UPSC History Optional Strategy: AGAM JAIN (Rank 133)

  • IASbaba
  • May 28, 2016
  • 68
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Maps and Model Answer- Strategy/Notes by Agam Jain- Click here


Disclaimer– I will share which I tried to implement during my preparation days, this might not be accurate strategy, so kindly use your wisdom.

First of all, history is very interesting subject and has its own advantages except covering half of the portion of gs1. It is static but not boring. It is mostly about chronology but not exactly a story. It gives the sense of glory but also explains the mistakes of our forefathers.

From exam point of view, safe subject too and not a hindrance in getting top ranks.

My score- 142+117.


Regarding coaching- Even though I opted for coaching (balyan sir), this subject could be prepared without any external help with certain extra efforts.

Booklist- this isn’t exclusive list and there are many other sources but stick yourself to limited but better sources. Even if you are reading more than one source, don’t just read the story/chronology again and again but analyse the difference of opinions different writers have about particular event.

Ancient – notes, ignou material, ncert, certain topics from al basham

Medieval- three parts of jl Mehta, notes, ncert

Modern- bipin Chandra, grover, spectrum, notes

World- notes, internet



  • Don’t make notes of events only. Divide it into parts. Like for morley minto act, 1909, divide it into causes, features, impact, events followed etc. this will help you in making the link to next part easier.
  • Very basic questions are out of date now. So, prepare smartly. Think of the topics and sub topics and make the notes/points. Like women condition in ancient time was bad, so prepare some points where women condition was good (satavahan period, nanaghat inscription, apala/ghosha of rigvedic period etc.), aspects where britishers fared well etc.
  • Make a list of statements given by different writers/travellers/sources and read them once in 2-3 days. Like regarding Varna system, what purush sukta hymn and manu smriti etc. has to say, what are different views of writers/travellers on change of capital by Muhammad bin tuglaq etc.
  • The statements of modern history are, at times, hard to understand and elaborate. To solve this dilemma, I tried a unique strategy. When I read bipin Chandra and grover, I made a list of such interesting and hard-to understand dialogues/statements. In the end, I got nearly 70-80 such statements. Then when I started writing practice for history, I used these statements are questions and tried to solve them and gave to my friends to review.


This helped me in two ways. First, now there was no need of test series. Second, I had the set of questions which were unique and never tried anywhere.

I wrote mere 30-35 answers but it gave me boost to deal with such questions and their demand. (I will share those statements in the end).

  • Make group of some aspirant and try to tackle history together like iasbaba had a platform for history optional last mains.
  • Have a hold of some good words like cosmopolitan, liberal, utilitarian (harappan architecture was utilitarian), some good dialogues to give boost to your answer. But these aren’t always hard and fast.
  • The chronological development in world history is very easy so try to focus more on it. In mains, we have to attempt a question more from one section, so we can focus on world history over modern.
  • Try to connect the dots on your own like connect Bismarck and hitler (similarities, dissimilarities, circumstances prevailing both times etc), sher shah and akbar, Gandhi and Lincoln and mandela etc.
  • Since history is static subject there are good chances of questions repeating again or similar question being asked. So, solve questions from papers of last 30 years. (Many questions had been repeated so write answers to selective questions).
  • I guess I got the edge in my first paper because of a risk which I took in paper 1. I tried to connect every answer to the present time in the conclusion. Like in guild related question, I wrote that cii, ficci are working on same line. Similarly, worship of durga, amba might have its seeds in worship of mother goddess during harappan times and so on.
  • Watch some documentaries in leisure times. Audio-visual remain in heart for longer time. Like I used to see bharat ek khoj, pradhanmantri series, French revolution documentary, bbc series on india etc.
  • Visualise the events. Like while reading about market reforms of khilji, consider yourself as the shuhna-e-mandi and think how the things might have taking place around you. Make yourself mansabdar the next time or a kotwal! Live the harappan times and die on road to daulatabad, you will get the essence of history.
  • You can also use various images to remember art/culture of various places (I saved images of many temples in my phone and used to see them whenever I got time). You can read some works of great people to remember them (like I read some of the works of amir khusrou, kabir, bhagat singh, gandhiji, Nehru, deendayal upadhyay, tagore etc).

Regarding mapping-

  • These 60 marks are very important and good marks can be scored in it. But mapping can’t be done in few days. Practice just for an hour but practice it daily for at least 30-45 days.
  • Initially, I made the maps for different times (like harappan, gupta period, rashtrakuta times etc) from different sources (some books, oxford maps, internet). In the end, I had nearly 25 spots in a single map. (Use more than one source because books/notes on maps are not completely reliable and may betray you!)
  • During mains, I along with my friend, charchit, used to play map game where we used to give each other 20 hints daily and tried to find answers (nearly 17 spots in exam came directly from that map game exercise). This way, this process didn’t get boring and the work was done.
  • Don’t give a lot of time for this process. That may be depressing and quite boring. You may use online platforms like this to prepare the maps.

So that is it from my side. I will try to upload those maps and some of answers of my preparation period as soon as I get that.


Credit- I want to take this opportunity to show my gratitude to my friends rajat saklecha bhai, dheeraj gugale bhai, Nikhil Gandhi bhai, charchit Mehta who mentored me on every step. We discussed nearly whole history together. Believe me, history is easier if it’s done in group (though don’t rely completely on group) and if you don’t have any, make one on such platform and add me too.


Very Important: The word file contains strategy in which I promised to share the list of statements which I made during my preparation. So attach this long list as annexure in the end. Here is goes Click here



I tried to cover many things but there are good chances that I have missed few things. Firstly, as I feel, dare to make your own strategy and still if you feel, you can ask me on facebook/quora/comment section. If you have some personal doubts, mail me on agam612@gmail.com.

Thank you.

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