(Success Story) History Optional Strategy By Madhumita AIR-86
Madhumita, AIR-86 UPSC CSE 2019, With Her Parents
Madhumita has secured an all India rank of 86 in her UPSC Civil Services Examination 2019 attempt. She awards a lot of the credit to her high scores to her choice of optional, which was History. Hailing from Panipat of Haryana, this was Madhumita’s 3rd attempt. In her first attempt in 2017, she was unable to clear her mains exam. In her second attempt in 2018, she, unfortunately, could not clear prelims. But the faith her family had in her helped Madhumita to keep trying till in 2019 she finally made her dream come true.
Strategy: History UPSC Mains Optional Paper-1
Paper-I consists of Ancient and Medieval Indian History. Madhumita had already decided that outside of the compulsory Map question, for Section-A (Ancient History), she would only attempt one question. Thus, she prioritised her preparation strategically and studied only the topics most likely to be asked by UPSC.
Madhumita relied heavily on the Self-Study, History websites, History Optional Books,, and Coaching History optional material for her map preparation. The exact locations and descriptions for sites were all available in these materials combined and Madhumita was able to answer 19/20 of the questions, with at least 16 of them being surely correct, in her exam paper. Madhumita also found 3 questions from the topics she had prepared selectively for ancient History.
For medieval History, Madhumita had referred to the 2 books by Satish Chandra and had made notes from them. She had revised these notes extensively multiple times.
Strategy: History UPSC Mains Optional Paper-2
This paper is divided into 3 parts – Modern Indian History, World History, and Post Independence. Madhumita had looked up history mains previous years' question papers and decided that post-independence History was not a topic that fetches many questions that she can answer well. Which is why she limited her scope to reading study notes. She ended up not answering any questions from this section in her exam.
For Modern Indian History, she made her own notes from the book From Plassey to Partition, and she revised these notes multiple times. She also used her notes from her General Studies coaching classes. As this section largely overlaps with the General Studies syllabus, Madhumita did not have to put much effort separately for this section.
World History was the section that interested Madhumita most. Having analysed the previous year’s papers, she had realised that with the right strategy, this can be a highly scoring section. Madhumita suggests 2 books for this – Jain and Mathur, which in itself is sufficient, and Norman Lowe.
Notes Making And Answer Writing
Madhumita believes that it was answer writing where she was lacking in her first attempt. She rectified this immensely this year. She made all her own notes and enrolled in a test series for objective evaluation and she believes it helped her secure the rank that she did. She also used answers by previous toppers to structure her answers. She highly recommends comparing your own answers to these sheets to better understand where you are lacking. Also, a good test series is paramount for ensuring a decent preparation for your optional.
Message for UPSC Aspirants
Be optimistic and keep up the hard work. That is the best advice one can give you is all Madhumita has to say to aspirants.
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