5 Effective Tips: How to prepare Geography optional for UPSC

geography optional for upsc

Geography is a branch of science that focuses on the study of the lands, terrain, people, and natural phenomena that occur on Earth. The goal of geography is to understand the complexity of Earth and its human and natural environments.

For the UPSC optional subjects, Geography optional for UPSC is one paper that the aspirants can opt for.

In this article, you get to learn what makes this fascinating subject one of the best optional subjects for UPSC.

Also, you will get to know why and how should you prepare for Geography optional for UPSC along with its syllabus, booklist and strategy.

Check out this blog on How To Select Optional Subject For UPSC Exam

Comparison with other Optional papers

Geography as a subject is often called the bridge between Human and physical sciences.

Comparing it with optional subjects like PhysicsChemistry (Physical Sciences) where too much factual knowledge along with concepts is required, Geography offers a balance between factual data and understanding knowledge.

When compared with the Humanities subjects like Political Science and International RelationsHistory, etc. where mugging up the data is the only option available, Geography offers scope for interpretation of its concepts.

Also, read 5 Effective Tips: How to prepare Geography optional for UPSC

Geography optional for UPSC: Advantages

Here are some of the advantages of choosing Geography optional for UPSC. 

1. Mastering the subject from basics

Basic Geography, its class=”ent completed”>concepts, and a brief introduction to the Solar System are taught in the Schools. Any aspirant taking Geography as an optional has an added advantage that they just need to brush up on what they have learned in lower classes.

Laying the foundation stone is the most important when building any castle. Since that has been done at the school level, all one needs is to develop and learn new fundamental concepts surrounding the basic ones.

2. Importance of academic background

A subject like Geography doesn’t require any kind of specialization.

Students with medical or engineering backgrounds or aspirants from science backgrounds can opt for Geography optional subject and can score pretty decent marks.

Although students with Geography as their major subject may have an upper hand in the preparation, no particular professional background is required for this subject.

3. Time duration required for preparation

A total of around 4-5 months is required to prepare the subject for the UPSC Mains examination as it has a very beautifully designed definite syllabus.

The availability of coaching classes (classroom coaching /online ed-tech), handwritten notes of class toppers, standard books, bullet point notes, etc makes it easy for an aspirant to gain conceptual clarity of the subject and prepare the subject well.

4. Overlapping syllabus with GS

With Geography as an optional subject, there exists a tremendous overlap between the syllabus of General Studies paper 1 and some parts of General Studies paper 3.

5. Help with Essay paper

Human geography and other related issues like Food security, Census can add value in curating a perfect essay, full of data and facts.

6. Help in the interview

Questions related to the geography of the aspirant’s hometown, nearby areas, cultural regions, or metropolitan regions (regional Geography) are some of the probable questions asked by the panel in the Interview process.

Other Advantages

  1. Map-based questions make it a scoring subject.
  2. Major Geography topics like Soil erosion, Soil types, Distribution of Soils, Conservation measures, Environmental Issues, Environmental Conservation, Erosion surfaces, Agricultural regions, Agricultural Productivity, Agro-ecological regions, Ecological issues, Sustainable Development, Economic Development, Social well-being & quality of life, Social capital, etc have a direct overlap with the syllabus of GS Paper 3 as well as with the Prelims syllabus.
  3. Geography-related current affairs for Civil Services Exam overlap with the common topics of General Studies current affairs that are required for the Prelims paper.

Related Reading: How to prepare Geography for UPSC Prelims and Mains

Geography Optional for UPSC: Disadvantages

The major cons of Geography as an optional subject are as follows:

  1. Covering the minutest details in a huge syllabus makes it a tough nut to crack.
  2. Memorizing areas of the Antarctic region, Climatic regions, Deep Ocean regions; the trajectory of Drainage systems, Drainage water, etc can be a tedious task at times.
  3. The evolution of industries, types like steel and iron, footloose industries, etc, Marine resources, other Energy resources, and their locations make the subject somewhat factual.

UPSC CSE Geography Optional toppers

Here is a list of toppers of UPSC CSE with Geography optional mentioned below:

  1. Ira Singhal (Rank 1 , 2014)
  2. Adhithya Senthil Kumar (Rank 72, 2015)
  3. Saumya Pandey (Rank 4 , 2016)
  4. Abhishek Chourasiya (Rank 72, 2016)
  5. Junaid Ahmad (Rank 3 , 2018)

Data available

Conceptual and fact-based questions and direct questions in the Civil Services mains exam provide ample scope for students to score well.

Aspirants scoring 45-50% marks in the GS papers, can easily score 55-60% marks in the optional paper with the help of extensive answer writing sessions.

Average marks in Geography lie in the range of 250-295 out of 500. Pratham Kaushik (Rank 5, 2017) scored the highest marks in Geography to date i.e., 327/500.

Geography shows a success rate of approximately 5.8% in the UPSC IAS examination.

Geography optional for UPSC syllabus

As said earlier, Geography optional paper has a huge syllabus. Though the majority of portions overlap with the General Studies paper 1 of the Prelims examination, a large chunk remains for the Mains examination.

Check the Geography optional syllabus to gain a clear understanding of this optional paper.

5 Tips: Geography optional for UPSC preparation strategy

Preparing for the Geography optional paper in the UPSC exam requires a structured and comprehensive approach. Here are five strategies to help you prepare for the Geography optional for UPSC:

  1. Understand the syllabus: The first step towards any successful exam preparation is understanding the syllabus. Go through the Geography optional syllabus and identify the topics that you are familiar with and those that require more attention. Once you have a clear understanding of the syllabus, you can start preparing accordingly.
  2. Focus on the fundamentals: Geography is a vast subject, and it is easy to get overwhelmed by the amount of information. Therefore, it is important to focus on the fundamentals of geography, such as physical geography, human geography, and economic geography. Build a strong foundation in these areas before moving on to more complex topics.
  3. Make use of multiple sources: It is essential to have access to multiple sources of information while preparing for the Geography optional. Read standard textbooks, reference books, and other relevant study materials to get a well-rounded understanding of the subject.
  4. Practice answer writing: Answer writing is a crucial component of the UPSC exam, and practising how to write answers is crucial for success. Solve previous year’s question papers, mock tests, and sample papers to improve your answer writing skills. This will help you to write better answers within the given time limit.
  5. Stay updated with current affairs: Geography is a subject that is heavily influenced by current affairs. Keep yourself updated with the latest news and events related to geography, such as natural disasters, economic policies, and international relations. This will help you to write relevant and insightful answers in the exam.

Overall, a combination of these strategies, along with staying motivated, consistent effort and dedication, can help you to prepare effectively for the Geography optional paper in the UPSC exam.

Geography optional for UPSC: Booklist

Some of the basic books for papers 1 and 2 of Geography are mentioned below:

  1. NCERT class 11th and 12th (all 4 books)
  2. Physical Geography by Savinder Singh
  3. Certificate Course in Geography by G.C. Leong
  4. India A Comprehensive Geography by D R Khullar
  5. Human Geography by Majid Hussain
  6. Models in Geography by Majid Hussain
  7. Geographical thought by Dixit
  8. Geographical thought by Sudipta Adhikary
  9. NCERT Class X textbook
  10. Economic Geography by K Siddhartha

Check Out Our Blog On: Important topics of Geography


Although, Geography is a scientific subject and not much scope for creativity in adding different positive and negative angles to questions is left to the aspirants; still it is one of the most favoured optional subjects.

Previous year papers, optional syllabus, and overlap with subjects are some of the points of the priority checklist that one should refer to before deciding on any optional subject.

To score well in UPSC CSE Mains examinations, answer copies of previous toppers should be analyzed thoroughly. Answer by flowcharts, diagrams in settlement Geography, well-structured answers, etc can increase the chances of scoring excellent marks and getting a good rank in the UPSC CSE examination.

Do check out the UPSC syllabus here and for Geography optional notes for UPSC, click here.


Does academic background matter in choosing Geography optional subject?

No specific academic background is required for this subject.

How much time does it take to master the subject starting from scratch?

It will take around 4-5 months in preparing and mastering the subject if starting from scratch.

What is the importance of Geography in the UPSC exam?

Geography is an important subject in the UPSC exam as it covers various aspects related to the earth’s surface, including physical, social, and economic phenomena. It helps candidates to understand the interdependence between various elements of the environment and their impact on human life.

Additionally, it is also an integral part of the general studies paper, and a good understanding of Geography can help candidates score well in the exam.

What are the major topics covered under the Geography optional for UPSC?

The Geography optional for UPSC covers a wide range of topics, including physical geography, human geography, environmental geography, economic geography, and political geography.

Some of the major topics covered under this subject include geomorphology, climatology, oceanography, biogeography, population geography, economic geography, regional planning, and environmental geography.

How can candidates prepare for Geography optional for UPSC?

Candidates can prepare for Geography optional for UPSC by developing a comprehensive understanding of the subject through reading standard textbooks, referring to previous year’s question papers, and practising answer writing.

Additionally, candidates can also attend coaching classes and online courses to get a better grasp of the subject and improve their overall performance in the exam. It is also important to stay updated with current affairs related to geography and keep practising consistently to perform well in the exam.

Is Geography a good optional for UPSC?

Yes, Geography is a popular optional subject for the UPSC exam. It is considered a scoring subject and has a high success rate among candidates.

Moreover, geography is a multidisciplinary subject that covers various aspects such as physical, social, economic, and environmental geography, making it relevant for the diverse topics covered in the exam.

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