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Strategy of Geography Optional For IAS Exam

  • Categories
    Optional Subjects
  • Published
    15th Jun, 2021

Geography is one optional that has more affinity to IAS aspirants hailing from science background. The reason being is its scientific nature and its maximum overlapping with UPSC general studies paper in both IAS prelims and mains exam. Every year this optional is being chosen by a lot of aspirants that is evidenced by its remarkable result round the years. The past year success stories have revealed that with this optional many aspirants have become able to place themselves in the top slot in UPSC Civil Services Exam. The concise IAS syllabus, lucid style and to the point approach has made this optional as the top choice of many aspirants. It is a multidisciplinary subject that is easy to comprehend and prepare for aspirants from arts as well as science backgrounds. There are theories and concepts, which are easy to understand but can help you score quite a lot of marks from multiple questions that are asked based on these theories. Moreover compared to other UPSC mains optional there is less degree of possibility for deduction of marks provided you have clarity of concepts. Moreover this optional has an ample scope to use of drawing flowcharts and diagrams that further reduces the possibility of using more words and thus open a wider scope of enhancement of marks. The map-based questions further gives a possibility to score more in this optional.


Candidates choosing Geography as an optional subject in UPSC Civil Services Exam often find the UPSC syllabus to be vast. Having a cursory glance at the UPSC syllabus of Geography optional this seems quite humongous. Most of the aspirants at a first glance find this UPSC syllabus a nightmare but reality is far from this. Though it seems lengthy Geography syllabus can be covered easily with smart way of studying. Geography Optional has been divided into 2 papers (Paper-I and Paper-II) in UPSC Mains. Each paper is of 250 marks with a total of 500 marks. The paper 1 usually deals with the static part. The static part is having a large portion comprising of science based things such as Geomorphology, Climatology, and Oceanography etc. The part B of this paper deals with models, theories and thoughts of Geographers that makes it a bit monotonous. The second paper deals with Indian geography with its relief and features along with economic geography of India.

Books and Resources

Basic books

  • NCERT Class VI to Class XII
  • Certificate Physical and Human Geography - G.C. Leong
  • Orient BlackSwan School Atlas
  • Oxford School Atlas

    Geography Dictionary

    • Dictionary of physical Geography
    • Dictionary of Human Geography

    Reference Books

    • Geomorphology by Savindra Singh
    • Climatology by Savindra Singh
    • Oceanography by Savindra Singh
    • Environmental Geography by Savindra Singh
    • Human Geography by Majid Husain
    • Fundamentals of Geographical Thought by Sudeepta Adhikari
    • Economic Geography by H.M. Saxena
    • Models in Geography by Majid Husain
    • India A Comprehensive Geography by D.R. Khullar
    • Physical Geography Made Simple
    • Economic and Social Geography Made Simple

    The above book list for geography optional are for the sake of reference only. Aspirants can add or subtract the books as per their convenience or comfortability.

    Strategy To prepare Geography Optional

    The UPSC syllabus of Geography often give jitters to most of the aspirants while starting their mains optional preparation. To make this convenient it is important to read the IAS syllabus thoroughly before starting with the preparation. It is a common practice followed by most of the successful candidates to divide the syllabus of geography optional into following 3 parts:


    1. Physical Geography
    2. Human Geography
    3. Indian Geography


    The first two sections form a part of Paper I while Indian Geography can be put in Paper-II. Though the subjects seem to have no interconnection but actually they are linked with each other. This has necessitated to prepare this subject in an integrated manner. Topics like population, regional development, climatology, settlement geography and so on can be used for both papers. Examples from one section can be used to make your answers for the other section more relevant.


    Strengthen Your Foundation

    Strengthening the IAS foundation should be the first step to start with this optional. The NCERTs and GC Leong could be the best available sources for this purpose. NCERTs presentation of the concepts in a concise manner and lucid language make it one of the best books to start with. Both the NCERTs and GC Leong have very good diagrams which are very important for scoring marks in this subject.


    Interlinking of Static and Dynamic Portion

    Over the years UPSC has abandoned the rudimentary approach. Previously the questions of the mains optional used to be based upon the static portion only. But now, most of the questions asked (both in Papers I and II) are linked to current affairs. It is very important to maintain a separate file of notes for Geography-related current affairs. The newspapers are the best source for this. Almost on a daily basis, you will find some news or editorials on topics like agriculture, industries, fisheries, monsoons, climate change, conservation, wildlife, energy, etc. So, you must note down important and exam-related points from those news items. For an example the natural calamities and disasters are often seen in the news and they could be linked with both the papers up to a certain extent.

    Map Based Approach

    The concepts can be grasped and assimilated easily by following map-based approach for geography. This not only widens the scope of our knowledge but help us to memorize the facts and figures in an easy way. This approach help us to target the map-based questions asked in paper 1 in an integrated manner. Whether it is the static or the dynamic portions you are reading, having an atlas by your side will help you visually see what you are reading about. For example, when you learn about the geopolitics of the Indian Ocean region, an atlas will help you locate the countries and islands that are important to the issue.

    Preparation of Notes

    Notes making is an art that help us to retain what we have learnt. Apart from this the better-written notes are also helpful during revision too. It is advisable not to make notes for every topic. Note-making is especially important for current affairs. Your sources for notes should be newspapers, magazines like Down to Earth, government reports, Economic Survey, etc. Augment your notes with diagrams and flowcharts.


    Previous year question papers

    It is important to solve UPSC previous year papers as it helps you to make a self assessment of your level of preparation as well as help you to understand the structure and nature of previous years questions being asked in the exam.


    Map Practice

    You must practice maps through questions if done correctly, fetch great marks. It is advisable to prepare region-wise maps from standard textbooks covering topics like physical features, terrain, soil, rivers, agriculture, monsoons, industries, resources, drainage, etc.

    Geography as an optional subject is having a vast UPSC syllabus but with smart work and proper planning one can study it in an organized way and UPSC syllabus can be covered without any hassle. Completing the mains optional syllabus is considered as the half battle won as Geography also helps you to cover mains General Studies papers simultaneously for both UPSC IAS prelims and mains as well.


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