How To Prepare Geography For UPSC Prelims & Mains

how to prepare geography for upsc

In UPSC Prelims, Geography plays a vital role as questions of Geography are increasing year by year in General Studies paper 1.

Questions worthy of around 20 to 28 marks of questions are being asked in UPSC – CSE Prelims. Among one of the highest priority subjects in the UPSC Syllabus, IAS aspirants should start their Geography preparation early rather than keeping it to study later.

In UPSC Syllabus Geography is divided into two parts: World Geography and Indian Geography. Let us understand how to prepare geography for UPSC.

When IAS aspirants inter-examine UPSC Prelims’ past year papers, they will learn that the nature of questions is both conceptual and straightforward.

Henceforth your strategy should be sketched according to the UPSC Syllabus and UPSC Prelims paper pattern. Study and strategy alone are futile but when combined they will be fruitful from the UPSC Exam point of view. That means strategizing your study so that you are able to make your effort count in UPSC Prelims.

In this article, we’ll give you 5 effective pointers on how to prepare geography for UPSC Prelims & Mains.

5 Ready To Use Strategy For Speedy Preparation Of Geography For UPSC Exam

Though everyone has different strategies, no one knows which will work for you.

Henceforth some of the useful strategies are mentioned below. These tips will help you to answer how to prepare geography for UPSC Exam.

Before strategizing your preparation, remember to go through the UPSC Syllabus and previous year’s papers to have a knowledge of the weightage of each topic of Geography.

Divide The Geography Syllabus

Divide the vast UPSC Syllabus of Geography into micro topics that will help you have a basic understanding of basic concepts in a precise manner.

As questions in General Studies Paper 1 are usually conceptual, factual, analytical based, and also based on logical reasoning. Hence the level of clarity of concepts should be at par for an IAS Aspirant.

Also Read: Geography Optional Syllabus For UPSC

Subject Wise Strategy

The strategy you made for History, say, might not work for Geography, Economics, or any other subject while preparing for UPSC Prelims and Mains.

If IAS Aspirants follow the same strategy for every subject that they made for History (say) then it might be possible that they feel History is easy to understand but are lagging in Geography or in any other subjects.

Henceforth some strategies to study Geography are mentioned below:

  1. Understand the concept of Geography in a clear-cut manner, i.e. get 100% clarity of concepts.
  2. Try to seek ‘why and how’ about the topics while going through the books for preparing for UPSC.
  3. Soil types, river systems, various climatic regions, etc. are the topics of Indian Geography that need top priority while preparing for UPSC Prelims.
  4. Study Geography by integrating its theory into the map. In short, use an Atlas while covering the syllabus of Geography.
  5. Physical Geography is a prime important topic in both the Indian subcontinent and World Geography. Study this topic of Geography from the fundamentals. Also, go through the formation of landforms, study the Universe and Earth, and so on.
  6. Keep an eye on the latest news throughout the year and gain a thorough knowledge of such trending topics. Study geographical features, the type of climate, etc., of the latest topics if it is about any place. As questions on such topics are asked in UPSC Prelims.

Also Read: Subject Wise Preparation Strategy For UPSC Prelims

How To Remember Terminologies

Terminologies in Geography while preparing for UPSC can be retained with the help of acronyms, and mnemonics.

You can also remember the terminologies by revising them a couple of times. Even flashcards or sticky notes are very useful in remembering. For instance, on one side of the flashcards, you can write the terminology and the other side writes its meaning.

At the time of the revision, the whole process is made easier and streamlined.

Go through your study material and map your Geography with other subjects like History, Economics, Political Science, etc. In this way, you are able to evaluate different topics from different angles.

How To Prepare World Geography And Indian Geography

Physical, Social, and Economical Geography are the sub-topics of both World and Indian Geography.

Before commencing your studies, prioritize these sub-topics (from top to bottom) in both World and Indian Geography according to the UPSC Syllabus and paper pattern.

This will enable you to give a fresh start to top priority topics so that you are able to understand its topics in a reliable way. A fresh mind grabs things easily compare to a tired one.

Important Tips To Learn Geography Through Maps For UPSC CSE

Map-based questions are quite common for UPSC CSE. Every year, 4-6 questions are asked in the form of Maps in the UPSC prelims exam.

“How to study maps for UPSC?” is one of the most asked questions by the UPSC aspirants. “What should you cover to prepare maps for UPSC ?” comes after that.

These sorts of questions and the presence of map-based questions almost every year make it very clear that these things are important to learn for the UPSC Prelims exam. Not just for the Prelims exam but it can help you in your Mains exam too.

Detailing your answer is the key to success in the Mains examination and detailing with the maps is a sure-shot way of getting more marks. Questions that demand a sound knowledge of maps are often asked.

Most aspirants find it very difficult to solve map-based questions and learning maps is a Herculean task. There are other subjects also other than Geography that might not ask questions from the map directly but the knowledge of maps helps in better framing of answers.

However, here we are also going to talk about learning geography only through maps. This article will also give you some pointers on how to effectively use the maps for the preparation of Indian Geography along with World Geography.

There are 4 to 6 questions based on maps but learning the whole subject of Geography through maps will be the best thing for any aspirant.

Why Do We Need To Study Maps For UPSC CSE?

  1. Make Geography easier to learn without memorizing unnecessary stuff.
  2. Mapping out something is the best way to learn anything and it will definitely enhance your answers.
  3. In UPSC CSE, maps cover your Physical and Human Geography portion.
  4. Enhances your ability to recall names of places, physical features, and various important political places.
  5. Even in the Mains exams, writing your answers with facts and figures along with maps will surely enhance your quality of answers.

Preparing Indian Geography Through Maps

UPSC asks mostly two types of map-based questions –

  1. The question is from the static part that every aspirant is supposed to know.
  2. Another one is dynamically mapped with current affairs.

A very standard and expected question from a world physical geography point of view.

Q1. Turkey is located between (2014)

a) The Black Sea and The Caspian Sea

b) The Black Sea and The Mediterranean Sea

c) Gulf of Suez and The Mediterranean Sea

d) Gulf of Aqaba and The Dead Sea

This question is dynamically linked due to Mercury pollution caused by HUL and has been in news for quite some time.

Q2. Which one of the following is an artificial lake? (2018)

a) Kodaikanal (Tamil Nadu)

b) Kolleru (Andhra Pradesh)

c) Nainital (Uttarakhand)

d) Renuka (Himachal Pradesh)

How Can You Prepare Geography With Atlas/ Maps For UPSC CSE?

Now we know why maps are important. The next question that arises is how can we prepare for it. Here are some tips and tricks that you might find useful.

Political Map Of India

  1. Focusing on the location of states and cities will help you as these things are static and UPSC asks it every time.
  2. You can learn about different states and international borders.
  3. Marking major cities in India and their chronology from North to South or from East to west will enhance your learning.
  4. States which border the maximum number of states.
  5. Knowledge of the Tropic of cancer and the states and cities from which it passes is necessary.
  6. Various cities are situated on the banks of important major rivers.

There can be a lot of knowledge that is important for Prelims and answer writing in UPSC Mains.

Physical Map

Physical maps are somewhat different from Political maps. Here you get to know about various rivers, mountains, mountain ranges, islands, and soil.

  1. Mountain ranges are very important for the exam. Map or ATLAS gives us the idea of areas like mountains in the northern region, then in the central parts or of the peninsular regions.
  2. One of the most important mountain ranges in the country is divided into three: Greater, Middle, and Little Himalayas. With the help of a map, you can easily study the extent of the Himalayas on the map.
  3. Locating and remembering important peaks like Mt.Everest, Kanchenjunga, Nanda Devi, and the biggest glaciers are important from the exam point of view.
  4. Hills are also located in Southern India that are important for the exam like Nallamalla Hills, Ngari hills, Javadi hills, etc.
  5. Rivers, coasts, National Parks/ reserves, natural regions, and Highways are some of the important parts of Geography and not only Geography but also for other subjects like Political Science, International Relations, and so on. Answer writing with opinionated answers can sometimes demand these facts and figures that are responsible for various Political, Economical, and Geographical issues.

World Map

Having a rough idea of the position of all the important countries, capitals, important trading locations, and various International ports or Airports are important. Here are some points that you can consider for the preparation of Geography for UPSC CSE.

  1. Trading locations and Hotspots: Canal, sea routes, or any important Historical trade locations are important for answer writing and MCQs. These small but important facts and pieces of information further add to larger information. Keeping a note of important canals and sea routes can help you both in Geography and International relations.
  2. Important lines: Keeping a track of various lines such as tropic of cancer, tropic of Capricorn, equator and the countries lying on it not only helps you in Geography but also gives you an idea of the economical condition or political condition of the country. Everything is interrelated with each other and UPSC demands this quality of integrating every subject to write a standard answer.

Important Atlases To Refer

  1. Oxford Student Atlas
  2. Orient BlackSwan School Atlas
  3. Concise Atlas of the World – Collins
  4. National Geographic Concise Atlas of the World
  5. Atlas by Study Today Publication – this is good for a detailed study of regional geography since it has district-wise maps of India.

Studying the entire map is very time-consuming in itself and requires a lot of patience and frequent revisions. One of the best things to do is to divide and structure the things to learn and stick them on the wall or table where you study so that you can constantly refer to them and get reminded.

How To Be Consistent While Doing Geography Preparation For UPSC

For maintaining consistency in subject preparation for UPSC, the following tools will be useful:


Perseverance is a key factor in the preparation for the UPSC Civil Services examination. You have to be prepared to put in more time and effort than your peers if you want to succeed.

It is important to understand that success in Civil Services is not something that happens overnight. You need to be determined and devoted to your goal.

So, don’t fall prey to the illusion that you will become eligible after a few months of preparation or that you can get through with just one attempt. If you want to succeed in Civil Services, then you need to start early and keep going until you reach your goal!


Practice makes everyone perfect. You must practice as much as possible so that you can get rid of all your doubts and develop confidence in your abilities.

Proper practice helps you become familiar with the subject and build speed as well as accuracy in answering questions.

Repetition or revision

The more often you revise, the better prepared you are on exam day! The best way to revise is by doing practice papers again and again until they become second nature to you.


Remember, mugging up the topics will not be fruitful. Try to seek a reason behind any topic or concept while preparing Geography for UPSC.

Geography is similar to any other science subject which implies you must seek a question of ‘how and why’ of a given theory or concept.

Hence being well prepared in Geography will uproot the cause of missing any Geography questions in UPSC Prelims and Mains.  

Since every subject acquires some weightage, one should not ignore any subject especially when the exam is UPSC (the most targeted and competitive).

We hope we were able to guide you on how to prepare geography for UPSC. For a hassle-free geography preparation for UPSC, how about trying out Examarly!

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