, if you are weak in the programming-based problems, make sure your theory-based preparation is strong as the questions related to the theory section are repeated.
    • You can skip the programming based problems when you are sure about your attempts at theoretical questions. Hence, focus on preparing the previous years’ questions thoroughly.
  • Measurements and instrumentation
    • The theory part from this section is huge but it is also easy to prepare.
    • Practice using diagrams extensively to substantiate the theory-based answers from this section.
    • Transducers, potentiometers, power factor measurements, power and energy measurements are very important topics.
    • Digital instrumentation is an important topic but there are little materials on it. Relying on the internet is the best way to prepare this part.
  • Power systems
    • Fault analysis, power system stability, equal-area criteria, critical clearing time, load flow analysis are some of the primary important topics.
    • You will get numericals as well as theoretical questions from this chapter.
    • The numericals can be prepared by practicing the solved examples from JB Gupta.
    • For power system protection, practicing the solved numericals in JB Gupta and studying the theory sections from Electrical Power Systems by CL Wadhya should suffice.
  • Digital communication
    • Pulse code manipulation, delta modulation, BPSK, phase shifting, error control, convolution theory, linear block coding, are important topics.
    • The questions asked from this section are simple but you have to make sure your conception is clear and you must not skip the section as questions come every year from this section.

Generic preparation tips for electrical engineering optional in IAS

Once you know which are the sections and topics to focus on, it is important to follow a proper study plan which is thoroughly organized to accomplish your goals. Here are a few generic preparation tips which will specifically assist aspirants with optional electrical engineering to ace the papers and cover the syllabus within the due time-

  • Dedicate at least 2 hours daily for practicing numerical. Focus on 2-3 topics and the relevant numerical each day and aim to complete as many as you can within the designated time with maximum accuracy. Also, avoid using calculators while you practice so that your mental maths is improved.
  • Get a printout of the entire UPSC Electrical Engineering Optional syllabus and make sure you are thoroughly acquainted with it. Knowing the syllabus thoroughly will help you to figure out quickly which questions are from which chapter and draw patterns from the previous year question papers easily.
  • Do the numerical in a relaxed manner so that you can avoid any silly mistakes. Do not get hyper when you make mistakes as it will just lead to more errors and can be thoroughly demotivating.
  • You can opt for enrolling in test series and mock tests. This way you can get better exam-simulation practice.
  • Even while practicing the answer-writing and numerical pay attention to your presentation as it plays a vital role in leaving an impression on the examiner’s mind. Use flow-charts, diagrams and circuit drawings as a when needed so that the answer looks complete. Improve visibility of your answer- clear and large handwriting, using margins and boxes for segregating different parts, para-breaks, using different colour pens or pens and pencil together, underlining or highlighting important parts are some practices that you can incorporate.
  • If there are any formulas involved for any chapter, make sure you jot them down in a separate copy which you can use for last-minute revisions.
  • Have a shrewd approach to how you attempt the paper- for example, if a specific question has a lengthy derivation involved, leave it for later and attempt the questions with shorter answers.
  • Your theory preparation should be very thorough so that you can come up with answers impromptu even for surprise questions and topics. When you are able to attempt unconventional questions that most candidates are likely to skip, it adds to your advantage regarding how the examiner will perceive your answer script.

Choosing electrical engineering for your optional paper also implies in the first place that you have some level of confidence about your basics about the subject. This can also work in your advantage during the interview round. Keeping the preparation tips in mind and starting the preparation 4-5months early will definitely help you achieve your goals.

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