IAS Topper Chitra Mishra’s (AIR 20, CSE 2018) strategy to Ace History Optional Paper II

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Mar 6, 2021

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Chitra Mishra whose AIR rank is 20 for CSE 2018 had History as her optional subject. She has even shared her strategy, and notes for the exam with coaching centers to help out the next generation aspirants. History optional is a popularly chosen subject in the IAS exams.

The history syllabus has taken a stagnant form since 2013-14 and remained static, making preparation strategy more predictable and easier for IAS (UPSC CSE) Mains.

IAS (UPSC CSE) History Optional- Detailed strategy

Detailed Strategy

To ace the history optional papers, one must follow a proper preparation strategy that delineates the topics and derive what should be studied for this year, based on previous year question analysis:

  • Candidates have limited scope for enrolling in institutes for history optional as its syllabus is static for many years. Even the exam pattern and questions are predictable and hence, many students can ace it through self-study alone.
  • The aim should be 300+ marks in the paper to get more than the average cut-off.
  • The study material is very extensive and diverse for history optional which calls for smartly strategizing the study plan.
  • Thoroughly understanding the pattern of the paper is essential to decide which questions and sections will be more scoring for you.
  • One option that candidates follow is to read the class notes from coachings alone to manage the diversity of the syllabus. But many candidates also choose the harder but more effective method of strategizing their own study plan. They prepare and review their own strategy after thoroughly analyzing the previous year's papers. This is insightful as you can determine what strategy is ideal for you. Also at the same time, the study will be more in-depth which will later help you during the interview rounds.
  • This optional subject is particularly relevant to the candidates as its syllabus coincides with the prelims and GS-I papers.

During the course of my preparation, there were many study materials and readings available for this subject. As enthusiastic aspirants, we tend to hoard as many materials in the form of books, notes on specific topics, and other resources. But here, my take is to give you substantiation of the correlation between books and the topics.

I will go through the sub-topics which have frequented in the papers for the past few years and analyze them. Furthermore, how far materials, study notes, and similar resources can help you ace these topics will be discussed.

The primary idea is to share an analysis of the strategies with history optional that helped me to ace the exam. The paper II of History Optional carries 250 marks out of which I had scored 169 in CSE 2018. I have also shared my notes as well which can help future aspirants score better in this optional IAS exam.

Few general tips for preparation

General Tips
  • Keep your resources and materials limited so that you are not carried away and confused with the preparation.
  • Your main guide while studying should be the topics that are very clear and in detail, articulated in the syllabus.
  • Take care that besides an understanding of the factual content, emphasis should be put on interlinking and analyzing the topics and their correlations while preparing your answers.
  • Practice flowcharts and maps which can be very useful in handling 10-marks questions.
  • Practice answer writing daily to increase speed and improve the language of your answers.
  • For statement-based questions, you can refer to the last 25 years of the question paper for preparation. Common questions or rather patterns are available through in-depth practice of these papers.

Modern India Part A

Modern India

The optional paper-II is divided into two parts- A and B. The Part A of Paper-II comprises of indian independence and national movement. The syllabus for Part-A overlaps with prelims, and GS-I and 125 marks is allotted in Part-A.

Reference materials for Modern India History

  • Shekhar Bandopadhyay’s Plassey to Partition summary and relevant notes.
  • Bipin Chandra’s India’s Struggle for Independence (1857-1947)- specific chapter summary- Chapter 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 19, 23, 24, 25, 29 and 38.
  • Bipin Chandra’s India Since Independence- Specifically check the last few chapters/
  • India After Gandhi by Ramchandra Guha is another good source for this specific era.
  • Social reforms, industrialization, permanent settlement, peasants and tribal uprising- notes related to these topics are best prepared from IGNOU study materials.
  • 32nd edition of the “A new look at Modern Indian History- from 1707 to Modern Times” by B.L. Grover and Alka Mehta by S.Chand Publication has a few select sections which are useful for preparing for Paper-II. This book is specifically useful for tackling those sections which are not explored in detail in NCERT and in GS-I syllabus. Many questions in the 10-marks segment come from these sections, making this book a crucial resource.

What to study from “A New look at Modern Indian history”?

  • Narrative on the governor generals-
    • Chapter 7- Clive’s Second Governorship (1765-1767)
    • Chapter 8 on Warren Hastings
    • Chapter 9 on Cornwallis
    • Chapter 10 on Lord Wellesley
    • Chapter 12 on Lord Hastings
    • Chapter 14 on Lord Bentinck
    • Chapter 18 on Dalhousie
    • Chapter 24 on Lytton and Ripon
    • Chapter 25 on Lord Curzon
  • Different eras of indian independence
    • Chapter 4– Anglo-French Rivalry in Carnatic
    • Chapter 6– Career and Achievements of Dupleix;
    • Chapter 2 and 3– Marathas – Achievements of the Early Peshwas and Marathas
    • Chapter 13– Anglo-Maratha Struggle
    • Chapter 11– Anglo-Mysore
    • Chapter 15– Sind
    • Chapter 16 & 17– Anglo-Sikh
    • Chapter 26– Anglo-Afghan
    • Chapter 27– North-West Frontier
  • Selectively refer to chapter 21 for tribal revolts, civil rebellions, and mutinies from 1757-1856 and chapter 37 for peasant revolts and agrarian rebellions. 10 marks questions on famine policies can be prepared from Chapter 38 of this book.

World History part B

World History

The part B is of 125 marks on international history that is contemporary to the independence movement of our country.

  • IGNOU notes for B.A. - selected chapters. Topics like imperialism, Colonialism and total war are to be prepared by referring to theoretical chapters from MA notes by IGNOU.
  • For 1900-1991 and beyond, Norman Lowe is a good source though selected chapters that are relevant to this period must be studied.
  • A study of Modern Europe and World 1815-1950 by Mukherjee is a good option for revisions because of its free-flowing narrative. Important chapters from this book include:
    • Part 1- Congress of Vienna1815, (Part I- Chapter III, V,X, Part II- chapter IV),
    • Part II, chapter VIII – United Nations Organisation
    • Part III section for Middle Egypt, Arab Nationalism, China, Japan, South-East Asia and finally, for USA section, Entire Chapter V
  • Contemporary World history by Arjun Dev is the old NCERT history book for class 12. However, it is for basic reading and covers only the later half of the syllabus.
  • Locarno pact, Inter-war treaties can be prepared from Wikipedia.

Keeping in mind the importance and relevance of the sections will make your preparation strategy more compact. This is important as one is hard-pressed for the time while preparing all the IAS Mains papers. The above-mentioned strategy to prepare paper-II paid off for me and hope that you find it useful too.

*The article might have information for the previous academic years, please refer the official website of the exam.