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The main examination is a different ball-game altogether. Emphasis should be more on conceptualization of facts rather then accumulation of facts. Starting from the fundamentals, it should be developed further with the help of not more  than two standard books for each topic. What is more important is application of gathered information with the help of past years’ question papers. First we take up a brief analysis of main examination syllabus.

Why History is most popular optional subject

  1. History is easier subject other than optionals.
  2. Source material easily available in this subject History also covers maximum syllabus of General Studies Paper-I.
  3. Maximum parts cover of Mains General Studies Paper-I, wide topic Culture and Freedom struggle parts of General Studies already prepared with History Optional.
  4. Not a dynamic subject totally conceptual with factual subject.
  5. Scoring subject other than Humanties Subjects.
  6. Interesting subject equally for all students.


PAPER I | Section – A

  1. Sources Archaeological sources :
    Exploration, excavation, epigraphy, numismatics, monuments.
    Literary sources:
    Indigenous : Primary and secondary; poetry, scientific literature, literature, literature in regional languages, religious literature.
    Foreign account: Greek, Chinese and Arab writers.
  1. Pre-history and Proto-history : Geographical factors; hunting and gathering (paleolithic and mesolithic); Beginning of agriculture (neolithic and chalcolithic).
  1. Indus Valley Civilization : Origin, date, extent, characteristics-decline, survival and significance, art and architecture.
  1. Megalithic Cultures : Distribution of pastoral and farming cultures outside the Indus, Development of community life, Settlements, Development of agriculture, Crafts, Pottery, and Iron industry.
  1. Aryans and Vedic Period : Expansions of Aryans in India :
    Vedic Period: Religious and philosophic literature; Transformation from Rig Vedic period to the later Vedic period; Political, social and economical life; Significance of the Vedic Age; Evolution of Monarchy and Varna system.
  1. Period of Mahajanapadas : Formation of States (Mahajanapada): Republics and monarchies; Rise of urban centres; Trade routes; Economic growth; Introduction of coinage; Spread of Jainism and Buddism; Rise of Magadha and Nandas.
    Iranian and Mecedonian invasions and their impact.
  1. Mauryan Empire : Foundation of the Mauryan Empire, Chandragupta, Kautilya and Arthashastra; Ashoka; Concept of Dharma; Edicts; Polity, Administration, Economy; Art, architecture and sculpture; External contacts; Religion; Spread of religion; Literature.
    Disintegration of the empire; sungas and Kanvas.
  1. Post-Mauryan Period (Indo-Greeks, Sakas, Kushanas, Western Kshatrapas) : Contact with outside world; growth of urban centres, economy, coinage, development of religions, Mahayana, social conditions, art, architecture, culture, literature and science.
  1. Early State and Society in Eastern India, Deccan and South India: Kharavela, The Satavahanas, Tamil States of the Sangam Age; Administration, Economy, land grants, coinage, trade guilds and urban centres; Buddhist centres; Sangam literature and culture; Art and architecture.
  1. Guptas, Vakatakas and Vardhanas: Polity and administration, Economic conditions, Coinage of the Guptas, Land grants, Decline of urban centres, Indian feudalism, Caste system, Position of women, Education and educational institutions; Nalanda, Vikramshila and Vallabhi, Literature, scientific literature, art and architecture.
  1. Regional States during Gupta Era: The Kadambas, Pallavas, Chalukyas of Badami; Polity and Administration, Trade guilds, Literature; growth of Vaishnava and Saiva religions. Tamil Bhakit movement, Shankaracharya; Vedanta; Institutions of temple and temple architecture; Palas, Senas, Rashtrakutas, Paramaras, Polity and administration; Cultural aspects. Arab conquest of Sind; Alberuni, The Chaluky as of Kalyana, Cholas, Hoysalas, Pandyas; Polity and Administration; Local Government; Growth of art and architecture, religious sects, Institution of temple and Mathas, Agraharas, education and literature, economy and society.
  1. Themes in Early Indian Cultural History: Languages and texts, major stages in the evolution of art and architecture, major philosophical thinkers and schools, ideas in Science and Mathematics.

Section – B

  1. Early Medieval India, 750-1200: —    Polity : Major political developments in Northern India and the peninsula, origin and the rise of Rajputs.
    —    The Cholas: administration, village economy and society “Indian Feudalism”.
    —    Agrarian economy and urban settlements.
    —    Trade and commerce.
    —    Society: the status of the Brahman and the new social order.
    —    Condition of women.
    —    Indian science and technology.
  1. Cultural Traditions in India, 750-1200: —    Philosophy: Skankaracharya and Vedanta, Ramanuja and Vishishtadvaita, Madhva and Brahma-Mimansa.
    —    Religion: Forms and features of religion, Tamil devotional cult, growth of Bhakti, Islam and its arrival in India, Sufism.
    —    Literature: Literature in Sanskrit, growth of Tamil literature, literature in the newly developing languages, Kalhan’s Rajtarangini, Alberuni’s India.
    —    Art and Architecture: Temple architecture, sculpture, painting.
  1. The Thirteenth Century: —    Establishment of the Delhi Sultanate: The Ghurian invasions – factors behind Ghurian success.
    —    Economic, Social and cultural consequences.
    —    Foundation of Delhi Sultanate and early Turkish Sultans.
    —    Consolidation: The rule of Iltutmish and Balban.
  1. The Fourteenth Century: —    “The Khalji Revolution”.
    —    Alauddin Khalji: Conquests and territorial expansion, agrarian and economic measure.
    —    Muhammad Tughluq: Major projects, agrarian measures, bureaucracy of Muhammad Tughluq.
    —    Firuz Tugluq: Agrarian measures, achievements in civil engineering and public works, decline of the Sultanate, foreign contacts and Ibn Battuta’s account.
  1. Society, Culture and Economy in the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries: —    Society: composition of rural society, ruling classes, town dwellers, women, religious classes, caste and slavery under the Sultanate, Bhakti movement, Sufi movement.
    —    Culture: Persian literature, literature in the regional languages of North India, literaute in the languages of South India, Sultanate architecture and new structural forms, painting, evolution of a composite culture.
    —    Economy: Agricultural Production, rise of urban economy and non-agricultural production, trade and commerce.
  1. The Fifteenth and Early Sixteenth Century-Political Developments and Economy: —    Rise of Provincial Dynasties : Bengal, Kashmir (Zainul Abedin), Gujarat.
    —    Malwa, Bahmanids.
    —    The Vijayanagara Empire.
    —    Lodis.
    —    Mughal Empire, first phase : Babur, Humayun.
    —    The Sur Empire : Sher Shah’s administration.—    Portuguese colonial enterprise, Bhakti and Sufi Movements.
  1. The Fifteenth and Early Sixteenth Century- Society and culture: —    Regional cultures specificities.
    —    Literary traditions.
    —    Provincial architectural.
    —    Society, culture, literature and the arts in Vijayanagara Empire.
  1. Akbar: —    Conquests and consolidation of empire.
    —    Establishment of jagir and mansab systems.
    —    Rajput policy.
    —    Evolution of religious and social outlook. Theory of Sulh-i-kul and religious policy.
    —    Court patronage of art and technology.
  1. Mughal Empire in the Seventeenth Century: —    Major administrative policies of Jahangir, Shahjahan and Aurangzeb.
    —    The Empire and the Zamindars.
    —    Religious policies of Jahangir, Shahjahan and Aurangzeb.
    —    Nature of the Mughal State.
    —    Late Seventeenth Century crisis and the revolts.
    —    The Ahom kingdom.
    —    Shivaji and the early Maratha Kingdom.
  1. Economy and society, in the 16th and 17th Centuries: —    Population Agricultural and craft production.
    —    Towns, commerce with Europe through Dutch, English and French companies : a trade revolution.
    —    Indian mercantile classes. Banking, insurance and credit systems.
    —    Conditions of peasants, Condition of Women.
    —    Evolution of the Sikh community and the Khalsa Panth.
  1. Culture during Mughal Empire: — Persian histories and other literature.
    — Hindi and religious literatures.
    — Mughal architecture.
    — Mughal painting.
    — Provincial architecture and painting.
    — Classical music.
    — Science and technology.
  1. The Eighteenth Century: — Factors for the decline of the Mughal Empire.
    — The regional principalities: Nizam’s Deccan, Bengal, Awadh.
    — Maratha ascendancy under the Peshwas.
    — The Maratha fiscal and financial system.
    — Emergence of Afghan power Battle of Panipat, 1761.
    — State of, political, cultural and economic, on eve of the British conquest.

PAPER-II | Section—A

  1. European Penetration into India: The Early European Settlements; The Portuguese and the Dutch; The English and the French East India Companies; Their struggle for supremacy; Carnatic Wars; Bengal-The conflict between the English and the Nawabs of Bengal; Siraj and the English; The Battle of Plassey; Significance of Plassey.
  1. British Expansion in India: Bengal-Mir Jafar and Mir Kasim; The Battle of Buxar; Mysore; The Marathas; The three Anglo-Maratha Wars; The Punjab.
  1. Early Structure of the British Raj: The Early administrative structure; From diarchy to direct contol; The Regulating Act (1773); The Pitt’s India Act (1784); The Charter Act (1833); The Voice of free trade and the changing character of British colonial rule; The English utilitarian and India.
  1. Economic Impact of British Colonial Rule:
    1. Land revenue settlements in British India; The Permanent Settlement; Ryotwari Settlement; Mahalwari Settlement; Economic impact of the revenue arrangements; Commercialization of agriculture; Rise of landless agrarian labourers; Impoverishment of the rural society.
    2. Dislocation of traditional trade and commerce; De-industrialisation; Decline of traditional crafts; Drain of wealth; Economic transformation of India; Railroad and communication network including telegraph and postal services; Famine and poverty in the rural interior; European business enterprise and its limitations.
  1. Social and Cultural Developments:
    The state of indigenous education, its dislocation; Orientalist-Anglicist controversy, The introduction of western education in India; The rise of press, literature and public opinion; The rise of modern vernacular literature; Progress of Science; Christian missionary activities in India.
  1. Social and Religious Reform Movements in Bengal and Other Areas:
    Ram Mohan Roy, The Brahmo Movement; Devendranath Tagore; Iswarchandra Vidyasagar; The Young Bengal Movement; Dayanada Saraswati; The social reform movements in India including Sati, widow remarriage, child marriage etc.; The contribution of Indian renaissance to the growth of modern India; Islamic revivalism-the Feraizi and Wahabi Movements.
  1. Indian Response to British Rule:
    Peasant movement and tribal uprisings in the 18th and 19th centuries including the Rangpur Dhing (1783), the Kol Rebellion (1832), the Mopla Rebellion in Malabar (1841-1920), the Santal Hul (1855), Indigo Rebellion (1859-60), Deccan Uprising (1875) and the Munda Ulgulan (1899-1900); The Great Revolt of 1857 —Origin, character, casuses of failure, the consequences; The shift in the character of peasant uprisings in the post-1857 period; the peasant movements of the 1920s and 1930s.
  1. Factors leading to the birth of Indian Nationalism; Politics of Association; The Foundation of the Indian National Congress; The Safety-valve thesis relating to the birth of the Congress; Programme and objectives of Early Congress; the social composition of early Congress leadership; the Moderates and Extremists; The Partition of Bengal (1905); The Swadeshi Movement in Bengal; the economic and political aspects of Swadeshi Movement; The beginning of revolutionary extremism in India.
  2. Rise of Gandhi; Character of Gandhian nationalism; Gandhi’s popular appeal; Rowlatt Satyagraha; the Khilafat Movement; the Non-cooperation Movement; National politics from the end of the Non-cooperation movement to the beginning of the Civil Disobedience Movement; the two phases of the Civil Disobedience Movement; Simon Commission; The Nehru Report; the Round Table Conferences; Nationalism and the Peasant Movements; Nationalism and Working class movements; Women and Indian youth and students in Indian politics (1885-1947); the election of 1937 and the formation of ministries; Cripps Mission; the Quit India Movement; the Wavell Plan; The Cabinet Mission.
  3. Constitutional Developments in the Colonial India between 1858 and 1935.
  4. Other strands in the National Movement.
    The Revolutionaries: Bengal, the Punjab, Maharashtra, U.P. the Madras Presidency, Outside India.
    The Left; The Left within the Congress: Jawaharlal Nehru, Subhas Chandra Bose, the Congress Socialist Party; the Communist Party of India, other left parties.
  5. Politics of Separatism; the Muslim League; the Hindu Mahasabha; Communalism and the politics of partition; Transfer of power; Independence.
  6. Consolidation as a Nation; Nehru’s Foreign Policy; India and her neighbours (1947-1964); The linguistic reorganisation of States (1935-1947); Regionalism and regional inequality; Integration of Princely States; Princes in electoral politics; the Question of National Language.
  7. Caste and Ethnicity after 1947; Backward Castes and Tribes in post-colonial electoral politics; Dalit movements.
  8. Economic development and political change; Land reforms; the politics of planning and rural reconstruction; Ecology and environmental policy in post-colonial India; Progress of Science.

Section – B

  1. Enlightenment and Modern ideas:
    (i) Major Ideas of Enlightenment : Kant, Rousseau.
    (ii) Spread of Enlightenment in the colonies.
    (iii) Rise of socialist ideas (up to Marx); spread of Marxian Socialism.
  1. Origins of Modern Politics :
    (i) European States System.
    (ii) American Revolution and the Constitution.
    (iii) French Revolution and Aftermath, 1789-1815.
    (iv) American Civil War with reference to Abraham Lincoln and the abolition of slavery.
    (v) British Democratic politics, 1815-1850 : Parliamentary Reformers, Free Traders, Chartists.
  1. Industrialization :
    (i) English Industrial Revolution : Causes and Impact on Society.
    (ii) Industrialization in other countries : USA, Germany, Russia, Japan.
    (iii) Industrialization and Globalization.
  1. Nation-State System :
    (i) Rise of Nationalism in 19th century.
    (ii) Nationalism : State-building in Germany and Italy.
    (iii) Disintegration of Empires in the face of the emergence of nationalities across the World.
  1. Imperialism and Colonialism :
    (i) South and South-East Asia.
    (ii) Latin America and South Africa.
    (iii) Australia.
    (iv) Imperialism and free trade: Rise of neo-imperialism.
  1. Revolution and Counter-Revolution :
    (i) 19th Century European revolutions.
    (ii) The Russian Revolution of 1917-1921.
    (iii) Fascist Counter-Revolution, Italy and Germany.
    (iv) The Chinese Revolution of 1949.
  1. World Wars :
    (i) 1st and 2nd World Wars as Total Wars : Societal implications.
    (ii) World War I : Causes and Consequences.
    (iii) World War II : Causes and Consequences.
  1. The World after World War II:
    (i) Emergence of Two power blocs.
    (ii) Emergence of Third World and non-alignment.
    (iii) UNO and the global disputes.
  1. Liberation from Colonial Rule :
    (i) Latin America-Bolivar.
    (ii) Arab World-Egypt.
    (iii) Africa-Apartheid to Democracy.
    (iv) South-East Asia-Vietnam.
  1. Decolonization and Underdevelopment :
    (i) Factors constraining Development ; Latin America, Africa.
  1. Unification of Europe :
    (i) Post War Foundations ; NATO and European Community.
    (ii) Consolidation and Expansion of European Community
    (iii) European Union.
  1. Disintegration of Soviet Union and the Rise of the Unipolar World :
    (i) Factors leading to the collapse of Soviet Communism and Soviet Union, 1985-1991.
    (ii) Political Changes in East Europe 1989-2001.
    (iii) End of the Cold War and US Ascendancy in the World as the lone superpower.

Syllabus Analysis

Ancient Indian History

In Ancient History syllabus there is a greater emphasis on sources of early Indian history Archaeological study of ancient India, from the prehistoric times to the Iron Age, has gained currency now. Archaeology, being a dynamic discipline, one has to keep oneself update with latest findings and its application in reconstruction of history. At the same time, the evolution of north Indian Society and culture has to be traced on the basis of literary evidences (from Samhitas to Sutras).

The politico-administrative history from pre-Mauryan period (rise of Mahajanapadas) to post-Gupta period (beginning of feudalism and centrifugal forces) has been attached more significance in the Ancient History syllabus. This should be studied in the context of socio-economic changes and these factors influencing each other. A new addition in syllabus is the Sangam Age-history in deep south.

Besides, one can expect a major question from cultural history of ancient India. Some of the important topics are as follows :

  • Languages and text-concentrate on Sanskrit, Prakrit and Tamil.
  • Evolution of art and architecture – One should start from Indus civilization and trace the evolution upto post-Gupta period.
  • Major philosophical thinkers and schools-take into account Brahmanical, Buddhist and Jain philosophical school.
  • Science and mathematics – One can start from the contribution of the Harappans (binary and decimal systems) to those of Aryabhatta.

Medieval India History

For the benefit categories Section B into five units :

Unit-I : As in earlier section, this part of the syllabus too gives greater emphasis on contemporary historians and sources of the medieval India history. Prepare them for short questions (a) Alberuni (b) Kalhana (c) Ibn Batuta (d) Amir Khusrau (e) Babur’s memoir (f) Ziya Barani (vii) Abul Fazl.

Unit-II : For the purpose of consistency and coherent approach, study the Delhi sultanate in totality. You can begin with the Ghorian invasions and trace the history of early medieval India upto advent of the Mughals.; Some of the important topics in this section can be :

  • Ghorian success-causes and consequences
  • Balban’s theory of kingship
  • Reforms of Alaudddin Khilji
  • Bin Tughlaq’s experiments, assessment of his works and personality.
  • Public works of Firuz Shah Tughlaq his responsibility for the decline of the Delhi Sultanate.

Unit-III : Likewise treat the Mughals holistically, giving special emphasis on the age of Akbar-his imperialism, Rajput, and Religious policies. Akbar’s administrative and economic measures should be studied in contrast to those of Sheh Shah. Comparing the administrative and religious policies of Jahangir, Shahjahan and Aurangzeb can be an interesting way of looking at things.

Unit-IV : In this unit, include all the provincial dynasties while the Cholas, the Vijayanagar and the Marathas should be prepared for a major question, others can be done for a short one.

  1. The Cholas : Their cultural contributions and local self-governance.
  2. The Rajputs : Rise and their feudal polity.
  3. Vijayanagara Empire : Society and culture.
  4. The Marathas : Under Shivaji and the Peshwas.
  5. Bengal
  6. Kashmir : Under Zainul Abedin
  7. Gujarat
  8. Malwa
  9. The Bahmanidas
  10. Nizam’s Deccan
  11. Awadh

Unit-V : This is perhaps the most important unit from examination point of view. One must have a comparative and evolutionary approach while dealing with this particular section. Important sub-section of this unit is :

  1. Society during medieval times.
  2. Bhakti movement : Sankaracharya, Ramanuja, Chaitanya, Kabir and other individual saints, Bhakti movement in South India, Lingayats, Maharashtra Dharma.
  3. Sufi-movement
  4. Architecture from early Sultanate architecture to the Lodis, Mughal architecture, Regional architectural styles, Chola and Vijayanagar temple architecture.
  5. Painting : Mughal painting, Regional styles like Kangra, Rajput, Bundi etc.
  6. Literature : Persian literature, Hindi and Religious literatures.
  7. Technological changes.

Modern Indian History

Section-A of paper II has been elaborated to include some topics like Mysore, Punjab, literary and cultural movements and post-independence history to cover the Nehruvian era. To put it straight and simple, it would be advisable to prepare unit-wise.

Unit I : British conquests and Indian reactions : As far as the syllabus is concerned its mentions Mysore, Punjab and the Marathas and their resistance against the colonial power. One can trace the political social and economic circumstances leading to the 1857 revolt and other uprisings (tribal, civil and peasants).

Unit II : British Economic Policy : AN important aspects of British colonization was economic exploitation of Indian and its ruinous impact on Indian society. In this regard pro-nationalist and leftist ideological view points must be taken into account.

Unit III : Socio-cultural aspects : it can include sub-topics like Indian Renaissance, Christian missionary activities, evolution of educational and social policies and its role in rise of nationalism in India. Other sub-topics such as literary personalities like Tagore, Premchand, S. Bharati and others, film and theatre are newly added. It reflects a shift towards cultural evolution of modern India, which was perhaps missing earlier.

Unit IV : Freedom Struggle : A thorough and in-depth study of history of Indian nationalism from 1885 (foundation of congress) to 1947 (partition and freedom) is a must. This section caters for 90-100 marks in Main, General Studies papers too. Sub-divide particular unit into following section :

  • 1885 to 1916, which includes early Indian nationalism upto Home Rule movement.
  • 1916 to 1945 Gandhian era-one can start from Champaran experiment to Quit India movement. Gandhian thought and methods of mass mobilization should be given special emphasis.
  • 1945 to 1947 A chronological study of this portion (event to event) would be a right approach. Analyse how and why Indian nationalism, at the end, yielded a paradoxical result-Partition and freedom together.
  • Other strands of national movement, which ran parallel to the Congress movement :
  • Rise and growth of Revolutionary Terrorism
  • Swarajist movement
  • Socialist and communist movements
  • Indian National Army-role of Subhash Chandra.
  • Rise and growth of communalism.

Unit V : Indian independent to 1964 : This unit includes Nehruvian era and development of an independent Indian Polity, Constitution, Planned economy and Foreign policy. If one analyses this period it reflects Nehru’s firm belief in Buddhist principle of ‘Middle path’, whether it is concept of mixed economy or policy of non-alignment during the cold war.

World History

There has been a shift towards conceptualization and generalization of events than individual events themselves. For Example. One should study renaissance, enlightenment and socialist ideas together under enlightenment and modern ideas than these topics separately. Similarly, Revolution and counter Revolution now include all the major revolutions that shaped the modern world’s history. Moreover, two World wars have to be studied as total wars. Going through the new syllabus, one can safely conclude that mastering the European history can fetch more marks now.

Second half of this section makes world history more contemporary and relevant. This section now convers important portions of General Study paper, too, A good book on international politics or contemporary history would suffice for this portion. One is now expected to have detailed and in depth understanding of the post-World war II developments. For example cold war and division of world into two military blocs-NATO and Warsaw pact; emergence of third world and their decision to remain non-aligned, United Nations, decolonization and factors constraining development of newly independent Latin American and African countries.

At the same time, one should study the circumstances leading to end of cold war and US ascendancy in the world such as disintegration of Soviet Union, fall of Berlin wall and US/UN victory in Gulf war. Another important strand of contemporary history is process of integration, deciding fate of nation across the globe i.e. Globalization Continent-wise, Europe has already achieved a major success in this regard in the form of European Union.

Preparation Strategies

Compulsory Questions :

Short Questions form a compulsory part in both the papers. For coming years, prepare short notes on the topics added in syllabus. This is particularly important for Paper I. Some important topics for short questions can be based on :

  • Sources of early Indian History
  • Approaches to study of early Indian History
  • Early pastoral and agricultural communities
  • Second Phase of Urbanization
  • Sangam literature
  • Samanta System
  • Literature-Sanskrit or Prakrit
  • Philosophical schools and thinkers
  • Indian feudalism
  • Village communities in the South
  • Contemporary historians-Kalhana, Ibn Batuta, Barani, Amir Khusrau, Abul Fazl.
  • Zainul Abedin, Dara Shikoh, Sawai Jai Singh and other personalities
  • Theory of Sulh-i-Kul
  • Bhakti and Sufi Saints and movements.

In paper-II, one is invariably asked to comment on well-known statements of historians and interesting remarks of the historical personalities. The world ‘Comment’ is used as a verb and not as a noun, i.e. you are expected to critically examine each of the statements. Whenever you are asked to comment, you should write your answer in the form of three parts. In the first part, you may lay bare the meaning of the statement along with its context. In the second part, you have to find fault with the statement. And, in the third part, you have to provide justification for the statement. The statement can also be invalidated if found historically incorrect.

The Study of Maps

History Map is Undoubtedly the most scoring part of the syllabus. Develop a habit of looking at important sites in historical maps in your leisure, so that over a period of time you have in your mind imprint of the location of these places. Prepare separate maps for various sections (for example : Indus culture sites, Sites of Sixteen Mahajanapadas, PGW sites, Sites of Asokan Inscriptions, various ports and trading cities, etc.). Take the courses of the rivers into consideration while locating places. Also practice marking places on blank maps without rivers in the event of a change in pattern.

The second aspect is writing short notes on the places. Write 30 words each on the places. Write major points associated with the significance of the places. For example, present location, historical name, important discoveries, features, etc. You do not have scope to write minor points so avoid the latter.

Quick tips for writing effectively

Practice on following lines and see the difference :

  • Do not be ambitious to push in as many points as possibly. You should have the good sense to critically expand the points as required by a given questions.
  • Elements of bias or prejudice must be avoided in your writing.
  • Spilt your answer in various paragraphs.
  • Your answer must not lose coherence, points should be in order so that the whole answer presents a balanced and integrated view.
  • Keep yourself away from quotations.
  • Read the question at least two or three times. Underline or write the key words and keep looking at it till you complete writing the answer. Then alone you would be able to write a relevant answer.
  • Last but not the least, write widely accepted, mainstream historians’ viewpoints, and stick to them. Be cautious against falling into the trap of latest theories/approaches as suggested by one or the other ‘Basement Historians’. Examiner is certainly not looking for a ‘historian-in-making’ in you but a civil servant that could deliver the goods effectively within the given limitations.

About writing answers

Certain useful tips for writing answers :

  • Read standard books-collect standard information.
  • Express in your own language.
  • Answer should be the outcome of your view-views should not be yours; for you are not supposed to be a historian and you do not have any work to your credit.
  • You accept the views which have been acknowledged by a majority of historians. You present them in your own language creating originality of words and expressions.
  • Elements of bias or prejudice must be absent from your writing.
  • When you critically examine, you must examine a fact in the light of socio-economic and political circumstances-this would give your answer a moderate tinge.
  • Use effective language but do not make it verbose.
  • Write a simple answer – do not use very long sentences and paragraphs.
  • Split your answers in various paragraphs – change paragraph when you shift to a new point or view.
  • Do not quote views, opinions etc. – at times you can quote from original work.
  • Give major points of your answer in separate paragraphs and put all the minor points in one paragraph at the end. Try to give as many points as you can.
  • You need not write a lengthy introduction, you can even do without it. Write the main body of the answer and a good and very effective conclusion. In the answers where you analyse or critically examine, you must write a conclusion.
  • Write the answers (of full questions carrying 50 marks) i.e. 10 marks in 150 words, 30 marks in 300 words and 15 marks write in 250
  • While writing, make sure your handwriting is legibla – do not be under the impression that whatever way you write the examiner would make all efforts to go through that – help the examiners read your answers comfortably.
  • do not exceed the word limit 300 words may be 310 or 315, not more than that in any case.
  • Your answer must not lose coherence – points should be in order so that the whole answer presents a balanced and integrated view.
  • Practise writing answers of model questions, get them evaluated, get a guide he may be a teacher, he may be your senior who has scored 360 marks or above in History in the Main Examination.

Source material

Right selection of books is important for effective preparation. The right strategy is to study a few books as base books and then to study a few specific books for specific information.

On history you have plenty of standard and specialized books besides there is also no dearth of general books there are certain general books immensely popular among the candidates. Production of the contents of these books do not create quality writing a claim often made by the examiners and the basis put forward by them as to why do they resort to average or below average marking.

In History, certain books are there, which have earned the status of being most authoritative work on particular areas. These books have so tremendously influenced the candidates and even other authors that their writing turnout to be a poor initiation. The best example to be cited would be Romila Thaper’s Ashoka and the Decline of the Mauryas. It would be a very interesting piece of information if you ask any candidate to define Ashoka’s Dhamma, and you find it exactly the way Romila Thaper has defined. It is true her definition is the classic one and any definition of Dhamma must be in consonance with her definition. But, of course, this does not imply and above all this is not expected from a candidate of such high level examinations like Civil Services Examinations that what one writes becomes a replica of Thaper’s definition. This kind of imitation makes your answer lose and become subject to average marking.

Books published by NCERT (12th Standard) are good to begin with. These books are good as they can provide the themes and a broader outline of entire Indian History.

After studying NCERT books candidates are advised to go through the booklets of history published by IGNOU. These booklets are standard, contain plenty of information, present a beautiful harmony of facts and thoughts, and are base don new approaches.

The Books and booklets would strengthen the base of the candidates, make them abreast of almost all relevant information. After this the requirement is to go through certain specific books for certain specific information. Candidates are advised to go through these books or specific topics of these books according to the requirements.

Suggest Reading List

Ancient India

  1. NCERT 2. IGNOU 3. Gazetteer of India Vol-II 4. A wonder that was India by A.L. Basam 5. An Advanced History of India-Majumdar, Raichaudhary and Datta 6. Ashoka and Decline of Mauryan Empire-Romila Thaper 7. Socio material culture-R.S. Sharma 8. Ancient India-publication division.

Medieval India

  1. NCERT 2. IGNOU 3. Gazetteer of India Vol-II 4. J.L. Mehta Vol-III 5. Medieval India Vol-I and II by Satish Chandra 6. Impact of Islam on Indian culture-Tarachand.

Modern India

  1. NCERT 2. IGNOU 3. Gazetteer of India 4. Modern India by Yashpal and Grover 5. Modern India by Sumit Sarkar 6. Freedom struggle by Bipan Chandra 7. An Advanced History of India Vol-III by Majumar, Raichaudhary and Datta.

World History

  1. World History : Jain & Mathur 2. Deenanath Verma 3. IGNOU Material 4. Vajirao & Reddy Institute’s Notes.

Specialized Study

  1. Ancient India religion, Culture and Society Vol I – Puri, Das and Chopra.
  2. The wonder that was India – A.L. Basam.
  3. Social formation and material culture in Ancient India – R.S. Sharma.
  4. A concise History of India Art, Roy C. Craron.
  5. Medieval Society, culture, religious movements and art : Vol.-II, J.L. Mehta.
  6. Administrative and constitutional development in British Period : Modern India – Yashpal and Grover.
  7. Gandhian Movement, Freedom struggle – Bipan Chandra.
  8. Vajirao & Reddy Institute’s studies material.