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Preparation Strategy Of History For UPSC

  • Categories
    General Studies
  • Published
    18th Jun, 2021

History for UPSC prelims is perhaps one subject that enchants an aspirant easily. This is the reason that every student starts the journey of preparation from this subject. The subject is also chosen as optional by most of the aspirants. The reason might be the lucidity of subject and its story like nature that attracts almost every individual. But question still remains that why should a civil servant be familiar with this subject? The answer is that our perspective on state, society and life can be made better through analyzing past events in history. This is one of the main reasons why history for UPSC has become an important and compulsory subject in primary and higher secondary education as well as for general studies not just in India but around the world.

There is a widespread perception that after having acquired knowledge of History, one can take wise decisions in life as history makes one familiar with the past and contemporary events. This also explains importance of History in Civil Services Exam.

Questions from History asked in both Prelims and Mains exams in significant proportions as revealed by previous year papers. The questions based on history (including art and culture) in paper I (general studies) of the prelims is nearly 15% on an average every year, which may vary from a minimum of 12% to a maximum of 19%.

The subject is divided further in the UPSC main exam. For example, Indian independence movement, post-independence events, world history, as well as art and culture. Most of the questions asked from the independence movement. Only a few questions are asked about history post-independence and seldom one gets questions on world history. Hence, out of 250 marks in the paper, 125 marks on an average (nearly 50%) are for the four topics mentioned above. Knowing about the proportion of subject and distribution of marks give you a fair idea about the subject based on which the entire UPSC course of preparation is charted.


Before starting your preparation it is very important to scan the UPSC syllabus thoroughly for all subject. The scanning of IAS syllabus on the basis of subjects will help you to determine the weightage that need to be given to individual subjects. For an example few subjects need to be given more emphasis such as History, Geography, Polity, Economy, Science and Technology and Ecology. Knowing the exact UPSC syllabus will help you to allocate equal time to all important subjects that will further save your time for other important areas like Optional and Essay. The UPSC syllabus of History in both Prelims and Mains exam has a lot of difference. It is advisable to keep IAS syllabus subject wise that will further help you to avert any kind of distraction.

Previous Year Papers

It is a common practice that before starting a journey to a particular destination people gather all information related to that place like Location, Mode of transportation, Accessibility and list of hotels. In the same manner UPSC previous year papers also helps you to understand the structure and nature of exam. The UPSC previous year papers decide that what should be the course of action for your preparation. Go through all the previous year questions of History asked in prelims as well as in UPSC mains exam.

Books and Resources

It is obvious that the source of your preparation should be such that it fulfils your basic necessities and leads to a positive outcome. Following book List can be referred as a suggestion however according to one’s need, aspirants can add, remove or replace the UPSC study materials.

  • NCERT history books till class 12th, both old and new editions.
  • Modern India: Especially a good graduation-level book, which focuses on Indian Independence movement. Renowned historian Bipin Chandra’s book ‘History of Modern India’ is considered one of the best sources for the preparation of civil services.
  • One must also be thorough with ancient and medieval Indian history on art, literature and culture. Also, one must have an in-depth knowledge on the philosophy of these periods.
  • A few important events post-Independence should be prepared. Bipin Chandra’s book will also be helpful for this.
  • World History: Norman Lowe and Arjun Deo.
  • History of the Modern World : Jain & Mathur

Strategy of preparation

Some general important points which will give a concrete shape to your preparation for history and help you prepare systematically.

  • Do not let your preparation and topics muddle up. It is good to study from single source rather than multiple resources.
  • Integrated preparation should be given the utmost priority. Integrate the UPSC prelims and mains preparation than to prepare on individual basis.
  • Move systematically and focus on strengthening your basics. Start with reading the entire history. This will help you understand the past events, even if vaguely. Following this, concentrate on the most important topics; topics that are often discussed.
  • As far as memorizing is concerned, your focus should not be on the incidents, period and place. Your emphasis should be on the reason behind the incident and the beginning of the historical event. Period and place mostly work as references in the events.
  • Regular answer writing should be given utmost priority. Mains Answer writing consolidate your preparation and learning. It also enhances the efficiency of answer writing during exam.
  • From the point of view of the main exam, it is extremely important to give yourself time to think about the topic after reading it. It implies that one must try to use their thinking and reasoning to interpret and understand an event. This will not only help you analyze a topic, but also in understanding and forming an opinion on the subject. This attempt to think logically will help you in both prelims and mains.
  • If a historical event finds its way into national or international discussions, then go through it more carefully and try to connect the dots with the contemporary happenings. It is advisable that aspirants note down the points of the topics which have resurfaced through discussions.
  • Do not be under the misconception that history for UPSC exams is mainly about preparing the Indian independence movement. You should have a stronghold on the topic but do not solely depend on it for success in Civil Services Exam.
  • After 2013, the difficulty level of the main paper has gradually decreased. The questions asked in the history paper of UPSC in 2017 were relatively easy and mostly pertained to the important topics. It seems that this trend will be prevalent next year as well. Hence, do not let yourself get tangled up with too many theories and concentrate more on the important topics. Instead of learning too many chapters vaguely, try to have a thorough knowledge of the most important ones. This way you will be more confident about your answers and it will help you excel.


The above points will surely help you to prepare History for both prelims and mains exam.


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