UPSC Geography Syllabus 2023: PDF Download for Prelims, Mains Optional

UPSC Geography Syllabus 2023: Download the UPSC CSE Geography syllabus PDF, check topic-wise Geography Optional Syllabus for Papers 1 & 2. Along with preparation strategy and best books

Aug 15, 2023, 12:44 IST
UPSC IAS Geography Syllabus
UPSC IAS Geography Syllabus

Geography Syllabus for UPSC 2023: Geography is one of the most popular and toughest optional subjects in the UPSC exam. The UPSC Geography optional syllabus is categorized into several micro-topics including Indian Geography, World Geography, Physical Geography, and Human Geography. The geography syllabus for the UPSC exam is a part of GS paper 1 of Prelims & Mains and is an optional subject as well.  


The topics covered in the UPSC geography optional syllabus PDF and Prelims & Mains syllabus builds the relevance of human existence and instrumental components.  As per the previous year's exam analysis, the question asked in geography optional papers were difficult level.


In this blog, we have shared the detailed geography syllabus for UPSC PDF along with the preparation strategy and best books for the ease of the aspirants.

UPSC Geography Syllabus 2023 PDF

The Geography optional syllabus comprises two papers, i.e., Paper I and Paper II. Each paper carries 250 marks making it a total of 500 marks. Aspirants must adhere to the UPSC Geography syllabus and use the best books to develop conceptual clarity. Download the topic-wise UPSC Geography syllabus PDF for both papers from the link below.

UPSC IAS Geography Syllabus

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Geography Syllabus for UPSC 2023

Aspirants who have opted for geography as their optional subject will get the benefit of preparing for the geography section of both UPSC Prelims and Mains exams simultaneously. This will save their preparation time and help them to utilize the remaining time to cover all the concepts studied so far. Check the detailed geography syllabus for UPSC shared in the table below.

UPSC Geography Syllabus

UPSC Geography Syllabus for Prelims

Indian Geography, Physical Geography, World Geography, and Human Geography

Geography UPSC Mains Syllabus

Distribution of Key natural resources, Salient Features of the World’s Physical Geography, and Geophysical Phenomena.

Geography Optional Syllabus for UPSC

Physical Geography, Geography of India, Human Geography, and World Geography

UPSC Prelims Geography Syllabus

The geography syllabus for UPSC prelims exams covers sections such as Indian and World Geography which comprises topics i.e. Physical, Economics, Social, and Geography of India and the World. Check the detailed UPSC prelims geography syllabus in the table below:


UPSC Prelims Geography Syllabus

Indian Geography

Basics of India

Location, latitude, longitude, time zone, etc.


Important straits

States and their position

States with international boundaries

Physical features

The Himalayas – geological formation, climate, vegetation, soil, biodiversity, physiographic divisions, major passes, significance

The Great North Indian Plains – geological formation, physiographic divisions, climate, vegetation, soil, biodiversity, significance

Peninsular Plateau – geological formation, Central Highlands, Deccan Plateau, Western Ghats, Eastern Ghats

Indian Desert

Coastal plains and islands

River systems

Himalayan rivers

Peninsular rivers

River basins

Regional development and planning

Hydropower projects, major dams

West-flowing and east-flowing rivers

Interlinking of rivers


Monsoons – driving mechanism, El Nino, La Nina



Minerals and industries – mineral distribution, industrial policies, location


Land utilisation

Types of agricultural practices

Green revolution

Soils and crops


Land reforms

Animal husbandry

Government schemes

Natural vegetation and fauna

Classification of natural vegetation

Rainfall distribution in India

Biosphere reserves, national parks, etc.

Red-listed species

Economic infrastructure

Transportation (highways, inland waterways, etc.)

Power and energy sector

Conventional and non-conventional sources of energy

Energy conservation

Human Geography


Recent census

World Geography

Major natural regions

Regional geography of developed countries

Regional geography of developing countries

Regional Geography of South Asia

Physical Geography


Origin of the earth

Interior of the earth

Types and characteristics of rocks

Folding and Faulting

Volcanoes, earthquakes

Interior of the earth


Landforms formed by fluvial, aeolian and glacial actions


Atmosphere – structure and composition


Pressure belts of the Earth

Wind systems

Clouds and types of rainfall

Cyclones and anti-cyclones

Major climatic types


Ocean relief

Temperature, salinity

Ocean deposits

Ocean currents

El Nino and La Nina

Waves and tides


Soil: origin and types

Major biomes of the world

Ecosystem, food chain

Environmental degradation and conservation

Human Geography

Man & environment; relationship, growth and development of human geography; determinism and possibilism

Population, tribes, migration

Economic activities: agriculture, manufacturing, industries, tertiary activities

Settlements, urbanization, functional classification of towns, million-cities, and megacities

UPSC Mains Geography Syllabus

Geography is a major part of the General Studies paper I in the UPSC mains exam. Check the detailed geography syllabus for the UPSC exam below:

  • Distribution of key natural resources across the world including South Asia and the Indian sub-continent; factors responsible for the location of primary, secondary, and tertiary sector industries in various parts of the world including India
  • Important Geophysical phenomena such as earthquakes, Tsunami, Volcanic activity, cyclones etc., 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
  • Salient features of the world’s physical geography (geomorphology, climatology, oceanography, biogeography and environmental geography)
  • Geomorphology – the interior of the earth, tectonics, physical phenomenon, mountain building, volcanoes, earthquakes, weathering & erosion, rocks, landforms
  • Climatology – atmosphere, temperature distribution, jet streams, pressure & wind systems, airmasses, fronts, cyclones, humidity, precipitation, geographical phenomenon, climatic regions of the world
  • Oceanography – ocean relief, temperature distribution, ocean currents, salinity, coral bleaching, marine pollution, sea level change, UN laws, etc.
  • Biography – soil profile, degradation, conservation), biotic regions, deforestation and conservation of forests, changes in critical geographical features, environmental pollution

UPSC Geography Optional Syllabus 2023

The geography optional syllabus is divided into two papers i.e. Paper I and Paper II  in UPSC Mains. Each paper carries 250 marks with a total of 500 marks. One must read the UPSC geography optional syllabus to prepare for the exam in the right direction. Let’s look at the topic-wise UPSC geography syllabus for both the papers shared below.

IAS Geography Syllabus for Paper I

The geography Syllabus for UPSC optional for Paper I covers topics like Physical Geography and Human Geography. Check the detailed topic-wise UPSC geography syllabus for Paper I below:

Physical Geography

  1. GEOMORPHOLOGY: Factors controlling landform development; endogenetic and exogenetic forces; Origin and evolution of the earth’s crusts; Fundamentals of geomagnetism; Physical conditions of the earth’s interior; Geosynclines; Continental drift; Isostasy; Plate tectonics; Recent views on mountain building; Volcanicity; Earthquakes and Tsunamis; Concepts of geomorphic cycles and Landscape development; Denudation chronology; Channel morphology; Erosion surfaces; Slope development; Applied Geomorphology; Geomorphology, economic geology and environment. 
  2. Climatology: Temperature and pressure belts of the world; Heat budget of the earth; Atmospheric circulation; Atmospheric stability and instability. Planetary and local winds; Monsoons and jet streams; Air masses and fronto; Temperate and tropical cyclones; Types and distribution of precipitation; Weather and Climate; Koppen’s Thornthwaite’s and Trewar Tha’s classification of world climate; Hydrological cycle; Global climatic change, and role and response of man in climatic changes Applied climatology and Urban climate. 
  3. Oceanography: Bottom topography of the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans; Temperature and salinity of the oceans; Heat and salt budgets, Ocean deposits; Waves, currents and tides; Marine resources; biotic, mineral and energy resources; Coral reefs coral bleaching; Sea-level changes; Law of the sea and marine pollution. 
  4. Biogeography: Genesis of soils; Classification and distribution of soils; Soil profile; Soil erosion, Degradation and conservation; Factors influencing world distribution of plants and animals; Problems of deforestation and conservation measures; Social forestry, agro-forestry; Wild life; Major gene pool centres. 
  5. 5. Environmental Geography: Principle ecology; Human ecological adaptations; Influence of man on ecology and environment; Global and regional ecological changes and imbalances; Ecosystem their management and conservation; Environmental degradation, management and conservation; Biodiversity and sustainable development; Environmental policy; Environmental hazards and remedial measures; Environmental education and legislation.

Human Geography 

  1. Perspectives in Human Geography: Areal differentiation; Regional synthesis; Dichotomy and dualism; Environmentalism; Quantitative revolution and locational analysis; Radical, behavioural, human and welfare approaches; Languages, religions and secularisation; Cultural regions of the world; Human development index. 
  2. Economic Geography: World economic development: measurement and problems; World resources and their distribution; Energy crisis; the limits to growth; World agriculture: a typology of agricultural regions; Agricultural inputs and productivity; Food and nutrition problems; Food security; famine: causes, effects and remedies; World industries: location patterns and problems; Patterns of world trade.
  3. Population and Settlement Geography: Growth and distribution of world population; Demographic attributes; Causes and consequences of migration; Concepts of the over-under-and optimum population; Population theories, world population problems and policies, Social well-being and quality of life; Population as social capital. Types and patterns of rural settlements; Environmental issues in rural settlements; Hierarchy of urban settlements; Urban morphology; Concept of primate city and rank-size rule; Functional classification of towns; Sphere of urban influence; Rural-urban fringe; Satellite towns; Problems and remedies of urbanization; Sustainable development of cities. 
  4. Regional Planning: Concept of a region; Types of regions and methods of regionalisation; Growth centres and growth poles; Regional imbalances; Regional development strategies; Environmental issues in regional planning; Planning for sustainable development. 
  5. Models, Theories and Laws in Human Geography: System analysis in Human geography; Malthusian, Marxian and demographic transition models; Central Place theories of Christaller and Losch; Perroux and Boudeville; Von Thunen’s model of agricultural location; Weber’s model of industrial location; Ostov’s model of stages of growth. Heartland and Rimland theories; Laws of international boundaries and frontiers.  

IAS Geography Syllabus for Paper II

The geography Syllabus for UPSC optional for Paper II covers topics such as the Geography of India. Check the detailed topic-wise UPSC geography syllabus for Paper II below:

  1. Physical Setting: Space relationship of India with neighbouring countries; Structure and relief; Drainage system and watersheds; Physiographic regions; Mechanism of Indian monsoons and rainfall patterns; Tropical cyclones and western disturbances; Floods and droughts; Climatic regions; Natural vegetation, Soil types and their distributions. 
  2. Resources: Land, surface and ground water, energy, minerals, biotic and marine resources, Forest and wildlife resources and their conservation; Energy crisis.
  3. Agriculture: Infrastructure: irrigation, seeds, fertilizers, power; Institutional factors; land holdings, land tenure and land reforms; Cropping pattern, agricultural productivity, agricultural intensity, crop combination, land capability; Agro and social-forestry; Green revolution and its socio-economic and ecological implications; Significance of dry farming; Livestock resources and white revolution; Aqua-culture; Sericulture, Agriculture and poultry; Agricultural regionalisation; Agro-climatic zones; Agro-ecological regions. 
  4. Industry: Evolution of industries; Locational factors of cotton, jute, textile, iron and steel, aluminium, fertiliser, paper, chemical and pharmaceutical, automobile, cottage and ago-based industries; Industrial houses and complexes including public sector underkings; Industrial regionalisation; New industrial policy; Multinationals and liberalisation; Special Economic Zones; Tourism including ecotourism. 
  5. Transport, Communication and Trade: Road, railway, waterway, airway and pipeline networks and their complementary roles in regional development; Growing importance of ports on national and foreign trade; Trade balance; Trade Policy; Export processing zones; Developments in communication and information technology and their impacts on economy and society; Indian space programme. 
  6. Cultural Setting: Historical Perspective of Indian Society; Racial linguistic and ethnic diversities; religious minorities; Major tribes, tribal areas and their problems; Cultural regions; Growth, distribution and density of population; Demographic attributes: sex-ratio, age structure, literacy rate, work-force, dependency ratio, longevity; migration (inter-regional, interregional and international) and associated problems; Population problems and policies; Health indicators. 
  7. Settlements: Types, patterns and morphology of rural settlements; Urban developments; Morphology of Indian cities; Functional classification of Indian cities; Conurbations and metropolitan regions; Urban sprawl; Slums and associated problems; Town planning; Problems of urbanisation and remedies. 
  8. Regional Development and Planning: Experience of regional planning in India; Five Year Plans; Integrated rural development programmes; Panchayati Raj and decentralised planning; Command area development; Watershed management; Planning for backward area, desert, drought-prone, hill tribal area development; Multi-level planning; Regional planning and development of island territories. 
  9. Political Aspects: Geographical basis of Indian federalism; State reorganisation; Emergence of new states; Regional consciousness and inter-state issues; International boundary of India and related issues; Cross-border terrorism; India’s role in world affairs; Geopolitics of South Asia and Indian Ocean realm. 
  10. Contemporary Issues: Ecological issues: Environmental hazards: landslides, earthquakes, Tsunamis, floods and droughts, epidemics; Issues related to environmental pollution; Changes in patterns of land use; Principles of environmental impact assessment and environmental management; Population explosion and food security; Environmental degradation; Deforestation, desertification, and soil erosion; Problems of agrarian and industrial unrest; Regional disparities in economic development; Concept of sustainable growth and development; Environmental awareness; Linkage of rivers; Globalisation and Indian economy.


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

How to Prepare for Geography Syllabus for UPSC 2023?

Geography is one of the toughest optional subjects in the UPSC mains exam. Questions related to geography will be asked in all the selection stages of the UPSC CSE exam, so it is important to build strong preparation and cover the entire syllabus comprehensively. Here, we have shared the best tips and tricks to cover the entire geography syllabus for UPSC preparation.

  • Analyse Syllabus: One should go through the syllabus to get an idea of the topics and their sub-topics that are important from the civil service exam perspective. 
  • Read NCERTs: Candidates must read and clear the basic concepts of geography with the help of NCERTs textbooks of class VIII to XII. These will help you to cover the majority of the geography syllabus and enable you to develop conceptual clarity.
  • Read Basic Books: Apart from reading NCERTs, candidates should pick the standard books as well to complete the Geography optional syllabus for UPSC. Some of the expert-recommended books are Geography of India by Majid Husain and Certificate Physical and Human Geography by GC Leong.
  • Read Current Affairs: Candidates should stay updated with all the current events happening around the work as it is also included in the geography syllabus for UPSC. With this, one should read the atlas thoroughly as it is an important section of the geography syllabus.
  • Practice Previous Year Papers: Solve UPSC previous year's papers to get an idea of the topics being asked from the geography Syllabus for UPSC. This will boost your speed of solving questions along with the overall preparation level.

Booklist for Geography Syllabus for UPSC

There are numerous UPSC geography books and resources available in local bookstores and online platforms that will help you to cover all the topics mentioned under the UPSC geography Syllabus. Let’s look at the expert-recommended books for the geography subject shared below:

  • India: A Comprehensive Geography by D R Khullar
  • Human Geography by Majid Husain
  • Fundamentals of Geographical Thought by Sudeepta Adhikari
  • Physical Geography by Savindra Singh
  • Geographical Thought by R D Dixit
  • Models in Geography by Majid Husain
  • Cities, Urbanisation & Urban Systems (Settlement Geography) by K Siddhartha

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  • Which basic books cover the Geography Syllabus for UPSC?
    Some of the basic books that cover the UPSC geography syllabus include India: A Comprehensive Geography by D R Khullar, Human Geography by Majid Husain, and Fundamentals of Geographical Thought by Sudeepta Adhikari, and Physical Geography by Savindra Singh.
  • How to prepare for the UPSC geography syllabus?
    To prepare well for the geography subject, candidates should go through the geography Syllabus for UPSC, clear basic concepts, understand maps, and practice answer writing regularly.
  • Is the Geography syllabus tough?
    Yes. Geography is considered one of the toughest optional subjects in the UPSC Mains exam owing to its massive syllabus and complexity of the subject.
  • What is the Geography Syllabus for UPSC?
    The geography syllabus for UPSC for the main optional exam is divided into two papers i.e. Paper-1 and Paper-2. Paper I covers topics like Physical Geography and Human Geography whereas Paper II covers topics such as the Geography of India.


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