UPSC History Optional Strategy: AGAM JAIN (Rank 133)

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  • Very basic questions are out of date now.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 [email protected].

Thank you.

  • Raghu

    Anyone with Socio optional

  • Blank

    Thanks agam

  • Pankaj Nimbolkar

    Congratulations Agam for your success.

    Special thanks to Babaji for providing this article, because my optional is History and this strategy will be really helpful..

    Like ..I used these statements are questions and tried to solve them and gave to my friends to review.

    Thank you Agam.

    1 thing…. Some of the statements of B L Grover are very hard & take too much time to understand.

    • Apaul

      Hi Pankaj.Since you are with history optional , how far have you completed?Have you started answer writing?

      • Pankaj Nimbolkar

        Fairly comleted. written history questions.

        But Now focusing on prelim

      • mfrd

        Bro m also history after prelims we make a grp discussion

    • harry

      Give your best to understand, ask your friends/teachers.
      If still that remains hard, leave that. That won’t be asked.

      • Pankaj Nimbolkar

        Thank you sirsir.

        I hope, you will also help me.

  • Apaul


  • Rajat S

    Agam,there can not be any better person than you to explain history optional’s prep strategy.A large chunk of the marks I got in history are solely due to you. Thanks for all the help you provided.
    Dear all, Agam is very well read in this subject and everything he did is worth imitating for a sure success.He is extremely helpful and a genuine person.
    Way to go bro. I can bet on ur selection in IAS next year. Keep achieving 🙂

  • gp


  • vishakha

    Thanks agam.

  • i got 134+129=263………………still i didn’t make it to final list……………Agam i want to ask you to tell specifically what notes are you taking about here……it would be really helpful……..because i don’t have any kind of notes……… m confused regarding them…………did u make your own notes or some reference notes of some coaching classes………..By the way your strategy is excellent it helps many peoples and especially i like your noting the statements……i did the same thing……..Best of luck for your future en-devour……..and thanks for sharing your strategy,,,,,,,,,,,,plz be in touch through email…….i had lot of questions to ask u……….

    • harry

      I guess you got the highest in history.
      You don’t need further strategy..
      Notes means both -coaching as well as self made. But if you scored so much, stick to that..

      • thanks but still i want his opinion esp. in world History and Ancient India…….that which coaching notes did he use…………….


          plz…share your STARTEGY on history optional

          • refer to agam jain srtategy mine is almost the same……………but difference is i dont refer to any material…………just own make notes from different and also i read different books than him……………still my reading other different books by other authors,,,,,,,,,,,,,it seems like m doing phd in History……….give me your mail id……..and i send the whole stragey about books,how to read them amd making notes……..which book are read and which my reading write now like The Gazetteer of India HIstory and culture volume2……badi muskil se dobar publish hoi hai………..flipkart pe shayad available hai……………

          • Sam Sam

            Bhai plz give me detailed strategy of history @@DraconianLeothevinci:disqus i gave 2 mains and failed to cross 200…. my email is [email protected]

          • hoc

            [email protected] @DraconianLeothevinci:disqus

          • Amit Kumar Chaturvedi

            [email protected]
            Please share your optional strategy

          • Ravi

            hi can you tell me the strategy for making notes form different sources and how do you revise it [email protected] can you mail me the detailed strategy …thank you


            [email protected] please send it to me also

          • I’ll surely do it but after prelims……just after prelims give me 2-3 days I’ll make a detailed strategy with references according to topics ……you do not have to search here and there for the materials……..i also shared some good books which comes new in the market

          • I’ll surely do it but after prelims……just after prelims give me 2-3 days I’ll make a detailed strategy with references according to topics ……you do not have to search here and there for the materials……..i also shared some good books which arrived newly in the market and are worth reading but i don’t force you to read them esp. if it is ur first attempt……….till then just focus on prelims and then we will talk but please give me a reminder after the very day prelims over………….

          • sudhir gunnu

            [email protected] please do share your strategy. Thanks in advance

          • Ashu_DfutureDM

            Pls send it to me also…[email protected]

          • Veera

            Plz send me too [email protected]

          • Raina Rohit

            please send me
            [email protected]
            i am struggling in map portion

          • i had already started an initiative with iasbaba for history you can check that………….

          • Raina Rohit

            yes bro i have started writing answers for the questions provided by you
            but i don’t know anything in map portion
            how to start ?
            plz guide me
            all your guidance is what i want
            thankyou 🙂

          • believe me writing answer is not that difficult as the maps are……but just by practicing u can achieve that…..also when u saw the maps in books try to relate the place with the event…..if u didn’t get the content in book…then google it ……and keep practicing it almost daily for half an hour…….

      • harry

        balyan sir notes..
        you doing good work…

      • Abhijeet

        No . Ms. Ritu student of Manikant Singh history classes got 285/500. She gave interview but not selected mains 2015

    • Lincoln

      Hey I need some help on history optional. Could you pls connect with me on this mail id – [email protected] .Thanks

    • annjins

      Can u plz share ur strategy on history optional…i m finding a bit difficulty on it 🙁
      [email protected]
      Thanx in advance

  • thoughtprocess

    How to approach maps . Please explain . Thanks!

    • harry

      attached the maps in article

  • many request coming from u guys about my strategy on History optional……….on Wednesday eveninyg or before I’ll post full strategy with examples, Do & Don’t, How to tackle maps,Books and notes to refer…….everything would be there in layman’s language………Till then i advice you go through the syllabus carefully and make a list of them which are not included in ughGS1 as 70% of the optional is already covered in topics comes under GS1……Also, go through previous year papers for getting a rough idea about the questions asked in the exam and please don’t get panic……believe me History is not that tough as it’s been hyped because of it’s vast syllabus…..once u start reading it……u gonna it……………

    • Draco

      Email us at [email protected]

      Seems we can work together on history based on your great command as well as.performance in last mains

      • sure Babaji…… it’s an honour working with you…………i first shared the detailed strategy with an outline regarding the subject ,then we see what next can we do……………..

    • suraj

      Can you share the strategy,detailed plan.

      • that is what I am about to share ……..but about a detailed plan if you meant like a topic to be covered according to a plan that work would be done by Babaji itself if you look into the site last year there was an answer writing challenge for history optional……… I hope this year the team should have a plan for this year aspirant…… work is to give you the strategy about optional only and also everyone has it’s own taste of reading or the p portion they read very less ,they want to read that first……..but still I’ll try to present outline regarding this , m not an expert on making detailed plan but still I try my best………..

    • Veera

      Can u please share strategy and books
      And how much time to study complete syllabus

    • Preamble

      Please share your strategy for history optional. eagerly waiting for that..i’m preparing for upsc 2017 .Thank you in advance !!
      [email protected]

    • Neilam

      Draco did you post this article/note link de do..I will read form Dre ..

      if not ..then if u mailed someone then just copy paste and mail me n pls


      • hi Neilam i haven’t written any article regarding ………i understand u r asking about the strategy…….i just suggest the books and made a plan according to which i have been giving the questions……..if ur writing this year mains then go according to plan………otherwise i would soon published an article on iasbaba on how to prepare for history optional……….still i advised you to participate in TLP HISTORY which is going on as many peole participate in it are not writing mains this year but they say it helped them in their prep.

        • Neilam

          no not this year

          next year.. ok I will follow tlp sure……
          how to prepare is ok..
          but I was asking your list book … but its ok … you will publish that time I will read..
          thank you..

          • i already told the books for medieval and modern India…………..please do check ……..except the Ncert although they are a must to understand the concept like Bipin Chandra book on Indian Independence(old ncert) plus they are very helpful for prelims…… before moving to the standard to give a reading to Ncert

          • Neilam

            where ??? I couldn’t find…
            if I would have find ..I would not have troubled you so much…

          • Neilam

            thank you ….all the best for your exam….hope you land with your layman language article too ….
            I got help from Saba too….so it’s ok ……you people are very helping…

          • sure in a day or 2 ………….I’ll written this article about how to prepare for history optional…………if somehow i forget, please remind me……………..otherwise, until Saturday i will surely write it.

          • Neilam

            gentle reminder…….

          • thanks ………i seriously forgot but i promise you will definitely have it in your table by tomorrow…………….

          • Neilam

            2nd gentle reminder….(not dropping mail this time)

            Draco I will keep bugging you till you do it . you know why because I know ….from my bugging not only me many many many others will be benefitted by your knowledge which you got from self study(SELF STUDY) … soo

            I am not going to wait till you get rank in 2016 list and then post it..cuz u will make it this time I m sure…..

          • Thanks…………but whats keep bugging me that will it be appropriate for me to write a strategy…….since i got no rank till now………..will they publish my strategy?????????

          • Neilam

            Draco you didnot got rank but you got 263in first attempt …. ok … 263man ..
            if you dnt write full article … write in points send me mail… I hv mailed u 3times on your hate corruption I.d …… see thier …

            you stuff will be kept secret :-p .. but Draco y babaji would mind it dear … if you write how and what you did .. benefits
            1)someone Thier doing self study migth b having problem but can’t ask help would get help with out asking
            2)someone knowing preparing hard but never crossing 200mark will know where they going wrong.
            3)someone novice(like me) will know , ok history should revolve around this thing …1wrong step and you land up reading 2yr…only to finish once ..

            4) Draco thier would be some one struggling hard …in corner ..with 6hr daily with history for2-3yr….he/she migth be happy to see some good steps to +&- in thier way of reading

          • kk………i got ur point……..I’ll try and send it to babaji……… will this time definitely get it……..

          • Neilam

            convincing babji was easy for me .. but convincing you is so hard ..
            if you think u dnt wnat to tell till u get 300+ok no issue … I wud nt force …..

            but Draco really people really say history tke 2yr to complete…. I know they doing wrong thing then … so…

            tc good luck

          • Neilam

            after this many good reason still you donot wnat to …just send me points..
            you could add as part of tlp program ok…so when someone will solve tlp15&16 questions …. they will get it on tlp section only …

            I will .try to convince baba ji for the welfare of other fellows and myslef… they will post ..babaji is very big hearted and good …….
            what you want u get 300+ then will post.. ? 263 are not good enough..

            p.s. donot worry you will get rank(good rank-if you pull essay and gs papers 90+) this year , reserve list u got already…

          • kk…….I’ll write it down………..and yes i want to get 300+………my absolute desire………

          • Neilam

            kitana marks se pet bharega h Draco ???..300+..

            history ki history m aye h upsc m kiske …itne… dnt knwo ..

            u lazy man… u promised … dnt break it.. bad quality of man as well as human.. :-p emotional torture drcao …

  • dreamchaser

    how much does it take to complete history optional

    • harry

      4 months.

    • Siddhartha_IAS

      4 monhs to max 6 months

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