You are on page 1of 9


Mrunal How to prepare Geography Optional for UPSC Mains?

- Mrunal - -

[Strategy] Geography Mains Booklist, Study plan, Answer-writing

Tips and Maps Preparation for UPSC
Posted ByMrunalOn 23/05/2012 @ 5:08 pm In Studyplan | 103 Comments

Overview of Geography (Mains) Preparation
Booklist for Geography Mains
Paper 1
Paper 2 (Indian Geography)
Books for Hindi Medium
Review on specific books
Indian Geography By Khullar
Majid Hussain
Physical Geography Savindra Singh
Rupa Series
How to write Answers in Geography (Mains)?
Open Ended Questions
Diagrams in the answers
New places / Current Affairs
Drawing the Maps
State map
World Map
How to handle the maps questions?
Guideline for Geography Map pointing Questions in Mains
Problem with Geography
Four important aspects
What is required to succeed with Geography?
How to Read Geography Books?

This article is a compilation of tips given by Mr.Abhiram AIR 4/CSE 2010 in Indianofficer forum.
I received some emails & requests from fellow IO members asking me about the strategy I
followed for geography. This short article is in response to those requests. I hope this will be of at
least some value to future aspirants.
Before that Ill introduce myself Im Abhiram cleared CSE 2010 in my first attempt. My rank is
mainly due to my marks in geography (385 marks 196+189 in papers 1 & 2).



Mrunal How to prepare Geography Optional for UPSC Mains?

Overview of Geography (Mains) Preparation

1. I think it is better to read the minimum possible number of books, but it should be revised
regularly. For eg: I followed only savindra singh for physical geography, and did not buy separate
books for geomorphology, climatology or oceanography. (ive attached the list of books I followed
at the end).
2. I did not prepare notes from standard text books, as I felt it was redundant. Instead I wrote tips &
headings on the margins of the book for easier reference. I concentrated on my class notes for
proper structuring of answers.
3. Use diagrams, maps, flowcharts & other innovative illustrations in your answers. Diagrams
simplify the detail & improve the presentation also. I followed the thumb-rule of one diagram for a
paragraph (i.e. Approx. 1 or 2 figures per page.) Even in questions where the need of a diagram
may not be apparent, try to draw at least one. Eg: for the question on occidental culture realm, I just
drew a rough map & marked the corresponding area, which might have caught the examiners eye.
Eg: for a question on world trade pattern, I drew a world map with arrows pointing out the nature &
flow of commodities between developed & developing nations. This, I believe, leads to a better
expression of an idea which is either difficult or lengthy to express in words.
4. As far as mapping is concerned, try to identify places that appeared in the news for some reason
(eg: jaitapur, sanand, krishnapatanam etc.). Frankly speaking, luck was a major factor that helped
me in india map & I notched up 11 correct locations out of 15 given in the question. My interest in
wildlife/travel & my location in south india helped me identify 6 locations.
5. I followed the deadline of (number of marks/2) minutes for answer completion & did not take
into account the number of words. Eg: I put aside 10 minutes for a 20 marker. Even this strategy
failed me in Geo paper 1 as I was not able attempt around 15-20 marks.
6. For answering less specific questions (eg: problems & prospects of agro-based industries in
bihar), use intelligent correlation to write comparatively good answers. For eg: problems of agro
industries are related to geomorphology, climate, transportation, quality of manpower etc. You can
opt for either a bright or dull prospect, but substantiate the stand. If you are positive, then suggest
the advantages of bihar with respect to agri production, large pool of manpower, flat land suitable
for road/rail etc. Along with the conditionality like bridges, better education & skill development of
workforce etc.
7. Practice drawing of diagrams to increase speed & save time.
8. Mock tests conducted by Shankar sir, followed by individual correction sessions greatly refined
the quality of my answers.
9. For contemporary issues topic in the syllabus, I mainly relied on my preparation for GS.
PS I am heavily indebted to Shankar sir for motivating & training me to think innovatively &
answer creatively during the exam. The credit for almost all the tips that ive mentioned goes to



Mrunal How to prepare Geography Optional for UPSC Mains?

List of major sources i followed. The list is definitely not exhaustive, but i have tried to be just to
your need.

Booklist for Geography Mains

1. Physical Geography by Savindra Singh
2. Certificate Physical and Human Geography by Goh Che Leong
3. Ncert 11th & 12th geography textbooks (can be downloaded free online from official NCERT
4. Human Geography by Majid Hussain
5. Evolution Of Geographical Thought by Majid Hussain
6. Indian Geography by Khullar
7. Geographic theories by K.Siddartha or Majid husain
8. The Orient blackswan Atlas
9. Oxford atlas
10. Spectrums geography guide for illustrations & miscellaneous topics
11. Made Simple series of Rupa publication (2 books)
12. Shankar sirs class notes

Paper 1
Geomorphology/climatolgy & oceanography Physical geography by savindra singh
Biogeography & ecology part of environmental geography Rupa series
Contemporary areas of bio/environmental geography no specific preparation. Just what i
read in magazines & newspapers
Human geo theories Human Geography By Majid Husain
World agriculture in economic geo Models, theories & processes by Siddartha &
Certificate Physical and Human geography by goh cheng leong
Population geo Human Geography By Majid Husain

Settlement geo Spectrums geography guide (Ed. I think author is Rajiv Ahir)
Regional planning mainly handouts given by shankar sir (photocopy from some textbook)
Models, theories & laws Geographic theories by Siddartha & parts from Majid husain

Paper 2 (Indian Geography)

Regional development & planning mainly handouts given by shankar sir (photocopy from
some textbook)
Settlements NCERT & Spectrums geography guide
Political geo no specific material, just class discussions with shankar sir
Contemporary issues no specific preparation. Just what i read in magazines & newspapers
For the rest about india, ncerts & Indian Geography by Khullar is more than sufficient
Books for Hindi Medium
I do not know about Hindi medium books in geo, because i wrote the exam in English. But savindra
singhs physical geography is available in Hindi. You can definitely buy that. Ncert 11th & 12th
geo will also be available in Hindi. As for other books, ive no idea.



Mrunal How to prepare Geography Optional for UPSC Mains?

(Ed. Majid Hussains books under Tata MAcgrawhill Publication are usually available in Hindi as
Missing topics can be read from spectrums geography.
It is not absolutely necessary to take coaching, but in a highly popular subject like geo, it always
helps to be a few steps ahead of the crowd which is possible if you get good guidance.
Pls do not leave out any topic as a whole. Have a basic idea of everything in the syllabus. But you
can be selective while studying in-depth.

Review on specific books

Indian Geography By Khullar
Khullar is mainly a reference book meant to support NCERT. Youll have to follow the whole
book, but there is no need to read line by line, or every page. Some chapters like physical setting,
soil, environment, etc. Need in-depth reading in khullar. Others like minerals, agri, industry,
transport etc. Only need a cursory reading. But take a good look at the maps & important places.
For eg:, you must know major mines in the important coal belts of india, major national highways
Majid Hussain
You dont need to study the whole of majid husain, but only those topics mentioned in the syllabus.
Physical Geography Savindra Singh
Chapters in Physical Geography- Savindra Singh are divided into portions that mirror the
mains syllabus (paper 1 section A) like geomorphology, climatology, oceanography &
landform development. Take the syllabus & compare the various topics in the former & the
book. Then youll know what to read & what not. Newer editions even have a glossary of
terms at the end, which is useful for definitions.
I think the new edition of phy.geo. By savindra singh has a portion on sealevel change, law of
the sea & marine pollution.
For marine pollution & sea-level change you can definitely frame points out of your GS
Youll need Orient Blackswan Atlas also, as some features are better explained in it than in oxford
atlas. Also, i do not know about adhikaris geo thought, but ive heard it is a bit too lengthy.
Rupa Series
Btw, i dont think id have said rupa series was the best for soils & landform development.
It was the book i followed, thats all! Made simple series is very useful, esp. The soil
geography & landform development part.
Rupas series is also really good but youll need only some of the chapters & not all.
I have never made notes from standard textbooks at any point of preparation. I used to underline the
important points & also write hints on the margin of the textbooks.
How to write Answers in Geography (Mains)?



Mrunal How to prepare Geography Optional for UPSC Mains?

The intro & conclusion differ from question to question, and also based on the marks allotted.
Generally theres no need for long intros for 20 markers. It is the heart of your answer that is most
important as it contains the stuff.
Generally speaking, most candidates will answer the direct questions (like those relating to
cyclones,earthquakes, structure of earth, tides/coral reefs, landforms, erosion etc.) With almost the
same points, so try to maintain an edge by introducing new diagrams or presenting your answer in a
more appealing manner.
For small questions underline just underline one or two keywords. For the long ones youll have to
underline just the key points. Too much of it make your paper look ugly.
I used both headings (very frequently & only before starting non-intro paras) & points
(occassionally, but each point consisting of minimum 2-3 lines each) in my geography answer
Open Ended Questions
Also, be careful with the open ended questions you have to write answers with a geographical
perspective in your mind. Moreover, these answers should be as broad as possible in the sense that
it should cover a wide range of factors/issues.
For example: In geo mains 2010 paper 2 we had to write a short note on ethnic diversity of
north-east tribes. Instead of just describing the north-eastern tribes of india straightaway, i took
course to the following format.
Answer to above question as written by me:
small intro drew map of NE showing the strongholds of various tribes (bodo, apatani, naga,
garo, khasi etc.)
description of the ethnic diversity description of how geography created & re-inforced this
diversity and divided the people into island-like communities with each evolving its own
distinct culture, all of which contributed to NE becoming a ethnic diversity hotspot
(several mountain ranges like dafla/abor/mishmi/garo/khasi, perennial & swift flowing rivers
like subansiri/dihang/lohit/kameng, mountain gaps connecting
Tibet/myanmar/bhutan/chittagong with NE paved the way for intrusion of mongolian
races/languages, thick & impenetrable forests etc.)
small map of NE showing the above-mentioned geographic factors conclusion (just a single
line NE is a fine proof of how geography & ethnic diversity go together)
Diagrams in the answers
Most of the diagrams were from the textbooks i followed, but sometimes i had to innovate, as in the
question regarding WTOit is not necessary that there be one diagrm per para, but try to include
atleast one per page to break the monotny & improve presentation.
New places / Current Affairs
Q. F i get any new island name in news paper or any place of dispute should i locate in the map?
Ans. YES. You have to do that. Also note the sea/ocean, rival claimants names & presence of



Mrunal How to prepare Geography Optional for UPSC Mains?

natural resources (oil/gas/fish)

Drawing the Maps
I donot use any specific Technic for drawing Indias outlines ( boundaries). Just practiced free-hand
drawing and made sure that my drawing looked similar to the actual state interms of shape. Thats
State map
Q. If in any question i have to prsent map of any state for example orissa..should i draw the map of
india and inside it should i show orissa or only i draw map of orissa independentlyif so..then
remembring independent maps of every state is going to be very difficult.
Ans. It depends on the nature of question asked. If it specifically pertains to orisse, then youll have
to draw a rough map of orissa. It is not at all difficult if you can remmeber something general
regarding a states outline kerala (like a bitter gourd), tamil nadu (triangle), andhra (rectangle
with one long arm), square (sikkim, nagaland, haryana, punjab, HP, uttarakhand), rectangle (UP,
bihar), amoeboid (chattisgarh, MP) etc.
World Map
Q. How to practices world map..for example i have to show any country of middle east like libya
which is in should i showshould i draw the map of middle east and then i should show
libya inside or independent.
In world map, normally they provide the maps & youre supposed to mark the place/detail asked.
Theyve not asked for maps of other countries till now in my knowledge.
Suggestion (for world map) go from macro to micro. Start from the continent level landforms &
boundaries. Then move onto major countries. Then to any specific country in news (eg: an oil
producing town of libya can be asked!)

How to handle the maps questions?

You may face 4 situations in a map:
1. You know both the location & the description. (best case scenario)
2. You dont know the exact location on the map but you know about the place then mark the
spot where you think the place might be (let it go wrong, no problem), but write the exact
description. Youll definitely get marks.
3. You know the broad region in which the place is located, but not the exact unique detail
here you can go for intelligent correlation. Ill give an eg: suppose kudremukh is asked & you know
its somewhere in the western ghats of Karnataka but nothing special about it. First mark it on the
map. For the description, you can safely write anything thats common to the hills of w.ghats here
& it will surely be passable for an answer. Say, you can use points like one of the high peaks of
ghats, orogenic monsoonal rainfall, tropical evergreen forests, biodiversity hotspot, non-perennial
streams, potential for tourism/small hydro etc.
Here the trick is to write a word or two about each topic in the syllabus (ie whichever is applicable)
linking it with the place asked ie. Importance/speciality of the place from the point of view of



Mrunal How to prepare Geography Optional for UPSC Mains?

geomorph/climatology, oceano/biogeography, settlement, trade, agri, industry, transport etc. This

will give you enough material & may even exceed 30 words. This method will not fetch you full
marks, but its better than a zero.
4. You neither know the place nor the description. (May God can help you!) Perform some
guess work, which may range from logical to ridiculous. If lucks on your side, youll get it. I got
the entry for phalgu river (geo-2 2010) correct in this fashion. It seemed like a Hindi name to me &
so I marked it in bihar, and wrote a description common to all rivers of indo-gangetic plain
meanders, floodplains, sandbars, alluvium etc. I came home, checked wikipedia & found to my
pleasant surprise that I guessed it right. But 4 other guesses went wrong.
yes, i used at least one diagram per page. That surely breaks the monotony of the examiner. You
can use maps or other figures as you feel fit

Guideline for Geography Map pointing Questions in Mains

Remaining part is copy pasted from MG Kumar Raos thread
on Indian
One of the reason for Geography have been popular in mains ,for map pointing in both the papers.
Since 2007 Union Public Service Commission has been doing various experiments in map pointing
to reduce its popularity mainly to reduce the impact of coaching institutes.
Last Year map in both the papers is direct evidence for it.
First of all map needs rigorous practice, There is no doubt in it.
But what kind of points to be practiced and how to write info for the corresponding entry in various
angles like physical,human,economic,cultural,environmental etc is one of the major challenging
issue for all the serious aspirants.
I have done 10 and 13 entries in paper 1&2 respectively in all aspects the question being asked
including GMT.
I can give guidelines, I would be happy if it works for any of the aspirants.
1. Do all the entries in NCERT Books[6,7,8 class text book Land and people,11th and
2. 12th class india and world]
3. Take a series of empty maps and try to locate all physical features at on place and so on for
various features.
4. Follow the hindu News Paper, Particularly for Indian Places.
5. This Year almost 4 difficult entries were in News.
6. Try to assosiate on map with another map
7. For Eg:After completion on Physical India, impose the map on political,Then economic ,
transport etc
If you dont know the info for any place try to associate with the syllabus.



Mrunal How to prepare Geography Optional for UPSC Mains?

For ex: To write 40 words on Ken river.

A seasonal dendritic river of Bhundelkhand and tributary of Chambal originating at foot hills of
Vindhya. It is the part of Indias first river linking project. Provides irrigation, drinking water,
electricity to this region. Famous for highly eroded landforms Ravines.
This particular info on Ken coverd in all angles asked by Union Public Service Commission.

River charcters-sasonal and Dendritic
OtherRiver linking

I think this particular description will get 80% marks

When you are doing map point kindly respect the rules of map pointing.

Corresponding symbols
Lettering(writing name)

Some more Gems by M G Kumar Rao

Problem with Geography

It is very much true that geography one of the most popular optional in Union Public Service
Commission both in UPSC Preliminary Examination as well as in mains. This can be directly infer
from the selection list of each and every year. One major advantage and limitations of geography
availability of plenty of material from various coaching institutes ,text books and guides in the
market. often they have been misguiding students those who are not having any strategy or
planning. Therefore one must take care of these guidelines

Four important aspects

1. One important aspect in civils service is , person must know what to read and what not to
read.This looks very simple but most of the people do mistake at this, and often do mistakes.
2. second aspect in what way the material are to be studied and how to balance both optional
and gs.
3. how to prepare notes and and how much time is required to allot for revisions
4. above all, the most important thing is how to write the exam; Because i believe most of the
people are failed to clear exam even after well preparation.

What is required to succeed with Geography?

One must have complete grip on syllabus: the topics which were given in syllabus of Union



Mrunal How to prepare Geography Optional for UPSC Mains?

Public Service Commission preliminary. I suggest at least read once syllabus every day and
try to digest each and every sub heading.
One must look into old question papers in order to understand the nature of questions and to
know the pulse of Union Public Service Commission for what exactly they are demanding
form student .
One advantage with geography is it requires both analitical study and factual study (route
memorization);There fore this optional eqully easy/difficult for arts and science background
Accuracy can come only with revision for atlast 5-6 times and reading with analysis and

How to Read Geography Books?

While reading these books one must take care of syllabus and nature of questions.
One must follow the map while reading these text books, Because it develops your analytical
Use Penguin dictionary where ever youre not comfortable with terminology of geography.
I think you may or may nt get the subject in ur first reading; but dont stop reading.
I suggest you go through at least twice these books so that you will come to know various
links associated between topics. There is no need for you to read each and every text book
from 1st page to last page. I suggest you strictly bound to syllabus.
In your 3rd and 4th reading one must prepare notes from these books. By this time you will
come to know pulse of Union Public Service Commission.
I strongly believe one who follows sincerely these things at a time of 4-5Hrs per day for
geography, i think for all the 4 revisions including notes preparation may take 85-100 days.
Understanding each and every word of syllabus
Minimum of 150 word notes on each and every sub topic of syllabus
Connectivity, application and analysis
Diagrams, pictures and graphs
Books are necessary but not sufficient. Because mains doesnot demand bookish knowledge
alone. You need to develop skill of linking, writing and application. It will not come in a day
but Keep on practicing the old question papers- it is the only way to come out from this.

Related Articles
1. [Strategy] Law Optional Subject for UPSC Mains:
2. [Strategy] Public Administration Mains
Article printed from Mrunal:
URL to article:
Copyright 2014 Mrunal. All rights reserved.