UPSC Courses

Geography Optional Strategy For UPSC Preparation

By Aspire IAS

Posted on : 04 September, 2021 16:55

Geography Optional is one of the most opted for Optional in UPSC Preparation. To get a good score, it is important to prepare a Geography Optional Strategy. And Geography Optional is also opted due to the following reasons:
1. Interesting concepts and diagrams.
2. Easily available material in the market. Click here to find the complete booklist of UPSC Geography Optional.
3. Concurrence with UPSC General Studies Mains Paper I, Paper-II (International Relations part) and Paper III (Industry, Agriculture, Contemporary issues), etc. Hence this helps cover UPSC Mains Syllabus also.
4. Geography is a part of the curriculum in school, hence a basic knowledge.
5. Repetition of questions in UPSC Mains Examinations as shown in the Previous Years Question Papers.

When taking Geography as optional, you need to keep in mind that you are not only studying about the countries and cities; you are going to do an in-depth Geography optional strategy preparation from every aspect.
You need to keep in mind that while building a UPSC Geography optional strategy for preparation, the entire IAS syllabus should be covered. This can be done with the help of notes, reference books, or any other study material. You need to update the notes regularly on contemporary events as well as analyze the news from a geographical point of view. Lastly, answer writing is of significant importance for the examination.

How to prepare for Geography Optional and Geography General Studies?

Start with Mapping for Geography Optional Preparation

· First it is important to start with Mapping. You must complete the Mapping section comprehensively and not separately for every topic.
· Aspire IAS has been one of the pioneers of Mapping Module which is helpful not just in UPSC Prelims but also in UPSC Mains in drawing Maps in Answer writing and in UPSC Geography Optional to score 300+ in Optionals and secure your rank.
· At Aspire IAS we teach World Mapping from Orient Longman Blackswan Atlas and Indian Mapping from Oxford Student Atlas.
· Drawing Maps in GS Paper I to IV can also give you an edge in GS marks and you can score 100+ in UPSC General Studies Paper I due to this habit.

 Start with NCERTs and Basics to strengthen your Foundation For Geography Optional Preparation

· If you are a beginner and you have to prepare Geography Optional on your tips, you must prepare a solid foundation of Geographical concepts and diagrams through NCERTs and Basic books.
· We cover these topics in our Geography Mapping and Advance Module in which we cover Geography from the point of view of General Studies but eventually it helps in Optionals since the topics and concepts remain the same, the depth of the answer writing changes.
· The NCERTs and GC Leong could be the best available sources for this purpose.

Then Start with Paper I: Human Geography

· After mapping, we must read with Paper I topics like Geographical Thoughts and Models & Theories because with this base you can write answers in Paper II of Optional.
· Also this is one of the most confusing and time-consuming subjects so it takes time to evolve the maturity needed to write UPSC Answers for Geography Optional.

Read Topics from Paper I and Paper II simultaneously:

· Then whenever you are completing a Topic from Paper I you must cover the same topic from Paper-II for Indian Geography.
· For example, if you are covering Industry, you must study the Industry related Models and Thoughts from Paper I like Weber, Growth Pole, etc. and then study India’s Five Year Plans, Industry chapter from India Year Book, and all the locational factors from Paper II of Geography Optional.
· This will ensure you study Geography Optional Topicwise and not Paper wise.

Linking both Paper I and Paper II

· All of the above steps will ensure your linkages of Paper I and Paper II and this will enhance your answer writing skills and understanding of the issues of India. Eventually, this gets reflected in your Personality Test which will fetch you 200+ marks in the Interview and your final selection.

Linking of the static and dynamic portion

· Dynamic portion of UPSC Geography Optional can be found on Aspire IAS Daily News Analysis which is a free-of-cost venture for all the aspirants of UPSC.
· The content is regularly updated as earliest as possible so that the continuity is maintained and only the important and UPSC Specific topics are covered comprehensively.
· Almost on a daily basis, you will find some news or editorials on topics like agriculture, industries, fisheries, monsoons, climate change, conservation, wildlife, energy, etc.
· So, you must note down important and exam-related points from those news items. For example, natural calamities and disasters are often seen in the news and they could be linked with both the papers up to a certain extent.


Retention in the Mind rather than in the Notes

· Many students have this habit of making notes of everything that comes in their way but at the time of the Examination, they forget the topics or get confused which leads to their failure in UPSC CSE Examination.
· No doubt Note Making is important in UPSC Journey but more than note-making, the topics, and the concepts should stay in your mind.
· Because in the examination hall, it is the mind that is going to recall and write the answers accordingly.
· Hence, Ankit Sir focuses more on the retention of the topics through Oral tests and Mnemonics along with conceptual clarity in classes.
· Having said that, Note making is especially important for current affairs. Your sources for notes should be newspapers, magazines like Down to Earth, government reports, Economic Survey, etc.


Make a separate copy of Diagrams, Maps, and Flowcharts

· Augment your notes with diagrams and flowcharts.
· Revise it multiple times so that at the time of UPSC Mains your answer stands out and you get an edge in the UPSC CSE Examination.
· Practice maps regularly. It is advisable to prepare region-wise maps from standard textbooks covering topics like physical features, terrain, soil, rivers, agriculture, monsoons, industries, resources, drainage, etc.
Revise, Revise and Revise!
· As Ankit Sir says, it is important to read 1 Topic 10 times, rather than 10 topics only 1 time.
· Success comes only with multiple revisions.
· Your fear goes away only with multiple revisions and Practice.
Geography as an optional subject is having a vast UPSC syllabus but with Ankit Sir’s guidance and your trust and passion for studies, one can study it in an organized way and the UPSC IAS Geography Optional syllabus can be covered without any hassle.
Aspire IAS has been guiding toppers from Geography Optional for 10 years and hence toppers like Reshma Mam (IPS Kerala) have been able to score top rank with Geography Optional.

Mistakes to avoid while preparing for upsc geography optional

  • Only focusing on physical geography and neglecting human geography - Both need equal attention.
  • Not practicing enough map-based questions - Map reading, interpretation and labeling skills need honing through regular practice.
  • Ignoring previous years' question papers - Solving past papers is critical to understand the evolving exam pattern and important topics.
  • Not relating concepts to real-world case studies - Application-based questions require applying theory to relevant case studies.
  • Trying to cram everything close to the exam - Consistent revision over months is crucial for retention.
  • Not maintaining organized notes - Notes must be comprehensive yet concise for quick revision.  
  • Getting stuck on in-depth details - Focus should be on understanding concepts and key facts only.
  • Not attempting mock tests regularly - Testing is vital for self-assessment and improving answer presentation.
  • Not seeking guidance from experts when needed - Don't hesitate to clarify doubts with faculty or fellow aspirants. 
  • Not balancing reading with writing practice - Equally important to improve answer writing skills within word limits.
  • Memorizing only for prelims, not integrating with mains prep - The approach needs to be integrated for both papers.
  • Ignoring map practice - Regular practice in mapping skills is indispensable to score high in geography optional.

With careful avoidance of such strategic and conceptual mistakes over the long preparation timelines, geography optional can prove to be a rewarding and scoring subject for UPSC.

How to Make Notes for Geography Optional

  • Carefully read the chapter and highlight important points

Read the chapter/topic attentively from beginning to end before making notes. As you read, use highlighters or markers to highlight definitions, theories, concepts, processes, facts, statistics etc. that seem important. This will help identify key points to be included in your notes.

  • Note down definitions, concepts, theories, processes, models in a clear and concise manner

When making notes, clearly write the definitions of key terms, concepts, and processes using simple words and point form. Concisely summarize relevant theories and models. Avoid verbatim copying from the textbook.

  • Use symbols, abbreviations, mind maps, diagrams to represent information visually

Represent information like cycles, systems, hierarchies etc. using simple diagrams, arrows, shapes. Create mind maps and flow charts to depict relationships. Use symbols and abbreviations liberally for quick recall.

  • Summarize the topic at the end of notes for quick revision

Leave the last page for a short summary of the key points of that topic in bullet points. This helps in quick revision.

  • Make topic-wise notes rather than chapter-wise notes for better understanding

Analyze the syllabus and make notes topic-wise rather than chapter-wise so that all concepts related to the topic are together. This facilitates connecting concepts across chapters.

  • Compare and contrast theories and concepts between physical and human geography

Make notes integrating related topics across physical and human geography to get a holistic picture. Compare and contrast the theories and models.

  • Add relevant examples, case studies, and statistics to illustrate the concepts

Include real-world examples, case studies, data, facts etc. that aid understanding and application of theoretical concepts.

  • Include practice questions at the end of each topic for self-evaluation

Frame short practice questions based on the concepts learned for self-assessment after making notes for a topic.

  • Use highlighters and stickers to mark important topics for quick identification

Use highlighters, bookmarks, tags, underlining to mark the most critical parts of notes for last minute revision.

  • Revise and improve notes regularly by adding new information

Keep updating notes with relevant current facts, issues, and discoveries. Refine existing notes to make them more clear and concise.

Read More on Geography Optional Strategy for Upsc Preparation


What Type Of Questions Can Be Asked From Geography Optional Subject?

Question Based

Map-based Questions:

Questions requiring identification/locating of physical features, resources, cities, etc on an outline or blank map of India and the world

Plotting and interpretation of information on sketch maps, topographic maps, weather maps, etc.

Analysis of drainage patterns, landforms, contours, settlements, transport networks, etc. on maps

Open-ended Questions:

Questions testing conceptual understanding of theories, processes, impacts related to topics like geomorphology, climatology, oceanography, ecology, etc.

Questions requiring explanatory answers on formation of landforms, climate patterns, spatial distribution of resources, population, economic activities etc.

Questions testing analytical thinking on geographical phenomena and ability to establish interrelationships.

Direct Questions:

Fact-based questions on definitions, geographic terms, processes, natural resources, climate types, etc. 

Questions directly asking for descriptions of features - e.g. characteristics of tropical cyclones, monsoon mechanism, soil types.

Questions testing knowledge of locations, spatial data, statistical figures related to geography.

Current geographical event-based questions testing awareness and application of concepts.

Sub-topic Based

Physical Geography

Questions on topics like earth's origin, interior, atmosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere, plate tectonics, rocks, oceans, weathering, geomorphic processes, climate, soils etc.

Human Geography

Questions on population geography, settlements, economic activities, transport, trade, urbanization, regional development, environment etc. 

Geography of India

Detailed questions on physical features, climate, natural resources, agriculture, industries, population, urban settlements of India and Indian states.


Questions on concepts of endogenetic and exogenetic forces, theories of landform evolution, drainage patterns, slope development etc.


Questions on composition of atmosphere, insolation, temperature, atmospheric pressure, precipitation, humidity, climate classification systems etc. 


Questions on ocean floors, temperature, salinity, tides, ocean currents, marine resources etc.

Environmental Geography

Questions on ecosystems, biodiversity, natural hazards, climate change, pollution, conservation strategies etc.

Geography techniques

Questions on map reading, use of GIS, aerial photography, remote sensing, quantitative techniques, cartography techniques.

Current Geographical Events

Questions on contemporary issues, environmental problems, geopolitical situations etc.

The UPSC tests a candidate's conceptual clarity, application skills and analytical abilities through geography questions. Thorough preparation of the entire syllabus is essential to tackle the geography paper.

Current Affairs Preparation of Geography Optional

  • Read newspapers daily and focus on geography-related news - environmental issues, natural disasters, climate change impacts, new geographical discoveries etc. Make notes of important current events.
  • Go through monthly and weekly news magazines like Down to Earth, Frontline etc. covering environment, geology, climate, biodiversity topics. Summarize key takeaways.
  • Follow Twitter handles and YouTube channels of organizations like NASA, National Geographic, WWF etc. for latest geographical updates.
  • Read annual reports of important agencies - Forest Survey of India, Indian Meteorological Department, National Disaster Management Authority etc. 
  • Browse government portals like Bhuvan, India Water Portal etc. for latest data, survey findings related to geographical aspects.
  • Refer to Economic Survey, NITI Aayog reports for geospatial data-based insights on agriculture, infrastructure etc.
  • Prepare monthly notes compiling important geographical events, discoveries, policies, initiatives in news. Revise daily/weekly notes.
  • Practice locating places mentioned in news on maps regularly. Understand associated geographical phenomena.
  • Assess impact of government schemes, projects in news from a geographical perspective.
  • Relate current events with relevant geographical concepts studied in the syllabus.

Being abreast with current geographical affairs and maintaining meticulous notes is crucial for scoring well in the GS paper as well as optional paper. Consistency and making interconnections with concepts already studied is key.

Related Topics:

Geography Optional Syllabus

NCERT Geography Optional Books

Syllabus of GS Paper 1 Geography Section

UPSC Geography Exam Pattern 2023 

Geography Notes

Geo Optional Previous Year Question Paper

Geography Optional Basic to Advance Batch for UPSC

Just follow these instructions, Ankit Sir’s mentorship and success will be yours! 

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