Blog for IAS aspirants

Strategy for History by Ms. Surabhi Malik (AIR-51)

In Uncategorized on August 14, 2012 at 14:41

Vote of Thanks

Ms. Surabhi is one of the few people who are true at heart and say what is in their minds. She specially called me up to appreciate my efforts in the building up of this blog for the benefits of aspirants. At that time, I requested her to take some time out and write a post on Preparation of History Optional subject for which I had already received many requests from the readers. She readily agreed and responded promptly by emailing me the write-up within 24 hours. I was so touched and moved by her enthusiasm to help that I have no words to thank her enough.Β I feel her tips would be very useful for all the candidates especially because authentic sources for guidance in History are limited. I thank Ms. Surabhi on behalf of all the candidates once again for her efforts. She would try and reply to some queries that you post but please bear with the delay in her responses.

Strategy for History Optional

This is a subject where strategising becomes paramount; since the expanse of the syllabus itself appears insurmountable. Since you are preparing for exam purposes here and your primary objective is not, presumably, theΒ ‘love of learning’Β , it becomes important to begin, as I like to put it, backwards.
It’s best to analyse the question papers spanning at least a decade; questions before that are too simplistic to have a fair chance of appearing in the same form again. So, I would suggest compartmentalising questions based on chronology. That gives us a fairly expansive scale of topics to focus on. Second, when preparing a particular topic from a book or notes, it’s important to cover it in entirety– i.e. think of all possible aspects of a situation that you can be questioned on. Apart from facts, focus on ‘whys’– why civilisations crumbled, how different was their end to another’s end. ‘How’ religious policies contributed to administration, art and architecture. Focus on analytical questions, but be clear about facts. Only when there is clarity of facts relating to different periods can you handle a question that seeks to highlight the differences and similarities therein. You must be clear in your head what the basic differences between different civilisations are. This suggests a panoramic view of history along with some microscopic treatment. Last year, there were some descriptive questions like Khilji’s market reforms, etc– and these are very standard questions that serve as bonus for an exam-taker. Don’t be caught off-guard on such questions.
For books, I began with ‘Modern India’ by Bipin Chandra, supplemented by ‘India’s struggle for Independence’ by Bipin Chandra, Mukherjee, Panikkar. Spectrum’s book on Modern India that people use for the prelims is also a storehouse of facts! For Ancient India, I referred to ‘Ancient India’ by R.S. Sharma (a wonderfully concise book where every single word is important) and supplemented sparsely by ‘The Wonder that was India’ by A.L. Basham. Romila Thapar’s treatment of ‘Ashoka’ is venerated in Indian historiography. For Medieval India, I found Satish Chandra’s two volumes on Medieval India quite sufficient.
Apart from this, another famous standard text is ‘An Advanced History of India’ by Majumdar, Raychaudhuri and Dutta.
Personally, I got some history notes from Mr. Hemant Jha in Delhi. I found them very useful for filling in important gaps in my knowledge. He covers different aspects of topics and questions remarkably well, with regard to extra information and facts. Be aware though, you should be reading standard texts for improving your answer-writing abilities.
As a part of my strategy, I covered the Indian History very exhaustively and was a little selective for World History. I do not necessarily recommend this, since it is generally thought that the questions on World History are more straightforward than questions on Modern India. I did so because my comfort level with Indian History was greater and I felt confident of being able to tackle tricky questions. In my selective studies on World History, i followed Mr. Hemant Jha’s notes as well as ‘Modern World’ by K. Krishna Reddy. There are other better books, you should google and look some of those up. I focussed on European History and the Revolutions in particular as I saw a repetition of questions in these topics.
For Map, there are books available in the market with a large number of map sites and I’m afraid there’s no short cut there. You really have to learn to mark all of them on the map and learn atleast 3 things about each place.
Finally, remember to set targets and achieve daily goals! Anything left over tends to add up dangerously in History. Remember you will be writing 4-5 page answers, and when you have covered an ‘aspect’ of a question that satisfies that word limit, move on. You’re not here to do specialised research on one particular area. While answering questions, your introduction and conclusion should be impressive. While I personally used my introduction to explain the setting and context of the question, I used my conclusion to summarise my answer and place into perspective the direction that my answer took. Make sure it’s insightful; that’s half the battle won! All the best to everyone!
  1. hello prince bhai,
    can u plz do a favour..??
    i mean can u plz request amrutesh ( who was having philosophy as an optional) , to plz pen down few tips about philosophy optional.
    it will be again beneficial for me and th eones who are having philosophy as their optional..

    i earlier also requested you but you said that u are not aware of that who had philo. as an optional.
    humble request.. πŸ™‚ thank you sir.. πŸ™‚

  2. thanx man for the prompt reply…bt is it possible for u to ask smbody, who knows about those notes….. also, could you advise on how should i get my sample answers checked and by whom ,especially in the light of the demographic constraints mentioned in my earlier comment…as always, any help wud be appreciated..

  3. Thanks a lot guys…..don’t have words to express my gratitude…I’m from a remote north-eastern state & its an herculean task to get the necessary text books out here sometimes , leave alone proper coaching… and if it was not for u guys I would have been clueless about the right approaches to be adopted…..i’ve shared the links with all my friends out here and THANKS ! again on behalf of all of them…..
    I’ve decided to opt for Psychology and Pub. Admn. as optionals . Just wanted to ask you about your views on examrace notes on these subjects. Read a few posts about these on the net. Please advice on the reliability of these notes.

    • Thank you so much for your encouraging comments. It motivates us to do better. Unfortunately, I have not consulted the notes you are referring to so I won’t be able to comment on their utility.

  4. is upsc mains pattern going to be changed from 2013 only???plz put an end to these rumors….

  5. hello prince,
    another question from my side.. πŸ™‚
    what are your views about kurukshetra magazine.. πŸ™‚ i mean none of the successful aspirants have mentioned it. :O but i think as india is basically a rural economy more than 70% of population belongs to rural sector.. πŸ™‚ so y not to read this magazine.. πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ or if yes then how to read to get fruitful knowledge.. πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

  6. Thank you prince.Your endeavour will bring fruits for us.I have some apprehensions regarding pub ad.i am poor in rote learning and feels pub ad needs a good amt of factual data,rembr word by word recommedations, it true??what r your suggestion on this pbm as mere going through syllabus and prev ques paper doesnt amt deep understanding of subject as you have.and it will be of great help if you could bring in strategy for political science.

    • Yes, it does require some amount of rote learning and remembering factual data but with practice you can do all this. In all subjects, there are some basic things that one has to memorise and Pub Ad is no different. It is a very good optional and relatively easier to pick up for a beginner.

  7. hello surabhi,
    i am following ignou material for ancient history, satish chandra both volumes for medieval , bipin’s both for modern and jain and mathur for world. and nothing else will it be sufficient along with solving previous years question.??

    and what is the actual strategy to remember the whole of this huge history. specially when it comes to write for 250 words.. :O πŸ™‚
    sometimes it becomes monotonous and concentration becoms difficult..
    please reply soon… πŸ™‚ urgently needed your support.

    and any special tips if you would like to share then plz i am eagerly waiting … πŸ™‚

    • hello prince sir…!! i dint get any reply by surabhi to my previous message … plz fix the problem asap… πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ thanx………….. god bless you

  8. Prince i am a CSE aspiriant,and just started my prep,will be giving 2014 attempt,With rumours around that UPSC will do away with optionals i have started with GS prep.Is it viable to start with g.s and then optional as i have serious doubts to join Vajiram Oct batch.
    Your suggestion will be of great help.Thank you

  9. Thanks a lot Sir for your initiative to inform aspirants with your blog. One of my optionals is political science. Can you please persuade any of your colleagues to provide a guideline on how they prepared for this subject and the books they followed?
    Thanks and with regards

  10. dear prince sir
    i am a btech elec(power) student from iitd in third year…… this semester i am going on exchange however i am a civil service enthusiast…..
    there are few questions in my mind:
    from which year should i start preparing….. i am highly committed to civil services and would drop a year if demand be

    2. what can be the optional for me. …. public administration for me is a surity….. i can take electrical if there is not too much of mtech material in it……

    • 1. start preparation as soon as you are back from Exchange.
      2. Yes since your are from power, it would be advantageous for you to take up EE if you have got good grades in the courses and are comfortable with what you have learnt.

  11. Respected Sir,
    I know u r very busy bt i m great obliged to u if u solve my some prblems which are following…

    1. suggest me some coaching names for History for hindi medium. (I know it’s not ur subject bt plz i have no source of information except YOU.) I am preparing for 2014 exam.

    ( Main abhi oct. se delhi coaching ke liye aa rhi hu to firstly optionals finish karna chahiye na.)
    ( Kya mujhe dono subject ke liye coaching sath join karna chahiye…is that possible?)
    ( oct. se start karungi to kitne time me coaching finish hogi dono subjects ki coz fir mujhe GS ki bhi coaching join karni he 2013 Oct se.)
    ( Test Series kab se dena chahiye or kya GS, History, Pub ad. teeno ke liye deni chahiye?)

    2. I am preparing for 2014 exam so plz make a month wise schedule for me plz plz. My optionals is History and Pub ad.
    3. As I belongs to a medium family so I want to spend minimum money but want to gain maximum knowledge.
    ( coaching to sabhi join karni hi hogi or waha rent par rahna bhi hoga or in dono me around 2,50,000 rs. lag jayega to me chahti hu ki mere sabhi subjects bhi cover ho jaye or delhi me jyada time rahna bhi na pade.)

    4. Hostel jyada better he ya paying guest as on twin sharing basis in economic terms.

    so plz help me in making a good time schedule of months Oct 2012 to Oct 2014 so that main keech me kuch months ke liye ghar aa saku.

    • Yes, please try and finish Optionals first.
      It is possible to join coaching for 2 subjects together but it may be difficult to manage.
      If you start in Oct, your coaching will finish by March-April.
      Join test series for all your subjects if possible.

      Only you can make your schedule according to what suits you.

      It is good to stay as paying guest.

      • thank you sir…….

        mere optionals april 2013 tak finish ho jayege to unke liye mujhe test series kab join karni chahiye….jun 2013 or jun 2014 se……coz Jun 2014 me to main GS ki test series bhi join karungi

  12. Hi Surabhi,
    thanks a lot for your time and input.
    which book to refer for world history?


  13. plz tell book , you used for history..?

  14. is 4 hours study enough.

  15. maam please tell books /sources you used for History map question?

  16. Hello mam! I am a 4th yr student from IIT Kgp. How much it is easy for an engineering student to take history as an optional? Can you throw some light on history preparation for GS?

  17. Thanks Surabhi and Prince. This is my first attempt at Mains and I was wondering if you have any specific books in mind for the “maps”. Please let me know. @Prince, You’re doing a terrific job with this blog!

  18. surabhi, your reply has helped a lot…
    i have few questions:
    Are following books sufficient? i mean no extra material would be needed after this?.
    ancient: RS sharma
    medieval: both parts of satish chandra
    moderan: modern india by Bipan chandra and India’s Struggle for independence

    and how did u cover world history?
    and since it has very vast syllabus, what to leave also becomes important…

    your reply will help me a lot
    thanks alot….

  19. thanks a lot surabhi..
    and thanks prince once again!

  20. maam,could u pls tell me to do in history for prelims.

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