Are you preparing for UPSC 2021 but haven’t decided on a subject yet? Have you been dismissing anthropology as a potential subject as just another field in Humanities? Or are you reluctant because you’re not familiar with the subject and are avoiding unknown territories? Whatever may be your reason, do give this article a read before you give up on the subject altogether.

You can find in this article a guide to preparing for Anthropology for your UPSC Mains, a list of resources to study for the exam, and a brief introduction to the subject and the syllabus. Also, find out why Anthropology could be a scoring subject for you.

What are the Best Books for Anthropology?

Anthropology, in layman terms, can be understood as a field that studies humanity, understanding the origins of evolution, the distinctiveness as a species, and the diversity in the forms of social existence. The subject can be divided into three main subfields namely sociological, biological, and archaeology.

Anthropology Books

You can refer to the following books and other resources for Paper 1 and Paper 2-

Paper 1

  • Anthropology by Ember and Ember
  • Anthropology Notes by Braintree
  • Physical Anthropology by P. Nath
  • Anthropology Simplified by Vivek Bhasme
  • Outlines of Physical Anthropology by B.M. Das
  • An Introduction to Social Anthropology by T.N. Madan and D.N. Majumdar
  • Physical Anthropology and Human Genetics by Shukla and Rastogi
  • An Introduction to Forensic Anthropology by Surinder Nath
  • Ministry of Tribal Affairs’ Official Website
  • Ministry of Culture- Anthropological Survey of India’s Official Website

Paper 2

  • Tribal India by Nadeem Hasnain
  • Indian Anthropology by Nadeem Husnain
  • The Tribal Culture of India by LP Vidyarthi
  • Yojana Magazines 2014 editions
  • An Outline of Indian Prehistory by D K Bhattacharya
  • General Anthropology by Nadeem Hasnain
  • Social Change in Modern India by M.N. Srinivas
  • The Wonder that was India by A.L. Bhasham
  • Modernisation of Indian Traditions by Yogendra Singh
  • NCERT books from Class XII

Also Read: Important Topics for Anthropology UPSC Optional

Why Choose Anthropology as your Optional?

If you take a look at the anthropology syllabus for UPSC, it might seem to be vast and time-taking. The truth, however,  is that the syllabus might be vast but it is still compact and somewhat related to the subjects you are already familiar with. While there might not have been a separate section for Anthropology in school for you, the subdivisions in the subjects have already been introduced to everyone. If you’re interested in Biology, History or Sociology, then you can choose it as an optional since it’s interlinked to all three of them. It has also been known that the questions in the exam are generally direct and straightforward so the candidates are not confused about forming the right kind of answers.

Exam Pattern

Based on the data from previous years Anthropology question papers, it has been analysed that the topic is more likely to be one of the scoring subjects next year. The syllabus for the subject is less prone to changes as compared to others, which makes it easier to get familiar with the contents and memorise them in advance. The content is basic and generic, which ensures that you are already familiar with the basics of the themes provided. Students from the Science and Engineering background can benefit from the contents as the exam is more about facts and logic and less about philosophies.

Also Read: Common Mistakes to Avoid in UPSC Preparation

Strategy for Preparing for UPSC Anthropology Optional

Read about a strategy for your UPSC preparation that may help you score better in the Civil Services exam.

1. Syllabus and Mock-Papers

The first and the most important step in your preparation for the exam is to look at the syllabus and refer to it on a regular basis. The previous year’s toppers swear upon the role the syllabus plays in their preparation and how it helps them understand the paper well.

While Paper 1 is focused on Social, Cultural, and Biological subdivisions, Paper 2 is more inclined towards the Indian Society and Tribal India. If you’re new to the subject, practice as many mock papers and previous years questions as you can, as it helps you get more familiar with the important concepts.

2. Diagrams and Case Studies

The diagram questions in the exam are mostly easy and scoring. While preparing for every topic, try and copy every diagram you find your notes and books, and practice them thoroughly. Flow charts are essentially important in this exam. Case Studies are scoring as well.

They mainly include topics from current affairs, and themes of social importance such as news about the tribal communities, socio-political-economic events in the country, and the history of the administration.

3. Answer Writing

The art of forming answers to questions can sometimes be the most beneficial trait of the candidates. The answers should always be structured in a way that they start with an introduction, then move to an expansion of what was introduced in the beginning, to be followed by criticisms towards the particular theme, and then end with a proper conclusion. If you can memorise the names of important philosophers or personalities whom you can quote, that can get you more marks. Mark different sections for the headings and subheadings. Add in diagrams and flowcharts to the answers to get a better score.

Also Read: Differences and Similarities between Sociology and Anthropology


It can thus be concluded that if used with the right strategy and preparation, Anthropology can turn out to be one of the most interesting and scoring subjects for your IAS Mains. The candidates should keep in mind that the list of books present in the article is mostly focused on particular aspects of the concepts and they do not need to mug up everything present in the books for the sake of the exam.

It would be advised that one relies on other sources such as coaching classes or online classes so that they can be guided by a mentor towards more credible sources for the exam preparation.

Also Read : Geography Optional Books by Toppers: Prepare for Geography Optional of UPSC 2021

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