Today, In this article you will read everything about How to prepare Geography Optional for UPSC IAS exam. First of all, you have to remember that success in UPSC exam is all about dedication, continuous learning with the right strategy, and multiple revision in UPSC Exam.

How To Choose An Optional Subject For UPSC?

If you are still confused in Optional subject selection for IAS exam and thinking about which optional subject is best for me then consider these points in selection of optional subject and take a final decision.

  • Background/Graduation subject
  • Interest and (scoring subject i.e. 300+ marks possible) (Recommended)
  • Availability of UPSC IAS notes and test series nearby you/Online
  • Guidance by seniors in that subject (if available)
  • Or Select optional within 2-3 months of reading all GS.

If you have chosen an optional subject then please stick to it. Don’t change your mind by seeing topper’s videos or friends suggest that this optional subject is good or bad or scoring. Every optional subjects have pros and cons, therefore, please stick to it.

Watch Dr. Vijay Agrawal sir’s video for better decision 

Geography: As a UPSC Mains Optional Subject

Geography is the most popular and opted optional subject in UPSC Mains exam. Every year around 16,000 candidates appears for Mains exam in that roughly 3000 to 4000 aspirants sit for Mains exam with Geography as an optional subject.

Geography Optional Success rate

Get – Complete Notes Of Geography Optional For UPSC IAS for FREE

Why Geography as an Optional Subject

  • It is scientific in nature, logical, and rational.
  • In geography optional, sufficient material is available in the form of books by Indian authors as well as coaching institute materials.
  • Ample scope for diagrammatic representation.
  • Helps a great deal in Interview.
  • Helpful in essays.
  • Geography and Environment have significant weight in both Prelims and Mains.
  • It is heavily covered directly in GS paper-1 and also indirectly in many areas of GS paper-3.
  • It helps in the interview.
  • High success rate.
  • The location of various biosphere reserves, wildlife sanctuaries, national parks, wetlands, and rivers has been asked frequently.
  • Helpful in current based questions. For ex.- monsoon, ocean current, cyclones, El Nino, Climate change, etc.

Syllabus for Geography Optional

Geography optional syllabus is divided into two part i.e. Paper 1 and paper 2. Each paper is of 250 marks with a total of 500 marks.

geography optional syllabus

Paper 1: (250 marks)

Paper 1 is divided into two-part i.e. Part-A (1 to 5 chapters) and Part-B (6 to 10 chapters)

  •  Geomorphology
  • Climatology
  • Oceanography
  • Biogeography
  • Environmental geography
  • Perspective in human geography
  • Economic geography
  • Population and settlement geography
  • Regional geography
  • Models, Theories, and laws in human geography.

Paper 2: (250 marks)

Paper 2 is also divided into two-part i.e. Part-A (1 to 5 chapters) and Part-B (6 to 10 chapters)

  • Physical setting
  • Resources
  • Agriculture
  • Industry
  • Transport, Communication, and Trade
  • Cultural Setting
  • Settlements
  • Regional Development and Planning
  • Political Aspects
  • Contemporary issues.

Geography Syllabus for UPSC in detail


Physical Geography:

1. Geomorphology: Factors controlling landform development; endogenetic and exogenetic forces; Origin and evolution of the earth’s crust; Fundamentals of geomagnetism; Physical conditions of the earth’s interior; Geosynclines; Continental drift; Isostasy; Plate tectonics; Recent views on mountain building; Vulcanicity; Earthquakes and Tsunamis; Concepts of geomorphic cycles and Landscape development ; Denudation chronology; Channel morphology; Erosion surfaces; Slope development ; Applied Geomorphology : Geohydrology, economic geology and environment.

2. Climatology: Temperature and pressure belts of the world; Heat budget of the earth; Atmospheric circulation; atmospheric stability and instability. Planetary and local winds; Monsoons and jet streams; Air masses and fronto genesis, Temperate and tropical cyclones; Types and distribution of precipitation; Weather and Climate; Koppen’s, Thornthwaite’s and Trewartha’s classification of world climates; Hydrological cycle; Global climatic change and role and response of man in climatic changes, Applied climatology and Urban climate.

3. Oceanography: Bottom topography of the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans; Temperature and salinity of the oceans; Heat and salt budgets, Ocean deposits; Waves, currents and tides; Marine resources: biotic, mineral and energy resources; Coral reefs, coral bleaching; sea-level changes; law of the sea and marine pollution.

4. Biogeography: Genesis of soils; Classification and distribution of soils; Soil profile; Soil erosion, Degradation, and conservation; Factors influencing world distribution of plants and animals; Problems of deforestation and conservation measures; Social forestry; agro-forestry; Wildlife; Major gene pool centres.

5. Environmental Geography: Principle of ecology; Human ecological adaptations; Influence of man on ecology and environment; Global and regional ecological changes and imbalances; Ecosystem their management and conservation; Environmental degradation, management, and conservation; Biodiversity and sustainable development; Environmental policy; Environmental hazards and remedial measures; Environmental education and legislation.

Human Geography

1. Perspectives in Human Geography: Areal differentiation; regional synthesis; Dichotomy and dualism; Environmentalism; Quantitative revolution and locational analysis; radical, behavioural, human and welfare approaches; Languages, religions, and secularization; Cultural regions of the world; Human development index.

2. Economic Geography: World economic development: measurement and problems; World resources and their distribution; Energy crisis; the limits to growth; World agriculture: typology of agricultural regions; agricultural inputs and productivity; Food and nutrition problems; Food security; famine: causes, effects and remedies; World industries: locational patterns and problems; patterns of world trade.

3. Population and Settlement Geography: Growth and distribution of world population; demographic attributes; Causes and consequences of migration; concepts of the over-under-and optimum population; Population theories, world population problems and policies, Social well-being and quality of life; Population as social capital. Types and patterns of rural settlements; Environmental issues in rural settlements; Hierarchy of urban settlements; Urban morphology: Concepts of primate city and rank-size rule; Functional classification of towns; Sphere of urban influence; Rural – urban fringe; Satellite towns; Problems and remedies of urbanization; Sustainable development of cities.

4. Regional Planning: Concept of a region; Types of regions and methods of regionalisation; Growth centres and growth poles; Regional imbalances; regional development strategies; environmental issues in regional planning; Planning for sustainable development.

5. Models, Theories and Laws in Human Geography: Systems analysis in Human geography; Malthusian, Marxian and demographic transition models; Central Place theories of Christaller and Losch; Perroux and Boudeville; Von Thunen’s model of agricultural location; Weber’s model of industrial location; Ostov’s model of stages of growth.


Geography Of India

1. Physical Setting: Space relationship of India with neighboring countries; Structure and relief; Drainage system and watersheds; Physiographic regions; Mechanism of Indian monsoons and rainfall patterns, Tropical cyclones and western disturbances; Floods and droughts; Climatic regions; Natural vegetation; Soil types and their distributions.

2. Resources: Land, surface and groundwater, energy, minerals, biotic and marine resources; Forest and wildlife resources and their conservation; Energy crisis.

3. Agriculture: Infrastructure: irrigation, seeds, fertilizers, power; Institutional factors: land holdings, land tenure and land reforms; Cropping pattern, agricultural productivity, agricultural intensity, crop combination, land capability; Agro and social-forestry; Green revolution and its socio- economic and ecological implications; Significance of dry farming; Livestock resources and white revolution; aqua – culture; sericulture, apiculture and poultry; agricultural regionalisation; agro-climatic zones; agroecological regions.

4. Industry: Evolution of industries: Locational factors of cotton, jute, textile, iron and steel, aluminium, fertilizer, paper, chemical and pharmaceutical, automobile, cottage and agro-based industries; Industrial houses and complexes including public sector undertakings; Industrial regionali-sation; New industrial policies; Multinationals and liberalization; Special Economic Zones; Tourism including eco-tourism.

5. Transport, Communication and Trade: Road, railway, waterway, airway and pipeline networks and their complementary roles in regional development; Growing importance of ports on national and foreign trade; Trade balance; Trade Policy; Export processing zones; Developments in communication and information technology and their impacts on economy and society; Indian space programme.

6. Cultural Setting: Historical Perspective of Indian Society: Racial, linguistic and ethnic diversities; religious minorities; major tribes, tribal areas and their problems; cultural regions; Growth, distribution and density of population; Demographic attributes: sex-ratio, age structure, literacy rate, work-force, dependency ratio, longevity; migration (inter-regional, intraregional and international) and associated problems; Population problems and policies; Health indicators.

7. Settlements: Types, patterns, and morphology of rural settlements; Urban developments; Morphology of Indian cities; Functional classification of Indian cities; Conurbations and metropolitan regions; urban sprawl; Slums and associated problems; town planning; Problems of urbanization and remedies.

8. Regional Development and Planning: Experience of regional planning in India; Five Year Plans; Integrated rural development programmes; Panchayati Raj and decentralised planning; Command area development; Watershed management; Planning for backward area, desert, drought prone, hill, tribal area development; multi-level planning; Regional planning and development of island territories.

9. Political Aspects: Geographical basis of Indian federalism; State reorganisation; Emergence of new states; Regional consciousness and inter state issues; international boundary of India and related issues; Cross border terrorism; India’s role in world affairs; Geopolitics of South Asia and Indian Ocean realm.

10. Contemporary Issues: Ecological issues: Environmental hazards: landslides, earthquakes, Tsunamis, floods and droughts, epidemics; Issues relating to environmental pollution; Changes in patterns of land use; Principles of environmental impact assessment and environmental management; Population explosion and food security; Environmental degradation; Deforestation, desertification and soil erosion; Problems of agrarian and industrial unrest; Regional disparities in economic development; Concept of sustainable growth and development; Environmental awareness; Linkage of rivers; Globalisation and Indian economy.

NOTE: Candidates will be required to answer one compulsory map question pertinent to subjects covered by this paper.

Books for Geography Optional

Here is the complete paper-wise booklist of Geography optional for UPSC.

Paper-1 (part A)

Paper-1 (part B)


Most important government website: e-PGPathshala
Here is the URL of website:
Another website:

*All these books are Reference books (i.e. Don’t try to read cover to cover)

Geography Optional Strategy

  • Start your preparation of geography optional before one year of Prelims exam.
  • Make the strategy to complete the syllabus Topic-wise. (Not book-wise)
  • The Basic concepts of each topic should be clear so that one can write in his language in the examination.
  • Try to incorporate maximum figures in your answers. Geography is the subject where one can make answers crisp and attractive by figures.
  • Wherever Map is required to draw it. Between two questions of choice in the exam, attempt the questions in which chances of drawing figures are more.
  • The most important fact which one should keep in mind in geography is time Management.
  • Each aspirant feels difficulty in attempting all questions in geography.
  • Continuous answer writing practice (from day-1 of your preparation)

Current Affairs Preparation of geography optional

  • Make a separate Notebook for geography current affairs. I will recommend that make a notebook on OneNote and create 20 pages for every 20 topics of geography optional.
  • Newspaper – The Hindu/The Indian Express
  • Use a google search engine and google maps extensively.
  • Yojana magazine
  • Down to earth magazine
  • Kurukshetra magazine

How to read Geography Books

  • First of all, Start from the core of geography topics (i.e. Geomorphology, Climatology, Oceanography, Bio-geography, and Environmental Geography.)
  • After reading 5 topics of Physical geography you can read either Human geography (i.e. Perspectives in Human Geography, and Models, Theories and Laws in Human Geography) or Indian Geography.
  • Try to follow the integrated learning approach. (especially Human geography with Indian geography)
  • Understand each and every word of Syllabus and prepare at least 150-word notes on each and every topic of syllabus.
  • I am saying again please follow the integrated study approach of paper-1 with Paper-2.

Answer writing in geography optional

First of all, let’s understand which type of questions are coming in UPSC exam-

  • Direct
  • Open-Ended


These questions require direct knowledge of geography. So they can not be answered without revision or without using geographical terms. Edge over others can only be taken if the language is more similar to the geographical language and has more relevant diagrams.


These questions can be answered mostly based on having more number of dimensions. For example – dimensions can be increased by including the theoretical portion of paper 1 in Indian geography. Then using current examples, facts and relevant diagram can increase the dimensions.

  • Remember it’s a geography paper and not any G.S paper. So all that you presume to be current affairs must be viewed & attempted from a geography angle. It’s better to put the diversity of points than to keep on explaining a single point.
  • Try to put at least one pictorial representation in every answer – be it a map, a small chart, a summary diagram, a timeline or a graph, etc.
  • Try not to leave any question.
  • Use Perspective in Human geography chapter content to address many human geography related issues in paper-2.
  • Try to go through the Authors of various theories and the different names used in the theory.


  • Orient Blackswan & Oxford student Atlas
  • Map entries in geography by Knowracle publication
  • Take a series of empty Map and try to locate all physical features at one place and son on for various features.
  • Follow map based on current affairs articles and locate them on your atlas.

Words of Caution

  • Study only minimum and authentic books.
  • Revise regularly
  • Beware! There is a truckload of materials (on geography) available in the market.
  • Use YouTube animation videos for your better understanding.
  • Use Google Maps
  • Consolidate materials
  • Regular questions practice and feedback on answers.
  • Read always with Syllabus and by heart the syllabus.
  • Brainstorm the syllabus with question paper.
  • Remember every topic are important

How to write good answers in Geography Optional

Consider these points in answers –

  • Terminology of geography
  • Maps
  • Diagrams
  • Short paragraph and bullet point
  • Answer to the question (Not what you know)

Paper -1

  • World map
  • Diagram
  • Theories names
  • Geographer names

Paper -2

  • India map
  • Diagram
  • Reference from Paper-1
  • Integrated and multidimensions answer
  • Use case studies and examples
  • Use models and theories (i.e. Human geography)

Now it’s your turn –

Do comment, What You think?

Get – Complete Notes Of Geography Optional For UPSC IAS for FREE

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amell sharma

sir thank you so much for provide amazing content . it helps alot .

Mukesh prajapati

I regularly visit this site and read articles , I really like it, awesome content.
Thank you so much for doing hard work for us ..🙏🙏


I hv some prblm in theories of physical geography, can u suggest me from where can I clear my doubt? I can’t afford coaching.

Arjun Arya

Sir I’m new I’m preparing for upsc geography is my optional thank you lotus arise


Sir/ma’am is it necessary to take coaching for geography optional?
Because now a days lots of application based questions is asked.
So I can’t bear fee of coaching so what should I do?


Great and valuable information

Braj Kirar

Is population geography or say any other topic means 360 coverage of the topic say all the interrelated aspects
It means 360° knowledge of the topic