How to study Geography for IAS Exam

Indian Geography is a vital part of the IAS Syllabus. Conceptual understanding of geography is necessay to score well in both UPSC IAS Prelims as well as in UPSC IAS Mains. Here we are providing the detailed strategy for preparing geography for UPSC Mains.

Jyoti Sharma
Jan 23, 2017, 12:52 IST

how to study geographyWhy study Geography?

A holistic view of geography encompasses a major portion of UPSC syllabus, especially Indian physical geography for general studies paper 1 and economic and environment Indian geography for general studies paper 3.

Conceptual understanding of geography is crucial for scoring in both UPSC IAS Prelims and UPSC IAS Mains. Now the most important question is how to approach such a vast portion.

Let’s see the importance of geography by analysing last three years previous years papers.


Marks allotted from geography

Marks  allotted from economic and environment geography

Paper 1

   Paper 3










Current Issues and Events

Steps to approach geography:

1. Learn the keywords of the geography portion of the UPSC syllabus to help you identify the vital information to be extracted from any study material.

2. The major part can be finished from NCERTs and GC Leong. It is advisable to do this portion first as it will brush up your fundamental knowledge as well as help you in Prelims Exam.

3. Now pick up one topic at a time, for example, disaster management – it has three parts in the syllabus –Important Geophysical phenomena such as earthquakes, Tsunami, Volcanic activity, cyclone etc and Security and Disaster Management. Study them from the sources given below.

4. Make a list of vital topics from economic and Indian geography required for general studies paper 3.
    -Indian agriculture
    -Indian industries
    -Population and settlements facts like child sex ratio, birth rate etc.

5. Prepare separate notes on important current affairs related to geographical phenomenon’s like el-Niño, polar vertex etc. It will help you enhance your answers in the mains.

Strategy for Indian Economy for IAS Exam

Geography in General Studies Paper 1

A student having a fairly good understanding of standard books may find it easier to approach geography in paper 1. It should be noted that static portion does not mean direct fact-based questions from standard books, but opinion-based questions are per the given syllabus.

All the four new NCERTs of class 11tha d 12th are the most primary source for geography. This has mixed set of questions (both static and dynamic) within the same topic for e.g. Earthquakes. You can approach such a question by applying the backtracking algorithm. If a natural hazard occurs in India, you should study the causes, origin and aftereffects of the same. Another important source can be the annual report of national disaster response force.




Salient features of world’s physical geography.


Study basic by class 11th NCERT



Distribution of key natural resources across the world (including South Asia and the Indian subcontinent);


Both the new NCERTs of Class 12th

Human Geography and India, people and economy

Make a list of major natural resources important in export or imports to India like iron, copper, tea  etc and then prepare notes on their respective characteristics and spatial distribution

Factors responsible for the location of primary, secondary, and tertiary sector industries in various parts of the world (including India)


Same as above

Same as above

Note all the major industrial zones in India and industrial zones in the world that is specifically impacting India’s interest like silicon valley in California is closely associated with India’s silicon valley

Important Geophysical phenomena such as earthquakes, Tsunami, Volcanic activity, cyclone etc.,


Basics from Google, phenomena’s especially affecting India like frequent floods and tropical cyclones.

Down to earth magazine for latest developments.

Geographical features and their location- changes in critical geographical features (including water bodies and ice-caps) and in flora and fauna and the effects of such changes.


Both NCERTs of Class 11th

Physical Features of geography and Indian geography

Report by National disaster response force and recommendations made on reducing India’s variability to such hazards.

Best Books for IAS Exam

Geography in General Studies Paper 3

A good hold on fundamental knowledge of the environmental and human geography of India can prove to be an edge in paper 3 as many parts of syllabus require basics from geography especially agricultural geography. The questions asked from the environment and even disaster management are mainly application based and should be prepared in coherence with the Indian geography studies like cropping pattern and irrigation patterns etc.




Conservation, biodiversity, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment


Basics from Google, phenomena’s especially affecting India like frequent floods and tropical cyclones.

Keep track on all the current conversation summits happening and note key points.

Prepare points on the significant environmental organization in India.


Disaster and Disaster Management.




Same as above.

Do read the ARC recommendation on disaster management.

Keep track of all major environments –development decisions taken by the National Green Tribunal

Like odd-even formulae to control pollution.

Major crops cropping patterns in various parts of the country, different types of irrigation and irrigation systems storage, transport and marketing of agricultural produce and issues and related constraints;


Study Indian agriculture and crop pattern from D.R Khuller.


Make separate notes on all the governmental schemes and central targets related to agriculture from the India year book and economic survey.

Note all the major agricultural zones in India that are specifically impacting India’s interest like tea plantations and cooperative farming in south India.


Make notes from the Hindu weekly science edition on new technologies in agriculture.


Geography is the most stable, but the vast portion in GS papers and can be easily prepared in relation with prelims. You read the same NCERTs during prelims preparation; just remember the facts for prelims and answer some vital concept based questions in 200 words for mains practice.

To streamline your Mains preparation after prelims, it’s advisable to finish all the overlapping syllabus of geography, especially human and economic Indian geography with prelims itself. Maintain separate notes for current social and geographical issues impacting the polity and the economy of India.

10 Important Topics asked every year in IAS Exam

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