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"It is not primarily our physical selves that limit us but rather our mindset about our physical limits." : Ellen J Langer

A UPSC aspirant is often faced with the dilemma of choosing the right optional.

A right optional is the one which helps you to outperform in mains, the one that fetches you maximum marks, the one which comes to your rescue when you fail to score well in General Studies and last but not the least, the one which brings out the best in you.

Why to chose Psychology as an Optional?

Psychology can prove to be a smart choice as an optional subject considering a number of factors:

  • Easy to understand as it is logical and rational in nature.
  • It covers a lot of topics of GS Paper 4 and Essay in the mains exam.
  • It has also witnessed many successful candidates.
  • Study material is easily available.

WHO SHOULD CHOOSE Psychology as an Optional Subject?

  • Interest: Interest in a particular subject should be given top priority while deciding on an optional subject. If you are having interested in psychology, you can go for it.
  • Background: If you have problems with memorising and rote learning, it is advisable to opt for Psychology as it requires more understanding and conceptual clarity
  • If you have problems in memorising and rote learning, it is advisable to opt for Psychology as it requires more understanding and conceptual clarity


Many candidates are opting for Psychology as their optional on the basis of the success ratio that this subject has to offer. Many candidates have been able to score 300+ in Psychology and many have managed to bag top ranks. However, UPSC does not discriminate between any of its optional subjects and one should consider his/her interest a top priority while choosing an optional.

Name of the candidate Year of passing Rank secured Total marks (500) Paper I (250 MARKS) Paper II (250 MARKS)
SANSKRITI JAIN CSE- 2014 11 299 128 171
MIHIR PATEL CSE-2014 27 327 175 152
JATIN LAL CSE-2015 42 307 158 149
KUMAR HARSH CSE-2015 43 303 153 150
JUHI JALOTA CSE-2017 122 283 144 139

Psychology Optional Coaching Fees:

Sr. Course & Features Fees
1. Online Video Lectures for Both Optional Papers 1 & 2 + Study Material in Soft Copy + Test Series Rs. 30,000/-
2. Online Video Lectures for Both Optional Papers 1 & 2 + Study Material in Soft Copy Rs. 20,000/-


  1. Detailed coverage of both Psychology paper I & II for UPSC mains exam
  2. Availability of topic-wise module with coverage of each topic 
  3. Special lecture series on answer writing practice 
  4. Access to the best lecturers anytime and anywhere 
  5. 150+ hours of Offline/online lectures by Delhi based faculty members
Super Affordable fees:

Usually, the cost of Psychology optional coaching fee is approx. Rs.50,000/- to Rs.75,000/- whereas online coaching costs very less.

Your time, Your Place:

While offline IAS coaching has a fixed schedule, online coaching is flexible. Aspirants can save time from travelling between home, college and other places.


One of the biggest advantages of online Psychology coaching is that no lecture or topic will be missed as you can watch it anytime anywhere on your laptop or mobile.

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PAPER – I Psychology Optional Syllabus:

Foundations of Psychology

1.Introduction: Definition of Psychology; Historical antecedents of Psychology and trends in the 21st century; Psychology and scientific methods; Psychology in relation to other social sciences and natural sciences; Application of Psychology to societal problems.

2.Methods of Psychology: Types of research: Descriptive, evaluative, diagnostic and prognostic; Methods of Research: Survey, observation, case-study and experiments; Characteristics of experimental design and non-experimental design, Quasi-experimental designs; Focussed group discussions, brain storming, grounded theory approach.

3.Research Methods: Major steps in Psychological research (problem statement, hypothesis formulation, research designs, sampling, tools of data collection, analysis and interpretation and report writing) Fundamental versus applied research; Methods of data collection (interview, observation, questionnaire); Research designs (ex-post facto and experimental); Application of statistical technique (t-test, two-way ANOVA correlation, regression and factor analysis); Item response theory.

4.Development of Human Behaviour: Growth and development; Principles of development, Role of genetic and environmental factors in determining human behaviour; Influence of cultural factors in socialization; Life span development – Characteristics, development tasks, promoting psychological well-being across major stages of the life span.

5.Sensation, Attention and Perception: Sensation: concepts of the threshold, absolute and difference thresholds, signal-detection and vigilance; Factors influencing attention including set and characteristics of stimulus; Definition and concept of perception, biological factors in perception; Perceptual organization-influence of past experiences, perceptual defence-factors influencing space and depth perception, size estimation and perceptual readiness; The plasticity of perception; Extrasensory perception; Culture and perception, Subliminal perception.

6.Learning: Concept and theories of learning (Behaviourists, Gestaltalist and Information processing models); The Processes of extinction, discrimination and generalization; Programmed learning, probability learning, self-instructional learning, concepts; Types and the schedules of reinforcement, escape, avoidance and punishment, modelling and social learning.

7.Memory: Encoding and remembering; Short term memory, Long term memory, Sensory memory, Iconic memory, Echoic memory: The Multistore model, levels of processing; Organization and Mnemonic techniques to improve memory; Theories of forgetting: decay, interference and retrieval failure: Metamemory; Amnesia: Anterograde and retrograde.

8.Thinking and Problem Solving: Piaget’s theory of cognitive development; Concept formation processes; Information processing, Reasoning and problem solving, Facilitating and hindering factors in problem-solving, Methods of problem-solving: Creative thinking and fostering creativity; Factors influencing decision making and judgment; Recent trends.

9.Motivation and Emotion: Psychological and physiological basis of motivation and emotion; Measurement of motivation and emotion; Effects of motivation and emotion on behaviour; Extrinsic and intrinsic motivation; Factors influencing intrinsic motivation; Emotional competence and the related issues.

10.Intelligence and Aptitude: Concept of intelligence and aptitude, Nature and theories of intelligence – Spearman, Thurstone, Guilford Vernon, Sternberg and J.P; Das; Emotional Intelligence, Social intelligence, measurement of intelligence and aptitudes, the concept of IQ, deviation IQ, the constancy of IQ; Measurement of multiple intelligence; Fluid intelligence and crystallized intelligence.

11.Personality: Definition and concept of personality; Theories of personality (psychoanalytical, sociocultural, interpersonal, developmental, humanistic, behaviouristic, trait and type approaches); Measurement of personality (projective tests, pencil-paper test); The Indian approach to personality; Training for personality development; Latest approaches like big 5-factor theory; The notion of self in different traditions.

12.Attitudes, Values and Interests: Definition of attitudes, values and interests; Components of attitudes; Formation and maintenance of attitudes; Measurement of attitudes, values and interests; Theories of attitude change; Strategies for fostering values; Formation of stereotypes and prejudices; Changing others behaviour; Theories of attribution; Recent trends.

13.Language and Communication: Human language – Properties, structure and linguistic hierarchy, Language acquisition- predisposition, critical period hypothesis; Theories of language development – Skinner and Chomsky; Process and types of communication – effective communication training.

14.Issues and Perspectives in Modern Contemporary Psychology: Computer application in the psychological laboratory and psychological testing; Artificial intelligence; Psychocybernetics; Study of consciousness-sleep-wake schedules; dreams, stimulus deprivation, meditation, hypnotic/drug-induced states; Extrasensory perception; Intersensory perception Simulation studies.

Psychology Optional Paper II Syllabus:

Psychology: Issues and Applications

1.Psychological Measurement of Individual Differences: The nature of individual differences; Characteristics and construction of standardized psychological tests; Types of psychological tests; Use, misuse and limitation of psychological tests; ethical issues in the use of psychological tests.

2.Psychological well-being and Mental Disorders: Concept of health-ill health; Positive health, wellbeing; Causal factors in mental disorders (Anxiety disorders, mood disorders, schizophrenia and delusional disorders; personality disorders, substance abuse disorders); Factors influencing positive health, well-being, lifestyle and quality of life; Happiness disposition.

3.Therapeutic Approaches: Psychodynamic therapies; Behaviour therapies; Client centred therapy; Cognitive therapies; Indigenous therapies (Yoga, Meditation); Bio-feedback therapy; Prevention and rehabilitation of the mentally ill; Fostering mental health.

4.Work Psychology and Organisational Behaviour: Personnel selection and training; Use of psychological tests in the industry; Training and human resource development; Theories of work motivation – Herzberg, Maslow, Adam Equity theory, Porter and Lawler, Vroom; Leadership and participatory management; Advertising and marketing; Stress and its management; Ergonomics; consumer psychology; Managerial effectiveness; Transformational leadership; Sensitivity training; Power and politics in organizations.

5.Application of Psychology to Educational Field: Psychological principles underlying effective teaching-learning process; Learning styles; Gifted, retarded, learning disabled and their training; Training for improving memory and better academic achievement; Personality development and value education, Educational, vocational guidance and career counselling; Use of psychological tests in educational institutions; Effective strategies in guidance programmes.

6.Community Psychology: Definition and concept of community psychology; Use of small groups in social action; Arousing community consciousness and action for handling social problems; Group decision making and leadership for social change; Effective strategies for social change.

7.Rehabilitation Psychology: Primary, secondary and tertiary prevention programmes-role of psychologists; Organising of services for the rehabilitation of physically, mentally and socially challenged persons including old persons, Rehabilitation of persons suffering from substance abuse, juvenile delinquency, criminal behaviour; Rehabilitation of victims of violence, Rehabilitation of HIV/AIDS victims, the role of social agencies.

8.Application of Psychology to disadvantaged groups: The concepts of disadvantaged, deprivation; Social, physical, cultural and economic consequences of disadvantaged and deprived groups; Educating and motivating the disadvantaged towards development; Relative and prolonged deprivation.

9.Psychological problems of social integration: The concept of social integration; The problem of caste, class, religion and language conflicts and prejudice; Nature and the manifestation of prejudice between the in-group and out-group; Causal factors of social conflicts and prejudices; Psychological strategies for handling the conflicts and prejudices; Measures to achieve social integration.

10.Application of Psychology in Information Technology and Mass Media: The present scenario of information technology and the mass media boom and the role of psychologists; Selection and training of psychology professionals to work in the field of IT and mass media; Distance learning through IT and mass media; Entrepreneurship through e-commerce; Multilevel marketing; Impact of TV and fostering value through IT and mass media; Psychological consequences of recent developments in Information Technology.

11.Psychology and Economic development: Achievement motivation and economic development; Characteristics of entrepreneurial behaviour; Motivating and training people for entrepreneurship and economic development; Consumer rights and consumer awareness, Government policies for the promotion of entrepreneurship among youth including women entrepreneurs.

12.Application of psychology to environment and related fields: Environmental psychology-effects of noise, pollution and crowding; Population psychology: psychological consequences of population explosion and high population density; Motivating for small family norm; Impact of rapid scientific and technological growth on degradation of the environment.

13.Application of psychology in other fields:

  1. Military Psychology Devising psychological tests for defence personnel for use in selection, Training, counselling; training psychologists to work with defence personnel in promoting positive health; Human engineering in defence
  2. Sports Psychology Psychological interventions in improving the performance of athletes and sports. Persons participating in Individual and Team Games.
  3. Media influences on pro and antisocial behaviour.
  4. Psychology of terrorism.
  5. Psychology of Gender: Issues of discrimination, Management of diversity; Glass ceiling effect, Self-fulfilling prophecy, Women and Indian society.

Booklist for Psychology Optional:

  1. Psychology by Robert A Baron
  2. Psychology by Saundra Ciccarelli
  3. Understanding Psychology by Robert S. Feldman
  4. Tests, Measurements and Research Methods in Behavioural Sciences by A K Singh
  5. Psychology – Classes XI & XII NCERT textbooks
  6. Applied Psychology by Smarak Swain

FAQs Regarding Psychology Optional:

1. Is Psychology Good Optional For UPSC Exam?
Many candidates are opting for Psychology as their optional on the basis of the success ratio that this subject has to offer. Many candidates have been able to score 300+ in Psychology and many have managed to bag top ranks. However, UPSC does not discriminate between any of its optional subjects and one should consider his/her interest a top priority while choosing an optional.