How to Prepare for UPSC Geography Optional? Get Full Study Material!

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How to Prepare for UPSC Geography Optional

How to Prepare for UPSC Geography Optional: Geography is one of the most demanding subjects for UPSC Optional. Mostly, aspirants with science or engineering background choose Geography as an optional subject for the UPSC exam. In this article, we will be focusing on the tips and tricks to cover UPSC Geography Optional. Also, we will mention important topics and best preparation books for Geography optional subject.

Geography optional has consistently produced excellent results in the Civil Services Exam. It has been a good choice for the optionals, especially among science and engineering candidates due to its scientific nature. The subject’s popularity also arises due to its overlap with the UPSC syllabus. If you approach the subject with the right strategy and guidance, it is very easy to study and revise. 

Pros and Cons of Choosing Geography Optional

Here we have mentioned some of the advantages and disadvantages of taking Geography optional:

1.Students can prepare more easily because the geography syllabus and GS Paper I in preliminary exams overlap. The geography optional syllabus can be a lot for students to cover.
2.A good grasp of geography knowledge can be a plus point in the interview (for eg: when talking about hometown)There is fierce competition because about 4,000 applicants choose geography as an optional subject each year! 
4.Geography is a high-scoring subject because of its conceptual and factual questions, as well as diagrams and map-based questions.The sheer volume of the geography syllabus makes it somewhat challenging to memorize. 

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Best Books for Geography Optional Preparation

While preparing for geography optional you will come across basic books, reference books, and additional sources like magazines and newspapers. All the sources somewhere or the other help in updation, enrichment, and conceptual clarity. Here we have listed out the most referred books for geography optional which an aspirant must not miss:

Geography Optional Paper I Booklist:

1.Certificate Physical and Human Geography by GC Leong
2.Human Geography by Majid Hussain
3.Physical Geography by Savindra Singh
4.Physical Geography Made Simple
5.Models in Geography by Majid Hussain
6.Geographical Thought by RD Dikshit

Geography Optional Paper II Booklist:

1.Geography of India by Majid Hussain
2.India A Comprehensive Geography by Khullar
3.Current Affairs Magazines, Newspapers (The Hindu/The Indian Express) 
4.Class XI and XII NCERTs

Five-Step Strategy for Geography Optional

As there is no one-shot method to crack civil services, there is no one-shot method to excel in geography optional. But past year toppers have revealed their success mantras. Here we have stated some of those tips to consider while preparing for Geography Optional:

  1. Begin geography preparation with NCERT because it is suitable for beginners.  It provides a solid foundation for those new to geography.
  2. Analyse the previous year’s question trends to ensure effective preparation.  To ensure that you have the most recent information, consult 2-3 sources for each topic.
  3. Practice extensively with world and India maps to improve your ability to answer map-based questions.
  4. Take examples from Yojana, Kurukshetra, and Geography. Prepare at least 10 impactful exam answers.
  5. Use software such as Evernote or Onenote to take digital notes on current events related to the Geography optional syllabus.

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Successful Toppers and Geography Optional Success Rate

Since there is more scope for interpretation in humanities subjects, geography becomes a scoring subject. Flowcharts and diagrams can be used to achieve higher grades. In addition, the map-based questions add to the scores. Below we have listed the successful geography toppers from past years:

2018Junaid Ahmed3
2017Pratham Kaushik5
2017Ayush Sinha7
2016Saumya Pandey4
2016Shweta Chauhan8
2016Athul J13
2014Ira Singhal1
2014Suharsha Bhagat5
2014Charusree Thiagarajan6

The below-mentioned table highlights the geography optional success rate:

YearNo. of candidates appearedNo. of candidates recommendedSuccess rate (%)

Geography Optional Previous Year Question Papers

Here we have provided the links to UPSC Geography optional question papers:

UPSC Geography Optional Question Papers PDF Link

Understanding Geography Optional Syllabus 

UPSC mains geography optional paper is of total 500 marks. It consists of 2 papers. Both papers are of 250 marks each. Here we have listed out the entire Geography Optional syllabus in detail:

Syllabus of Geography Paper – I: PRINCIPALS OF GEOGRAPHY

Syllabus of Geography Paper – II: GEOGRAPHY OF INDIA

Overlap with the General Studies Papers Syllabus

One of the advantages of taking geography optional is that it helps in each segment of UPSC preparation.From prelims to mains and finally, till the interview stage, knowledge of geography is of great importance.Below we have mentioned the overlap of geography optional topics with GS main topics:

General Studies Paper I 

  • Post-independence consolidation and reorganization within the country.
  • Salient features of the world’s physical geography.
  • Distribution of key natural resources across the world (including South Asia and the Indian sub-continent); factors responsible for the location of primary, secondary, and tertiary sector industries in various parts of the world (including India).
  • Important Geophysical phenomena such as earthquakes, tsunamis, Volcanic activity, cyclones, etc., geographical features and their location changes in critical geographical features (including water bodies and ice-caps), and flora and fauna and the effects of such changes. 

General Studies Paper-II  

  • India and its neighborhood- relations.
  • Bilateral, regional, and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests
  • Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora. 

General Studies Paper III

  • Indian economy and issues relating to planning, mobilisation of resources, growth, development, and employment.
  • Inclusive growth and issues arising from it.
  • Major crop-cropping patterns in various parts of the country, different types of irrigation and irrigation systems storage, transport and marketing of agricultural produce and issues and related constraints; e-technology in the aid of farmers.
  • Food processing and related industries in India- scope’ and significance, location, upstream and downstream requirements, supply chain management.
  • Land reforms in India.Effects of liberalization on the economy, changes in industrial policy, and their effects on industrial growth.
  • Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.


Is Geography a good option for UPSC?

Yes, Geography is considered a good option for UPSC due to its logical nature. It offers a comprehensive understanding of the world, helping in both General Studies and Essay papers.

What is the syllabus of UPSC’s optional Geography subject?

The UPSC Geography optional syllabus covers physical, human, and regional geography. It includes topics like geomorphology, climatology, human geography, and regional planning. Candidates need to understand both theoretical concepts and their practical applications.

Which optional is most scoring in UPSC?

Scoring in UPSC depends on individual strengths. However, subjects like Public Administration, Sociology, and Geography are often considered scoring due to clear conceptual frameworks. 

This was all about the “UPSC Geography Optional”.  For more such informative blogs, check out our UPSC Exams Section, or you can learn more about us by visiting our  Indian exams page.

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