Selfstudyhistory.com’s interview of Chetan Sharma (Rank- 305/ CSE-2017) [History Optional]
Name– Dr. Chetan Sharma
Rank In Civil Services Examination 2017– 305
Roll Number– 0097920
Age– 27 Years
Total Attempts in Civil Services Examination (Including this one) – 4
Optional Subject– History
Medium for History Optional– English
Marks in Optional in Previous Attempts:
2014: (200): Paper I- 95, Paper II- 115
2015: (243): Paper I- 114, Paper II- 129
2016: (244): Paper I – 114, Paper II- 130
Marks in Optional in Present Attempt:
2017: (289): Paper I- 142, Paper II- 147
Home Town / Village – Jaipur (Rajasthan)
Place of Preparation– Jaipur
Any Past Work-experience– I was currently undergoing training as an Assistant Commandant in CISF from November, 2017. However, I resigned from there after my Civils Interview.
Preparing full time/Working– I prepared full time for four years without joining any job.
Details of other Success and failure in Competitive Exams:
- Could not qualify Mains in Civil Services Examination 2014 and 2015
- Was Not recommended in the final list of Civil Services Examination 2016
- All India Rank 20th in CAPF Examination 2014
- Rank in 400s in Rajasthan Administrative Services Examination
Details of Coaching/Test series/Study material of any coaching used for history optional:
- In my first attempt in 2014 I prepared history on my own. As I had no background of History without guidance I ended up getting 210 marks in the subject.
- For my next attempt I joined Hemant Jha’s classes and found them extremely useful for the exam oriented study of the subject.
- I did not join any test series in my last three attempts but this year I joined selfstudyhistory.com’s test series.
Percentage marks in Class 10th- 94%
Percentage marks in Class 12th- 91%
Name of the subject in Graduation and Percentage Marks– Medical Science, 61%
Name of College of Graduation and Place- Dr. S. N. Medical College, Jodhpur (Rajasthan)
Passing Out Year– 2013
Post-Graduation If Any– No
Did Your Educational Background helped in History Optional?– No
Tell us something about yourself?
My name is Chetan Sharma. I belong to Jaipur in Rajasthan. I completed my school education till class 12th from Jaipur itself from a Hindi Medium School. After high school I went to Jodhpur to pursue MBBS. My father works in State Government as an Assistant Accounts Officer and my Mother is a housewife. It was after completion of my MBBS I decided to prepare for Civil Services though It was there in the mind earlier I started only after my College was over. Apart from reading books I like to read literature and I also follow sports.
Why did you choose History as your optional subject?
I was always a science student and never had that much interest in humanities as such. However, I started my GS preparation by reading “India’s Struggle for Independence”. It completely changed my perception of History as a subject. Earlier I thought History was about facts only. More study of History inclined me more towards the subject and I took it without any advice from anyone solely based on self-interest.
Positives and Negatives About the History Optional:
- Helps in prelims as UPSC asks tough questions of History there particularly of Art & Culture
- Helps in GS Paper I in Mains and can provide certain advantage over other students
- History also helps in developing perspective of society related questions
- Guidance and content is easily available.
- Huge syllabus.
- It is a bit difficult to get 300 plus score in History.
- The kind of questions which UPSC is asking these days are really difficult and need interdisciplinary approach.
- There are fluctuations in marks awarded by UPSC as different teachers can evaluate your answers in different ways
- Along with knowledge your answer writing style matters in this subject.
Booklist and Sources:
Hemant Jha’s Notes
Selective Reading of IGNOU BA Booklets
Satish Chandra’s NCERT
Hemant Jha’s Notes
Selective Reading of IGNOU BA Booklets
Hemant Jha’s Notes and Booklets
How did you prepare for Map Portion?
I did extensive preparation for Map portion. I made my own maps and marked sites over them period-wise like Neolithic Sites, Paleolithic Sites etc.
I found out major sites from different books such as Upinder Singh, R S Sharma & D N Jha and organised them in a lucid manner.
Other than this I did all previous year Map sites particularly of last five years.
I extensively used Google Maps to keep in mind the exact location of site. I remembered some key locations on map by taking reference of which I could find out other sites.
My father helped me out in Map preparation. He prepared some practice Maps for me.
Selfstudyhistory also came with nice Maps last year. They organised map sites well. It helped me a lot in revision.
How much time per day you used to give the history optional during your preparation (both before and after prelims)?
Before prelims I used to study history for 3-4 hours. However, after prelims I used to give it 7 hours on an average.
Did you do answer writing regularly? If yes, what amount of time you devoted to it and how did it help you?
In my previous three attempts I did not do any writing practice in History. The main reason was that there was no good test series available. The problem which I faced in exam due to this was that there was paucity of time in exam hall and I used to scribble at least two 15 markers.
This year I joined GS Score’s Test Series hoping it will help me. But, I found it totally useless. The questions were not framed according to the demand of UPSC and answers were copy pasted from IGNOU in typical jargon. So, I did not write any tests there.
Later on, I used to write Daily Practice Questions on Selfstudyhistory which was a free initiative. As I found their questions good and reviews genuine, I joined their Test Series and wrote 2-3 Tests. Answer Writing helped me in completing the paper in exam though in Paper 1 I still messed up two 15 markers.
Do you maintain self-notes? If Yes, How did it help you?
I did not make proper notes. I made Hemant Jha’s Notes as my base and added points whenever required.
Moreover, at the end of each chapter I used to write important points in bullet points. It helped me during the revision as I could remember key-words.
Have you solved previous year’s papers of History optional? Did it help you in the examination?
I think solving previous year’s papers has been the most important part of my Optional Strategy. I solved question papers of last 35 Years. Moreover, I revised them at least twice. In my previous attempts I struggled on Internet to find answers of some difficult previous year questions. But, this year I referred to selfstudyhistory’s previous year compilation. I think selfstudyhistory has done a tremendous job by compiling answers of previous year’s questions according to the syllabus. However, a few difficult questions are there which are not answered yet.
Solving previous year questions helped me in two ways. One, I framed the answer of that question in required word limit. It filtered out unnecessary information and two, a couple of previous year questions were directly repeated in the examination viz ‘Chartist Movement was partly political and partly economic’ or ‘Evaluate Rajatarangini as a source of political history’. I wrote these answers as it is. It saved my time.
In your views, how the nature of questions asked in history optional changed in recent years?
I must admit this that the questions which are being asked in History optional now a days are really difficult. They need thorough understanding of the subject and require inter-linkages between political social and economic aspects.
Political history has taken a backseat and they are focussing on minor themes like Land revenue system of ancient India or Role of temples as a social institution etc.
There is more focus on history of Kashmir, South India and North-east. Example : Temple architecture of Kashmir, Evaluate the foreign traveller’s account of Vijayanagar Empire.
There is an increased focus on Cultural themes particularly Literature and Architecture. For example: Evaluate Tabaqat –i-Nasiri as a Source of history of medieval india or Mughal paintings reflect social harmony in medieval India in a characteristic way.
These kind of questions need command over the subject. Superficial reading of NCERTs or basic books won’t suffice.
Did you take any help from selfstudyhistory.com? If Yes, up to what extent it helped you?
I have already mentioned the role of selfstudyhistory.com in my preparation. I came across this website in 2016 when it was in it’s infantile stage. I prepared a couple of previous year’s questions from there back then.
However, this year selfstudyhistory.com’s previous year compilation became very helpful. Their daily practice initiative helped in honing my writing skills. I even joined their test series and found it really helpful. Last but not the least their World History notes of Marxism, Enlightenment and Map work were very helpful in reducing the burden of collecting information from varied sources.
- We wish you all the best for your future. It is really encouraging to see that you improved your marks from 244 to 289 just within an year. We hope that others could also learn from your strategy and improve their performance.