Anthropology – by Raja Gopal Sunkara (AIR 49)

Raja Gopal has been kind enough to share his strategy for his optional – Anthropology and I thank him on behalf of the aspirants. The following text was contributed entirely by Raja Gopal himself.

Anthropology Preparation

In my first attempt, I scored 198 marks in Anthropology. In this attempt, I scored 293 marks. The reasons behind this drastic increase (apart from the fact there has been an overall increase in optional marks) will, hopefully, give us some pointers on how to prepare for Anthropology.

Reason 1 – I covered close to 95% of the syllabus

In my first attempt, I left vast portions of the syllabus. Obviously, I could not answer many questions despite the choice available. This time, I corrected that mistake. So, how did I go about covering the syllabus:-

  1. I do not hold a brief for anyone but I took coaching under Mrs. Sosin in Hyderabad. I read her notes time and time again. I suggest that aspirants should stick to notes of one teacher and gather notes of others only for those chapters which haven’t been covered.
  2. For physical anthropology, I referred Physical Anthropology by P. Nath and Khan Academy videos. I made my own notes.
  3. I also selectively read General Anthropology by Nadeem Hasnain, Tribal India by Nadeem Hasnain and Indian Social System by Ram Ahuja.
  4. One of my doctor friends helped me out in covering topics like primates, archaeological anthropology, etc.

Reason 2 – Choice of questions

Being an engineer, I would generally shy away from answering questions from physical anthropology. This is despite being told repeatedly that these questions fetch good marks. This time, I overcame my phobia of physical anthropology and attempted those very questions and my marks are proof that these questions live up to their reputation of being marks fetching.

Reason 3 – I answered almost all questions

In my first attempt, I left around 5 questions in each paper. This time, I left 1-1.5 questions in both papers put together. This brings in to the picture, the importance of practising writing answers. Good quality answers in anthropology consist of not just text but diagrams, flowcharts and examples as well and all this has to be done in limited amount of time and in the limited space provided. This level of time and space management can come only with practice. So, practise writing answers.

Reason 4 – Structure of my answers

My doctor friend introduced to the world of side-headings and I am thankful to him for the same. Side-headings, according to me, have the following advantages:-

  1. They bring structure to your answer. This, I believe, is also easy on the eye for an examiner who has to skim through pages and pages of text day in and day out.
  2. They make remembering content easier. Few days before the exam, you’ll realise that you don’t remember much of what you have read over the last couple of months. This is where side-headings will help. For example, for topics like land alienation, tribal health, indebtedness, I would remember the side-headings – cause, consequences, government measures, way forward. For lithic ages, my side-headings would be time period, location, settlement type, occupation, culture, etc. I would then generate the content under these broad side-headings.

Reason 5 – Value Additions

Once you have written a good quality answer, a diagram here and a flowchart there can fetch that extra mark which makes a lot of difference.

Below is a diagram of great and little traditions given by Mrs. Sosin.


The following is a flowchart depicting Linguistic Elements of India.


Examples are great value additions and newspapers were my source of latest examples. One can quote the Vedanta and Posco issues when it comes to tribal anthropology. In archaeological anthropology, once can quote a new discovery like the one in this link.

I quoted research papers in some questions and committees (Dhebar, Bhuria, Virginius Xaxa, Ministry of Tribal Affairs reports) in others. I also sprinkled names of some thinkers (Frazer, Geertz) in Paper II. The point I am trying to make is that all these value additions separate the wheat from the chaff.

Now that I have run out of reasons, I would like to tell you that I owe my rank to anthropology and I wish my brethren with this optional all the very best.


10 thoughts on “Anthropology – by Raja Gopal Sunkara (AIR 49)

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