Categories’s Interview of Ishan Sinha [Rank 234, CSE- 2022, History Optional]’s Interview of Ishan Sinha [Rank 234, CSE- 2022, History Optional]

Profile of the Candidate

Name Ishan Sinha
Rank in Civil Services Exam 2022 234
Roll Number 0601382
Age 27
Total attempts in Civil Services Examination (including present one) 3
Optional Subject History
Medium for History Optional English
Marks in History Optional in Present and Earlier Examinations (Mention marks in Paper I and II) Present: 288 (Paper I: 142, Paper II: 146)

Previous attempt: 236 (Paper I: 130, Paper II: 106)

Cannot recall the marks in 2020.

Home town/village Kolkata (born and brought up)
Any past Work-experience None
Were you preparing full time or working and preparing? Preparing full time
Your place of preparation Kolkata
Details of other success and failure in competitive exams Gave banking exams in 2022 after the civil services mains. Didn’t qualify in that either. Apart from that, didn’t qualify for interview in previous two attempts
Details of coaching/ test series/ study material of any coaching used for History Optional Used only self study history material, and gave mocks of self study history. Although I wasn’t able to join the test series in 2022 due to personal problems, I solved the mocks I gave last year.
Educational Background
Percentage marks in class X 87.85
Percentage marks in class XII 78
Name of the subject in Graduation course and percentage marks Chemistry, with 66%
Name of college of graduation and place Central University of Rajasthan, Kishangarh
Passing out year 2019
Post-graduation if any Masters in Chemistry
Did your educational Background help in History Optional? Since I’m of science background, it didn’t help directly.


  • Tell us something about yourself.

My name is Ishan Sinha. I hail from Kolkata, West Bengal. I began preparing for civil services in 2019. This was my third attempt, third mains and first interview. By God’s grace, I got a decent rank this year.

Questions Related to History Optional

  • Why did you choose history as your optional subject?

There were two reasons. Firstly, I had more of an interest in history than my own graduation subject. I also had a strong base in history, as I liked to read books on history even before I began preparation. Secondly, it would also cover a portion of the GS syllabus, and lessen my load there.

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


  1. a) Covers a significant portion of GS 1(approximately one-third)
  2. b) readily available notes
  3. c) static subject with definitive patterns of questions
  4. d) can be done without coaching.

Negatives: syllabus is on the larger side.

  • Kindly mention booklist and sources which you followed for History Optional.

For ancient: Upinder Singh (didn’t refer to anything else apart from this wonderful book)

For medieval: Mostly Satish Chandra, with selected topics from J.L. Mehta(e.g art and culture of Vijayanagar, Maratha movement, Mansabdari system etc)

For modern: Sekhar Bandopadhyay+Bipin Chandra for events till independence. Used the books based on the topic I was reading. Some parts are good in Sekhar Bandopadhyay and vice versa.

For post independence: exclusively used selfstudyhistory notes

For world: selfstudyhistory notes till first world war. Used Norman Lowe exclusively from first world war onwards.

  • In Paper I and II, you answered 3 questions from Part A or Part B?

In paper I, 3 from part A. In paper II, 3 from part B

  • How did you prepare for Map Portion?

Selfstudyhistory notes on mapping+previous year questions (indispensable)

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

Stopped studying optional 2 months before prelims in each attempt. After prelims, gave 5 hours to optional everyday.

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

I wasn’t very regular with optional answer writing, which is a mistake others should not make. When I did write, I practiced previous year questions for 30-45 minutes, depending on the number of questions.

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

Joined selfstudyhistory test series for attempts in 2020 and 2021. Wasn’t able to join due to personal reasons this year, but I reattempted the question papers of the test series of 2021.

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

Yes. One change I made from my previous attempts was to make proper notes for paper II. Helped me to revise faster, and get a 40 marks increase in Paper II this year.

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

YES! Appearing for history optional without solving previous year papers is a sin. Some questions were repeated, like questions on Permanent settlement and Fascism. It also helped in molding my answer writing style.

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

Firstly, I feel more analytical questions are being asked, instead of simple event based questions. Secondly, the questions are trying to cover every aspect of the syllabus including small topics like the independence of Malaya, Latin America etc.

  • Were you asked questions related to History in interview? If yes, kindly mention those.

Yes. Questions were mostly opinion based, like why are there different interpretations of history, why is history important, should we conserve museums, why different authors write history differently etc.

  • How did benefitted you in your History Optional Preparation?

Profoundly. Mapping portion, at least half of world history portion and post independence portion was covered from selfstudyhistory notes. PYQs compilation and solutions also were extremely beneficial.

  • Any specific thing you want to share about history optional?

A few things.

  1. Don’t go by statistics, percentages shown on Google about success ratios of history. Regardless of those, the subject is scoring.
  2. Focus more on historiography (try to maintain a separate one page note for that)
  3. Don’t try to emulate toppers. Take advice from everyone, but chart your own course.

All the best everyone! We shall overcome!!

Click here for Answer Sheet of Ishan Sinha [Rank 234, IAS CSE- 2022]

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