About History as the optional Subject — myths and realities

1. Full of crude facts
2. Full of tales & stories
3. Full of dates & years
4. A lot of cramming is required
5. Lengthy syllabus
6. Difficult to get very good marks

1. There are factual details in all subjects. One cannot do away with fact or information in any subject. First one has to remember a large no. of facts for the Preliminary Examination in all sections viz., Geography, Science & Technology, Indian Economy etc..

Secondly, almost every answer in the Main Examination requires facts / information without which the answer becomes a story and very generalised.

2. Preparation for History (Main Examination) does not require cramming of crude facts. The nature of questions is not such, that demands that. Broad information with conceptual & developmental clarity and analytical capability are the essence of writing a good answer.

3. The syllabus of almost all subjects is equally vast and comprehensive. The UPSC does not discriminate among subjects. The commission has determined a standard for each subject and has incorporated all important topics into the syllabus of each subject. All popular subjects selected by the candidates like History, Sociology, Geography, Public Administration, Political Science etc. have comprehensive syllabus. One popular basis to determine the length of the syllabus of any subject is the area on a page it covers or no. of columns it is presented in the Employment News or anywhere else. Syllabus of some subjects cover two-three columns, whereas some cover just one column or half the column. This is completely irrational. Coverage of area / column depends on the way syllabus is presented (like if only major topics are mentioned this will cover less area while if topics, sub-topics and description of topics are given it will cover more area). New aspirants often get misguided on this basis.

4. The UPSC / Examiner does not discriminate among subjects in giving marks. Fetching of good marks solely depends upon one's performance, not the subject. One can get good marks in any subject. The results of the Civil Services Examination every year too establish the same fact. The only rational criteria for the subjects being more scoring or less scoring is the stream they are associated with. Subjects associated with science may be more scoring than those of humanities because of greater objectivity. Likewise subjects from humanities may be more scoring than literature.

5. Every subject is good. The syllabus of almost every subject is equally lengthy and demand equal amount of labour. The syllabus of all popular subjects like History, Geography, Political Science etc. are equally vast. One can get a high level of marks (required to make one successful) in all subjects through proper guidance, adequate labour and good performance. A simple logic is that a subject doesnot perform, an individual performs and performance makes a subject scoring.

6. History is as scoring as any other subject under humanities. Every year there are one-two candidates having history among top ten. Every year there is a good no. of students getting 60%+ marks in history. Besides, There are about 200 selections every year from History optional subject.
1. The subject is plain, involves no typical theories, doctrines, principles and ideas and on the balance is marked by the abscence of technicalities.

2. History has very few concrete theories — the full-fedged theories you find in other streams of humanities like Geography, Sociology, Psychology, Anthropology, Public Administration etc. are conspicuously absent in history.

3. Current issues are absent what one finds in almost all popular optional subjects like Public Administration, Political Science, Sociology, Geography etc. So preparation doesnot require updating — Updating consumes a lot of time. Everything is almost fixed in history.

4. Developmental inter-connections and linkages are dominant in the subject. So an integrated approach works well. The result is if one finishes one topic / issue etc., several other topic / issue are automatically covered.

5. In the new pattern of GS (Year 2013 onwards) History optional subject has been accomodated almost completely. Though five subjects, History, Political Science, Geography, Public Administration & Sociology have their elements in GS papers, yet History optional subject is the only subject whose almost 90% content are now there in GS (Main + Prelim). So logic is that even if one doesnot have History optional, about 90% of History optional subject one has to study. If a little bit of more preparation is done (beyond 90%) it becomes absolutely the preparation of History optional subject. Marks wise, In Preliminary Examination there are about 15 to 18 questions constituting 30 to 36 marks (in 200 in GS Paper-I (Prelim) and in the Main examination in GS-I (Paper-II Main) History is expected to constitute over 50% marks (that is 125 + marks).

Given below is the table which depicts syllabus of History optional subject and New General Studies for comparison. Almost, the entire syllabus of History is included in New GS.

History Optional Subject General Studies
(1) Paper-I — Section-A — Ancient India (1) Prelim — Ancient India
(2) Main — Indian Heritage & Culture (Ancient) — Main
(Paper-II) — General Studies-I
(2) Paper-I — Section-B — Medieval India 1) Prelim — Medieval India
(2) Main — Indian Heritage & Culture (Medieval) — Main
(Paper-II) — General Studies-I
3) Paper-II — Section-A — Modern India
(Mid of 18th century to Present)
(1) Prelim — Modern India (Mid of 18th century to 1947)
(2) Main — Modern India (Mid of 18th century to
Present) — Main (Paper-II) — General Studies-I
(3) Main — Freedom Struggle — Main (Paper-II) —
General Studies-I
(4) Main — Post-Independence Consolidation and
Reorganisation within the country — Main
(Paper-II) — General Studies-I
(5) Main — Indian Heritage & Culture (Modern) — Main
(Paper-II) — General Studies-I
(4) Paper-II — Section-B— World History
(18th century to present)
(1) History of World from 18th century till today) — Main (Paper-II) — General Studies-I