Public Administration Optional Strategy

UPSC Mains Public Administration Optional Subject : Public Administration optional subject has one of the highest participation of mains appearing candidates. This is due to its alignment with political science and zeal among students to get acquainted with the public administration field. After all, everyone appearing for this exam wishes to enter into public administration.

In 2015, a massive number of 7077 students appeared in the mains with this optional and the success rate dropped to 5.1, lowest in all the years. But, in 2019, Rank 1 came with this optional. It is a good scoring subject only if students have a command on its concepts and knowledge. It is prone to high interpretation on the part of examiner unlike the science subjects

Advantages of Public Administration Optional Subject

  • Syllabus is very short as compared to other subjects
  • Sources are very limited and can be prepared easily
  • Inter linkages of topics with GS 2
  • Internal security in GS 3 and maximum part of GS 4 are linked with this optional
  • No need to go through plethora of topics as there are limited concepts which can be understood easily

Skills required for the subject

  • Need to develop good writing skills to impress the examiner.
  • Flow charts and other presentation skills need to be inculcated.
  • Constant link with current affairs and its application in mains answer writing.
  • Need to be aware of general reports coming in the news.
  • Competition is high so need to try to stand apart from others.

Public Administration Optional Syllabus

It is divided into two papers, Paper-1 and Paper-2 with first one relating to the theory of general public administration while other deals with the Indian administration. Here is the detailed UPSC syllabus of Public Administration Optional Subject


Administration Theory

1. Introduction: Meaning, scope and significance of Public Administration, Wilson’s vision of Public Administration, Evolution of the discipline and its present status. New Public Administration, Public Choice approach; Challenges of liberalization, Privatisation, Globalisation; Good Governance: concept and application; New Public Management.

2. Administrative Thought: Scientific Management and Scientific Management movement; Classical Theory; Weber’s bureaucratic model its critique and post-Weberian Developments; Dynamic Administration (Mary Parker Follett); Human Relations School (Elton Mayo and others); Functions of the Executive (C.I. Barnard); Simon’s decision-making theory; Participative Management (R. Likert, C. Argyris, D. McGregor.)

3. Administrative Behaviour: Process and techniques of decision-making; Communication; Morale; Motivation Theories content, process and contemporary; Theories of Leadership: Traditional and Modem:

4. Organisations: Theories systems, contingency; Structure and forms: Ministries and Departments, Corporations, Companies; Boards and Commissions; Ad hoc, and advisory bodies; Headquarters and Field relationships; Regulatory Authorities; Public-Private Partnerships.

5. Accountability and Control: Concepts of accountability and control; Legislative, Executive and judicial control over administration; Citizen and Administration; Role of media, interest groups, voluntary organizations; Civil society; Citizen’s Charters; Right to Information; Social audit.

6. Administrative Law: Meaning, scope and significance; Dicey on Administrative law; Delegated legislation; Administrative Tribunals.

7. Comparative Public Administration: Historical and sociological factors affecting administrative systems; Administration and politics in different countries; Current status of Comparative Public Administration; Ecology and administration; Riggsian models and their critique.

8. Development Dynamics: Concept of development; Changing profile of development administration; ‘Anti-development thesis’; Bureaucracy and development; Strong state versus the market debate; Impact of liberalisation on administration in developing countries; Women and development the self-help group movement.

9. Personnel Administration: Importance of human resource development; Recruitment, training, career advancement, position classification, discipline, performance appraisal, promotion, pray and service conditions; employer-employee relations, grievance redressal mechanism; Code of conduct; Administrative ethics.

10. Public Policy: Models of policy-making and their critique; Processes of conceptualisation, planning, implementation, monitoring, evaluation and review and their limitations; State theories and public policy formulation.

11. Techniques of Adminstrative Improvement: Organisation and methods, Work study and work management; e-governance and information technology; Management aid tools like network analysis, MIS, PERT, CPM.

12. Financial Administration: Monetary and fiscal policies: Public borrowings and public debt Budgets types and forms; Budgetary process; Financial accountability; Accounts and audit.


Indian Administration

1. Evolution of Indian Administration: Kautilya Arthashastra; Mughal administration; Legacy of British rule in politics and administration Indianization of Public services, revenue administration, district Administration, local self Government.

2. Philosophical and Constitutional framework of Government: Salient features and value premises; Constitutionalism; Political culture; Bureaucracy and democracy; Bureaucracy and development.

3. Public Sector Undertakings: Public sector in modern India; Forms of Public Sector Undertakings; Problems of autonomy, accountability and control; Impact of liberalization and privatization.

4. Union Government and Administration: Executive, Parliament, Judiciary-structure, functions, work processes; Recent trends; Intra-governmental relations; Cabinet Secretariat; Prime Minister’s Office; Central Secretariat; Ministries and Departments; Boards; Commissions; Attached offices; Field organizations.

5. Plans and Priorities: Machinery of planning; Role, composition and functions of the Planning Commission and the National Development Council; ‘Indicative’ planning; Process of plan formulation at Union and State levels; Constitutional Amendments (1992) and decentralized planning for economic development and social justice.

6. State Government and Administration: Union-State administrative, legislative and financial relations; Role of the Finance Commission; Governor; Chief Minister; Council of Ministers; Chief Secretary; State Secretariat; Directorates.

7. District Administration since Independence: Changing role of the Collector; Union-State-local relations; Imperatives of development management and law and order administration; District administration and democratic decentralization.

8. Civil Services: Constitutional position; Structure, recruitment, training and capacity building; Good governance initiatives; Code of conduct and discipline; Staff associations; Political rights; Grievance redressal mechanism; Civil service neutrality; Civil service activism.

9. Financial Management: Budget as a political instrument; Parliamentary control of public expenditure; Role of finance ministry in monetary and fiscal area; Accounting techniques; Audit; Role of Controller General of Accounts and Comptroller and Auditor General of India.

10. Administrative Reforms since Independence: Major concerns; Important Committees and Commissions; Reforms in financial management and human resource development; Problems of implementation.

11. Rural Development: Institutions and agencies since Independence; Rural development programmes: foci and strategies; Decentralization and Panchayati Raj; 73rd Constitutional amendment.

12. Urban Local Government : Municipal governance: main features, structures, finance and problem areas; 74th Constitutional Amendment; Global-local debate; New localism; Development dynamics, politics and administration with special reference to city management.

13. Law and Order Administration: British legacy; National Police Commission; Investigative agencies; Role of Central and State Agencies including para military forces in maintenance of law and order and countering insurgency and terrorism; Criminalisation of politics and administration; Police-public relations; Reforms in Police.

14. Significant issues in Indian Administration: Values in public service; Regulatory Commissions; National Human Rights Commission; Problems of administration in coalition regimes; Citizen administration interface; Corruption and administration; Disaster management.

Success rate of Public Administration Optional Strategy

Every year around 2800-3300 students opt for Public Administration subject as their optional and if the trend is observed for the past few years, success rate has been around 5-7% on average. It means for every 100 students opting for Public Administration as their optional, 5-7 students out of them get recommended for the services.

Owing to the high number of students choosing this optional success rate is one among the lowest of all optional subjects. But, this does not mean that the subject is not worth it. Students generally feel pressure on the account of the competition. However, an honest and dedicated preparation can get you into the top services.

Success Rate – 2013 – 6.2%, 2014 – 5.3%, 2015 – 5.1%, 2016 – 10.5%

Average Marks and Toppers

If a student prepares for the optional diligently and gives ample time, then average scoring for the subject ranges from 280-320. Many high Rankers scored above 320 with a good command on the subject and it is not so hard to do.

Latest toppers in 2019 with this optional are Pardeep Singh (Rank 1), Sreestha Anupam (Rank 19). Some toppers in previous years were Rishita Gupta (Rank 18- 2018), Rahul Pandey(Rank 52 -2013) scoring even 372 in optional and many others.

Study material for the optional


1. Introduction : Mohanty sir’s notes and Mohit Bhattacharya

2. Administrative Thought : Prasad & Prasad and Mohanty sir notes . Use the concepts across the syllabus.

3. Administrative Behaviour : Mohit Bhattacharya and notes

4. Organisations : Mohanty notes, Rajni Goyal and Arora 
5. Accountability and control : Notes and current affairs like take cases of civil societies etc 
6. Administrative Law : Notes and Fadia & Fadia and 2nd arc (10th report)

7. Comparative Public Administration : Notes , Mohit Bhattacharya and Prasad

8. Development Dynamics : Notes and Mohit Bhattacharya 

9. Personnel Administration : Notes and Mohit Bhattacharya

10. Public Policy : IGNOU notes, Mohit Bhattacharya and use as many examples from current as possible.
11. Techniques of Administrative Improvement : Read from internet
12. Financial Administration : This chapter should be read with Financial Management 2nd ARC, Fadia


2nd ARC ,Mohanty notes and Rajini Goyal are sufficient for this paper .

1. Evolution of Indian Administration: Notes and Rajini Goyal

2. Philosophical and Constitutional framework of Government: Notes and Rajini Goyal

3. Public Sector Undertakings: Various reports and NITI aayog measures.

4. Union Government and Administration: Notes and Rajini Goyal

5. Plans and Priorities: Chapter is now almost obsolete. Prepare niti aayog nicely for this part.

6. State Government and Administration: Notes and Rajini Goyal

7. District Administration since Independence: Notes and Rajini Goyal

8. Civil services: Notes and Rajini Goyal

9. Financial Management: Paper 1 – Chapter 12

10. Administrative Reforms since Independence: 2nd arc is major focus

11. Rural Development: notes and rajni goyal for remaining topics.


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