upsc exam Syllabus : Indian Civil Services Syllabus For IAS,IPS,IES,ISS,IFS details

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  • UPSC EXAM :: Strategy For History :: Preliminary Exams (prelims exam)
  • UPSC EXAM :: Strategy For History :: Main Examination (mains exam)
  • UPSC EXAM :: Book List For History :: Main Examination (mains exam) & Preliminary Exams (prelims exam)

    UPSC : Strategy for History :: Main Examination (mains exam) Preliminary Exams (prelims exam)

    - by Bhushan Deshmukh
    Mobile : 9987063403
    (bhushan2006@gmail.com)

    Welcome to the most popular subject as optional in the toughest examination of the country i.e. Civil Services Prelims.

    History as an optional is considered 'safe' as well as stable. You can leverage on this subject as it is also to be studied for general studies prelims and mains. … Student from any discipline can choose and master this subject with systematic efforts. Apart from that it enables candidate to write their essay paper with a historical perspective which gives depth to the arguments.

    History is the only subject that can be lived. It is full of plots and counter plots, desires and detachments, wars and peace missions, giant triumphs and utter failures, a moving kaleidoscope of people, events and locations. Studying history is as good as sitting into time machine and visiting our 'wonderful' past. But all this is true only if you are 'interested' in the subject. Without interest, proper understanding of the subject can't be developed. In that case history will seem like subject with vast syllabus, full of unrelated events and mere description of dead past. But interest either natural or created will make your past talk with you. Indeed in the words of E.H.Carr "history is a continuous dialogue between past and present"

    It is seen that quota system works in UPSC prelims. Its like this, UPSC can't establish parity between different subjects. For e.g. 80 in physics means how much in history? In that case students of each subject compete in themselves and particular percentage of toppers in each subject will clear the prelims. This works in benefit of those who take Humanities subject like history as optional. All non-serious candidates who appear just because of parents or peer pressure take history. So out of large number they create for the optional, much more than normal clear as percentage of total.

    Even in serious candidates we can differentiate between those who just mug up facts unscientifically and those who analyze and interpret causes and consequences behind each fact. Both think that History is their cup of tea. But later one clearly had more chances of success. First type which are nearly 70% of serious candidates end up wasting the year.

    Let's see why they fail. Anything above solving seventy questions right will clear the preliminary. (Each question carries 2½ marks, so 180 marks are necessary out of 300) But for that target of solving 80 to 85 questions correct is must. Both types of candidate solve up to 60 questions correctly for they are simple and strait. Out of the rest 10 questions are too difficult to open and so their role in success or failure is negligible. Remaining 50 questions make all the difference. These are indirect and solving them requires insight into the subject. So those who have scientific approach with planned preparation i.e. those who command facts with conceptual clarity get the message on the website of UPSC 'Congratulations!' for the rest it is "Sorry!" 

    Negative marking has made the above equation bit tricky. Earlier one is concerned with solving maximum questions right. Now there is one more concern, solving minimum questions wrong. Or going Japanese way Total Quality Management. In this method do not solve a single wrong answer. Suppose you have solved 70 questions right then give-up the paper and return back. This actually works. Instead if someone tries to solve up to even 100, then there are chances to get trapped in negative marking and score caving inward.
    Is this mean we can keep some parts for optional now? Not at all . It is better to cover the whole syllabus, because in prelim the focus area is absent and therefore there is no question of predicting it.
    History is such a subject on which umpteen books are available on each topic in the market. As the view of looking towards past changes even the same facts can be interpreted differently. A word of caution here, it becomes trap. Candidate is not expected to research in subject but to master the various viewpoints. In short if it's a question of mastering the subject vs. mastering the examination which seems grossly the same, later should be selected. In that case reading of minimum number of standard books is sufficient.

    It is sensible to start with manual for civil services (preliminary) history optional. Two good manuals available in the market are Krishna Reddy and V.K. Agnihotri. Any of the two is advised. Both have their strong points. Krishna Reddy's is updated with changes in syllabus and written in lucid language. Agnihotri has a minute collection of facts. Apart from manual almost indispensable NCERT books are to be referred. There are three books i.e. Ancient, Medieval & Modern India for standard XI & XII.

    Eight years back syllabus was revised and made more balanced and comprehensive as well as relevant compare to earlier one. The syllabus is presented in three sections (A,B,C) with total 24 subsections. It is highly unconvincing to expect that UPSC will remain stick to syllabus. This is neither academic exam nor with academic approach. But still I believe that each examiner has some limits. Though he will not stick to but will certainly refer to syllabus. He will try to balance three sections in number of questions. And here we can make some technical observations for e.g. individuals quoted in syllabus for e.g. Chandragupta, Magasthenes, Ashoka, Kanishka, Sankaracharya, Guru Nanak, and Shivaji etc. Some times some words are underlined. We get the direction and trend in study, as to which way we should proceed. For e.g. Maharashtra Dharma is specifically mentioned which we may not study otherwise.

    The Section and Sub-section wise analysis of questions asked in last seven years is as follows.
        No. of questions asked in prelim's  
      Section - A 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008
    1 Prehistoric cultures in India 2 4 2 2 1 2 1 0
    2 Indus Civilization 2 3 2 5 4 4 3 4
    3 Pastoral and farming communities outside the Indus region 1 3 2 0 0 0 0 0
    4 Vedic Society 4 4 4 9 5 6 4 5
    5 Mahajanpadas to Nandas 6 4 7 4 5 5 5 3
    6 The Mauryan Empire 7 6 5 7 2 5 3 5
    7 Post-Mauryan India (BC 200-AD 300) 9 13 10 10 10 7 9 9
    8 The Guptas and their successors       (AD 300-750) 9 4 5 10 7 5 9 9
      Total for section A 40 41 37 47 34 34 34 35
      Section - B                
    9 Early Medieval India 8 3 5 3 3 5 2 3
    10 Cultural Trends (AD 750-1200) 4 4 2 6 3 8 6 3
    11&12 Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries 6 14 9 3 10 10 11 8
    13 The Fifteenth and early Sixteenth Centuries 9 8 10 9 16 7 9 13
    14&15 The Mughal Empire (AD 1556-1707) 16 10 7 14 11 8 9 14
    16 Decline of Mughals (AD 1707-61) 2 1 8 2 3 3 4 0
      Total for section B 40 40 41 37 46 41 41 41
      Section - C              
    17 British Expansion 8 1 6 3 6 7 6 7
    18 Economic Impact of British Raj 3 4 6 2 3 5 3 2
    19 Cultural Encounter and Social changes 6 6 6 8 7 8 1 2
    20 Resistance to British Rule 4 6 6 2 2 3 1 5
    21 Indian Freedom Struggle - The First Phase 3 7 5 7 7 9 9 7
    22 Gandhi and his thought 9 10 9 7 8 7 17 8
    23 Separatist trends in Indian Nationalist Politics 2 1 3 5 3 2 1 2
    24 Independence to 1964 5 1 1 2 4 4 7 11
      Total for section B 40 39 42 36 40 45 45 44
      Grand Total 120 120 120 120 120 120 120 120
    In Section-A i.e. Ancient India number of questions asked relatively came down (37) than again gone up to highest (2004=47) and than plummeted to 34 in 2007. It can be observed that more questions were asked on Post-Mauryan India. Here plethora of factual available on Sangam, Satvahans, Indo-Greeks, Saka, Kushan and development in religion, culture and art.

    Right approach is necessary to understand advancement of man. For no magnificent wars or sublime personalities are available especially in pre-historic era. The base is archaeology. To develop historical perspective one can start with D.D.Kausambi's 'Historical outline of Ancient India'. As the introduction sums it up "This is how history should be written". From simple observations Kausambi masterly explores past. Eminent historian Romila Thaper is always relevant. Her 'History of India' will clear the concepts about the two parameters in which history is to be studied i.e. 'Continuity and Change'. Her 'Ashoka and decline of Mauryan's' not only familiarizes us with great Ashoka but whole of Mauryan administration and essence of the time. To study the cultural and social developments especially Buddism and Jainism A.L.Basham's 'Wonder that was India' will be helpful. It is repertoire of facts woven in amazing story format.

    In the Section-B maximum questions went to the thirteenth and fourteenth Centuries. The major provincial dynasties and monotheistic movements.
    Medival period can be better studied with reference to either of the volumes on Medieval India by J.L.Mehta or by Harishchandra Verma. Verma is accurate but is voluminous and lacks unity of theme.

    In the Section-C maximum questions were asked on Gandhi and his thoughts including Subhash and his INA and also revolutionaries. It can be seen that sub streams of  main stream political movement getting importance today. To get though with different facets there is no book like B.L.Growers 'The new look at modern Indian history'. To supplement it and to understand the subaltern approach of writing history one can refer to Sumit Sarkar's 'Modern India'. After getting acquainted with both rightist and leftist viewpoint, then moderate them with centrist approach of Bipinchandra by reading his 'India's struggle of freedom'

    It is observed that after asking five questions in 2001 on 1947 to 1964 era this sub section was neglected for some time but again seven questions were asked in 2007. Candidate should be careful as there is probability of asking more questions. Bipinchandra's 'India after independence' can be referred to get acquainted with this period.

    Strategy of study should be mixed i.e. parallel study of history with general studies will be helpful. While studying, it's advisable to take down notes. First advantage is that they help in mains and second writing gives time to ponder over points. Notes should not be a mere collection of facts. Indeed prepare notes in the structural format separating political, social, cultural currents of period in reference. Mere collection and mixing up of facts will create quagmire which may prove fatal not only in mains but also in prelims. In prelims it self there is a section of assertion and reasoning (nine questions) which demands that subject to be understood as an organic whole.

    In the mains examination in Paper I there is a question of map work for sixty marks. Name of the sites are given and candidate is suppose to identify location as well as write description of the site. This question shall be prepared in advance. First that will give cutting edge in mains and second it will be very helpful in prelims. Many objective questions are related to sites. In that case if you are ready with 250 to 300 sites with description you can outperform others. Ensemble has come out with 'History through maps', a well researched and royally presented work. It could serve as the ideal reference book.

    In 2002 preliminary printed picture of the large megalithic stones appeared and it was asked to identify type. To solve such questions pictorial approach is necessary. Some internet sites are rich in content and photography in history. Apart from that it is suggested to glance though such designs and pictures given and explained in IGNOU history booklets. IGNOU material is most updated as well as authentic, as a claver approach to studies instead of referring to different books one can fully refer to IGNOU booklets (42 in number). Indeed another such effort is done by Brilliant Tutorials; they have published the notes for preliminary in 8 books. They are not as brilliant or suffice as IGNOU, but still suggested for those who like to prepare from notes.

    Once the reading is over question solving should began. Prelims is a objective type exam and one should be through with techniques like match the columns, which of the following statements are correct/incorrect, arrange the facts in correct chronological order, select the correct/incorrect pair etc. If you are studying though Krishna Reddies manual then also practice questions from Agnihotri and vice versa . Question bank is available on India History by Spectrum, IIMS as well as by MnM series. They should be solved on the exam lines. Practically every question paper should get solved in one hour. That much time is enough even on the exam day.

    Group study can do wonders in study of history. Every member in the group can give different insight into the subject. You can shoot questions to each other and comprehend the facts. But make sure that group is no larger than 3-4 friends and all damn serious.

    So take a long breath and strings tight in your hand. Now with full vision of future turn your eyes towards past. May goddess of history bless you with success .


    • In preliminary number of questions asked on Indian History are
        Subsection 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008
        Ancient 4 1 8 0 11
        Medieval 5 0 7 1 2
        Modern 11 21 8 11 1
        Total 20 22 23 12 14
    In mains in G.S. Paper I questions worth 90 marks are asked.     

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