How to Prepare History for UPSC?

By K Balaji|Updated : September 14th, 2022

A solid Strategy to Prepare History for UPSC is essential for the candidates appearing for the UPSC exam. History is considered the most significant part of the UPSC syllabus and covers a wide range of topics. History opens up a perspective toward society, religion, and culture. There are so many questions asked from the History subject in the General Studies paper of the UPSC Prelims exam and Mains exam. So, to prepare history for UPSC, a judicious assortment of hard work and the right strategy are required.

In this article, we will discuss the right strategy for the history of UPSC. By following this strategy, candidates can answer a maximum number of questions from history and fetch good marks.

How to Prepare History for UPSC?

To prepare for history, candidates need to have a strong foundation and understanding of all the topics covered in the history section. Below we have provided some basic tips to help the candidates to prepare history for UPSC.

Start with NCERTs

As we have mentioned above, having a strong foundation is important for UPSC. To build a solid foundation, candidates need to utilize the NCERT Books for UPSC. The NCERT books are known as the backbone for UPSC Exam preparation. Candidates must gather all the NCERT history books and cover all the topics chronologically.

Take the Help of Advanced Books

After done with all the basic books and NCERT books, candidates must take the help of advanced books. Don't refer to so many books at once, and just choose the best UPSC Books and try to read them as many times as possible. Covering the basic books like NCERTs would be sufficient for Prelims, but it is ideal for preparing with some advanced books as well so that it won't get overwhelming during UPSC Mains preparation.

Go Through UPSC Previous Year's Question Papers

To understand the recent trends and important topics, one should go through UPSC Previous Year Question Papers. Candidates will also get a fair amount of idea about the difficulty level of the questions. After analyzing the question papers, candidates will get a clear picture of how they should plan their preparation and divide their time on this subject.

Make Short Notes

Making short notes is essential for the history subject in the UPSC Exam. Candidates need to remember all the events, when they happened, and how they happened. And for that, making notes would be ideal, where you can jot down all the important dates and events in a chronological way. Making notes would also make the revision process easier, and you can get maximum retention of what you have studied.

History Preparation Strategy for UPSC? (Segment-Wise)

The history section in the UPSC Syllabus is divided into three parts- Modern India, Ancient India, and Medieval India. These three sections carry a significant amount of weightage in both UPSC Prelims and Mains exams. Indian History and culture are considered the most important parts of the UPSC exam. History includes a vast range of topics and to cover these topics, hard work and the right strategy will require. Below we have provided some preparation tips that would help you cover these sections efficiently.

How to Prepare for Modern History in UPSC?

Modern History of India deals with a series of events and happenings. Its syllabus is huge, so to ease the understanding, It can be divided into sub-parts-

  • EARLY MODERN INDIA: Late Mughals and their policies which led to the decline and Emergence of the European Powers; Growth of the regional powers; Economic, social, and cultural policies of the British empire.
  • MID MODERN INDIA: Revolt of 1857 and its Impacts & consequences; Awakening due to social and religious reforms and movements; Indian National Congress – approach- Moderates and Extremists.
  • LATER MODERN INDIA: Beginning of the Indian freedom struggle; Different stages and phases of the Indian National Movement.
  • INDEPENDENCE AND AFTER: Challenges; Cabinet, the constituent assembly; First general elections; Indian states; Policies and ideology both internal and external.

Below we have mentioned a strategy to deal with all the sub-parts of the Modern History of India for UPSC Prelims.

How to Prepare Early Modern History for UPSC?

  • First, get the basic idea of the fall of the Mughal empire. Then the struggle of the British with other European powers. Do memorize the wars and treaties with reasons and consequences.
  • Their roles, impacts, and contributions of them should be noted. One should focus on the differences in the form of government and type of Administration in the era before the arrival of the British and after their arrival. Note the key points which can be later used for comparison.
  • Regional uprisings of Maratha, Punjab, Sindh, and Mysore kingdoms, etc., and their approach towards the British needs a bit of analysis. This is further followed by the people's uprisings and resistance against the British before 1857, which needs factual learning.

Preparation Strategy for Mid-Modern History of India for UPSC

  • 1857 Revolt- its economic, political, military, and social causes. Centre of the revolt and Leaders, British resistance and its failure.
  • Socio-religious reform movements always have been an interest of UPSC as it inculcates the efforts of the reformers at the ground level for the masses. Keep in mind their timeline, contributions, name of organizations, books, etc., and their impacts on Indian society.
  • Foundation of Indian national congress and the leaders attached to it. Early nationalist methodology, approach, and contributions of moderate nationalists. Start Keeping the gist of the events from here as it marks the beginning of chronology in the Indian national movement.

How to Prepare for Later Modern History of India for UPSC?

  • Read various legislations, laws, and administrative policies of the British. For example, various Indian Councils Acts. British era witnessed a plethora of constitutional and judicial developments also, also keep notice of changing British ideology with respect to Indian society and its relation with the world. For Example- Montford reforms, Press and labour legislation, the evolution of the police and education system, etc.
  • Internal and external policies. For example-Divide and rule, Subsidiary alliance, One-way free trade, keeping European powers at arm's length, etc. All the measures and their essential impacts on the masses and the society as a whole must be analyzed deeply as this can make you prepare for the mains also. Commissions set up– For example, the Lee Commission, Woods Commission Etc.
  • With the beginning of the National struggle for freedom, understand the differences in the ideologies of the upcoming leaders and the motive and missions of their organizations.
  • The emergence of Gandhi and the changed outlook of the Indian masses then.
  • Role of women, students, and the intelligentsia, etc. Movements have both an analytical and factual basis. Reed accordingly. Example- Civil disobedience movement and also the Round table conferences attached to it. Role of people at both upper and ground level plus contributions of the great Indian leaders abroad and the events involved with it, including simultaneous revolutionary activities.
  • The famous trial of the nationalist period. INC with its overall analysis from its annual sessions, demands, decisions, and its opposition from other groups. Importance and contributions with factual analysis of other parties in the freedom movement. Etc.

Preparation Strategy for Ancient Indian History for UPSC

Studying Ancient Indian history will help the candidates during the preparation for the Art and Culture section. Candidates must follow the tips mentioned below for the preparation of Ancient Indian History for UPSC.

  • Make a list of the major sites of the Mesolithic age, Stone Age, chalcolithic age and Neolithic age.
  • Take the Indus Valley civilization very seriously as questions are asked frequently from this section on UPSC Prelims and Mains.
  • Try to solve the subjective questions in UPSC Mains from the ancient Indian history section,
  • During the preparation of Vedic Civilization, make short notes of special terms. Additionally, make notes on Puranas, Plays and Vedas, etc.,
  • Buddhism and Jainism are the most important topics of UPSC, so ensure that you prepare well.
  • Read about the important kingdoms like - The Gupta, Satvahanas, Mauryan emperors, Chalukyas, etc.
  • Make notes on art and cultural topics like - Harappan seals, Scientific developments, Ajanta caves, Ashokan inscriptions, Coins, Sangam literature, Ellora caves, etc.

How to Prepare for Medieval Indian History?

Medieval Indian History covers the mid-8th-18th century AD. every year 1 to 5 questions are asked from this section. To prepare for this section, candidates can follow some tips mentioned below:

  • Prepare for this topic chronologically, and make notes along with your preparation,
  • Medieval Indian history has many important topics such as the Bhakti Movement, Architecture, Important battles, Special terms, the Sufi movement, and important literature of this period.
  • Focus on the artistic developments and cultural developments during this period.
  • Cover the Maratha Empire, Vijaynagar Empire, Bahamani Empire, etc. carefully.
  • NCERT books Class VII Medieval India (Old), Class XI Medieval India (Old), Class IX Story of Civilization Part-I (Old) and Class X Story of Civilization Part-II (Old) are helpful sources for the basic reading of medieval India.

Best Books to Prepare History for UPSC

The list of some of the highly recommended History Books for UPSC list is given below.

  • Class 6th to 12th History NCERT books.
  • Indian Art and Culture by Nitin Singhania.
  • A Brief History of Modern by Rajiv Ahir (Spectrum).
  • For Southern Indian History, Tamil Nadu Board, class 11th and 12th books are the best.
  • India’s Ancient Past – R.S. Sharma (For Ancient Indian History)
  • History of Medieval India – Satish Chandra (For Medieval Indian History)
  • India’s Struggle for Independence – Bipan Chandra.
  • History of Modern India – Bipan Chandra

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FAQs on Tips to Prepare History for UPSC Exam

  • NCERTs would undoubtedly be important for UPSC, as they help to understand the basic concepts. However, besides NCERTs, candidates should also go through some advanced history books as the level of difficulty in UPSC Mains is higher.

  • To prepare history for UPSC Prelims, candidates need to start with covering the NCERT textbooks. After that, candidates need to go through the UPSC previous year's question papers. They should also attempt as many mock tests as possible.

  • UPSC Mains requires in-depth study of the subject, as this exam is descriptive in nature. Candidates must refer to advanced-level history books and practice all the previous year’s questions to prepare history for UPSC mains. In addition, they must revise daily to get maximum retention of what they have learned.

  • The best books to prepare history for UPSC Prelims are Class 6th to 12th History NCERT books, India’s Ancient Past – R.S. Sharma (For Ancient Indian History), History of Medieval India – Satish Chandra (For Medieval Indian History), India’s Struggle for Independence – Bipan Chandra., and History of Modern India – Bipan Chandra.

  • Candidates should start their preparation for history as early as possible. The history syllabus for UPSC prelims covers a wide range of topics, so it would be ideal to start soon.

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