Interview and Strategy of Rajat Ravindra Ubhaykar (Rank- 49, CSE- 2020) [Best Rank and Highest Marks in History Optional in CSE 2020]

Interview and Strategy of Rajat Ubhaykar (Rank- 49, CSE- 2020) [Best Rank and Highest Marks in History Optional in CSE 2020]

Profile of the Candidate

Name Rajat Ravindra Ubhaykar
Rank in Civil Services Exam 2020 49
Roll Number 6504977
Age 30
Total attempts in Civil Services Examination (including present one) 4
Optional Subject History
Medium for History Optional English
Marks in History Optional in Earlier Examinations (Mention marks in Paper I and II) Paper I – 150

Paper II – 151

Home town/village Mumbai
Any past Work-experience Ex-journalist,

management consulting

Were you preparing full time or working and preparing? Full time
Your place of preparation Mumbai
Details of other success and failure in competitive exams
Details of coaching/ test series/ study material of any coaching used for History Optional Self Study History Test Series for UPSC 2020

Balyan’s Test Series for UPSC 2019


Educational Background       B. Tech in Electrical Engineering, IIT Kanpur

Post Graduate Diploma in Print Journalism from

Asian College of Journalism

Percentage marks in class X 92%
Percentage marks in class XII 92.17%
Name of the subject in Graduation course and percentage marks Electrical Engineering
Name of college of graduation and place IIT Kanpur
Passing out year 2012
Post-graduation if any Diploma in Print Journalism
Did your educational Background help in History Optional? No


Tell us something about yourself.

  • Hello everyone. I am Rajat Ubhaykar, AIR 49 in the UPSC CSE 2020. I was born in Bhatkal, Karnataka and was brought up in Mumbai. My father is a chartered accountant and my mother is an LIC agent. I completed my matriculation from Sainik School Satara, and went on to study electrical engineering at IIT Kanpur. I worked for a year in a management consultancy in Gurgaon for a year, before enrolling for a course in print journalism at the Asian College of Journalism, Chennai. I worked as a business journalist in Outlook Business in Mumbai for around three years. I am also the author of the travelogue Truck De India: A Hitchhiker’s Guide to Hindustan (Simon & Schuster, 2019) based on my 10,000 km-long journey across India travelling with truck drivers. I wrote the book while preparing for UPSC CSE. This was my fourth attempt. I got AIR 378 in UPSC CSE 2019 last year.

Questions Related to History Optional

Why did you choose history as your optional subject?

  • Purely out of interest. History has fascinated me right since my college days and I thought it’s best if I choose something that I’m actually interested in since one has to spend a lot of time with one’s optional.

Mention positive and negative about the History Optional for those who what to take history optional.

Positives –

  • Helps a lot in Prelims, GS1 because of syllabus overlap (nearly 20 questions from History in Prelims 2021), and also in Essay while tracing historical development of the issue in question.
  • Lends itself well to self-study

Negatives –

  • Syllabus is vast
  • Certain level of memory is required to remember important dates, names, and terms

Mention booklist and sources which you followed for History Optional.


  • Self Study History Map Section
  • Spectrum’s Historical Atlas of India


  • Self Study History Notes
  • A History of Ancient and Early Medieval India by Upinder Singh
  • The Wonder that was India by AL Basham
  • India’s Ancient Past by RS Sharma
  • Selective portions of IGNOU notes


  • Self Study History Notes
  • Medieval India – Part I & II by Satish Chandra
  • IGNOU notes especially for art & culture, technology etc.
  • A Comprehensive History of Medieval India by Salma Ahmed Farooqui (selective reading)
  • Medieval India by Irfan Habib (selective reading – useful for religious developments, technology, society, art & culture)


  • Self Study History notes
  • From Plassey to Partition and After by Sekhar Bandyopadhyay (Bible for Modern India)
  • A New Look at Modern Indian History by BL Grover, Alka Mehta (useful for 1757-1857 period of East India Company rule, policies of individual governors, and other miscellaneous topics like Marathas, Famine Policy, Education Policy, History of Indian Press etc.)
  • A History of Modern India by Ishita Banerjee-Dube (very selective reading)
  • Modern India by Sumit Sarkar (good for analytical insights into 1885-1947 period)
  • India’s Struggle for Independence by Bipin Chandra
  • India Since Independence by Bipin Chandra (selective reading based on syllabus)

World History

  • Self Study History Notes
  • Mastering Modern World History by Normal Lowe
  • A History of the Modern World by Ranjan Chakrabarti (useful for post-Napoleonic developments, Industrial Revolution etc.)
  • History of the World by Arjun Dev, Indira Arjun Dev (selective reading – useful for World War I, post-colonial era etc.)
  • Europe Since the French Revolution by L Mukherjee (very selective reading)

How did you prepare for Map Portion?

  • I prepared my own maps using Self Study History map resource and Spectrum’s Historical Atlas of India as reference. This is what I used to refer to before exams. The time investment in preparing your own maps is totally worth it since it really helps with remembering names and their positions on the map, especially in the case of pre-historic sites.

How much time per day you used to give the history optional during your preparation (both before and after prelims)?

  • I did not devote time specifically for history optional before prelims. Focused on reading up important details especially related to modern India. After prelims, I devoted around 3 hours everyday to history optional.

Did you do answer writing regularly? If yes, what amount of time you devoted to it and how did it help you?

  • I started regular answer writing around 2.5 months before mains. My suggestion would be to write around ten full-length papers (both sectional and full-syllabus) before the mains.

Did you join any test series? If yes, kindly name it? How did it benefit you?

  • Self Study History test series for UPSC 2020 and Balyan’s Test Series for UPSC 2019. It helped me understand which topics I’m not entirely comfortable with, improved speed, refined my answers, and prepared me for exam-like conditions.

Did you maintain self-notes? If yes, how did it help you?

  • Maintaining self-notes is an absolute must. I prepared notes on Google Drive from the sources I’ve mentioned above. The goal should be that once you’ve read the book, you should not need to refer to it again. All important points from the book should find their way into your notes in a systematic & succinct manner.
  • Notes helped me organize the material in my head. Also, it is absolutely essential for last-minute revision.

Have you solved previous years papers of history optional? Did it help you in the examination?

  • No, I did not solve previous years papers myself. But I did go through some model answers. I think it’s important to understand the kind of questions UPSC has asked in the past and prepare accordingly.

In your views, how the nature of questions asked in history optional changed in recent years?

  • Yes, the questions have become increasingly analytical in nature with focus on economic history and social history, particularly history of women and other marginalized sections like slaves etc. Focus on political history has reduced.

Any specific thing you want to share about history optional?

  • I think it’s a great optional with the added advantage of significant overlap with GS syllabus. Would suggest that aspirants devote time to the map section which is important for a good score. Since questions have become analytical, focus on clear writing and building your arguments in the body, backed by facts, which ultimately leads up to a coherent conclusion. Writing in paragraphs is more suitable for these analytical questions. However, you may write in points for questions asking for provisions of Act, achievements of ruler etc. All the best!
Click here for History Optional Answer Sheets of Rajat Ravindra Ubhaykar (Rank 49, CSE- 2020)

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