How to Prepare History for UPSC? Strategy + Tips for Ancient, Medieval and Modern

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How to Prepare History for UPSC?

One of the most important questions candidates have when they begin studying for the test is How to Prepare History for UPSC. Understanding history broadens one’s outlook on society, religion, and culture. The most important and comprehensive section of the UPSC syllabus is history, which includes several different subjects. The General Studies section of the UPSC Prelims and Mains exams has a significant number of questions related to the subject of history.

Here in this article, we have discussed how to prepare history for UPSC. We have also covered how to cover important topics of Ancient India, Medieval India, and Modern India.

How to Prepare History for UPSC for IAS Exam?

Going through the UPSC syllabus for any topic is the first thing you should do before you start it. The subjects covered in the General Studies section of the Civil Services Preliminary Exam are Current Affairs, General Science, Economy, History, and Geography. Indian history and culture are closely related and broad topics. The importance of Indian history and culture is acknowledged in the Civil Services Preliminary Exam and the Main Examination 2023. A significant portion of the questions on Indian history and culture are found in the General Studies Paper I Mains exam. Preparing history will be made easier with a wise combination of consistency and the appropriate approach. We are sharing here the best strategy for how to study history for UPSC.

There are three sections to the history. They are Ancient History, Medievel History, and Modern History. In the UPSC preliminary and main examinations, these three sections are heavily weighted. Art and  Culture also have a significant weightage. These days, it is getting a lot of attention so students must also focus on this area.

Must Read: UPSC Prelims History: Previous Year Questions

Ancient History UPSC Preparation Strategy

Reading the NCERT listed below is strongly recommended for those interested in Ancient History UPSC Preparation Strategy. UPSC has directly questioned people in this area in previous years. Many terms are included in these textbooks, and UPSC has included those terms in its question papers. 

The first part of ancient history ends in the middle of the eighth century AD. The candidates should concentrate on the various eras, including the Chalcolithic, Neolithic, Mesolithic, and Palaeolithic. They should be aware of the significant shifts that took place during those times.

The Indus Valley Civilization, also known as the Harappan Civilization, is the following region. The candidates should concentrate on the manner of life prevalent at this time. They should learn it from a socioeconomic and cultural perspective. Candidates should also be able to learn about the significance of the Harappan sites. They must concentrate on seals, arts, and crafts. The language and script of the Indus Valley Civilization.

The candidates should be familiar with the fundamentals of Vedic society, including the caste system, marriage, and families. Understanding the distinctions between the lifestyles and societies of the Early and Later Vedas is crucial. They should concentrate on the political, religious, and economic climate of the time. The literature of the Vedic Period is well-known. The Vedas, Upanishads, Dharma Shastras, Puranas, and the six systems of philosophy are important texts for aspirants to study.

The UPSC is now introducing several words, including Eripatti, Purohita, Jana, and Panchayattan, along with their definitions. Therefore, candidates studying Indian history should make a list of these terms together with their definitions.

Numerous religions have emerged during the ancient era. The two main faiths that emerged at that time were Jainism and Buddhism. A thorough examination of the doctrines, philosophy, literature, and beliefs of the two religions is required.

Another significant topic is the kingdom and kings of ancient India. It is important to be aware of the ruler’s name, his kingdom, his significant reforms, and his contributions to society, the arts, and culture, among other things. Many questions from the Mauryan and Gupta eras have been posed by UPSC. The Mauryan and Gupta eras are still pertinent subjects for the IAS Exam in this case

Here we have compiled the most important topics of Ancient Indian History that one can’t miss for an effective Ancient History UPSC Preparation Strategy:

Ancient History UPSC Preparation Strategy
Sources of Information
and Analysis
Archaeological findings, inscriptions, literary texts, artefacts
Art and CultureIndian art, sculpture, architecture, painting, and crafts 
Indus Valley CivilizationGeography, urban planning, trade, and the decline of Indus Valley Civilization
Philosophy of Ancient IndiaLife and teachings of Gautama Buddha and Mahavira
Society in Ancient IndiaVedas, Upanishads, and six schools of philosophy Status of women, caste system, social hierarchy
Maurya and Gupta AgeSMauryan and Gupta dynasties, administrative policies

Medieval History UPSC Preparation Strategy

The middle of the eighth century AD to the start of the eighteenth century AD is when the Medieval History begins. Unlike Ancient and Modern History, Medieval History has fewer questions. Since 2011, the UPSC has only asked one to four questions in this domain. However, we are unable to ignore this part in the interest of a developing trend. UPSC has a history of being unpredictable, and the upcoming year may be no different. Many candidates skip this portion, however, you can concentrate on certain important areas of this section to gain an edge from your competition.

Medieval India is comprised of the Mughal, Vijayanagar Empire, and Sultanate rulers this area is very interesting and loaded with numerous facts like other periods. One has to focus on the Political, Social, and Economic setup during their rule. Along with that one has to be thorough with the rise and fall of the empires.

The period also witnessed religious movements like the Sufi and Bhakti Movements. So, aspirants should focus this area on their important saints, their doctrines, and their impact on society.

Apart from that, one has to focus on the art and culture area. Medieval India witnessed the birth of several buildings and sculptures. Aspirants should give special attention to this area specifically during Mughal rule. 

This systematic approach outlines the necessary steps for Medieval History UPSC Preparation Strategy:

Medieval History UPSC Preparation Strategy
Understand the UPSC
syllabus for Medieval History
UPSC syllabus for Medieval History
Relevant study materialIncluding NCERT books (Class VII to XII), reference books, and additional material
Refer to recommended books for Medieval HistoryMedieval India by Satish Chandra
A History of Medieval India by Ishwari Prasad
Medieval History by J.L. Mehta
History of Medieval India” by V.D. Mahajan
Utilize online resources Such as websites, online courses, and videos eg- National Digital Library (NDL), NCERT’s official website, etc.
Stay updated on current affairs related to historyNewspapers, magazines, historical context of contemporary events
Create concise and effective notes while studying
Note-taking during study sessions
Practice with previous year’s question papersUPSC’s previous year’s question papers for Medieval History

Must Read: The Ultimate UPSC Booklist 

Modern History UPSC Preparation Strategy

The era from the rise of a foreign power in India till the independence movement is covered in contemporary Indian history. For both the preliminary and main exams, the majority of the questions are based on modern Indian history. It will make sense to arrange the subjects both chronologically and according to units. The “Modern India” section can be divided into multiple sections to assist you in learning how to study history for the UPSC.

There have been a lot of inquiries from this field recently. Candidates should focus on the areas of independence and the struggle for freedom. They should be aware of the various movements, their goals and effects, the personalities that inspire them, etc. Aspirants must concentrate on the significance of the press and literature. It would be beneficial to make a “chronology” of the major movements and missions that the British conducted to win over the Indians and grow their authority.

There are a tonne of facts and figures in history. The governors-general and viceroys, as well as the reforms they brought about, should be known to candidates. Candidates should also concentrate on the many Acts, provisions, and their effects on Indian society in addition to that. Important subjects for the IAS exam include the British system of Political-Administrative organization, Socio-Economic arrangements such as Permanent Settlement, Major Reports, Sessions, Acts, and Committees established during British rule.

Exam-wise, social reform movements, and religion also have a significant impact. One of the key areas for the IAS Exam is the effects of social changes on the education system, the caste system, the status of women, and society at large.

Here we have compiled the most important topics of Modern Indian History that one can’t miss for effective Modern History UPSC Preparation Strategy:

Modern History UPSC Preparation Strategy
1. India in 1750Mughal Empire under Aurangzeb’s rule until 1707

Decline of Mughal Empire post-Aurangzeb 

Rise of autonomous states like Hyderabad, Carnatic, Bengal, and Awadh

Emergence of new states by Marathas, Sikhs, Jats, and Afghans Independence of Mysore, Kerala, and Rajput areas
2. British ExpansionEconomic, political, and social change policies towards agriculture, industry

Acts leading to constitutional development
Administration reforms

Revenue, civil services, police, army, judiciary
Education, language, and cultural policies
3. Changes introduced by the BritishEconomic, political, and social change policies towards agriculture, industry

Acts leading to constitutional development administration reforms

Revenue, civil services, police, army, judiciary

Education, language, and cultural policies
4. Popular Uprisings and Revolts against the BritishBritish policies led to awakening and reform movements 

Religious reform movements: Muslim, Sikh, Parsi, and Hindu

Some were against British policies, while others aimed at societal reform 

Paving the way for organized nationalism in India
5. Socio-Religious MovementsBritish policies led to awakening and reform movements 

Religious reform movements: Muslim, Sikh, Parsi, and Hindu

Some were against British policies, while others aimed at societal reform 

Paving the way for organized nationalism in India
6.India’s struggle for independenceFormation of political associations

Indian National Congress (1885) Moderate Phase (1885-1905), Extremist Phase (1905-1918) 

The emergence of leaders like Mahatma Gandhi

Involvement in movements: Khilafat, Non-Cooperation
Formation of new parties, and movements

Civil Disobedience, Quit India movements Attempts at negotiation, Partition, Independence (1947)

How to Prepare History for UPSC Prelims 2024

To prepare effectively for history in preliminary exams you must understand the syllabus, gather study materials, create a study plan, focus on key concepts, and utilize limited resources. Here we have mentioned the prelims-oriented syllabus for the UPSC exam :

Ancient HistoryPrehistoric cultures, Indus Civilization, Vedic society, Mauryan Empire, Post-Mauryan India, Satavahanas, Sangam texts, Gupta Empire, Indo-Greek contacts, Religious diversity, Literature, Science, Arts, Economy, Society
Medieval IndiaEarly Medieval India, Delhi Sultanate, Ghorian invasions, Vijayanagara Empire, Mughal Empire, Regional dynasties, Spiritual movements, Literature, Architecture, Technological changes
Modern IndiaBritish extension, Economic Impact of British Raj, Cultural encounter and social changes, Indian Freedom struggle, Gandhi’s mass mobilization techniques, Separatist movements, Post-independence developments
Key ThemesPolitical organization, Social structure, Religious movements, Art and architecture, Economic developments, Cultural exchanges, Colonial impact, Freedom struggle phases, Post-independence governance and policies
Notable FiguresChandragupta, Asoka, Akbar, Aurangzeb, Shivaji, Jawaharlal Nehru, Mahatma Gandhi, Subhash Chandra Bose, Leaders of Hindu Mahasabha and Muslim League
Significant EventsCarnatic Wars, Anglo-Maratha Wars, Regulating and Pitt’s India Acts, 1857 Revolt, Formation of Indian National Congress, Swadeshi Movement, Partition and Independence, Post-1945 developments
Ideological Movements and PoliciesIndian Renaissance, Social and religious reforms, Gandhian philosophy, Non-alignment foreign policy, State-controlled industrialization, Agrarian reforms
Societal ChangesStatus of women, Social mobility, Urbanization, Commerce, Education reforms, Middle-class emergence, Vernacular literature, Impact on peasants and artisans
Cultural and Intellectual ContributionsReligious texts and philosophies, Literature in various languages, Architectural marvels, Impact of Western education, Rise of modern thought and nationalism
Foreign Relations and Strategic Alliances
Contacts with other civilizations, British colonial rule, Non-alignment policy, Diplomatic engagements, and Strategic alliances during World War II

How to Prepare History for UPSC Mains 2024?

In UPSC Mains, history is included in the General Studies-1 of Paper II. Preparing this portion well can prove to be a game changer in your upsc journey Given below is the syllabus in brief for the same:

Indian CultureArt Forms, Literature, and Architecture from the ancient to modern era
Modern Indian HistoryImportant personalities, events, and problems during the mid of the 18th century till post-independence
The Freedom StruggleDifferent phases and main contributors and contributions from various parts of the nation
India post-independencePost-independence consolidation and reorganization inside the country
World HistoryEvents, colonization, the Industrial Revolution, world wars, redrawing of national boundaries, decolonization, and political philosophies
Who Takes UPSC InterviewHow Many Subjects in UPSC Prelims?
How Many Questions in UPSC Prelims?20+ Questions for UPSC Interview
How Many Questions are there in UPSC Mains?UPSC Previous Year Question Papers For the Last 10 Years


Is Ncert enough for UPSC history?

NCERT History Books for UPSC are a very important tool for candidates getting ready for the IAS exam, particularly those with a background in science or commerce. But they are not enough, students must also refer to advanced books for a comprehensive understanding.

How can I start preparing for UPSC history?

The first step in starting any subject is to go through the UPSC syllabus for that subject. Then one must prepare a customized study plan to prepare for UPSC History.

Is history difficult for UPSC?

Candidates who have a liking towards exploring India’s past will find it easier to study it, so this is a very subjective question.

This was all about the “How to Prepare History for UPSC? ”. For more such informative blogs, check out our UPSC Exams Section, or you can learn more about us by visiting our  Indian exams page.

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