Indian History Strategy for UPSC Civil Services 

Indian History is a major part in UPSC Civil Services preparation. No one can think of cracking the IAS exam without having a good hold on the Indian History section. Around 15-20 questions are asked every year in UPSC PRE examination  from Indian History. Here is the Strategy Plan for preparing the Indian History section for UPSC Prelims as well as UPSC Mains.  It will the help the IAS aspirants to understand this section better.

Indian History for UPSC

 Click to Buy Books for Indian History

The Indian History is more or less divided into 3 distinct parts:

Now, all parts are important for an IAS aspirant. But as per the  past years UPSC Prelims question papers, it can be concluded that maximum questions are asked from the ” MODERN INDIAN HISTORY” part. So, it won’t be wrong to say that maximum effort and time should be put into Modern India.

Why Modern Indian History is more important?

  • Maximum Questions are asked from this section every year (around 8-12)
  • Ancient Indian  and Medieval Indian History are not included in UPSC Mains syllabus
  • Modern Indian History is also a part of UPSC Mains General Studies Paper 1

Should one focus on Modern Indian History only?

Some candidates who start their preparations late  often leave the Ancient and Medieval India part. And only go for Modern India as the Benefit-Cost ratio (Time cost) is higher for Modern India. But for those, who have started early with their preparations, it is advised to read all the three sections as it makes things more clearer and easy to understand. Also reading Ancient and Medieval sections gives you some insight about the Indian Culture on which many questions are asked these days especially in UPSC Mains.

How to study Indian History?

  • READING, REVISING and again REVISING is the mantra.
  • Read NCERT books first before jumping into any reference manuals or other History books.
  • Old NCERT books (Class 10th , 11th, and 12th ) should be read as the new ones are not structured well.
  • Don’t waste your time in Notes-making. Just write the main points in bullet form on the side margins of the page and then revise these.
  • Concentrate more on WHY and HOW rather than on WHEN. UPSC most generally never asks for the exact dates of the events.
  • Practice Objective Questions after revising 3-4 chapters.

Ancient India

The Ancient Indian History section starts from the Pre-Historic times and ends just before the the Islamic invasion on India.Some of the important topics in this section are:

  1. Jainism and Buddhism
  2. The Mauryan Period
  3. Post-Mauryan Period
  4. The Age of Guptas
  5. The Deccan state

I would recommend reading the OLD NCERT book for class 10th named as Ancient INDIA(by Ram Sharan Sharma). It is  easy to understand as the language used is simple and contains all the required data. It is better to get a hard copy of this book. This book is also available in Ebook format for free download. OLD NCERT book is more than enough for covering this section.

Medieval India

The Medieval Indian History Section of UPSC CIVIL SERVICES EXAM roughly starts from The Advent of ISLAM till the disintegration of Mughal Rule in India. Some of the important topics in this section are:

  1. The Delhi Sultanate
  2. Mughal Administration
  3. Art and Architecture under Mughal rule
  4. Marathas
  5. Sufi and Bhakti Movements

For this section as well, OLD NCERT Book for class 11th  named as Medieval India is enough. Just go through the entire book and try to understand the content. Most of the questions asked in the exam are from the NCERTS only.

Modern India

Now this is the most important part of the whole Indian History section and needs to be done thoroughly and with full conviction. Every topic is important from the exam point of view.

Recommended Books for this section:


    • Don’t go for the reference book after completing the whole NCERT. You should rather complete both in parallel. For example: When you read about the Birth of CONGRESS and its initial activities from NCERT, after that switch to the reference book to read it in detail.This way you can prepare Indian History better .

Final Words:

Indian History is a very interesting Topic in the whole UPSC preparation. It requires continued reading and revision for better result. You can easily score around 40 marks in this section in UPSC Prelims if you study right way.



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