Step by Step Guide to prepare for Anthropology Optional

Step 1: Know the syllabus and its scope

To kick-start the preparation you should have in-depth knowledge of the syllabus of Anthropology optional for UPSC Civil Services Exam. If you have already studied Anthropology in your graduation or post-graduation, this task will be easy for you. However, if you are a beginner and have no background in this subject, it is advisable that you spend almost 1 or 2 days in analyzing the syllabus and its scope. Previous year papers are available in the market and on the internet, you should go through them to understand the pattern and latest trends. If you are a beginner you would not be able to decode these trends but go through the previous year papers so that you are able to make some rudimentary frame-work about this optional subject.

Step 2: Arrange the books and study material

Once you have the clarity about the syllabus and its scope, you should start arranging the books and study material. If you are a beginner and you have not studied the subject in the past, you should carefully select the books. Initially you should choose the books which are easy to understand and grasp. At this stage don’t choose the books which you find difficult to comprehend with, just because they are suggested by some IAS toppers or some renowned teacher. The photo-copy of various notes are available in Delhi. You should not choose the best selling one, but the one which you find lucid and easy to understand. We recommend the following booklist:

Topic Books
Social Anthropology Sapiens Notes, Ember & Ember, An introduction to Social Anthropology by D.N. Majumdar
Anthropological Theories Sapiens Notes, Pandey and Upadhyay, Makhan Jha
Biological/ Physical Anthropology Stein and Roe: Physical Anthropology, Human Genetics by Harrisons, Sapiens Study Materials, P. Nath - Physical anthropology
Archaeology D.K. Bhattaehrya, Sapiens Notes
Indian Society Social Change by M.N. Srinivas, Modernization & Indian tradition by Yoginder Singh, Indian anthropology by Nadeem Hasnain, Sapiens Notes
Tribal India Indian Tribe and Culture by L.P. Vidhyarthi, Indian tribes by R.C. Sharma, Xaxa Committees report on Indian Tribes, Sapiens Notes, Indian tribes by Nadeem Hasnain

Step 3: Be selective and always keep an eye on the syllabus

Always remember that your aim is to score well in the Civil Services Exam and not to become an anthropologist. So stick to the syllabus of UPSC. When you are reading from a book, always have the relevant syllabus chapter/ topic and previous years’ questions in mind. They will help you to stay focused and will give you an idea of how much to study from each book. Generally, extensive reading is beneficial but for an IAS aspirant time is a valuable resource. It has to be judiciously optimized to get the maximum returns.

Step 4: Focus on conceptual clarity rather than on speed

Initially, conceptual clarity should be the only goal. If you are able to construct a robust foundation of this subject through conceptual clarity, half of the battle is won. Speed should not matter at this juncture.

Step 5: Make your own notes

Inculcate the habit of making notes. Do not rely on the notes prepared by someone else, no matter even if she/he is an IAS topper or a seasoned faculty. You can always refer to the notes of others for the additional content and further enrichment of your own notes, but it is always advisable to prepare your own. Try to write the theories in your own simple language in your notes apart from the way they are mentioned in the books. Try to simplify the complex topics in your notes. Link them with the day to day examples. Draw the diagrams and illustrations whenever and wherever required. Always keep some extra pages/space while making the notes for a particular topic or chapter to enrich your notes in the future.

Step 6: Complete the topics in a single go

Shallow understanding and ambiguity on any topic will not be able to fetch you marks in Anthropology Optional in the Civil Services Exam. When it comes to the coverage of a particular topic or chapter, don’t float but go deep. If a topic is not clear or you have doubts about the same do not move ahead to the other topics. Topics or chapters should be completed in a single shot no matter if you have to refer to multiple books or study materials. Clarify your doubts, but do not ignore them and move ahead. The best yardstick to measure that a topic is fully prepared is by going through the previous year papers. Consider a topic to be complete only when you can comfortably answer 90% of the previous year questions from that topic.

Step 7: Use internet and digital sources

Use the internet and YouTube extensively for understanding Physical Anthropology concepts (especially Genetics). You can find very good explainer videos and documentaries. In your answers, wherever relevant, you can also write about the latest findings in the field. Use the internet and newspapers to collect good case studies to illustrate Tribal problems. Cram latest statistics pertaining to them. A thorough reading of the Xaxa report is an absolute must for Tribal related portions of the syllabus.

Step 8: Regular answer writing and feedback

Start writing answers from day one. Conceptual clarity about a topic and writing a beautiful answer on that topic are two different dimensions. Conceptual clarity is necessary but not sufficient for writing a beautiful answer. Answer writing is an art. It can be acquired over a period of time by consistent practice and improvements. Always quote credible sources and researches along with the name of the anthropologists and if possible the year as well. Write the answer within the time frame as given by UPSC. Get your answer checked with the faculty, friends or seniors. Do barnstorming with your batch mates and your friends. Always try to maintain an inventory of the good answers of your classmates, previous year toppers and seniors. Do a comparative analysis of your answers with these. Try to figure out the shortcomings in your answers. Work on the feedback given by faculty and seniors. Identify your strengths as well.

Step 9: Plan for score improvement

Some topics are regularly repeated in the anthropology paper of the Civil Services Exam. They should be prepared diligently. Special attention and time must be invested on such topics. The answers must be written for all these topics by referring to multiple books, internet sources and researches. These answers must be memorized so that if these topics are asked in the examination you are able to write a well prepared answer rather than an unrehearsed one. You should attempt as many Physical Anthropology questions as possible. They are largely static with immense scope for diagrams.

Strategy by Melvyn Varghese

Get the tips from Melvyn Varghese, a top scorer in India in Anthropology Optional in CSE 2017.

Scored 294 in Anthropology

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Shradwati Chaudhary

RANK 1, 2009 West Bengal PCS, 174/200 Marks in Anthropology

Alok Ranjan Ghosh

RANK 10, IAS EXAM 2018, 414 marks in Zoology


RANK 13 UPPSC 2018, 316/400 marks in Anthropology


RANK 2, Himachal Pradesh PCS

Rameez Rashid Bhatt

RANK 5, Jammu and Kashmir PCS 480 marks in Anthropology




RANK 40, IAS EXAM, 389 Marks in Anthropology

Ashirwad Kumar

RANK 35, IAS EXAM, 313 Marks in Anthropology


RANK 41, IAS EXAM, 327 Marks in Anthropology





Nipun Aggarwal

Rank 197, CIVIL SERVICES EXAM 329 Marks in Anthropology


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