UPSC IAS Prelims 2021 Strategy for Geography

UPSC Prelims is already knocking on the doors of every UPSC candidate and without geography, preparation for UPSC Prelims would be incomplete. Geography is a crucial paper of General Studies Paper-I of UPSC Prelims as well as IAS Mains. Most of the candidates find this subject interesting due to its theoretical and practical approach towards the world.

If you are a candidate for UPSC Prelims and don’t find geography very appealing, there is no need to worry about it. Here we are providing a complete guideline which will definitely help you to prepare for Geography in a beneficial way.

Geography is an essential part of the UPSC syllabus. It is an interesting subject and unavoidable too since it is a vital part of General Studies Paper I and the IAS prelims exam.

Despite being interesting, some people don’t enjoy the prospect of studying Geography because there are a lot of facts and concepts here. You have to remember many things. If you are one of those IAS candidates who find Geography difficult, don’t despair. We bring you many tips and tricks that would surely help you ace this subject while enjoying it!

Highlights of Geography

  • There will be 100 questions in UPSC Prelims General Studies Paper I having 2 marks for each question.
  • Averagely from this section, 11% of questions come each year from Geography.
  • Geography is divided into 2 parts: Indian Geography and World Geography.
  • Proper syllabus plays a vital role in Geography Preparation.
  • Environment and Ecology is a different part of Geography.
  • Geography questions often depend on climate changes and natural calamity also.
  • Relate your geography preparation with Environment and Ecology.

Step-by-step Strategies to Prepare Geography for UPSC Prelims 2020

No matter you are a student of technical subjects or non-technical subjects, Geography is such a subject that every candidate can relate to. Do not hop into studying whatever you find on geography. UPSC Prelims is one of the toughest exams, so you must be careful while taking any step.

Why Geography is an important Section UPSC Prelims Exam?

Aspirants sometimes think that environment and Geography is the same thing, but if you ask a professional about it, they always deny. Geography should be the first step before preparing for the environment or ecology. Here is a table which will show you the weightage of geography in each UPSC Prelims Exam of the past 5 years:


Syllabus of Geography for UPSC Prelims 2020

Read the syllabus thoroughly and remember all the topics. It is like the light-house of your preparation boat. Basically the Syllabus of Geography for UPSC Prelims is divided into two parts: World Geography and Indian Geography. These two can also be divided into 3 other components:

  1. World Geography – Physical, Social and Economic Geography
  2. Indian Geography – Physical, Social and Economic Geography

Physical Economic and Human Geography of India

Indian Geography Question Bank


Indian Geography questions with answers practice tests

Indian Geography Study Material for IAS

Important Topics from Geography for UPSC

Important Map-Based Questions

Free Geography Notes download Here

UPSC (IAS) Prelims 2020: Important Questions for Preparation of Geography

It is important to know the essential sub-categories also to get a complete understanding of the total syllabus as well as answer the questions of UPSC Prelims General Studies Paper – 1.

Source of Study for UPSC Prelims Geography

The following list of books is for all type of candidates from beginners to advanced candidates. No matter what stage you are, we will help you to prepare in a better way:

NCERT Books for Beginners:

  • Class IX NCERT: Contemporary India Part-I
  • Class X NCERT: Contemporary India Part-II
  • Class XI NCERT: Fundamentals of Physical Geography
  • Class XI NCERT: Indian Physical Environment
  • Class XII NCERT: Fundamentals of Human Geography
  • Class XII NCERT: India, People and Economy

Books for UPSC Prelims General Studies Paper I: Suggestion by IAS Toppers

Advanced Books:

  • Certificate Physical and Human Geography – Goh Cheng Leong
  • Geography of India – Majid Husain
  • Geography of Population: Concepts, Determinants and Patterns – RC Chandna
  • World Geography – Majid Hussain
  • Physical, Human and Economic Geography for Civil Services Examination – D R Khullar

Source of Current Affairs

  • Newspapers: The Hindu, The Indian Express, the Hindustan, The Economic Times, The Times of India.
  • Magazines: Economic And Political Weekly, Down To Earth
  • Internet and Television.

Steps to Approach for UPSC Prelims Geography

Though UPSC Prelims the first stage of the selection process, it is one of the difficult exams of government. So, no matter how hard you read it will not be fruitful unless you work smartly. The vast amount of syllabus of each section always diverts you and geography is no exception. For that reason, here are some advantageous strategies especially for UPSC Prelims candidates

NCERT Reading:

Choosing NCERT books is a very brilliant decision. They are very basic and the language is also lucid which will help you to kick off your preparation for Geography. Read any topic at most from 2- 3 sources and then revise it a few times until you feel like you have the concept into your hand and can deal with any questions from this topic.

After you have completed a unit from the given syllabus, analyse the previous years’ question papers and try to frame the answers. This way will be able to focus on the topics of the examiners and solving questions will help you to give the idea of your growth of preparation.

How to Prioritize:

It is frequently advised that you should prepare World geography before Indian geography. This will allow you to get a grasp on the essentials of geography before you target Indian geography. A good understanding of physical geography reduces the time consumption to understand concepts under Indian geography and you will be able to relate the World geography with the Indian parts.

Relate Geography to history, economics and other topics:

The history, culture, economy, industrialization, socio-political turmoils – all very closely related to geography. For example, to know which are the oil-producing countries and regions and which country owns which oil mines – such news are very important and already read in your source of study. So, whenever you come across such news or affairs, related them with your study. Geography is related to anthropology also. For instance, the culture, clothes, customs, etc. of a place are direct consequences of its climatic conditions.

Make your own notes:

It is always advisable that making your own notes will definitely help you to understand better in the exam times and will help you later to revise. But do not make notes for every topic. It is really time-consuming. Try to make notes online or in digital format so that you can edit it later as per your requirements. Writing in old-school format will consume more time than usual.

Practising Maps:

For Geography, most of the questions are directly or indirectly linked with maps and after looking at the previous years’ questions, it is very much notable that the importance of maps will remain as it is. Therefore, Thorough knowledge of maps (India and World) location, important cities, physical features, river system, passes and peaks could be and should be studied from maps.

Link with Current Affairs:

Most of the static topics from these subjects are dynamically linked with contemporary issues and current affairs both nationally and internationally. In such cases reading current affairs are a must. This is very important for UPSC Mains candidates who have chosen Geography as their Optional subject of UPSC Mains.

Time for General Tips:

  • Find shortcut on your own to remember the name of states and countries with the capitals.
  • Note the current climate changes and important economical problems.
  • Note the new rules implemented for geographical and economical balance worldwide.
  • While preparing your notes, make a separate section of important locations that have been popping up in the news frequently.
  • Maintain separate notes for current social and geographical issues impacting the polity and the economy of India as well as the world.
  • try to complete the geography section within 2-3 months
  • Take the mock tests on a regular basis to speed up.

We genuinely hope that the above-mentioned strategies and advice will help to walk the path to qualify UPSC Prelims. Try to form your study schedules and targets keeping the vastness of geography in mind. Your plan should be according to your comfort level and nearly 3 months on your schedule will be accumulated by Geography. And if you have any doubts, do not hesitate, feel free to reach out to us.

Tips to make Geography fun and easy:

Know what to learn:

First things first. Read the UPSC syllabus many times so that you know precisely what to learn from your IAS study material. Start with the NCERTs and then graduate to higher-level books.

Know the question paper pattern:

Go through as many past years’ UPSC question papers and internalize the pattern. Understand how the UPSC sets papers so that you don’t get any surprises at the exam hall.

Relate what you read to your surroundings:

You read about Geographical phenomenon almost on a daily basis on the newspapers. When you read about a natural calamity or phenomenon, relate it to what you have read in the textbooks. This way, you are also preparing for the current affairs. Current affairs have a high dose of geography as well.

Relate Geography to history, economics and other topics:

The history, culture, economy, socio-political turmoil of a region – all have a strong connection to Geography. For instance, to know which are the oil-producing countries, you only have to study the socio-political situation of that region. Geography is related to anthropology also. For instance, the culture, clothes, customs, etc. of a place are direct consequences of its climatic conditions.

Fun with mnemonics:

We bring you some fun mnemonics to aid your memorization of certain facts in Geography.

Remembering the Central American countries (countries lying 
between North and South America)




El Salvador



Costa Rica


Together, they form the shape of an elephant’s trunk.

MGreat Big Elephant Has NCRitical Problems.

Remembering the Himalayan ranges from top to bottom






Kal (Z)Jana Padega Desh Se

Remembering the main passes of the Himalayas

1. Sikkim – Nathu La, Jelep La

Nathuram Sikkim Jail Gaya

2. Himachal Pradesh – Rohtang Pass, Bara-lacha Pass, Shipki Pass

Himesh aur Rohit barah baje shipki gaya

3. Arunachal Pradesh – Diphu Pass, Sela Pass, Bomdi La

Dipu was sent to Bombay.

Remembering the oceans from largest to the smallest

Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean, Indian Ocean, Southern Ocean, Arctic Ocean


Remembering the countries through which the Prime Meridian passes

Burkina Faso, Spain, France, Ghana, Algeria, Mali, England, Niger Toto


FAQs related to Geography of UPSC Prelims 2020

Ques. Is NCERT enough for the geography of UPSC Prelims?

Ques. Is World Geography is important for UPSC Prelims?

Ques. How many hours should I study for UPSC?

Ques. Is one year sufficient for UPSC preparation?

Ques. How can I start my geography preparation for UPSC Prelims at home?

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