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Prepare UPSC Mains Geography Optional Paper : Syllabus, Books & Tips

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Geography is one of the popular optional subjects among IAS aspirants. Every year around 16,000 candidates appear for Mains exam conducted by the UPSC. In that, roughly 3000 to 4000 aspirants sit for Mains with Geography as an option. In this article we will be discussing about preparation of UPSC Mains geography optional paper. We have also included syllabus, books and tips for better preparation.

Geography is the subject in which we study about places and the relationships between people and their environments. In UPSC exam, geography is popular because its syllabus is comparatively less and it’s scoring. You will find below, preparation strategies to ensure selection in UPSC Mains with Geography as your optional subject.

Strategies/Precautions To Take While Preparing Geography For UPSC Mains

 Understand the Syllabus First

Go through UPSC Mains Geography Syllabus and first check which part is totally new for you. First read all topics of Geography and make yourself comfortable with the full syllabus. For this purpose, NCERT books are best. If you are a graduate in geography, you can easily make out the important portion of syllabus after analyzing last years’ papers.

Read Good Reference Booksprepare UPSC Mains geography paper

Don’t waste time on reading every second book suggested for strategies on preparation, on the web. Select the good books topic-wise and stick to those. The minimum the necessary books you will study, the maximum will be your revision. Below is a list of few good books of Geography for UPSC Mains.

  • Physical Geography by Savindra Singh
  • Geography Through Maps by K. Siddhartha
  • NCERT 11th & 12th Geography Textbooks
  • Human Geography by Majid Hussain
  • Certificate Physical and Human Geography by Goh Che Leong
  • Geomorphology by Savindra Singh
  • Geographic Theories by K.Siddartha and Majid Hussain
  • Evolution Of Geographical Thought by Majid Hussain
  • Mineralogy by K.M.Bangar
  • Indian Geography by Khullar
  • Regional Planning in India – Chand and Puri
  • The Orient School Atlas

Break Each Topic down into Sub-Topics

Preparing a break up of bigger topics into smaller ones will ensure that though, in small portions, you will get the chunks of information that you will be able to handle comparatively easily vis-à-vis the whole topic in one go. For example, you can break up “Important Geophysical Phenomena” into Earthquakes, Tsunami, Volcanoes, Cyclones etc. so that each of the sub-topics gets digested and understood easily one by one.

Prepare Important Topics

Since the Mains exam covers three fourth of the Geography syllabus of the Prelims, preparing the Mains first will benefit you more. In case, a student is new to Geography, it is expected of him/her to follow the below-mentioned plan

  • Studying geography syllabus with care and differentiating between the known and the unknown topics. One should be ready to work hard for the latter.
  • For killing the ignorance of the unknown topics, a deep reading of at least 2 basic books is highly advised.
  • Concentrating comparatively more on the more productive areas of your preparation that will produce more results in less time.

Practice Solving Previous Years’ Question Papers

It is always advised to check last ten years’ papers for any competitive exam, here Geography. Previous years’ papers give an idea of the type of questions as well as of that part of the syllabus which is covered more frequently. Focus on solving these papers and if possible, get these solutions and answers checked.

prepare UPSC Mains geography paper

Focus on Important Topics of Geography for UPSC Mains

Read full syllabus of Geography for UPSC Mains once; you will conclude that it’s necessary to attempt unexpected questions too. You can be a bit selective for detailed study.

The question paper is divided into two sections A & B in which the first and the fifth questions are compulsory. In paper one, section B is difficult. It is advised to prepare all three chapters of section B to attempt the fifth question. Though it is difficult, it will help you to score good marks.

If we talk about Paper two, Section-A is very vast and you can be selective for preparing Mineralogy, Sedimentology, and Petrography first. In Section-B, cover Economic Geology, Geochemistry, and Environmental Geology first. We do not mean to advise you to leave a chapter, which would be risky. If for any reason you are skipping any chapter, first go through question papers of last ten years to assure yourself. In the question paper of Geography UPSC Mains, you can find lots of repetitive questions which will help you to analyze the trend.

Build the Habit of Using Illustrations Innovatively

Use diagrams, maps, flowcharts & other innovative illustrations in your answers and start practicing them right now when u have ample time. Diagrams simplify the detail & improve the presentation also. Follow 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, just draw a rough map & mark the corresponding area, in the hope that it might catch the examiner’s eye. Another example can be cited for a question on world trade pattern. For this, it is suggested to draw a world map with arrows pointing out the nature & flow of commodities between developed & developing nations. This is assumed to lead to a better expression of an idea which is either difficult or lengthy to express in words.

As far as mapping is concerned, try to identify places that appeared in the news for some reason. These strategies will boost your chances of keeping an upper hand in the Geography UPSC Mains.

Coaching for Geography for UPSC Mains

It’s not necessary to join coaching to crack Geography UPSC Mains. But, guidance always gives an upper edge and is a bonus. Be cautious of the fact that you do not run collecting notes of various coachings as they all give almost the same materials.  About 80% of all notes are a repetition of each other and you will waste a lot of time.

Answer writing tips

For guiding you in writing answers particularly, for the Geography UPSC Mains Exam, we have provided points for you to work on, as mentioned below:

  • Plan proper Introduction of long answers; it could be either indirect, through some lines or quotes or direct with general explanation followed by an exact definition.
  • Introduce topic in short as per question and after that use intelligent correlation between topics to write comparatively good answers.
  • Use diagrams, maps, flowcharts to illustrate your answers. Nature of subjects is difficult so diagrams can simplify the details. Practice making more diagrams. You have to find out the option to make diagrams even in questions where its need seems not so apparent.
  • It is necessary to do the practice of drawing diagrams. It will save your time and will speed up your answer writing skill.
  • As far as mapping is concerned, hang one map each of India and world on the wall of your room. On daily basis try to identify places that appear in the news for some reason.
  • Every year UPSC is doing experiments with the map. So, practice all aspects of maps i.e. Physical, Economic and Social.
  • There is no hard and fast rule to write answers in points or paragraphs. Make an intelligent mix of both.
  • Your answer should end suggesting a solution or some positive or visionary description.
  • Geography demands use of examples to elaborate but refrain yourself from using one example again & again.

Test series of Geography for UPSC Mains

It is always a good idea to join a reputed test series. Join the test series which gives feedback to make improvements. Test series gives you an opportunity to check the progress of your preparation. Candidates generally fail to attempt full paper in allotted time. To avoid such situation, it is better to go for a practice session.

These are not everything for the UPSC Mains Geography paper, but will help you a lot. What ultimately matters is your dedication and determination.

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By Sunita Singhal

Sunita Singhal is a personality development trainer cum counsellor with over 15 years of experience. She is associated w...more

Sunita Singhal is a personality development trainer cum counsellor with over 15 years of experience. She is associated with various management institutes. less

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