15-Day Strategy for Ancient and Medieval History for UPSC Exam

History is comparable to a vast ocean. As one starts to read History, it seems as if the more you study this subject, the more is left to know. If one wants to study it for IAS exam, it becomes difficult how to study it in a precise manner. Thus, if you want to study history in a proper manner, it becomes very important to make a strategy that suits you the best and then follows it. In this article, we present a 15-day strategy for you to cover ancient and medieval history.

What does the UPSC syllabus say about ancient and medieval history?

UPSC Prelims:

History of India and Indian National Movement

UPSC Mains:

Indian Heritage and Culture (from ancient to modern), Modern Indian History, World History (from 18th century)

Here it can be seen that prelims history is not well defined. It merely states, ‘History of India’. In the mains exam, it is better defined. Modern history is present in a clear way. But ancient and medieval history is mentioned as part of art and culture.

Points to remember:

  • Indian heritage, art and culture, architecture, etc. are very important as per the UPSC exam.
  • Religion is extremely important and a lot of questions have been asked about it in the prelims and the mains.
  • Social life and society are also important. Questions are asked from this angle. UPSC expects you to understand history from these points of view (on religion, philosophy, society) and does not expect you to remember mere facts. You can answer questions if you know the relative time period of different kings or philosophies. You don’t have to recall the exact time period.
  • In ancient and medieval history, terminologies are extremely important. Many questions are asked from these sections. You are required to remember the names of ancient or medieval officers, customs, books, authors, etc.
  • Revision is a very significant factor here. The only repeated revision will help you recollect all that you have learnt in the exam.

Example questions:

  1. Q) With reference to the economic history of medieval India, the term ‘Araghatta’ refers to: (2016)
  1. Bonded labour
  2. Land grants made to military officers
  3. Waterwheel used in the irrigation of land
  4. Wasteland converted to cultivated land

Answer: c

        2.Q) What is common to the historical places known as Ajanta and Mahabalipuram? (2016)

  1. Both were built in the same period.
  2. Both belong to the same religious denomination.
  3. Both have rock-cut monuments.

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

  1. 1 and 2 only
  2. 3 only
  3. 1 and 3 only
  4. None of the above

Answer: b

3.Q) With reference to the Religious history of India, consider the following statement: (2016)

  1. The concept of Bodhisattva is central to the Hinayana sect of Buddhism
  2. Bodhisattva is the compassionate one on his way to enlightenment
  3. Bodhisattva delays achieving his own salvation to help all sentient beings on their path to it

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 and 3 only
  3. 2 only
  4. 1, 2, and 3

Answer: b

4.Q) Which of the following statements is/are applicable to Jain doctrine? (2013)

  1. The surest way to annihilate Karma is to practice penance.
  2. Every object, even the smallest particle has a soul.
  3. Karma is the bane of the soul and must be ended.

Select the correct answer using the codes given below:

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 and 3 only
  3. 1 and 3 only
  4. 1, 2 and 3

Answer: d

Similarly, there are many questions asked about religion and philosophy.

Outline/Illustration to cover a particular topic: Mughal Empire

This topic can be covered under various sub-topics like the various emperors, battles by each of them, significant developments during the reign of each king. For instance, the abolition of Jaziya by Akbar, Jahangir allowing the English to set up a factory at Surat, etc. The socio-cultural contributions of the rulers should also be studied well. This is very important as art and culture are part of the syllabus. Apart from that, you should also read about famous personalities like Birbal, Tansen, etc.

You do have to remember many points here. For this purpose, we suggest you employ mind-mapping rather than just cramming. Read more about mind-mapping here.

Quick Recap:

Important themes to focus on while reading ancient and medieval history

  • Terminologies (names of officers/books, etc.)
  • Religion (basic tenets of religions, philosophies, philosophers)
  • Culture
  • Art and architecture (features of different schools, time period, examples of art forms/styles)
  • The social life of people
  • Contribution of kings towards art, literature, architecture, etc.

Remember, there is no need to invest more time than is necessary for any topic. Always see the relative weightage of topics and allot time accordingly.

15-day strategy for ancient and medieval history:

Day 1 – 2: History NCERT of Classes VI and VII

Day 3 – 8: Ancient India NCERT Class XI by RS Sharma

Day 9: History NCERT of Class VIII

Day 10 – Day 15: Medieval India NCERT Class XI by Satish Chandra

You can also refer to these other sources:

  • Tamil Nadu State Board history textbook of Classes XI and XII
  • Facets of Indian Culture – Spectrum
  • CCRT Website
  • NIOS material

Also See | How to Study / Prepare History for IAS

Visit BYJU’S Website for strategy and articles on free IAS prep and all the latest on UPSC IAS exam.

Related Links:

UPSC Calendar 2023 UPSC Books
UPSC 2023 UPSC Notes


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  1. We have to read old ncert of 6and 7 or new ncert

    • Hi Unnati
      You can read either of these. Class 6 & 7 NCERTs form the basis of your understanding of major concepts. You can also refer to NCERT Notes page for relevant information on important topics.

  2. I am making notes on medieval history from Tamil Nadu books ….and I think they are very lenghty…but I have inculcated only important things …how do I know if I am not wasting my time on unnecessary information ?

  3. Should I read medival history for mains ( Sultanas, mughal, bhamini kingdom, bhakti movement etc)

  4. For medieval history I’m already going with Satish Chandra’s : History of Medieval India. (New edition 2020, Orient Black swan). Is this book sufficient for the medieval part? or do I need to add an extra book? Please suggest. Thank you

  5. Hello which book to read for medieval history?