UPSC Courses

Geography Optional Syllabus for UPSC and Exam Pattern

By Aspire IAS

Posted on : 01 September, 2021 18:35

The UPSC IAS Geography Mains Optional carry a total weightage of 500 marks. The Geography Optional Syllabus for UPSC Examination 2023 and 2024 is divided into two papers - Papers I & II carrying 250 marks each.

For the UPSC Main exam, the candidates are required to choose one optional subject from the list of subjects offered.

Geography as an optional has a great success rate and it has been a record of Aspire IAS that those who write Mains with Geography Optional has high chances of clearing UPSC Examination 2023 – 2024 due to great mentorship of Ankit Sir and targeted preparation through Geography optional strategy which helps them score 290+ marks in UPSC Optional Papers like Reeshma Mam. The Geography Optional Syllabus for UPSC is quite vast and lengthy which requires consistent effort and strategy.

Division of Geography Optional Syllabus

  1. PAPER I

    1. Physical Geography
    2. Human Geography
    1. Geography of India

Hence we have divided the Geography Optional Syllabus into an easily understandable format for targeted studies as we do in Aspire IAS under the guidance of Ankit Sir who has 15+ years of Geography.

PAPER I: Principles of Geography

Paper-I of Geography Optional Syllabus is divided into Physical Geography and Human Geography.

Part 1: Physical Geography:

Part I of Paper I of UPSC IAS Geography Optional Syllabus consists of Physical Geography which includes Geomorphology, Climatology, Oceanography, Biogeography, and Environment Geography.

1. Geomorphology for Geography Optional Syllabus:

Geomorphology is the study of landforms, their processes, form, and sediments at the surface of the Earth (and sometimes on other planets). The study includes looking at landscapes to work out how the earth's surface processes, such as air, water, and ice, can mold the landscape. The Geomorphology syllabus of Physical Geography includes the following subtopics

  1. Factors controlling landform development;
  2. Endogenetic and exogenetic forces;
  3. Origin and evolution of the earth’s crusts;
  4. Fundamentals of geomagnetism;
  5. Physical conditions of the earth’s interior;
  6. Geosynclines;
  7. Continental drift;
  8. Isostasy;
  9. Plate tectonics;
  10. Recent views on mountain building;
  11. Volcanicity;
  12. Earthquakes and Tsunamis;
  13. Concepts of geomorphic cycles and Landscape development;
  14. Denudation chronology;
  15. Channel morphology;
  16. Erosion surfaces;
  17. Slope development;
  18. Applied Geomorphology;
  19. Geomorphology, economic geology, and environment.

2. Climatology for Geography Optional Syllabus:

Climatology or climate science is the scientific study of climate, scientifically defined as weather conditions averaged over a period of time. Following are the subtopics:

  1. Temperature and pressure belts of the world;
  2. Heat budget of the earth;
  3. Atmospheric circulation;
  4. Atmospheric stability and instability.
  5. Planetary and local winds;
  6. Monsoons and jet streams;
  7. Air masses and Fronts;
  8. Temperate and tropical cyclones;
  9. Types and distribution of precipitation;
  10. Weather and Climate;
  11. Koppen’s Thornthwaite’s and Trewartha’s classification of world climate;
  12. Hydrological cycle;
  13. Global climatic change, and role and response of man in climatic changes
  14. Applied climatology and
  15. Urban climate.

3. Oceanography for Geography Syllabus:

Oceanography is a science that deals with the oceans and includes the delimitation of their extent and depth, the physics and chemistry of their waters, marine biology, and the exploitation of their resources. It includes

  1. Bottom topography of the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans;
  2. Temperature and salinity of the oceans;
  3. Heat and salt budgets,
  4. Ocean deposits;
  5. Waves, currents, and tides;
  6. Marine resources;
  7. Biotic, mineral, and energy resources;
  8. Coral reefs coral bleaching;
  9. Sea-level changes;
  10. Law of the sea and
  11. Marine pollution.

4. Biogeography for Geography Optional Syllabus:

Biogeography is the study of the distribution of species and ecosystems in geographic space and through geological time. It includes

  1. The genesis of soils;
  2. Classification and distribution of soils;
  3. Soil profile;
  4. Soil erosion,
  5. Degradation and conservation;
  6. Factors influencing world distribution of plants and animals;
  7. Problems of deforestation and conservation measures;
  8. Social forestry, agroforestry;
  9. Wildlife;
  10. Major gene pool centers.

5. Environmental Geography for Geography Syllabus:

Environmental geography is the branch of geography that describes the spatial aspects of interactions between humans and the natural world. It includes:

  1. Principle ecology;
  2. Human ecological adaptations;
  3. Influence of man on ecology and environment;
  4. Global and regional ecological changes and imbalances;
  5. Ecosystem their management and conservation;
  6. Environmental degradation, management, and conservation;
  7. Biodiversity and sustainable development;
  8. Environmental policy;
  9. Environmental hazards and remedial measures;
  10. Environmental education and legislation.

Part II: Human Geography

1. Perspectives in Human Geography for Geography Optional Syllabus:             

  1. Areal differentiation;
  2. Regional synthesis;
  3. Dichotomy and dualism;
  4. Environmentalism;
  5. Quantitative revolution and locational analysis;
  6. Radical, behavioral, human, and welfare approaches;
  7. Languages, religions, and secularisation;
  8. Cultural regions of the world;
  9. Human development index.

2. Economic Geography for Geography Optional Syllabus:

  1. World economic development: measurement and problems;
  2. World resources and their distribution;
  3. Energy crisis;
  4. The limits to growth;
  5. World agriculture: a typology of agricultural regions;
  6. Agricultural inputs and productivity;
  7. Food and nutrition problems;
  8. Food security;
  9. Famine: causes, effects, and remedies;
  10. World industries: location patterns and problems;
  11. Patterns of world trade.

3. Population and Settlement Geography for Geography Syllabus:

  1. Growth and distribution of world population;
  2. Demographic attributes;
  3. Causes and consequences of migration;
  4. Concepts of the over-under-and optimum population;
  5. Population theories, world population problems, and policies, Social well-being, and quality of life;
  6. The population as social capital.
  7. Types and patterns of rural settlements;
  8. Environmental issues in rural settlements;
  9. Hierarchy of urban settlements;
  10. Urban morphology;
  11. Concept of primate city and rank-size rule;
  12. Functional classification of towns;
  13. Sphere of urban influence;
  14. Rural-urban fringe;
  15. Satellite towns;
  16. Problems and remedies of urbanization;
  17. Sustainable development of cities.

4. Regional Planning for Geography Syllabus:

  1. Concept of a region;
  2. Types of regions and methods of regionalization;
  3. Growth centers and growth poles;
  4. Regional imbalances;
  5. Regional development strategies;
  6. Environmental issues in regional planning;
  7. Planning for sustainable development.

5. Models, Theories, and Laws in Human Geography for Geography Syllabus:

  1. System analysis in Human geography;
  2. Malthusian, Marxian and demographic transition models;
  3. Central Place theories of Christaller and Losch;
  4. Perroux and Boudeville;
  5. Von Thunen’s model of agricultural location;
  6. Weber’s model of industrial location;
  7. Rostov’s model of stages of growth.
  8. Heartland and Rimland theories;
  9. Laws of international boundaries and frontiers


1. Physical Setting for Geography Optional Syllabus:

  1. Space relationship of India with neighboring countries;
  2. Structure and relief;
  3. Drainage system and watersheds;
  4. Physiographic regions;
  5. Mechanism of Indian monsoons and rainfall patterns;
  6. Tropical cyclones and western disturbances;
  7. Floods and droughts;
  8. Climatic regions;
  9. Natural vegetation,
  10. Soil types and their distributions.

2. Resources for Geography Syllabus:

  1. Land, surface and groundwater, energy, minerals, biotic and marine resources, Forest and wildlife resources and their conservation;
  2. Energy crisis.

3. Agriculture for Geography Syllabus:

  1. Infrastructure: irrigation, seeds, fertilizers, power;
  2. Institutional factors; landholdings, land tenure, and land reforms;
  3. Cropping pattern, agricultural productivity, agricultural intensity, crop combination, land capability;
  4. Agro and social-forestry;
  5. Green revolution and its socio-economic and ecological implications;
  6. Significance of dry farming;
  7. Livestock resources and white revolution;
  8. Aqua-culture;
  9. Sericulture, Agriculture, and poultry;
  10. Agricultural regionalization;
  11. Agro-climatic zones;
  12. Agro-ecological regions.

4. Industry for Geography Optional Syllabus:

  1. Evolution of industries;
  2. Locational factors of cotton, jute, textile, iron and steel, aluminum, fertilizer, paper, chemical and pharmaceutical, automobile, cottage, and ago-based industries;
  3. Industrial houses and complexes including public sector underkings;
  4. Industrial regionalization;
  5. New industrial policy;
  6. Multinationals and liberalization;
  7. Special Economic Zones;
  8. Tourism including ecotourism.

5. Transport, Communication, and Trade for Geography Syllabus:

  1. Road, railway, waterway, airway, and pipeline networks and their complementary roles in regional development;
  2. The growing importance of ports on national and foreign trade;
  3. Trade balance;
  4. Trade Policy;
  5. Export processing zones;
  6. Developments in communication and information technology and their impacts on economy and society;
  7. Indian space programme.

6. Cultural Setting for Geography Syllabus:

  1. Historical Perspective of Indian Society;
  2. Racial linguistic and ethnic diversities;
  3. Religious minorities;
  4. Major tribes, tribal areas, and their problems;
  5. Cultural regions;
  6. Growth, distribution, and density of population;
  7. Demographic attributes: sex-ratio, age structure, literacy rate, workforce, dependency ratio, longevity;
  8. Migration (inter-regional, intraregional, and international) and associated problems;
  9. Population problems and policies;
  10. Health indicators.

7. Settlements for Geography Syllabus:

  1. Types, patterns, and morphology of rural settlements;
  2. Urban developments;
  3. Morphology of Indian cities;
  4. Functional classification of Indian cities;
  5. Conurbations and metropolitan regions;
  6. Urban sprawl;
  7. Slums and associated problems;
  8. Town planning;
  9. Problems of urbanization and remedies.

8. Regional Development and Planning for Geography Syllabus:

  1. Experience in regional planning in India;
  2. Five Year Plans;
  3. Integrated rural development programs;
  4. Panchayati Raj and decentralized planning;
  5. Command area development;
  6. Watershed management;
  7. Planning for the backward area, desert, drought-prone, hill tribal area development;
  8. Multi-level planning;
  9. Regional planning and development of island territories.

9. Political Aspects for Geography:

  1. Geographical basis of Indian federalism;
  2. State reorganization;
  3. The emergence of new states;
  4. Regional consciousness and inter-state issues;
  5. The international boundary of India and related issues;
  6. Cross-border terrorism;
  7. India’s role in world affairs;
  8. Geopolitics of South Asia and the Indian Ocean realm.

10. Contemporary Issues for Geography Syllabus:

  1. Ecological issues: Environmental hazards: landslides, earthquakes, Tsunamis, floods and droughts, epidemics;
  2. Issues related to environmental pollution;
  3. Changes in patterns of land use;
  4. Principles of environmental impact assessment and environmental management;
  5. Population explosion and food security;
  6. Environmental degradation;
  7. Deforestation, desertification and soil erosion;
  8. Problems of agrarian and industrial unrest;
  9. Regional disparities in economic development;
  10. Concept of sustainable growth and development;
  11. Environmental awareness;
  12. Linkage of rivers;
  13. Globalization and the Indian economy.


NOTE: Candidates will be required to answer one compulsory map question pertinent to subjects covered by this paper.

To download the complete UPSC Geography Optional Syllabus and Explanation for UPSC Mains 2021-22: Click here


UPSC Geography Exam Pattern 2023

UPSC Recruitment is based on three stages i.e., Prelim Exam, Mains Exam, and an Interview. The candidates get to choose their optional subject for Paper VI & VII.

Here are the details about the UPSC Geography exam pattern for IAS Mains for UPSC 2023-24:

  • There will be two papers for the Geography Optional Subject.
  • Each paper would comprise 250 marks, which makes it 500 marks in total.
  • There is no negative marking.
  • There are 9 papers total in the UPSC Mains Exam.
  • Each paper would have objective answer type questions


Sr. No.

IAS Mains Papers




Paper VI

Geog Optional Paper I



Paper VII

Geog Optional Paper-II




Time Duration

3 hours each

Downlaod Geography Optional Syllabus PDF 

Click here: to get all the UPSC Previous Year Question Papers of Geography Optional from 2013 to 2020.

Click here: to get all the information on Which books to refer to for Geography Optional in UPSC IAS Examination 2021-22.


Newsletter Subscription
SMS Alerts

Important Links