Anthropology: 5 step approach of Shreyans Kumat (AIR 4)

After finalizing Anthropology as my optional for Civil Services examination, I tried to cover different aspects in order to complete its preparation before Mains 2018.

Following are the five steps:

  1. Going through basic books and coaching classes to create a basic understanding of the subject
  2. Tried to create exhaustive question bank by combining syllabus and previous year question papers
  3. Creating notes in the form of Question-Answers using Basic books, Coaching Notes, Websites, IGNOU Material, etc.
  4. Repeated revisions and Daily Answer Writing Practice (between Prelims and Mains) to improve timing and presentation
  5. Full test practice to ensure proper section selection in the final exam

Starting of the Preparation
To begin with, I joined Vaid’s ICS (in Delhi) and got basic books in June 2017. I had planned to complete the first iteration of optional notes preparation by December 2017.

Coaching was 2.5-month of classes and they covered ~60% syllabus in class and provided material for the rest. A good approach they provided was to break up each topic in a set of questions and write answers for them. This became the notes which can be referred to later. By November 2018, I created basic notes in Q&A format and got it corrected from the institute.

Books and Sources I had referred:

1. Part I: Socio-Cultural Anthropology
– Introduction to Socio-Cultural Anthropology by NK Vaid
– Ember & Ember (for Linguistic Anthropology)
– History of Anthropological Thought by Upadhyay and Pandey (for Basic Theories)
– Website — the University of Alabama (for modern & contemporary Theories)
– Vaid’s ICS Notes

2. Part II: Physical Anthropology
– Physical Anthropology by BM Das
– Vaid’s ICS Notes

3. Part III: Archeological Anthropology
– Indian Anthropology by Nadeem Husnain
– Outline of Indian Prehistory by DK Bhattacharya
– Muniratnam Sir Notes
– Vaid’s ICS Notes

4. Part IV: Indian Anthropology
– Indian Anthropology by Nadeem Husnain
– History of Anthropological Thought by Upadhyay and Pandey (for Prominent Indian Anthropologists)
– Vaid’s ICS Notes
– Abhik Ghosh’s Paper on Indian Anthropologists

5. Part V: Tribal India and other vulnerable sections
– Tribal India by Nadeem Husnain
– Tribal Committee Report chaired by Prof. Virginius Xaxa
– Vaid’s ICS Notes

6. Other Books I had read: 
– Sapiens by Yual Noah Harari

A similar approach was taken by Sachin Gupta Sir(AIR 3, CSE 2017) He shared his compilation of 200 questions here

Combining Syllabus & PYQP

While going through the syllabus and topper copies, I found that my notes were still missing certain topics and my content could be improved in some aspects. So, In order to plug the gaps in the preparation, I created a Question bank by combining the syllabus and previous year question papers. 
Here are the links —Paper I Paper II
This exercise also helped in understanding the relative importance of each section with respect to the exam. I suggest everyone should do this exercise manually to have a better understanding of the relative importance of topics.

Reiteration to improve quality
From January 2018, In order to improve the notes and plug the gaps, I decided to reiterate the topic-wise Q&As. I referred to the following sources for a few topics just to pick up relevant content to improve upon already made notes:
– IGNOU Material
– Sosin Mam Notes
– Braintree Notes
– e-PG pathshala initiative
– Internet browsing
– Sachin Gupta Sir Notes
– Anthropology Simplified by Dr. Vivek Bhasme
 Koya Shree Harsha Sir’s Answer Copies
– Case Studies from Newspapers, EPW, Vaid’s ICS Whatsapp group, etc.
– Few episodes of Mein Bhi Bharat Series of RSTV

Halted this exercise in February end in order to make way for Prelims specific preparation. Later, resumed this exercise post-Prelims. In this exercise of reiteration, I took the help of Anshul Jain, who was a fellow aspirant. We divided the work equally between us. This helped in reducing in time required for creating better answers. We were able to complete this exercise by the end of July 2018.

Answer Writing Practice and Test Series
Looking at the paucity of time, rather than going for full tests. My friend and I decided to practice Anthropology answer writing daily — 3 questions a day from the question bank which I have mentioned above. We used to check each other’s answers and suggested improvement in content and structure.

In any answer of Anthropology, we tried to address the demand of the question in a holistic manner.
1) Define important terms using scholars and their ideas
2) Adding diagrams, description to diagrams, flowcharts wherever possible
3) Trying to analyze/describe the topic from different perspectives
4) Adding a contemporary/current aspect in the conclusion
5) Trying to connect Paper II aspects in Paper I e.g. Sanskritization can be mentioned as an output of the Structural-Functionalism
6) Adding case studies in Paper II especially Tribal part
I incorporated all these aspects in the notes itself. Will be sharing some sample notes with you soon.

Also, in order to ensure the practice of appropriate “section selection” in the full test, I had taken 4 tests at L2A Institute. Section selection is very crucial for scoring high marks. In Paper I, Part I i.e. Physical Anthropology is considered more scoring. Hence if it is the area of strength, one can score very good marks. In Paper II, Part I is considered more scoring, so 2 sections can be selected from this part for a better score overall.

In the tests I took, I could score between 100 to 125. Using the feedback, I tried improving the structure and presentation. Also, in the last one month, I emphasized on the practice diagrams and charts again and again. Also, repeated revisions of the notes as well as the daily answers written helped in improving the confidence before the final exam.

Final Examination
In the final exam, I could score 313 out of 500 (Paper I: 137, Paper II: 176) and Anshul got 307 out of 500.

P.S.: I will be sharing my Anthropology sample notes on Telegram Channel (

Author: Shreyans Kumat

AIR 4, CSE 2018

18 thoughts on “Anthropology: 5 step approach of Shreyans Kumat (AIR 4)”

  1. Sir , I am not joining any coaching . Is it possible to clear this optional by the self studies ? And how yo made notes on starting topics in syllabus 1.1-1.2-1.3 . Please suggest me any source for this . I am not getting exactly .

    1. Hi Ekta,

      It is definitely possible to get good marks in Anthropology without coaching, many have done it.

      For 1.1,1.2 and 1.3, You can find material in following sources.
      1) Introduction to Socio-Cultural Anthropology by NK Vaid
      2) IGNOU module on Anthropology
      3) epg pathshala

      All the best.

  2. Hii Sir, I completed my graduation in botany, zoology and chemistry. Of these I like zoology the most and thought to choose it as my optional but after looking at the results and length of syllabus, I think that anthro is little short as compared to zoology. I had not started yet any preparation due to exams and will start from august 2019. I am very confused regarding optional sir please guide me should I choose zoology or anthropology. I can not take coaching and can not move to delhi so please tell which optional will be best for me?

    1. Hi Kumud,

      Zoology is something you have already read and has good command on. It is one of the subjects which interests you too. Also, you are not planning to take coaching.

      Keeping all the above points in mind, I would suggest you to continue with Zoology. You can go through strategy of Zoology toppers to get a better idea.

      Hope it helps. All the best.

  3. Sir can you please share your copy of Anthropology answer writing daily +test copy you gave in l2a it will really help sir thank you

    1. Hi Manjeet,

      I have uploaded my sample notes. In the daily answer practice, I tried to reproduce them within limited time. You can refer to the sample notes.

      Will upload L2A answer copies soon.

      All the best.

    1. Hi Raghav,

      In Paper 1 – 2, 4 and 6
      In Paper 2 – 2, 3 and 8

      Best Regards.

  4. Hi Sir,

    I am preparing for Anthropology without any coaching. Though I have found a set of video lectures which I am referring for having the basic understanding of the concepts. However, after doing some of the theories, I feel I’m lost as it’s really uncertain and I really wish to start writing but I’m not understanding whether or not whatever I write is something that’s expected by UPSC.

    1. Hi Tejal,

      Please go through the corrected test series copies of Koya Sree Harsha Sir (I have given a link in the article above). It will help you understand the demand of UPSC and course-correct your answers’ content and way of structuring.

      Hope it helps,
      All the best.

  5. Hello Sir,
    Firstly many congratulations. I have decided to take anthropology as my optional subject. And I am currently pursuing my graduation from IIT KHARAGPUR, so it’s quite difficult for me to take any coaching classes for this subject and it’s totally a new subject for me. Hence I have certain queries regarding this:
    1. Is it possible to prepare for this subject by themselves? ( Like I have noticed that most of the students who has scored good marks in it had been a part of any coaching institute. I understand about Test Series, but my question pertaining to the theory classes.)
    2. How should I start my preparation? ( Like I am a beginner to this subject, have no clue but I have to two years to prepare and I will be giving my first attempt in 2021. To get the basic understanding of the subject what it is all about, I have ordered the book Sapiens.)
    3. Are there online any sources to get more clarity or basic understanding of the topic? ( Like I have Sosin Mam lecture videos but I haven’t started to watch them yet. Are they good to get basic understanding?)
    4. When should I start to make notes? ( Like after the first reading of syllabus or during the first during reading )
    All other ADVICE are welcomed.

    Best regards


  6. Hello sir iam preparing from home and follow brain tree as primary sources for most of the content so it would suffice or i had to follow some other books or notes for it for both paper 1 and 2 please suggest and help?

    thank you

    1. Hi Prakash,

      In Anthropology, no single source is sufficient to cover every topic. I have mentioned some sources which I had referred, you can have a look.

  7. Hellow Sir
    Will you plz upload your answer copy of l2a or any other if possible?

  8. sir, i have done classes of anthropology, have class notes. I have seen many toppers saying consolidate a comprehensive notes on each topic. I found it very much time consuming . sir if you have any alternative then please suggest.

    1. Hi S Jadhav,

      Yes it is time consuming but it is an important step as it helps you be focused around relevant content. If you feel it is time consuming, either do it with your friends or do it for those topics which you find difficult to comprehend.

      All the best. Do well.

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