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Geography Optional Strategy for UPSC 2021

Dec 14, 2021

Geography Optional Strategy for UPSC 2021

If there is one interesting thing about the Geography optional, it is its popularity that draws a large number of Civil Services aspirants towards it as this optional has contributed to the success of many UPSC toppers.  

Aspirants who choose Geography as their optional subject have the below-mentioned things in abundance:

  • Availability of a variety of Study material (Both offline and online.)
  • Several Coaching options to choose from.
  • Topper’s strategies to learn from.

Hence, you won’t regret choosing Geography as your Optional if you have a Science background. To effectively cover the Geography Optional syllabus, it is imperative to study with a well-structured study plan during the UPSC exam preparation. 

Geography Optional Syllabus

Before you begin your optional preparation, it is crucial to have a basic understanding of its syllabus. You can check and download the Geography optional syllabus from here

Toppers with Geography Optional

We have compiled a list of IAS toppers who took Geography as their Optional subject. It is evident from the long list of toppers that this optional is indeed a magical subject.

Junaid Ahmad20183
Ayush Sinha20177
Saad Miya Khan201725
Saumya Pandey20164
Shweta Chauhan20168
Sibi Adhithya Senthil Kumar201572
Ira Singhal20141

Also read: Preparation Strategy for GS Paper I- UPSC Mains

Overlap with the General Studies Papers Syllabus

A significant portion of the General Studies syllabus overlaps with the Geography Optional syllabus. The GS topics that are covered in this optional are listed in the table below. Please note that some of these topics are either directly or partially covered in the Geography Optional syllabus. 

General Studies Paper IPost-independence consolidation and reorganization within the country.

Salient features of 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, Tsunami, Volcanic activity, cyclones, etc., geographical features and their location changes in critical geographical features (including water bodies and ice-caps) and in flora and fauna and the effects of such changes.
General Studies Paper-II India and its neighbourhood- 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 IIIIndian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources, growth, development and employment.

Inclusive growth and issues arising from it.

Major crops-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.

Read more: Preparation Strategy for GS Paper II- UPSC Mains

How to Prepare for the Geography Optional for UPSC Mains?

Start with NCERTs

Build a strong foundation and clear your fundamentals with the NCERTs as concepts are explained in simple, easy-to-understand language. Once you are clear with the fundamentals, you can proceed to the advanced version of books such as Physical Geography by Savindra Singh for Geography preparation.

Also read: What Are PrepLadder NCERT Notes?

Refer to Atlas

Geography preparation is incomplete without referring to the atlas. It is essential to keep an atlas by your side for adequate preparation. Not only will it help you to understand the concepts better, but it will also help you to retain them for a longer period. There are two prominent Atlas available in the market, Oxford Atlas and Orient Blackswan Atlas. You can use any one of them. 

Also, watch a detailed lecture on Orientation of Geography by Himanshu Sharma Sir, one of our educators of our DREAM TEAM for UPSC:

Interlink Static and Dynamic Portion

Do focus on Current affairs related to Geography while preparing for the static part. Gone are the times when the UPSC used to ask questions from the Static part only. The times have changed, and it is normal to find questions related to current events.

Hence, it is advisable to focus on current affairs while preparing for the Static part. For the same, you can refer to Yojana, Kurukshetra, and Down to Earth magazine. 

Also read: All you need to know about UPSC PrepMagazine and PrepNotes

Focus on Maps & Statistics

Maps are big magnets that can attract good marks if prepared and practiced correctly during your preparation. You should consider preparing region-wise maps from textbooks that should include topics like physical features, soil, terrain, agriculture, rivers, monsoon, drainage, etc. 

Make sure to include maps, diagrams and all the relevant data in your answers to make them more optional oriented, rather than writing GS type answers. 

Follow the Integrated Preparation Approach

Focus on integrated preparation to make your preparation more productive. While writing answers for Paper-II, you can use the relevant concepts/models studied in Paper-I to make your answers more appealing. Integrated preparation will give you an edge to your exam preparation. 

Make Notes and Refer to Previous Year Questions

Note-making and referring to previous year questions are an inevitable part of the UPSC exam preparation. While self-prepared notes will serve as an ultimate guide and save you crucial time during revision, previous year’s questions will help you understand the type of questions asked in the exam.

Best Books for Geography Optional

For Paper I

  • Certificate Physical and Human Geography by GC Leong
  • Human Geography by Majid Hussain
  • Physical Geography by Savindra Singh
  • Physical Geography by Rupa Publications
  • Models in Geography by Majid Hussain
  • Geographical Thought by RD Dikshit

For Paper-II

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

Preparation for the UPSC Civil Services examination requires the assistance and guidance of expert minds, and at PrepLadder, we have India’s best faculty for UPSC, the DREAM TEAM.

Moreover, on PrepLadder, you will find everything required to crack the Civil Services exam. This includes concise, effective, and well-planned video lectures by our Dream Team for UPSC, a well-structured and high yield QBank, highly competitive PrepTests based on real exam patterns, and Previous Year Papers in the form of tests

Keep following our articles and our Telegram channel to apprise yourself with the latest information about the exam. 

All the best for your exam.

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Auther Details

Raminder Singh

Raminder is a Content Manager at PrepLadder. He has worked in several aspects of the education industry throughout his career and has assisted numerous candidates in cracking major competitive exams.


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