My UPSC Journey

Law Optional Strategy: UPSC CSE (Mains)

Hello all.

This post will be about preparing for the law optional for the UPSC Civil Service Examination. I received quite some help for my law optional preparation from my seniors in college, who are now in the IAS. I hope to help you readers just like they helped me. 🙂


But before I begin, here are a few basic points:

  • The syllabus for law optional is enormous. It will require a good amount of time for its completion, so keep that in mind. I started studying for the optional only after prelims exam in June 2017, but I believe that was possible only because I had comprehensive notes with me from my college time for bulky subjects such as IPC and Constitutional Law. I was also following legal news and developments while in college, and all of that definitely helped.
  • Your preparation for the Law-I paper will certainly help you with General Studies- II paper. However, you must keep in mind that you will have to mentally dissociate the two. Your GS-II will suffer if you write your answers like a lawyer. You have to keep your GS-II paper as general as possible. Do not let your legal knowledge of the GS-II issues overexcite you.
  • Understanding the concepts is very important. Please spend more time in understanding crucial topics than the time you spend in memorising case law names. Your knowledge of suitable case law names will not help if you are unable to demonstrate a deep understanding of the question asked.
  • Try joining a test series if possible. Every other candidate would have joined a test series for their optional subject, and you should not put yourself at a disadvantage by not having any prior answer writing practice. I had joined ambition law institute’s test series. I believe practising helped- as I could time myself better, and it also made me more decisive about choosing which questions to attempt in the exam. However, please do not rely exclusively on any test series or coaching center. You must supplement it with your own strategy and hard work.
  • I will give due credit to my education at NLU, Delhi for my law optional marks. However, I know of quite a few people who have aced at law optional without having a law degree! So if the subject interests you, don’t let your lack of a legal degree become a hindrance.

Finally, PLEASE do not get discouraged by people who tell you that ‘law is not a scoring optional’ or similar stuff. Your optional should be a subject which you have an inclination towards. If you do your subject sincerely, there will always be a chance of you getting awarded decent marks for it (although they may not be as high as, say, Mathematics optional). Even in years when Law-I or II papers been awarded low marks, there have been a few candidates who have scored around 145-150 in these papers. So, just keep a positive attitude and keep on working hard!

In addition to the standard sources, you could follow the following websites:

  • The Wire -it has a very good opinion-based coverage of legal issues. An article I had read from this website helped me in answering the question in 2017’s Law I paper on the Rajbala v. State case. However, be sure to have your own opinion on the articles you read about as well.
  • Livelaw- any recent legal developments that you ought to know about are covered here.
  • I had also subscribed to google alerts for the keyword ‘law’. I used to glance through the emails to see if there is any recent legal development that I have missed.

Now, about answer writing. There will be a fixed space provided for your answers in the answer booklet. Last year, for some questions carrying the same weightage, different number of pages were provided. This reflects that even for questions carrying the same marks, the examiner expects a difference in the amount of content depending on what the question is asking. In any case, here is the broad word limit which I and a friend of mine were following:

  • 20 marker- about 3 pages, 250 words
  • 15 marker- about 2.5 pages, 200 words
  • 10 marker- about 1.5 pages, 150 words

Adjust this as per your own judgment. Whichever way you write, make sure you answer the question well rather than just writing what you know about. Case law names should be written where they are imperative. Remembering case law names will come only via revision. Similarly, important section numbers could also be memorised via revision. Article numbers of the constitution are again important. Writing case laws and section numbers in your answers would demonstrate that you know about the subject at hand well, just like an experienced lawyer, so try to mention them in your answers wherever possible.

I am trying to find my test series answer booklets, and will share model answers with you as soon as I can in a separate blog post.

The way I used to study was: I would read a topic thoroughly, and then I would read questions asked in the previous years from that topic. I would test myself if I could mentally answer those questions. This helped me revise and also to formulate answers in my head. For this purpose, I used a book by Ambition Law Institute which has a topic-wise collection of all previous year questions.

Now, the topic wise book list: (PS- Dukki refers to guide book. I bought my Dukkis from Jain Book Store in Connaught Place, Delhi.)

Constitutional and Admin Law

I relied on my notes from my constitutional law classes in college, and brushed it up with the following sources:

  • Topic Nos. 1 to 3 (Distinctive features, Fundamental Rights and their relationship with DPSPs etc).- MP Jain
  • Topic Nos. 4 to 11- Constitutional Law Dukki (supplemented with MP Jain, DD Basu and Laxmikant wherever I needed more details)
  • Topic Nos. 12 to 15- Admin Law Dukki
  • Topic No. 16 (ombudsman)- Made self notes from the internet
  • In addition, I was following Gautam Bhatia’s blog 

International Law

PS: The SK Kapoor book I used is the bulky one, and not the concise one.

  • Topic No. 1- Shaw
  • Topic No. 2 Relationship between international law and municipal law- International Law Dukki, SK Kapoor 
  • Topic No. 3 State Recognition etc.- SK Kapoor
  • Topic No. 4 Law of the Seas- Shaw
  • Topic Nos. 5-7- SK Kapoor
  • Topic No. 8 United Nations- the internet
  • Topic Nos. 9,10- SK Kapoor

Topic No. 11 onwards require you to read from multiple sources. The best way to go about them is to use the internet generously, make your own notes. Make sure to not leave any topic out.

Also, there is this wonderful blog on public international law which I was following from my college days– You should definitely refer to this blog for case summaries and the like.

Law of Crimes

  • For IPC, I referred to my college notes which were a mix of the bare act and some very important case laws for different offences. In addition to that, to fully cover the syllabus I referred to the bare Act, and the Criminal Law Dukki. Make sure to focus on the illustrations for important sections such as murder, theft etc.
  • Prevention of Corruption Act- the internet
  • Protection of Civil Rights Act- the internet, and also make sure to cover the Atrocities Act and the recent amendments made to it
  • Plea Bargaining- Read the sections from CrPC, and referred to an article on it online

Law of Torts

  • Law of Torts by Bangia will help you to sufficiently cover the syllabus. However, revising it will be a problem so make extremely short notes for quick revision.
  • Consumer Protection Act- I went through the sections of the bare Act. Additionally, do cover the recent developments regarding the new consumer protection Act.

Law of Contracts and Mercantile Law

  • Contract Law i.e. Topic 1-7 can be covered well from the Contract Law Dukki. However, do make it a point to read the important sections from the bare Act. You may also refer to Avtar Singh to read more on topics that the Dukki doesn’t properly cover.
  • Contract of Agency- Booklet on the topic, available in Rajinder Nagar market
  • Sale of Goods Act- Same as above
  • Formation and Dissolution of Partnership- Bare Act and Dukki
  • Negotiable Instruments Act- Booklet available in Rajinder Nagar market, along with Dashrath Roopsingh case and associated developments
  • Arbitration and Conciliation- I referred to my college notes, and the new Act. Primers on the difference between the 1996 and 2015 Acts are helpful too.
  • Standard form contracts- Contract law dukki
  • Contemporary Legal Developments- The wire, livelaw, spicyIP, any new reports of the Law Commission. This is one topic for which you really cannot know what to study. Keep an eye on any recent legal developments you read about in the newspapers, or anything legal which is being talked about by op-ed writers.
  • PIL- MP Jainarticles from the internet
  • IPR- primer by Nishith Desai Associates on the IPR regime in India. It is sufficiently detailed and covers the topic well.
  • IT Law- referred briefly to the IT Act, 2000. Covered important sections such as the ones on penalties and offences.
  • Competition Law- read the PDF files available on the website of the Competition Commission of India on abuse of dominant position, anti-competitive practices
  • ADR- for this, I read section 89 of the Civil Procedure Code and related jurisprudence (it is a short topic).
  • Major statutes concerning environment law- There is a document available on a government of India website, which I unfortunately am unable to find again. I’m trying to look for it.
  • Right to Information Act- studied this from Admin Law Dukki
  • Trial by Media- 200th report of the Law Commission of India

That’s all folks! The syllabus may seem huge but it is enjoyable. It is best to highlight and make margin notes in the books itself for quick revision. For case law and sections, make short notes that you can revise quickly. Above all, understand the topic well.

I wish you all the very best! Let’s make law optional great again. 🙂


12 thoughts on “Law Optional Strategy: UPSC CSE (Mains)”

  1. Do you think it’ll be possible for you to upload your law optional notes?

    Even for one subject will give a good idea on how to prepare thoroughly. Even if it’s just one topic.
    Thank you 🙂


  2. Thank you Ma’am for such a wonderful insight. Your insights gave me courage to put more effort into my law optional, otherwise all I have heard from people is criticism of choosing it for being non scoring..
    If possible ma’am, could you share some of your model answers, as it would be of wonderful help to know where we lack in formulating..
    Wish you a very happy journey ahead, Ma’am

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Can you tell name of shop in rajinder nagar from where booklet can be bought for negotiable and all others.I was unable to find them


  4. Much obliged Ma’am for your insights !! This would be surely a lighthouse for our preparation for the civil services examination. I would be thankful enough if you share the Law Optional test papers answerhseet as i would give us a gist of the way to write papers !!


  5. Hello maam if is it possible so plz suggest me writers for books ( jurisprudence , family law 1 and 2 ,contract law and special law ) i am not getting good books for my law study ,which you were read in your college ! Please


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