Prelims – History and Culture (GS) Trend Analysis

History is the study of the past. In Civil Services Prelims 2017, it can determine your future. A glance of the trends in the overall analysis of GS papers over the last four years tells us that ‘History and Culture’ has been the most consistent section in comparison. So ignoring this can only be in one’s own peril.

It is a given that history is vast and reading every detail might not actually be feasible. Here comes the necessity to go for smart reading by picking and choosing areas of study based on trends. Over the years, it has been Ancient/ Medieval India with a tilt towards the culture that has been dominating History in the Prelims with 2015 being a mild aberration. Modern India, mainly dominated by Freedom Struggle, though with fewer questions, has given a steady supply of marks.

How To Deal With Ancient And Medieval India?

As you read that, pages and pages of Old NCERT Books will flash before you. Wait, that will not be the kind of image you need to have.

  • Go through previous years’ UPSC papers and various culture-related questions from Prelims Mock Tests.
  • You can choose to have a bit of experimentation here by creating a flow chart or a table for easy classification of these headings. For example, if you are reading Architecture and you classify various historic structures into groups based on their time period, the purpose of existence, the material used, religious affiliation and their unique feature, the question related to Ajanta and Mahabalipuram in UPSC Prelims 2016 could have been easily answered.
  • Another trend noticed is the mixture of Geography with History. Associating historic places with their modern region or logical questions based on them have appeared. The question on places that Buddha visited was present both in Prelims 2014 and 2015.
  • Conventional areas like Indian Philosophy system, Buddhism and Jainism, Bhakti and Sufi Movements are opportunities that one should grab with both hands.
  • A fair and general idea of various regional art forms is needed. If you are reading on Kalamkari art, what one requires to know is that it is based in Andhra Pradesh and it is a hand-painted cotton textile.
  • Special emphasis can be placed on topics that have been in news recently. Prelims Bits section provides information from the Preliminary Examination perspective.


History of India can be divided into 3 sections – Ancient, Medieval and Modern. A significant weightage has been given to History over the years.

As per the recent trend, at least 15-20% weightage is given to History.

But then History is a very ‘vast’ subject. So what to do now? A plethora of questions keep bombarding your head – How do I read History? What to focus on? Will I be able to cover the entire syllabus?

The answer to all your confusion is here – You have to think smart! From the previous year papers analysis, we have observed that more weightage is given to ‘Modern History’. So to make the maximum benefit for the time invested, ‘prioritize’ in this order- Modern, Ancient and Medieval History.

In this article, to ease your preparation we have divided History into 4 Sections – Modern, Ancient, Medieval and Culture. Under each section, we have analysed the weightage given, what aspects to focus on and the books to refer.,

Since Culture too has been gaining a lot of mileage in recent times, we have come up with a separate section for Culture (In 2014 alone, 7 questions had come from this section)

So now let’s start with Modern History.


The emergence of regional powers in the early decades of the 18th Century is taken as a change from the Medieval to Modern India.

Early modern India witnessed the fall of the great Mughal Empire, the Marathas and Consolidation of British rule in India. The mid-phase marks the struggle of Indians- revolt of 1857 (or the First War of Independence), organisation of Indian National Congress, the role of Moderates and the Extremists. And finally, the last stage stands testimony to various National Movements –Civil Disobedience Movements, Quit India Movement, Formation of Constitution Assembly and Sampoorna Swaraj (or Complete Independence) to India.

Modern India is the most important section from the prelims perspective. The weightage given to this section over the years stands testimony to the significance of this section.

How To Handle Paper-II

The paper II or aptitude test may look complex at the surface but scratching it a bit it’s not a difficult nut to crack. The best strategy, to read the basic concept first and develop a fair understanding of the question asked in each section. The pattern of allotting specific number of marks for specified section for each syllabus is followed for the paper II.

As you know Prelim Paper 2 is now only of qualifying in nature. You are required to score just 66 marks out of 200 to qualify this paper. Even if you score higher marks it won’t be counted in merit list of Prelims results. But if you score less than 66 marks, you won’t be able to qualify the Prelims hurdle. However, the question is what all you may prepare to obtain the qualifying marks in prelims paper II.

If you can prepare just four topics well you can very well obtain 66 marks.
These are; a) Comprehension,
b) Decision Making
c) Data Interpretation,
d) Interpersonal Skills.

Comprehension: If you analyze the previous 3-4 year papers, you will find that at least 5 Comprehension passages are asked in every year. Since it’s the easiest of all, you can easily score 50 marks from just Comprehension passages alone. Decision Making: At least 5 questions are asked on Decision Making and you can attempt them without any fear since there is no negative marking in it.

Rest of the marks can be obtained from Data Interpretation and Interpersonal Skills questions.

Rest of the marks can be obtained from Data Interpretation and Interpersonal Skills questions.

Year Marks
2011 9
2012 8
2013 6
2014 5

How To Read Modern History?

In this section, we come across various revolts/movements/agitations (like 1857 revolt, Tebhaga Peasant Movement, Home Rule Movement, Quit India Movement).

What One Needs To Focus Here Is:

  • The Purpose of the movement[s]
  • The Reasons which led to the movement[s]
  • The Consequences of the movement[s]
  • The people who participated in this movement[s]
  • Famous Personalities involved in the movement[s] and their contribution
  • The role of Press and Literature

Example (2013 Prelims Questions Paper):

Annie Besant was:

  • 1. responsible for starting the Home Rule Movement
  • 2. the founder of the Theosophical Society
  • 3. once the President of the Indian National Congress

Select the correct statement/statements using the codes given below.

(a) 2 and 3 only

(b) 1 only

(c) 1, 2 and 3

(d) 1 and 3 only

Solution (d)

How To Deal With Modern India?

This will perhaps be the most likeable part of the majority of the UPSC aspirants. When something looks like a story that can easily be remembered, it has to be your favourite scoring area.

Read all the statutes, proclamations and acts. All the four years have seen at least one question in these areas, for example, Queen Victoria Proclamation in Prelims 2014 and Government of India Act, 1919 in Prelims 2015.

  • Take a strong note of landmark events and their significance. Questions related to ‘Partition of Bengal’ and the ‘Purna Swaraj’ Resolution have appeared over the years.
  • Social reform movements along with famous reformers is another area which you can expect to see in your UPSC Prelims paper.

We are throwing you only a lifeline. It is your choice to decide whether you will want to grab it or let it pass by you. Make the right decisions and you will be on the boat to appear in Civil Services Mains, 2017

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