How To Prepare For Indian History For IAS Preparation

UPSC has already come up with their new calendar 2020 and now you have to gear up your preparations. As you all know that UPSC Prelims stage consists of GS PAPER I and CSAT as PAPER II. The syllabus of GS PAPER I consists of HISTORY as well.

This article is to help you configure how to prepare for Indian history specifically for UPSC Prelims

So, to know the exact drill for studying and performing well in this niche, you have to do a few things at first.

  1. Understand the exact syllabus of Indian history for UPSC CSE Prelims.
  2. Choose the right books/material.
  3. And see the previous year's question to deeply understand the demand of UPSC in this subject.

Indian History Syllabus for UPSC IAS Examination

The syllabus of history for Prelims mentions: - History of India and Indian National Movement

It consists of 3 sections namely – 

  • Ancient India
  • Medieval India 
  • Modern India With A Blend Of Art And Culture.

Every year ample questions have been asked by UPSC from these sections and good preparation can help you fetch extra marks than others.

Number of Indian History questions asked in UPSC- Year wise

 Indian History UPSC

Books to study Indian History for IAS Preparation

  1. NCERT (OLD EDITIONS) - class VI to class X. (Must to build your base)
  2. India’s ancient past – R.S SHARMA (For Ancient History)
  3. History of medieval India –Satish Chandra (For Medieval History)
  4. Indian Art and Culture – Nitin Singhania
  5. India’s struggle for independence -Bipin Chandra
  6. History of Modern India – Bipin Chandra
  7. A brief history of modern India- spectrum (pointwise notes for faster reading)

We will try and categorise the strategy subject-wise

How to prepare Ancient History for IAS Preparation

Many students do a mistake by leaving this section. Every year USPSC ask 5-6 questions from this segment and these few marks can be a decisive factor.

Ancient History Topics

The sub-topics that are covered by UPSC from Ancient History are:

  1. Indus valley civilization- social, economic, art, crafts and cultural activities during this period.
  2. Vedic civilization – culture, religion, society, literature from this period.
  3. Jainism and Buddhism- teachings, beliefs, literature and philosophy.
  4. Social life, political organisation, economy during ancient times.
  5. Kingdoms/empire and important kings- Gupta period, Mauryan Empire.
  6. Terms and their meaning- like Jana, Purohita, and Araghatta etc.

Sources: - Class VI and Class XI NCERT are highly recommended to study.

Q: Which one of the following is not a Harappan Site? (2019)

(a) Chanhudaro

(b) Kot Diji

(c) Sohagaura

(d) Desalpur

Q: With respect to religious practices in india, the ‘Sthanakvasi’ sect belongs to (2018)

  1. Buddhism
  2. Jainism
  3. Vaishnavism
  4. Shaivism

How to prepare Medieval History for IAS Preparation

The questions from this section remain less but we cannot avoid it. UPSC always has some of the other surprises for the aspirants every year so prepare well each topic to play safe. It is comprised of

  1. Delhi sultanate
  2. Vijaynagar Empire, Pala Empire, Rashtrakuta Empire- Their rise and fall, administration, political and economic developments.
  3. Mughal Dynasty
  4. Bhakti movements, Sufi movements
  5. Arrival of Europeans
  6. Several buildings and sculptures from this period.
  7. Terms related to this period

 Sources: - Class VII, IX, X, XI Ncert books will be helpful for this section.

Q: Building ‘Kalyana Mandapas’ was a notable feature in temple construction in the kingdom of    (2019)

  1. Chalukya
  2. Chandela
  3. Rashtrakuta
  4. Vijayanagar

Q: Which one of the following foreign travellers elaborately discussed about diamonds and diamond mines of India? (2018)

  1. Francois Bernier
  2. Jean-Baptiste Tavernier
  3. Jean de Thevenot
  4. Abbe Barthelemy carre

How to prepare Modern History for IAS Preparation

The bulk of questions in UPSC Prelims come from this section only which makes it necessary for you to deal with this in-depth. Modern History makes nearly 40-50% of total history questions. No doubt it is ‘vast' but you can master it with the right way of studying it.

Modern History Topics

  1. The emergence of East India Company, British administration and their policies
  2. Revolt of 1857
  3. Socio religious movements: - Features, ideologies, important literary works done.
  4. Governor- Generals
  5. Peasants and Tribal movements
  6. INC and their role
  7. Freedom struggle movements- the role of women and youths, the significance of those movements, their main aim, their drawbacks, analysis of their impact on independence struggle.
  8. Role of freedom fighters in details – newspapers, journals published/edited by them, slogans was given by them, the main activities are done by them, their strategy etc.
  9. Acts, committees etc.
  10. Organisations and their founders.

Sources: - India's struggle for independence by Bipin Chandra and Modern India Spectrum

Q: Which one of the following movements contributed to the split in the Indian National Congress resulting in the emergence of ‘Moderates’ and ‘Extremists’? (2015)

  1. Swadeshi Movement
  2. Quit India Movement
  3. Non cooperation Movement
  4. Civil disobedience Movement

Q: In the federation established by The Government of India Act of 1935, residuary powers were given to (2018)

  1. Federal Legislature
  2. Governor General
  3. Provincial Legislature
  4. Provincial Governor


1. Art and Culture section is one of the important sections of the whole history section and it is interlinked with Ancient and Medieval history.

2.UPSC is going dynamic in nature year by year. History is a Static subject but you can easily predict a few questions by regularly reading newspapers and map news according to the Syllabus. For an example – The question on CHAMPARAN SATYAGRAHA in 2018 was quite predictable as India was celebrating 100 years of it in 2017. So keep a sharp view on news and their relevance from Prelims point of view.

3. Don’t just mug up everything. Try to read it in the story. Make tables, charts to remember it for a long time.

  1. Don’t read from multiple books. Fewer books and more revision and practice must be done.
  2. Always refer to previous year questions to know the pattern of questions in each section.

6. Practice mock tests to boost your confidence and to make sure that you are not leaving any important section/news.

All the best! Happy learning! Read and Revise.

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