[UPSC Prelims 2020] History and Culture Sources of Question, Answerkey, and Strategy

In this post, we will analyze the questions of History and Culture from the UPSC Prelims 2020 examination. Last year on our youtube channel we prescribed you some set of books for History and Culture like every other subject and today we will check whether these books were successful in helping you in prelims this year. 

For Modern India, generally one reads spectrum brief history of modern India and NCERTs (old or new) and for the culture section, we read NCERTs and Nitin Singhania. So here we will check how many questions can be solved from these routine books and what were the other sources from which question came from, and finally, we will discuss do we have to change our booklist, or if your first attempt is in 2021, then which books you can read, specifically for History section. 

Out of 100 questions around 18 questions came from the History and Culture section. Modern History was comparatively difficult from past years, and less weightage is given to Modern India, In the culture section, there was more focus on Buddhism like every other year, but we do not know from which sources UPSC is deriving questions, are these questions falling from the sky, or newspaper or any other book that we are not reading.

We are reading some sources which are prescribed by some toppers or mentors, so here we will check whether these sources were enough to score good marks in prelims this year. 

In this post, we will take a look at each question one by one, and we will find out the credibility of routine books that we are reading- 

  1. Elimination Method: first, we will try to apply the elimination method if it is applicable
  2. NCERT and Standard Books: If not then we will find out whether that question can be solved from NCERTs old or new, if not then we will take a look at standard books such as Spectrum by Rajiv Ahir for Modern India and Nitin Singhania’s Indian Art and Culture for the culture-related question.
  3. Extended Sources: If both NCERTs and Standard Book failed to answer the question we will refer other books from other authors such as Shekhar Bandopadhyay, Bipan Chandra, Upinder Singh, and so on. 
  4. Google Search: And if all these tests failed, we will do a google search to find out the answer. In that case, the answer won’t be authentic – 

After doing History and Culture we will follow the same exercise for polity and other subjects. We are using set B for this purpose. You can download it from here-

If we can solve 12 out of 18 questions from routine sources like NCERTs and popular standard books then we can say that these books did their job well. Prelim is qualifying, even if we score half the marks we are good to go. So our target should not be to solve all the questions but most of the questions. 

So first let us discuss the Indian culture part and after that Modern India. We are referring to set B.

Indian Culture: Sources, Questions, Analysis, and Strategy

[UPSC Prelims 2020] History and Culture Sources of Question, Answerkey, and Strategy 1

Q11 With the reference to the cultural history of India, which one of the following is the correct description of the term Paramitas?

a) The earliest Dharmashastra texts written in aphoristic (sutra) style

b) Philosophical schools that did not accept the authority of Vedas 

c) Perfection whose attainment led to the Bodhisattva path 

d) Powerful merchant guilds of early medieval South India 

Topic: Buddhism


  1. First Expression: It is difficult to guess the answer, you cannot apply the elimination method effectively, either you know it or you don’t
  2. NCERT: Talking about the source, this term (Paramita) is not mentioned in any of NCERTs (new + old)
  3. Standard Book: As per Lotus Sutra, the Mahayana school believes in six perfections (or paramitas) to be followed by an individual  ( Source: Nitin Singhania) and I guess even this chapter was added in the new third edition and it was not available in the earlier edition.
  4. As per Upinder Singh’s History of Ancient and Early Medieval India path involved in the attainment of a number of perfections is known as paramitas. But this book is bulky and mainly used for History Optional.
  5. Only if you have read standard books, again and again, you could have solved this question, The answer is c

Now let us move to the next question 


Q16 With reference to the scholars/ literature of ancient India, consider the following statements:

1. Panini is associated with Pushyamitra Shunga

2. Amarasimha is associated with Harshavardhana

3. Kalidasa is associated with Chandra Gupta-II

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

a) 1 and 2 only

b) 2 and 3 only

c) 3 only

d) 1,2 and 3

Topic: Ancient Literature


  • Here statement 2 is incorrect
  • Old NCERT RS Sharma which is one of the prime source for Ancient India, page no 247 (Oxford Publication) mentions that Amarsimha was a luminary in the court of the Chandra Gupta II
  • So all the options having statement 2 are incorrect that leaves us with the option c as the answer
  • Nitin Singhania Chapter on Drama –> Kalidasa wrote a play Malavikagnimitra (The love story of Malavika a maiden of Queen and Agnimitra the son of Pushyamitra Shunga)
  • So this question could have been solved from routine books, now let us move to the next question. 

Q42 With reference to the religious history of India, consider the following statements:

1. Sthaviravadins belong to Mahayana Buddhism.

2. Lokottaravadin sect was an offshoot of the Mahasanghika sect of Buddhism.

3. The deification of Buddha by Mahasanghikas fostered Mahayana Buddhism.

Which of the statements given above are correct?

a) 1 and 2 only

b) 2 and 3 only

c) 3 only

d) 1, 2 and 3

Topic: Buddhism


  • Statement 1 is incorrect as per Nitin Singhania Indian Art and Culture – One of the sub-sects of Hinayana is Sthaviravada or Theravada. So the answer can be either b or c. 
  • Statement 2 is correct but either you know it or you don’t. Even in Nitin Singhania’s book, there is no mention of the Lokottaravadin sect. Wiki confirms that statement 2 is correct but it is difficult to solve in realtime if you don’t have prior knowledge about the same.
  • You can skip such a question or take a risk (depends on your risk appetite). The answer can be b. So here we could only skip the two options. 

Q44 Consider the following events in the history of India –

1. Rise of Pratiharas under King Bhoja

2. Establishment of Pallava power under Mahendravarman – I

3. Establishment of Chola power by Parantaka – I

4. Pala dynasty founded by Gopala

What is the correct chronological order of the above events, starting from the earliest time?

a) 2-1-4-3

b) 3-1-4-2

c) 2 -4-1-3

d) 3-4-1-2

Topic: Kingdoms in Ancient and Medieval – Timeline
  • Let me tell you this type of question make the difference and we will see why and how? First, let us check from the routine source-
  • R.S. Sharma India’s Ancient Past Page 219 Pallavas rose under Brahmanas in 4th Century AD and in the same chapter Mahendra Varman -I was active in 7th Century AD 600-630
  • page 13 Satish Chandra History of Medieval India: Pala empire was founded by Gopala in AD 750
  • page 16 Satish Chandra History of Medieval India: Rise of Pratiharas under King Bhoja AD 836  
  • This question is kind of tricky, to solve this we should have knowledge of the times of all the 4 empires and kings otherwise it gets complex. If we do not know when Prantaka ruled where we will place the Chola dynasty as it was pretty much contemporary to all other dynasties. 
  • Parantaka Chola is not mentioned in Chapter 3 of the Satish Chandra’s book History of Medieval India but he clearly finds mention in the Hindu Newspaper Article from History and Culture Section —> https://www.thehindu.com/society/history-and-culture/chola-queen-remembered-after-a-millennium/article26456275.ece. As per the article Parantaka Chola died in 950AD. So our routine books solve this question partly. Also, this question tells us why reading a newspaper is important. 

So the correct sequence is 

1. Rise of Pratiharas under King Bhoja ~ 800 AD

2. Establishment of Pallava power under Mahendravarman – I ~ 600 AD

3. Establishment of Chola power by Parantaka – I ~ 900 AD

4. Pala dynasty founded by Gopala ~ 750 AD

So the correct sequence is 2 – 4 – 1 – 3

So the answer is c

The question was difficult but it was not impossible to solve, such questions separate non-serious candidates from serious candidates. If you have read the NCERTs multiple times,  If you have made notes from the book, you have made notes even in the book itself, you have noted down the timeline for history, and made notes from the newspaper, this question could have been solved. It takes extra effort but it was doable. Questions like these separate men from boys’  serious aspirants from non-serious aspirants. Questions like this check your grit. 

Topic: Kingdoms in Ancient and Medieval – Timeline

Q45 Which of the following phrases defines the nature of the ‘Hundi’ generally referred to in the sources of the post-Harsha period?

a) An advisory issued by the king to his subordinates

b) A diary to be maintained for daily accounts

c) A bill of exchange

d) An order from the feudal lord to his subordinates

  • Simply, if you have read any standard book for the economy you know that Hundis are financial instruments evolved in the Indian subcontinent, Hundis were generally used for trade and commerce. Hundis are often in news too. So solving this question should not be an issue. 
  • What is hundi; town traders and craftsperson: Chapter 6 class 7 NCERT history
  • as per Satish Chandra A History of Medieval India page 308, In the Mughal period, hundi was a letter of credit used for the transaction of money from one part to another part of the country 
  • In Upinder Singh’s book on Ancient and Early Medieval Hisotry – sub chapter on Inscriptions –> In Kashmir, copper coins were supplemented by bills of exchange (hundikas) denominated in terms of coins or grain, and the use of cowries. During the 6th– 7th centuries, kings of Bengal such as Shashanka issued gold coins. But as said earlier this book is bulky and for optional purpose. 
  • So referring to all the above sources we can conclude that this question was fairly easy and we could solve this question from routine books, now let us move to the next question. 

Q.49. With reference to the history of India, the terms “kulyavapa” and “dronavapa” denote:

a) measurement of land

b) coins of different monetary value

c) classification of urban land

d) religious rituals


  • Upinder Singh History of Ancient and Early Medieval India: The land measures used in eastern India include the dronavapa (1/2 to 2 acres) and kulyavapa (12-16 acres)
  • Source Indian History by Krishna Reddy: Post Gupta period Ksetra was cultivated land and the units of measurements, like kulyavapa, dronavapa, adhavapa and pataka from Bengal, nivartana and hhumi from central India, and to nivartana and padavarta from western India. Besides, we also have reference to fields requiring one pitaka full of grain as seeds. The reference to different units of measurement in different parts of northern India, undoubtedly suggests that government officers must have adhered to local standards of measurement
  • This question is difficult to solve from the routine books, either you know it or you don’t. And reading a whole new book for 2 marks is rebellious so it is not advised that you change the sources. 

Q50 Who among the following rulers advised his subjects through this inscription?: “Whosoever praises his religious sect or blames other sects out of excessive devotion to his own sect, with the view of glorifying his own sect, he rather injures his own sect very severely.”

a) Ashoka

b) Samudragupta

c) Harshavardhana

d) Krishna Deva Raya


Answer is a

Topic: Inscriptions & Rock Edicts
  • One who praises one’s own religion; Ashoka…gave up war; Page no 73 Class 6 NCERT Ashoka, the emperor who gave up war
  • (Old NCERT RS Sharma, Ch The Maurya Age) – Ashoka was the first King who talked to his subject directly 
  • (Old NCERT RS Sharma, Ch The Maurya Age Page 176) – Ashokan teachings intended to maintain social order on the basis of tolerance 
  • Rock edict 12 makes it clear that the king expected people to exercise restraint in criticizing other sects and in praising their own. But he was also asking for something much more positive. He was urging people to honor and try to understand the dhamma of others. He considered it possible to promote the essentials of the different dhammas of different people through such means. Source: Upinder Singh History of Ancient and Early Medieval India

Q62 With reference to the period of the Gupta dynasty in ancient India, the towns Ghantasala, Kadura, and Chaul were well known as:

a) ports handling foreign trade

b) capital of powerful kingdoms

c) places of exquisite stone art and architecture

d) important Buddhist pilgrimage centers

Topic: Gupta Period


Answer is a


Q91. With reference to the cultural history of India consider the following pairs :

1. Parivrajaka  –  Renunciant and Wanderer

2. Shramana – Priest with a high status

3. Upasaka – Lay follower of Buddhism

Which of the pairs given above are correctly matched?

a) 1 and 2 only

b) 1 and 3 only

c) 2 and 3 only

d) 1,2 and 3

Topic: Buddhism and Key Terms
  • Parivrajaka –> ‘wanderer’
  • Samana (Sanskrit—sramana, ‘one who strives’, i.e., to realize the truth), and
  • bhikkhu (Sanskrit—bhikshu, ‘one who lives by begging alms’).
  • Upasaka is a male follower of Buddhism and Upasika is a female follower of Buddhism
  • SOURCE: Upinder Singh History of Ancient and Early Medieval India
  • Though Upinder Singh is a good book, this book is big and bulky and useful for optional subjects.  

5-6 Questions Found Their Mention in Upinder Singh’s Book on Ancient and Medieval India, Do I need to Change my Sources?

  • Yes, 5-6 questions found their mention in Upinder Singh’s book this year but this does not guarantee that next year the same thing will repeat. But we should acknowledge the fact that even 5 is a big number, 5 questions means we are talking about 10 marks. At least we should discuss this in detail and give this book due respect.
  • There is no harm in reading this book, it has lots of pictures, built quality is good and there is lots of cool stuff that you never knew but the issue is that this book is too bulky, but reading this book cover to cover is not advisable, if you read this book cover to cover, your preparation will not stay exam-oriented it will become knowledge oriented. It is important to remember that to crack this exam one has to be exam-oriented this is the basic principle that we follow. Also, this book is suitable for optional purposes. So what can we do? 
  • Art and Culture is one section where you can find some pattern, unlike other subjects. You will find that most of the questions are asked from Buddhism and Ashokan sections. So one possible way is to read-only these chapters from this book and read old NCERT and other routine books for Art and Culture section. 
  • But remember that this advice is too subjective, and UPSC time to time has shown that, speculation never wins only hard work, determination, perseverance, a smart study can sail you through.
  • Just keep this point in mind and do not change routine sources and read Buddhism and Ashoka’s topic in bit detail for this topic you can even use Upinder Singh’s book. Also, remember that in prelims you do not want to ace the question paper, you have to score a sufficient score that makes you eligible to sit for mains. 

My opinion

  1. UPSC is unpredictable and let’s not forget the fact that the only thing we can predict about the UPSC question paper is randomness, what is useful today may not be useful tomorrow. 
  2. Do not change your routine sources ex. old NCERTs and Standard Books for Indian culture, you could have solved 5-7 questions from these books and this is another big number in itself. 
  3. Do not read Upinder Singh’s book cover to cover instead follow the middle path and you can read Buddhism and Ashoka’s chapter from that book. (Subjective)
  4. Always remember that you are doing good and you have done a commendable job if you can solve 4-5 questions out of 8 questions using routine sources.


Modern India: Sources, Answer Key, Analysis, Strategy

[UPSC Prelims 2020] History and Culture Sources of Question, Answerkey, and Strategy 3

(Pre 2020 Set B) Q12 In the context of Indian history, the Rakhmabai case of 1884 revolved around:

1. Women’s right to gain an education

2. Age of consent

3. Restitution of conjugal rights

Select the correct answer using the code given below :

a) 1 and 2 only

b) 2 and 3 only

c) 1 and 3 only

d) 1, 2 and 3

Topic: Social Reforms


  1. Elimination: Can you apply any logic here? Let us try, statement 2, and statement 3 seems related, restitution means the restoration of something lost, and conjugal means related to marriage and the age of consent is too related to marriage. We only know statement 2 and 3 goes hand in hand. But this is not a conclusive argument, to solve this question we have to have knowledge of Rakhmabai Case
  2. NCERT Test: This case was discussed neither in new NCERT nor in old NCERTs
  3. Standard Book: the most read Spectrum is also silent on this case.
  4. So are there any other books which talk about this case? Yes, Shekhar Bandopadhyay, Plassey to Partition, and after, Page no 237-238, indicates the case was about the age of consent and restitution of conjugal rights.
  5. Also, on November 22, 2017 google doodle commemorated Rukhamabai Raut, by placing her illustration on the homepage of Google India. She was the major cause behind the enactment of the Age of Consent Act in 1891.
  6. So the answer is b, 2, and 3.
  7. Takeaway: Logic could be applied but it is 50% risk, better to skip such a question if you know nothing about the case. If you are an old player and reading the newspaper every day you could solve this question. Talking about Shekhar Bandopadhyay’s book, this book is good and will help you in mains too, but changing your sources for 1-2 questions can be rebellious.  

Q13 Indigo cultivation in India declined by the beginning of the 20th century because of-

a) Peasant resistance to the oppressive conduct of planters

b) Its unprofitability in the world market because of new inventions

c) Nation leaders opposition to the cultivation of indigo

d) Government control over the planters

Topic: Peasants and Tribals Revolt


  1. Option a, though seems correct at first sight it is incorrect, even after peasant resistance planters changed their base. 
  2. Option b, Class VIII NCERT Chapter 3 Ruling the Countryside, says that synthetic dyes replaced the demand —> business affected —> Profit affected, so Option b seems appropriate.

source: Class VIII NCERT Chapter 3

Q14 Wellesley established the Fort William College at Calcutta because-


a) he was asked by the Board of Directors at London to do so

b) he wanted to revive interest in oriental learning in India

c) He wanted to provide William Carey and his associates with employment

d) He wanted to train British civilians for administrative purpose in India

Topic: Education Under British Rule


  • Option a and option c seems inappropriate at first impression but it does not help us to arrive at the correct answer
  • Chapter 30 Spectrum Brief History of India, Page 563 of new edition Fort William college was set up by Wellesley for the training of civil servants of the company in languages and customs of Indians, since it is not mentioned in NCERT we referred standard book
  • Shekhar Bandopadhyay, Plassey to Partition, and after, Page no 68-69, Fort William College was established at Calcutta in 1800 to train civil servants in Indian languages and traditions, also to prevent the spread the ideas of the F
  • If you are reading routine books multiple times this question is easy 

Q15  With reference to the history of India, “Ulgulan” or the Great Tumult is the description of which of the following events? 

a) The Revolt of 1857

b) The Mappila rebellion of 1921

c) The Indigo revolt of 1859 – 60

d) Birsa Munda’s revolt of 1899-1900

Topic: Peasants and Tribals Revolt
  • First, we will look at NCERT, Social Changes and Development in India has one activity box where it is mentioned Munda Ulgulun led by Birsa Munda. Check the snapshot. 
  • Spectrum Brief History of Modern India Page no 157 mentions Munda ulgulan was one of the most important tribal uprising in the period 1860-1920
  • So option d is correct

[UPSC Prelims 2020] History and Culture Sources of Question, Answerkey, and Strategy 5


Q41 With reference to the history of India, consider the following pairs:

1. Aurang: In-charge of the treasury of the State

2. Banian: Indian agent of the East India Company

3. Mirasidar: Designated revenue payer to the State

Which of the pairs given above is/are correctly matched?

a) 1 and 2 only

b) 2 and 3 only

c) 3 only

d) 1, 2 and 3


  1. Before going ahead let me tell you this is that one question which you can skip but before we skip let us try to apply some logic. 
  2. Statement 3 Mirasdar – usually dar suffix was designated to revenue officials in medieval and modern India, so we can back our gut feeling and conclude pair  3 is correctly matched. But it does not solve the question only option a is getting eliminated. So the logic is not sufficient to solve this type of question. Also, we can say that Banian sounds similar to Baniya i.e. Shopkeeper, but I cannot connect the dots beyond this. 
  3. Now let us look into the source, again Page no 89 Shekhar Bandopadhyay Plassey to Partition, mentions Misrasidar were the holders of hereditary land rights in south India which later designated as the revenue collector and payer. 
  4. Now the term Aurang and Banian, I searched these terms in routine books written by Satish Chandra, Rajiv Ahir, Shekhar Bandopadhyay, and Bipan Chandra Pal but I could now find any mention. There might be an error,  If you have come to these keywords in the above-mentioned book please let me know in the comments below or mail us. 
  5. So if I were in your place and if I am clueless about the term Banian and Aurang. I would have skipped this question happily. 
  6. OUR PAST-III, Page. No. 85, chapter- WEAVERS, IRON SMELTERS AND FACTORY OWNER A Persian warehouse –a place where goods are collected before being sold; also refers to a workshop. Hence pair 1 is not correctly matched Banian. So statement 1 is incorrect, statement 3 seems correct, the answer can be either b or c, so this question can be partly solved from routine books, you can either skip or mark (depends on your appetite) 
  7. Banians were middlemen through which English gentlemen carried their business activities Source –>  Click Me (random Google Search) So the answer can be b – 2 and 3 only, It is easier to find the answer using google search, but in the exam hall it gets ugly.

Let us move to the next question.


Q43 Which of the following statements correctly explain the impact of the Industrial Revolution on India during the first half of the nineteenth century?

a) Indian handicrafts were ruined.

b) Machines were introduced in the Indian textile industry in large numbers.

c) Railway lines were laid in many parts of the country.

d) Heavy duties were imposed on the imports of British manufactures.

Topic: Economy Under British Rule


  • This is a sure-shot 2 marks question we are not skipping it. Now let us find the correct option using the elimination method. 
  • The first half of the 19th century means we are talking about the period from 1801-1850.
  • Option C is straightaway incorrect: Railway lines were laid in the second half of the 19th century
  • Option d is also incorrect, heavy duties were imposed on Indian manufactured exported goods in Britain, so our goods cannot compete in the British market. On the other hand, raw materials were exported from India, and finished goods were dumped in. This crippled the local industries. 
  • In option b, the statement can be partly correct 
  • Between option a and b, a seems the most appropriate impact of the industrial revolution between the 1800s-1850s statement in option a is more clear impact. So the answer is a. Now let us discuss the sources for this question.
  • As per Class X New NCERT Age of Industrialisation – page 116 –>

    •  In 1772, Henry Patullo, a Company official, had ventured to say that the demand for Indian textiles could never reduce since no other nation produced goods of the same quality. Yet by the beginning of the nineteenth century, we see the beginning of a long decline in textile exports from India. In 1811-12 piece-goods accounted for 33 percent of India’s exports; by 1850-51 it was no more than 3 percent

  • Similar information can be found in Old NCERT Bipan Chandra, British Economic Policies in India – Indian hand made goods were unable to compete against much cheaper British goods


Q46 With reference to the book “Desher Katha” written by Sakharam Ganesh Deuskar during the freedom struggle, consider the following statements :

1. It warned against the Colonial State hypnotic conquest of the mind

2. It inspired the performance of swadeshi street plays and folk songs.

3. The use of ‘desh’ by Deuskar was in the specific context of the region of Bengal.

Which of the statements given above are correct?

a) 1 and 2 only

b) 2 and 3 only

c) 1 and 3 only

d) 1, 2 and 3

Topic: Books and Journals


  • I checked in routine books (NCERTs, Rajiv Ahir) but I found no mention (comment or drop a mail if you know from which book this question popped up)
  • As last resort I googled the Sakharam Ganesh Deuskar, I found that he has coined (or first used it) the term Swaraj.
  • Most of the answer keys have concluded the answer as either a or d
  • If you don’t know anything about this book or respected author, there is no harm in skipping such a question. 
  • Apologies aspirants. There are no conclusive references to quote the answer, in simple words I don’t know the answer for this question and I cannot figure out even after reading some sources. Let us move to the next question. 

Q47 The Gandhi-Irwin Pact included which of the following?

1. Invitation to Congress to participate in the Round Table Conference

2. Withdrawal of Ordinances promulgated in connection with the Civil Disobedience Movement

3. Acceptance of Gandhi’s suggestion for an enquiry into police excesses

4. Release of only those prisoners who were not charged with violence

Select the correct answer using the code given below

a) 1 only

b) 1, 2 and 4 only

c) 3 only

d) 2, 3 and 4 only


Topic: Civil Disobedience Movement
  • This could be solved from the routine book such as old NCERT and Spectrum Brief History
  • Statement 1 is correct, Congress agreed to participate in the next RTC
  • Statement 4 is also correct, Immediate release of all political prisoners not convicted of violence, 
  • The only option which includes both statement 1 and 4 is b so the answer is b

Q48 The Vital-Vidhvansak, the first monthly journal to have the untouchable people as its target audience was published by –

a) Gopal Baba Walangkar

b) Jyotiba Phule

c) Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

d) Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar


  • This is a question where you either know the answer or you don’t. Now the answer to this question is (a) i.e. Gopal Baba Walngkar 
  • Routine books have not mentioned about the respected author or his journal, but there is one walk around
  • Routine books have mentioned the journals published by Jyotiba Phule, MK Gandhi, and BR Ambedkar
  • BR Ambedkar published Bahiskrut Bharat (Rajiv Ahir Spectrum Brief Page no 847)
  • MK Gandhi published some article in Young India (Rajiv Ahir Spectrum Brief Page no 611)
  • Phule’s works, Sarvajanik Satyadharma and Gulamgiri, became sources of inspiration for the common masses (Rajiv Ahir Spectrum Brief Page no 215)
Topic: Journals and Literature

Now it is important to note that, it does not mean that, if Gandhi, Phule, and Ambedkar have published the above-mentioned works so that they cannot publish one more journal named Vital Vidhvansak, so guessing is risky here, but if you have a risk appetite you can take the chance. Also, the term Vital Vidhvansak is more of a Marathi word, does this helps you in eliminating one or more options. Just think. Though there is no harm in skipping this question. 

The answer is a)

3 Questions Came From Shekhar Bandopadhya From Plassey to Partition and After, Should I change my Booklist?

  • For modern India, out of 9 questions 5 questions could be solved from NCERT and Spectrum Combo, if you do not have any idea on the 4 questions there is no harm in skipping these questions, you can skip these questions, given that you have developed stronghold over NCERTs and Spectrum. 
  • Yes, questions are coming from books such as Upinder Singh, Shekhar Bandopadhyay, but questions comes to mind of an aspirant is that does UPSC wants us to change conventional sources and move to books that aspirants see as a more advanced or optional level book. So, aspirants should consider effectiveness and efficiency (cost-benefit ratio) while reading such books. 
  • If you ask my personal I will abstain you from reading more books for a single subject, yes the question on the Rahmabai case and Mirasidar statement are given verbatim there, but if you read Shekhar Badopadhyay, you will understand that this book is for the optional subject, the respected author has quoted scholars every now and then, the book is good but you do not have a luxury called time. 
  • For such books you have to make notes, there is no other alternative, unlike the spectrum where there is no necessary to make notes, as such. 
  • If you are scoring more than 50% in any section, then you are doing good and there is no need to panic and change sources as of now. 
  • You are scoring more than 50% even if you have not read Plassey to Partition in this year given that you were thorugh with NCERTs and Spectrum and ofcourse unless you took an unnecessary risk to solve the other  4  questions.
  • Also History, especially modern India this time was comparatively difficult with reference to previous years’ papers. Generally, Spectrum is more effective in Prelims unlike this year. 
  • This year 3 questions came from here, that does not mean that next year too questions will fall from here only, and that goes with any other book.
  • The only thing which is certain about UPSC is that, you cannot predict UPSC, UPSC is random and uncertainty is a feature of UPSC. 

Takeaways History and Culture Analysis 

  • Read NCERTs, old and new. 4-5 questions i.e. sure shot 10 marks are coming from here and you do not want to miss on these marks. Also, NCERTs are good for building foundations. 
  • Read Spectrum Brief History of India, this book is easy to revise, yes only 3 questions could be solved from this. But this year Modern India was comparatively was on the tougher side. This year for Modern India, the question was either too easy or too difficult, and even easy ones were not straight forward they were analytical. Generally, this book gives sure shot 10 pointers. 
  • You can read Nitin Singhania for Art and Culture part. This book is comprehensive, lots of diagrams are there, also important stuff is highlighted and it will help you in your mains too. 
  • Even if you solve 10-12 questions out of 18 questions you are scoring 20-24 marks which is a good score 
  • Also, it is difficult to predict, suddenly why optional specific bulky books have become relevant, is it a one-time thing or UPSC wants aspirants to not limit their sources to notes or books written by officers themselves, for competitive exam purposes, or this is just one bad year for history subject, where your choice of books backfired. There is no concrete information. So best advice can be to follow a middle path, you can read important chapters which are UPSC’s favorite like Buddhism, Ashoka, Reforms from these optional specific big books and keep on reading conventional routine books such as old and new NCERTs and Spectrum etc. 

Watch this video where I have discussed how flawed answer keys floating in the market can cause you a year: 


I would like to conclude by saying, UPSC is once again stood to its genes of being unpredictable and random. However hard you try it is difficult to find a pattern, the most appropriate tip can be to read more and read the same source again and again. Grit and perseverance can be more fruitful. 

I will keep on updating the posts with new updates. In the next post, I will analyze questions of Polity in the same way. If you have any query drop us a mail or comment on YouTube. 


3 thoughts on “[UPSC Prelims 2020] History and Culture Sources of Question, Answerkey, and Strategy”

  1. Sir, some of the questions of ancient and medieval india can be solved from Tamilnadu new edition stateboard books. Kindly refer it once

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