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History Optional Preparation Strategy for UPSC Exam

This article is dedicated to those students who are looking for History Optional Preparation Strategy for UPSC Exam. This will you to obtain good marks in History Optional Subject.

History is one of the most frequently opted subjects by UPSC aspirants mainly because it covers a large portion of General Studies and aids significantly in the preparation of both Prelims and the Main exams.

Pros and cons of choosing History as an optional

First and foremost, the syllabus content of history aligns majorly with the General Studies as has been mentioned earlier. Also, this subject is a good scoring one because there is an extensive pool of resources for its preparation. Another thing to mention is that History is a stable subject and as there are no upgrades in all the events one studies about so one does not need to be well-aligned with current affairs for that.

The only disadvantages regarding this choice is that it can be boring and monotonous for some candidates, but with ample interest this issue is eliminated.

Syllabus breakdown for History optional

Even though it is one of the most widely chosen optional subjects, there still remains confusion amongst the UPSC aspirants as to what method, resources and strategies should be employed in preparing for it.

UPSC Mains is broadly divided into two components:

  1. Paper 1: From early history till 18th Century
  2. Paper 2: Includes the whole of modern Indian history and stretches from entry of Europeans in India to breakdown of Soviet Union

History Paper 1 includes the following topics:

  • Sources
  • Pre-history and Proto-history
  • Indus Valley Civilization
  • Megalithic Cultures
  • Aryans and Vedic Period
  • Period of Mahajanapadas
  • Mauryan empire
  • Post-Mauryan Period
  • Early State and Society in Eastern India, Deccan, and South India
  • Guptas, Vakatakas and Vardhanas
  • The regional States during the Gupta Era
  • Themes in Early Indian Cultural History
  • Early Medieval India, 750-1200
  • Cultural Traditions in India, 750-1200
  • The Thirteenth Century
  • The Fourteenth Century
  • The Fifteenth and Early Sixteenth Century
  • Akbar
  • Mughal Empire in the Seventeenth Century
  • Culture in the Mughal Empire
  • The Eighteenth Century

Paper 2 includes the following contents:

  • European Penetration into India
  • British Expansion in India
  • Early structure of the British Raj
  • Economic Impact of British Colonial Rule
  • Social and Cultural Developments
  • Indian Response to British Rule
  • Factors leading to the birth of Indian Nationalism
  • Rise of Gandhi
  • Other strands in the National Movement The Revolutionaries
  • Politics of Separatism
  • Consolidation as a Nation
  • Caste and Ethnicity after 1947
  • Economic development and political change
  • Enlightenment and Modern ideas
  • Major ideas of Enlightenment
  • Origins of Modern Politics
  • Industrialization
  • Nation-State System
  • Imperialism and Colonialism
  • Revolution and Counter-Revolution
  • World Wars
  • The World after World War II
  • Liberation from Colonial Rule
  • Decolonization and Underdevelopment
  • Unification of Europe
  • The disintegration of the Soviet Union and the Rise of the Unipolar World

History Optional Preparation Strategy for UPSC Exam

Past Papers questions

Before you start with the preparation, take a look at the questions from previous years to get an idea of the type of questions that are asked and what aspects of a topic might be touched. This will help you keep your mind on the right track for the preparation as it is supposed to be done.

Careful resource selection

Carefully selecting the resource material is the key to History Preparation Strategy for UPSC exam preparation. Take some time to go through many different books and sources and shortlist the ones that suit you the most. You must stick to those throughout in order to avoid any conflict or confusion regarding your preparation.

Jot down

History is a subject with a very extensive syllabus content and the only way to go about it is to make notes by jotting down important aspects for each topic. Write down all the factual and critical sides of an event/era to make it easier for you to relate events. Make headings, sub-headings and try to categorize the contents of a particular topic as much as you can. The above mentioned list of contents of each paper will help you in dividing your time. This will save your time at the time of revising and give you sufficient time for additional revisions.

Explorers and travelers

An important thing to remember is all the travelers and explorers who came to India and grasp their views and observations about it. It would be beneficial to go through their accounts of travelling to get the most accurate information.

Comparisons with the present

A very obvious and commonly explored angle is that of comparisons between the past and present times. The events, way of life, wars etc. happen almost completely differently from the past times and therefore, a wise comparison can be drawn. The journey from the past till today sees innumerable changes and transformations. This will help you add a current touch to your exam more accurately.

Understanding maps accurately

Another commonly asked question is from the maps. Compare various maps to understand about the exact and most accurate piece of information and to avoid any confusion. It’s advised to revise the maps over and over again and keep linking to their respective periods/events to understand them better.


A sound and detailed knowledge and understanding are immensely important because your knowledge and evaluation both are tested. Consume your time wisely and devise your own method of study that suits you. Follow the above History Optional Preparation Strategy for UPSC Exam

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