Botany Optional

How to prepare Botany optional for UPSC?

Botany is one of the highly scoring subjects that are offered by UPSC for the mains exam. Most of the candidates who opt for the botany optional are quite less. It is because botany optional is a specialized subject and mostly preferred by students with a science background. Many students are confused as from where to start the preparation and how to do that. So here are few tips and strategies which can be adopted by the candidates while doing their preparation on how to study botany optional for mains exam:

  1. Botany optional is one of the subjects for science stream students. It is conceptual in nature. In order to score better then the basic understanding of all the concepts is necessary. If candidate’s basic concepts are clear then all the questions can be answered very easily. Thus in order to score well, all topics should be crystal clear.
  2. Being a science subject student, it is easier to prepare for botany subject. To score well, a science student just need to cover the topics which he/she didn’t studied during the time of B.Sc. After that a candidate can cover the remaining topics of the botany which were studied during the time of graduation. This strategy is good in order to cover entire syllabus in a short span of time.
  3.  The syllabus of botany optional is well defined. So be precise while you are studying and confine yourself to the syllabus. There are topics which are not the part of syllabus still a candidate studied it. This leads to sheer wastage of time. Thus put in all efforts to prepare what has been asked by syllabus and not other irrelevant topics.
  4. The questions asked in the exam are all straightforward and basic nature. There mastering basic questions is a must to score well.
  5. Start doing answer writing practice. Devote some time to write answer of the questions. This practice will help you to perform well in final exam. Since a candidate knows how to write properly in a given time period. Also writing answers will enhance the skills of writing well which can be used in other subjects as well.
  6.  Lastly many topics of botany optional are also part of general studies paper. Thus there is a dual benefit. Since these topics will be directly helpful and relevant in preparing for the general studies paper also.
  7. While answering the questions use diagrams to explain the concepts. This makes it easier for the examiner to check your answer. Since diagram itself will give the gist of the answer. Thus there are high chances of getting good marks for the answers.
  8. Try to incorporate the names of Indian species also in the answers in order to showcase that you have knowledge about it.
  9. One of the most important area is microbiology for 200words short notes. Prepare this section well as it is a game changer and a candidate can score well in this by attempting all questions in a structured manner.
  10.  Other important aspect is to solve previous year question papers. It is must thing to do. Before appearing for final exam, a candidate should be well versed with the questions asked in last few years. This helps to differentiate as to what are the topics which are frequently asked in the exam. Also it helps in bifurcation the syllabus into strength and weakness. It is also important for the candidates in order to know what the topics which require more focus are. Also it helps to know other areas of syllabus that are not so important and doesn’t require much attention.  
  11. In additions to this try to attempt as many mock test as possible. This will help  a candidate to know where do he/she stand among other students. Also by solving ample amount of questions of botany optional, a candidate gets an idea as what kind of questions can be asked in final exam. There are several institutes which provide mock test series. A candidate can enroll in these tests and can appear for them on weekly or monthly basis. This will boost your preparation and helps to gain confidence. A candidate gets familiar as how to attempt the question paper in a limited time frame. This also develops the time management skills in the candidate.
  12. A candidate can refer to various reference book and study material provided by various coaching institutes. These books help to clear the concepts of the syllabus by giving a detailed explanation. Also variety of books gives multiple choices to the candidate to study from.
  13. These varieties of books indeed are helpful but at the same time it is important to make notes. Reading books of thousand pages before the exam is not possible. To tackle this last moment confusion and chaos, notes play a significant role. The fat books can be reduced to a thin notebook. This helps a lot to revise concepts before the exam. Since revision is most important, therefore proper notes making is also necessary for fruitful results.
  14.  Another crucial aspect of preparation is to divide the day into slots. A candidate can make a proper schedule and divide time accordingly to each subject. For botany optional subject make a study plan. In study plan you can set the topics which you will be covering by the end of the day, week and after that set monthly targets. Also after every week whole of the syllabus covered in the entire week can be revised. So as to stay in touch with the previously done topics. This is one of the best revision methods and helps to gain basic understanding of whole of the syllabus.

Thus botany optional is one of the most interesting subjects. If preparation is done with a proper understanding of the basic concepts then a candidate can easily score well and in turn ace the mains exam.


Botany Optional


1. Microbiology and Plant Pathology: Structure and reproduction/multiplication of viruses, viroids, bacteria, fungi and mycoplasma; Applications of microbiology in agriculture, industry, medicine and control of soil and water pollution; Prion and Prion hypothesis. Important crop diseases caused by viruses, bacteria, mycoplasma, fungi and nematodes; Modes of infection and dissemination; Molecular basis of infection and disease resistance/defence; Physiology of parasitism and control measures. Fungal toxins. Modelling and disease forecasting; Plant quarantine.

2. Cryptogams: Algae, fungi, lichens, bryophytes, pteridophytes-structure and reproduction from an evolutionary viewpoint; Distribution of Cryptogams in India and their ecological and economic importance.

3. Phanerogams: Gymnosperms: Concept of Progymnosperms. Classification and distribution of gymnosperms.146 THE GAZETTE OF INDIA: EXTRAORDINARY [PART I—SEC. 1] Salient features of Cycadales, Ginkgoales, Coniferales and Gnetales, their structure and reproduction. A general account of Cycadofilicales, Bennettitales and Cordiaitailes; Geological time scale; Type of fossils and their study techniques. Angiosperms: Systematics, anatomy, embryology, palynology and phylogeny. Taxonomic hierarchy; International Code of Botanical Nomenclature; Numerical taxonomy and chemotaxonomy; Evidence from anatomy, embryology and palynology. Origin and evolution of angiosperms; Comparative account of various systems of classification of angiosperms; Study of angiosperms families— Mangnoliaceae, Ranunculaceae, Brassicaceae, Rosaceae, Fabaceae, Euphorbiaceae, Malvaceae, Dipterocarpaceae, Apiaceae, Asclepiadaceae, Verbenaceae, Solanaceae, Rubiaceae, Cucurbitaceae, Asteraceae, Poaceae, Arecaceae, Liliaceae, Musaceae and Orchidaceae. Stomata and their types; Glandular and non-glandular trichomes; Unusual secondary growth; Anatomy of C3 and C4 plants; Xylem and phloem differentiation; Wood anatomy. Development of male and female gametophytes, pollination, fertilization; Endosperm—its development and function. Patterns of embryo development; Polyembroyony, apomixes; Applications of palynology; Experimental embryology including pollen storage and test-tube fertilization.

4. Plant Resource Development: Domestication and introduction of plants; Origin of cultivated plants, Vavilov’s centres of origin. Plants as sources for food, fodder, fibres, spices, beverages, edible oils, drugs, narcotics, insecticides, timber, gums, resins and dyes; latex, cellulose, starch and its products; Perfumery; Importance of Ethnobotany in the Indian context; Energy plantations; Botanical Gardens and Herbaria. 5. Morphogenesis: Totipotency, polarity, symmetry and differentiation; Cell, tissue, organ and protoplast culture. Somatic hybrids and Cybrids; Micropropagation; Somaclonal variation and its applications; Pollen haploids, embryo rescue methods and their applications.


1. Cell Biology: Techniques of cell biology. Prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells—structural and ultrastructural details; Structure and function of extracellular matrix (cell wall) and membranes-cell adhesion, membrane transport and vesicular transport; Structure and function of cell organelles (chloroplasts, mitochondria, ER, dictyosomes ribosomes, endosomes, lysosomes, peroxisomes; Cytoskeleton and microtubules; Nucleus, nucleolus, nuclear pore complex; Chromatin and nucleosome; Cell signalling and cell receptors; Signal transduction Mitosis and meiosis; molecular basis of the cell cycle. Numerical and structural variations in chromosomes and their significance; Chromatin organization and packaging of the genome; Polytene chromosomes; B-chromosomes—structure, behaviour and significance.

2. Genetics, Molecular Biology and Evolution: Development of genetics, and gene versus allele concepts (Pseudoalleles); Quantitative genetics and multiple factors; Incomplete dominance, polygenic inheritance, multiple alleles; Linkage and crossing over of gene mapping including molecular maps (the idea of mapping, function); Sex chromosomes and sex-linked inheritance; sex determination and molecular basis of sex differentiation; Mutations (biochemical and molecular basis); Cytoplasmic inheritance and cytoplasmic genes (including genetics of male sterility). Structure and synthesis of nucleic acids and proteins; Genetic code and regulation of gene expression; Gene silencing; Multigene families; Organic evolution-evidences, mechanism and theories. Role of RNA in origin and evolution.

3. Plant Breeding, Biotechnology and Biostatistics: Methods of plant breeding—introduction, selection and hybridization (pedigree, backcross, mass selection, bulk method); Mutation, polyploidy, male sterility and heterosis breeding. Use of apomixes in plant breeding; DNA sequencing; Genetic engineering—methods of transfer of genes; Transgenic crops and biosafety aspects; Development and use of molecular markers in plant breeding; Tools and techniques—probe, southern blotting, DNA fingerprinting, PCR and FISH. Standard deviation and coefficient of variation (CV). Tests of significance (Z-test, t-test and chi-square tests). Probability and distributions (normal, binomial and Poisson). Correlation and regression.

4. Physiology and Biochemistry: Water relations, mineral nutrition and ion transport, mineral deficiencies. Photosynthesis—photochemical reactions, photophosphorylation and carbon fixation pathways; C3, C4 and CAM pathways; Mechanism of phloem transport, Respiration (anaerobic and aerobic, including fermentation)—electron transport chain and oxidative phosphorylation; Photorespiration; Chemiosmotic theory and ATP synthesis; Lipid metabolism; Nitrogen fixation and nitrogen metabolism. Enzymes, coenzymes; Energy transfer and energy conservation. Importance of secondary metabolites. Pigments as photoreceptors (plastidial pigments and phytochrome). Plant movements; Photoperiodism and flowering, vernalization, senescence; Growth substances—their chemical nature, role and applications in agri-horticulture; growth indices, growth movements. Stress physiology (heat, water, salinity, metal); Fruit and seed physiology. Dormancy, storage and germination of seed. Fruit ripening—its molecular basis and manipulation.

5. Ecology and Plant Geography: Concept of ecosystem; Ecological factors. Concepts and dynamics of the community; Plant succession. Concepts of biosphere; Ecosystems; Conservation; Pollution and its control (including phytoremediation); Plant indicators; Environment (Protection) Act. Forest types of India—‘Ecological and economic importance of forests, afforestation, deforestation and social forestry; Endangered plants, endemism IUCN categories, Red Data Books; Biodiversity and its conservation; Protected Area Network; Convention of Biological Diversity, Farmers’ Rights; and Intellectual Property Rights; Concept of Sustainable Development; Biogeochemical cycles. Global warming and climatic change; Invasive species; Environmental Impact Assessment; Phytogeographical regions of India.