Anthropology is an optional subject in the UPSC Civil Services Mains Examination. Every year, over 500 students choose Anthropology as an optional subject in their UPSC CSE. So, if you are also a student who has opted for this particular subject and looking for the perfect Anthropology optional strategy for the UPSC examination, you are at the right place.

Here you will learn about Anthropology, a comprehensive strategy to cover all the syllabus with the suggested anthropology booklist.

What is Anthropology? What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of this Subject in UPSC Mains?

Anthropology is the study of humankind and its behaviours in totality. It reveals all the vital information about humanity’s biological, cultural, and social aspects concerning time and space with a holistic approach. When the student opts for the Anthropology option, they are expected to cover all the topics related to sociocultural and biological elements about evolution and variation.

To understand why students choose this optional subject in their IAS mains exam, let’s understand the pros and cons.


# Generally, the sets of the question for Anthropology are straightforward.

# It helps students to prepare for their prelims UPSC stage. Also, it is an exciting and easy-to-understand subject compared to other UPSC IAS optional subjects.

# If the student belongs to a science or engineering background, then this can be an ideal choice.

# Most of the students feel that it is a scoring subject because it deals with core humanities’ aspects.

# This subject also overlaps with other primary studies such as General Studies. Also, it helps in writing better answers to questions.

# The best thing about this optional subject is that IAS aspirants can effectively prepare for this subject within 3 to 4 months if an efficient strategy has been adopted.


# You may require coaching for this subject because if the student starts learning by self-study, it can take a lot of time, even more than four months.

# There are limited resources and guidance compared to History, Political Science, Geography, etc.

# Mugging up will not work here; if you want to take complete advantage, you have to have a clear concept.

Best Anthropology Optional Strategy for UPSC Mains

So, the majority of the students choose this optional subject in their IAS exam. Therefore, you must get a comprehensive Anthropology optional strategy for your mains examination to score higher. We have mentioned some of the crucial points you can implement to build a perfect method to cover all anthropology topics.

Understand and Analyze the Syllabus 

It is better to understand the syllabus of anthropology thoroughly because it will be your key to perform well in this exam. You can also go through previous years’ questions to understand the percentage share of each topic you study. It can also give you an idea about important issues and questions.

Also Read:- Public Administration Optional Previous Year Question Papers: Time to Boost Your UPSC Preparation

Dividing Syllabubs & Getting Conceptual Knowledge

Divide the paper subject into two parts, as you will have to take two papers. In paper one, you will read Social-Cultural Anthropology and Biological Anthropology. Paper two contains Indian Society and tribal India. When you start covering these topics, you must get conceptual clarity and should relate each chapter with the other.

Work on the Answer Writing Part

Your answer writing skill must be good because UPSC Mains is not a multiple-choice-based exam. You will have to write answers with critical points and use other relevant terms. You must divide your response into some essential parts, including introduction, definition, criticism, etc. Your answer is impactful if you refer to scientific study.

You must write to the point and include subheadings for your answers to make it look skim-worthy to the evaluator. In this paper, you can use charts and diagrams to practise daily. Your answer writing speed and skill must match the time because you must cover all the questions.

Learn About Case Studies

If you have opted for Anthropology, then you must know case studies are an essential part of this examination. It would be best if you used as many case studies as you can during exam time. For example, suppose you write an answer about Cultural Relativism. In that case, you can use the Criminal Tribes Act case study to make your answer more impactful as many students face problems getting such case studies.

You can use some common resources to get case studies related to Anthropology, such as The Hindu Newspaper, EPW, Xaxa Committee, and the Ministry of Tribal Affairs website.

Case Studies

Some essential topics for case studies to make your optional Anthropology strategy for UPSC more effective.

# Case studies on problems related to tribal communities such as low literacy, land alienation, unemployment, health, poverty, and indebtedness.

# Minorities, based on their linguistic, religious, social, political, and economic status.

# Case studies on developmental projects and their impacts on tribal displacement and issues of rehabilitation. Also, about the forest policies and tribal relations.

# About Panchayati Raj and social transformation, with media and social changes. Aside from this, problems in exploitation and deprivation of SC, ST, and OBCs.

# Try to collect case studies on social changes, contemporary tribal societies with their impact, development programs, and welfare measures.

# Impact of religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, and other religions of the tribal community.

# Cover History of administration in tribal localities and the role of anthropology in tribal and rural development.

Keep Revising Current Affairs.

Reading current affairs for Anthropology UPSC exam preparation is also essential, along with other subjects. You can scan the newspaper and try to get the latest information about finding a new fossil, genetics, or a new scheme launched by the government for the tribal communities. Also, keep your Anthropology study material separate and organised to save time.

Practice Test 

Make sure to practise previous year’s question papers to develop time management skills by checking your ability and speed of writing answers. When you answer a particular question, try to use diagrams and case studies whenever needed. It would help get more marks if you focused on writing a clean, attractive, and impactful solution. During the test, you can get additional marks for neatness, so use coloured pencils.

Complete Anthropology Book List for IAS Mains Exam

Here is a list of books that you should refer to if you want to perform better in this optional scoring subject. We have divided the book list into two parts. In the first part, you will get a list of the book that will help you prepare for Anthropology paper one. List two will help you prepare Anthropology paper two.

Anthropology Paper 1 Book List

To attain good marks in this paper, you should be reading the below books mentioned.

# Class 10th Sociology NCERT book

# Class 12th Biology NCERT (Only read chapter 5,6,7)

# IGNOU’s MA Anthropology Course Books

# Physical Anthropology by P Nath

# Anthropology Simplified by Vivek Bhasme (best for diagrams and answer structure)

Anthropology Paper 2 Book List

For the Anthropology paper, two here are the best books to read to build up a great strategy plan for UPSC’s optional subject.

# Class 12th’s Indian Society book of NCERT

# Indian Prehistory by DK Bhattacharya

# Indian Anthropology & Tribal India by Nadeem Hasnain

# 12th standard NCERT book of Social Change and Development in India

# Tribal Ministry website and Xaxa Committee’s reports

Also Read :- UPSC Mains Result 2020 Name List: Check this Out and Gear Up Yourself for the Interview Round


Anthropology is one of the favourite optional subjects for IAS aspirants because of its easy-to-understand syllabus. If you put your heart into it and follow the above-listed Anthropology optional strategy, you can clear this optional paper with flying colours. So, we hope now you have clarity about this subject with a list of the best books to read.

If you want to get more UPSC-related blogs, articles, and other content, stay connected with UPSC Pathshala. We provide the latest and valuable UPSC preparation content with all the other helpful resources and guidance. Take the first step towards your UPSC dream today!

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Looking for the best Anthropology optional strategy for UPSC to score well in the IAS exams? Here’s a complete guide about Anthropology optional subject with the booklist.
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Shilpa is a professional web content writer and is in deep love with travelling. She completed her mass communication degree and is now dedicatedly playing with words to guide her readers to get the best for themselves. Developing educational content for UPSC, IELTS aspirants from breakthrough research work is her forte. Strongly driven by her zodiac sign Sagittarius, Shilpa loves to live her life on her own notes and completely agrees with the idea of ‘live and let live. Apart from writing and travelling, most of the time she can be seen in the avatar of 'hooman' mom to her pets and street dogs or else you can also catch her wearing the toque blanche and creating magic in the kitchen on weekends.

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