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How to prepare Geography for UPSC

Dr. Vijay Agrawal 1 year ago

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Dr Vijay Ag ar wal

After un ravellin g th e strateg y of preparin g h istory an d politics for civil services, we will n ow delve in to
th e meth odof preparation for th e th ird importan t pillar of g en eral studies – Geog raph y. Before we jump
to th e plan of action , it will be better to first iden tify th e practical, parallel boun dary lin es with in wh ich
we sh ould prepare. As discussed earlier, mixin g topics can lead to lack of focus an d disrupt our efforts.

Th e two boun dary lin es wh ich on e sh ould keep in min d are:

a) Th e syllabus set by th e Un ion Public Service Commission

b) Th e n umber of question s asked on th e subject in th e prelims an d main s.

Th e un solved question papers of previous years will h elp on e determin e th e level of preparation th is
subject requires. Hen ce, let us simplify th e above men tion ed poin ts.


Th e curriculum for Geog raph y for th e prelimin ary examin ation con sists of mere n in e words -‘Ph ysical,
Social, Econ omic Geog raph y of In dia an d th e World’. Actually, th is brief makes th e exam soun d complex,
too detailed an d quite scary. Ideally, most of th e kn owledg e on g eog raph y we h ave till n ow g ets
embodied in th ese n in e words. If you g o on to pick up books related to each men tion ed topic, you will
defin itely be exh austed. But don ’t worry, we h ave a solution to th is problem.

Th e solution is in th e syllabus of th e main exam. Th ree main poin ts h ave been men tion ed in it wh ich
con stitute n early 40% of th e g en eral studies paper. In stead of simply statin g th e men tion ed poin ts, I will
g ive a rath er simplified version . Th ese poin ts are:

1. Salient featur es of wor ld’s physical g eog r aphy

2. Distr ibution of key natur al r esour ces acr oss the wor ld
3. Impor tant g eophysical phenomena such as ear thquakes, tsunami, volcanic activity, cyclone,

If your motive is to qualify th e civil services exam, wh ich of course it is, th en your focus sh ould be
toprepare for g eog raph y accordin g to th e syllabus of th e main exam. Rath er th an preparin g for prelims
an d main s separately, th is meth od will simultan eously prepare you for both sin ce focusin g on main s will
in directly prepare you for th e prelims.

We must n ot be audacious en oug h to n eg lect un solved question papers. All aspiran ts must possessth e
un solved papers of last five years for both main s an d prelims. Th is h elps on e kn ow more about th e
curriculum an d makes us aware of th e pattern of question s asked. Also, th e question papers h elp us
decide on topics we must look in to apart from th e syllabus an d also th e level of atten tion we must g ive to
th ose relevan t issues. Keepin g in min d th e th ree main topics of g eog raph y, I would like to th row some
lig h t on its subject matter.

A thor oug h knowledg e of the Atlas: Exten sive coverag e of th e demog raph y, direction s,
ocean s,con tin en ts, etc
Under standing the g eomor pholog y: Earth ’s In terior (earth quake waves, sh adow zon e,
volcan iceruption s), composition of th e earth , plate tecton ics, marin e lan dforms an d coastlin es
Solar system: In con text to th e earth
Climatic Reg ions: Th e Mediterran ean (tropic of can cer an d tropic of Capricorn , equator),reason s
th at lead to variation in climate, ph ysical division of th e world based on climaticcon dition s, earth ’s
atmosph ere, air mass, fron ts an d cyclon es, precipitation an d types of rain fall.
Oceans: In troduction , temperature an d salin ity, ocean curren ts, coral reefs, tides, etc
Econ omic g eog raph y an d distribution of n atural resources across th e world
Climatic reg ion s of In dia, forests (n atural veg etation of In dia), In dian mon soon (south west,n orth
east mon soon s), etc
Ph ysical division s of In dia
Soil profile of In dia, In dian weath er, rain fall an d crops
Th e major river systems in In dia, differen t types of irrig ation an d irrig ation storag e systems
Min eral resources an d in dustries of In dia
Population an d related issues

Th e above are th e main topics for g eog raph y. Wh en you’ll sit down to prepare for th ese topics, you
willalso come across certain related sub-topics. You n eed to pay some atten tion to th ese as well. With out
un derstan din g th ese sub-topics, your un derstan din g of th e main topics will n ot be too clear.

Backg r ound of the examination

You sh ould n ot waste your time determin in g wh eth er th is subject is of in terest to you or n ot. Keepin g in
min d th e n umber of question s asked in prelims an d main s, an attempt to ig n ore th is subject can prove
quite dan g erous for you.

As far as th e markin g sch eme is con sidered,a decen t score is g iven to th e subject. It was on ly in 2017 (out
of 100 question s, 8 were from g eog raph y) an d 2016 (on ly 6 question s) th at slig h tly less n umber of
question s were asked. Else, durin g th e precedin g th ree years, 15, 22 an d 16 question s related to
g eog raph y were asked.

Here, I would like to poin t out th at such variation in marks is n ot exclusive to g eog raph y. It is a pattern
in prelims. It can h appen with an y subject. It keeps h appen in g , an d h appen s almost every year. Hen ce,
you must be prepared for such circumstan ces an d can ’t leave it to your destin y or afford to take a ch an ce.

On th e oth er h an d, th e tren d seen in th e main exam is quite stable.In th e main paper, th e marks are
divided accordin g to th e topics with slig h t variation s every year. Th e on ly exception was 2017 wh en on ly
70 question s (out of a total of 250) were asked. However, in 2016, 2015 an d 2014, 100, 87.5 an d 100 were
respectively marked for question s on g eog raph y. Hen ce, you must keep in min d th at in g en eral studies
paper I, n early 35% of question s are asked from g eog raph y, wh ich certain ly is n ot a less n umber.

Natur e of questions

Irrespective of th e subjects, th e n ature of question s in civil services exam can n ot be similar. It

willcertain ly differ from subject to subject. For th at matter, if we were to compare an y two subjects, th e
composition of th ese will n ever be same. An d th is, in fact becomes an un n ecessary h urdle in systematic
preparation for th e exams.

We sh all n ow look in to th e n ature of question s asked in g eog raph y from th e poin t to view of prelims
an dmain s.

1. Th e question s asked in th e prelims will be of two types. Th e first type will in clude question s to ch eck
an aspiran t’s basic kn owledg e of th e fun damen tal issues of g eog raph y. In th e prelims, th ere will n ot
be an y straig h t question s on th e fun damen tals or issues related to th e core topics of th e subject. Th e
question s are formed in a way to test on es basic un derstan din g of th e subject. Hen ce, mug g in g th e
topics will n ot h elp. On e must un derstan d th e con cepts an d h ave a practical approach towards it. Th e
secon d set of question s will be on con temporary even ts. Th ere are two kin ds of question s related to
curren t affairs th at can be asked in g eog raph y. It will eith er be related to a place or a n atural calamity.
Th e question s pertain in g to place (location ) mig h t be slig h tly difficult, but th ere is on ly a subtle
differen ce between each question . If you h ave befrien ded th e atlas, th en you will easily sail th roug h .
Th e question s asked on catastroph e are relatively easy. All you n eed is to keep a track of n ews. If you
h ave been readin g n ewspapers well an d watch in g n ews ch an n els, it will be a cake walk for you.
An swerin g question s with a fluke mig h t prove disadvan tag eous. Hen ce, bein g well in formed about
your surroun din g s is advisable.
2. Question s asked in main s are quite ‘frien dly’. Some question s are so easy an d straig h t th at you can
easily fin d it in g eog raph y text books. But oth ers (almost h alf) are related to curren t affairs.However,
th ese are n ot difficult or an alytical in n ature. In fact, you can an swer some of th eseeven with a basic
kn owledg e of g eog raph y. Th e on ly con dition is th at you must kn ow g eog raph y well.

Method of pr epar ation

An aspiran t can more or less h ave an idea about th e meth od of preparation after lookin g in to th etypes
of question s asked. However, th ere are certain poin ts wh ich I would like to h ig h lig h t h ere:

1. Always use an atlas wh ile studyin g for g eog raph y. Use th e g raph ic represen tation of maps to
determin e th e position of coasts, states, etc
2. Despite bein g rooted in arts an d h uman ities, g eog raph y is primarily a scien ce. Hen ce, you must
prepare for it as an y oth er scien ce subject; wh ich mean s on e h as to always look in to th e ‘wh ys an d
h ows’ of a con cept. Th ere is always a reason beh in d every reaction . Hen ce, it is importan t to study th e
reason .
3. Th e in itial ch apters of th e subject pertain to th e basics of th e subject. You must h ave a th oroug h
kn owledg e of th e fun damen tals of g eog raph y. If you don ate some time to patien tly an alyze an d
un derstan d th ese con cepts, you’ll master g eog raph y an d also en joy th e subject. Addition ally, you will
un lock th e sh ackles of forg etfuln ess.
4. Spare yourself from readin g too man y books. Masterin g a few g ood books is advisable. After g oin g
th roug h th e NCERT book, an y h ig h -level book would be sufficien t for th e preparation . For th is
purpose, you can read Majid Husain ’s books.
5. If a lan dscape g oes th roug h a stark ch an g e or someth in g occurs in th e world in relation to
g eog raph y, th en it is obvious th at you n eed to prepare th at topic extremely well. I firmly believe th at
followin g th e above advises will h elp you secure g ood marks in th e UPSC exam.

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