IAS (UPSC CSE) Preparation Tips and Booklist for Anthropology Optional

Updated On -

Mar 22, 2021

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Sudeshna Bhar

Exams Prepmaster

IAS (UPSC CSE) Mains exam is going to start on September 17, 2021. There are 25 optional subjects in the IAS (UPSC CSE) Mains along with 26 optional subjects for Literature. Therefore, there are 51 optional subjects in total. Anthropology is quite a popular choice among aspirants in IAS (UPSC CSE) Mains exam. Approx. 500 candidates choose this subject in IAS (UPSC CSE) Mains as the optional subject every year. 

This subject focuses on the study of humans and their biological aspect, cultural aspects, and social aspects. As it is mostly chosen by the candidates who have an engineering or science background. Moreover, the subject is really interesting and can be quite scoring. However, Anthropology for IAS Exams mostly concentrates on the Tribes of India. Thus, candidates have to study the diversity of India.

The Anthropology optional paper will be of descriptive type. The optional paper is divided into 2 papers and there is a total of 250 marks on each paper. In the following article, highlights, recommended books, preparation tips, and exam paper analysis have been discussed. 

Check IAS (UPSC CSE) Preparation Tips, & Important Books

Pros and Cons of Choosing Anthropology in IAS (UPSC CSE) Mains

As a popular optional subject, Anthropology is chosen by over 500 candidates in the IAS (UPSC CSE) exam. It is suitable for both who may or may not have a science or engineering background. The following list gives an overview of Anthropology optional along with its advantages and disadvantages.


  • The questions for Anthropology are generally direct and straightforward.
  • The syllabus is also shorter than the other subjects.
  • It is considered as a scoring subject as it deals with core humanities subjects
  • Anthropology can be helpful in main subjects as it has some overlap with General Studies. It also helps to write better answers in the exam.
  • The syllabus can be completed in just 3-4 months.
  • The performance in this subject is pretty consistent in comparison to the other optional subjects. 


  • In some instances, coaching may be required for the candidates. It can consume a lot of time if guidance is not considered gravely. 
  • The overall concept of the subject requires to be cleared by the candidates. Without understanding, just mugging up will not help to obtain the desired score. 

Must Read: How to read a newspaper for IAS (UPSE CSE) exam

Preparation Tips for Anthropology Optional of IAS (UPSC CSE) Mains

To begin with, candidates need to have a strong grasp or understanding of the subject. For this, they need to follow the study materials mentioned in the above table. Thereafter, follow the tips given below.

1. Focus on the Important Topics

  • Anthropology has various important topics in both Paper 1 and Paper 2. One of the most scoring topics in this subject is Genetics and tribal names, culture, and history.
  • For Genetics, you can go through the online resources as given above. Focus on genetic inheritance, DNA methylation, and its effect on gene expressions. Also, look up and do thorough research on the epigenome.
  • Accordingly, you need to learn about all the tribe names in India along with their case studies. Look out for reforms, current affairs, and other related topics.
  • Apart from this, other important and high scoring topics such as Applied Anthropology, Primatology, Fossils, Social Institutions, Village Studies, Sanskritization, Indian Social Systems (like Jajmani System), Indian Prehistory, etc. 

2. Study Online Resources Extensively

Go through the online resources mentioned in the previous section. This will help you to brush up on the latest statistics and news related to Anthropology.

Do not forget to go through the Xaxa committee report for studying the topics related to Tribes in India. The online resource for Genetics is important as well.

3. Practice Diagram Questions

There are a few diagram questions in Anthropology Optional that can be quite scoring. You should also attempt these questions before attempting others.

Hence, you need to practice diagram questions extensively. These include flowcharts as well. Generally, their answers are static, direct, and factual in nature.

4. Practice Previous Year Question Papers

Make sure that you practice previous year question papers and mock tests as well. This can help to identify the important sections of the Anthropology optional subject.

For diagrams, you have to practice it enough to make it clean and attractive. Using colored pencils can help to score additional marks due to neatness.

5. Make Notes and Practice Answer Writing

Additionally, you can practice answer writing to make your time management better. Make notes of important things and quote the examples, illustrations, and definitions as said by that particular anthropologist.

Check Common Mistakes In UPSC IAS MAINS Exam

Exam Strategies for Anthropology Optional Case Studies

Case studies have a huge role in Anthropology optional in the IAS (UPSC CSE) exam. They are often scoring and quite easy as well. However, one needs to be aware of the latest news and articles regarding these case studies. For this, you can follow the instructions provided below.

  • Read latest case studies from Xaxa Committee, The Hindu, Economic, and Political Weekly, and lastly, the Ministry of Tribal Affairs website.
  • Focus on problems faced by the tribal communities. This includes religion, poverty, employment, debt, literacy, and land alienation.
  • Go through the social-political economic events related to linguistic and religious minorities.
  • Learn about the tribal people’s problems, deprivation, and exploitation. In addition, learn about their constitutional safeguards as well.
  • Also, focus on their history of administration and how tribal areas handled their politics, development, plans, and policies.

Recommended Books for Anthropology IAS (UPSC CSE) Mains

Most candidates can easily benefit from the book titled ‘Anthropology’ by Ember and Ember. In addition to that, here are a few books that can help the candidates to score high in the IAS (UPSC CSE) Exam.

Books for Anthropology Paper-I

Book Name  Publisher/Author
An Introduction to Social Anthropology D. N. Majumdar & T. N. Madan
Anthropology Ember and Ember 
Biology Book (12th Standard) NCERT
Introduction to Sociology (11th Standard)  NCERT
Measuring Time of Indian Prehistory(Chapter 2)  D. K. Bhattacharya 
Physical Anthropology P. Nath 

 Booklist for Anthropology Paper-II

Name of Books Author/ Publishers
Indian Society (12th Standard) NCERT 
Indian Prehistory D. K. Bhattacharya
Social Change and Development in India (12th Standard)  NCERT 
Tribal India Nadeem Hasnain
The Tribal Culture of India LP Vidyarthi 
Indian Anthropology Nadeem Hasnain

Check How to write a good essay in IAS (UPSC CSE) Mains exam

Other Resources for Anthropology Optional Preparation

Although it is interesting, there can be some degrees of confusion while studying this subject. Therefore, candidates can go through some of the following resources to further strengthen their understanding of Anthropology.

1. Government Websites

The latest information and other topics related to the subject can be found on government websites for the same. The most popular ones have been listed below.

2. Online Resource for Genetics

Candidates can find detailed information on Genetics and related topics from The website has numerous resources and study materials to help the candidates understand the subject.

3. XAXA Committee Report

The XAXA Committee report is the most popular online resource for Anthropology optional. It covers various topics and the latest updates as well. You can easily find it on the official website of UPSC or by searching on Google.

4. YouTube

Another popular platform for clearing doubts related to Anthropology is YouTube. Here, professors and other students help to clear concerns and teach the subject in a friendly way. Additionally, there are various channels and videos that can help clear a specific topic. Thus, candidates can do some research and find the best instructor that is suitable for them.

5. IGNOU Study Material

IGNOU is a reputed institute that is recognized and authorized by the government to provide online and distance learning. There are many degrees available and are situated across the country. The MA Course for Anthropology covers all the topics for Anthropology optional of the UPSC exams. Hence, candidates can choose to buy the study materials for this course from the nearest regional center.

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Answer Writing Tips for Anthropology Optional

Writing answers for Anthropology optional can be a tricky process. It is also important to know the correct way to score higher marks in the subject. Hence, go through the following tips given below.

  • Structure your answers nicely and neatly. Use headings, subheadings and write a proper conclusion at the end.
  • Try to quote anthropologists during definitions as it can get you extra marks.
  • For methodology, briefly mention the particular techniques, branches of anthropology and how it is linked to other topics in the subjects.
  • Always try to make diagrams, tables, and illustrations. Make sure that it is neat and clean. You can even use color pencils if you like.
  • Bullet points should be used whenever possible. It can make sentences appear more readable and also makes the answer look attractive.
  • During conclusions, give your own point of view as reflected in the body of the answer backed up by strong opinions. Do not forget to mention the methodology used for such answers.
  • Practice previous year question papers as much as you can. This will help you to further develop your answer writing skills. It will help you in time management during the exams as well.

Check IAS (UPSC CSE) Practice Papers

Success Rate of UPSC Anthropology Optional

Though it may seem like the number of aspirants who choose Anthropology as IAS (UPSC CSE) Mains Optional paper is not very large, the success rate of this subject is very consistent. The success rate of this subject is presented in the following tabular:

Year No. of appeared candidates No. of recommended candidates  Success rate (%)
2011 463 61 13.2
2012 579 38 6.6
2013 449 53 11.8
2014 619 68 11
2015 641 95 14.8
2016 345 37 10.7

Anthropology Previous Years’ Papers for IAS (UPSC CSE) Mains 

The previous year papers of Anthropology Optional is essential to prepare for the exam. In the following tabular, the link to the previous years' papers has been provided free of cost. 

Year of IAS (UPSC CSE) Exam Name of Paper Link
2020 Anthropology Paper-I Download
Anthropology Paper-II Download
2019 Anthropology Paper-I Download
Anthropology Paper-II Download
2018 Anthropology Paper-I Download
Anthropology Paper-II Download
2017 Anthropology Paper-I Download
Anthropology Paper-II Download
2016 Anthropology Paper-I Download
Anthropology Paper-II Download

In summary, anthropology is a very interesting optional subject. In comparison to others, it has very little overlap with General Studies and other main subjects of the IAS Exam.

However, it can be easy and scoring for people who are genuinely interested in it. Just make sure to quote anthropologists in your answers, interlink it with other topics, and practice diagrams. Following the advice given above will surely help you to score good marks in the optional subject.

IAS (UPSC CSE) Anthropology FAQs

Ques. Which is better anthropology or sociology?

Ans. The number of candidates for sociology is higher in comparison to Anthropology. Anthropology deals with the study of humans. On the other hand, Sociology is less science compared to anthropology making it more popular with humanities graduates. Check preparation tips for UPSC Sociology

Ques. Where can I find the syllabus of Anthropology Optional for the IAS (UPSC CSE) Mains exam?

Ans. Here is the complete syllabus of Anthropology Optional. Click here to read more.

Ques. Are IGNOU MA Coursebooks enough to prepare for IAS Anthropology Optional preparation?

Ans. IGNOU MA Coursebooks are very help fur to cover the syllabus of Anthropology Optional. However, they will not be sufficient for the exam.

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