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UPSC IAS Mains 2020: Syllabus for Geography Optional Subject

UPSC: Although the syllabus for Geography optional is dynamic and lengthy, if read well, it proves to be one of the scoring optional subjects. In this article, we have provided a comprehensive syllabus of Geography optional for the UPSC IAS Mains 2020 exam.  

Oct 14, 2020 16:08 IST
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UPSC IAS Mains 2020: Syllabus for Geography Optional Subject
UPSC IAS Mains 2020: Syllabus for Geography Optional Subject

UPSC: The UPSC IAS Mains Optional papers carry a total weightage of 500 marks. The optional papers are divided into two papers - Papers I & II carrying 250 marks each. For the UPSC Main exam, the candidates are required to choose one optional subject from the list of subjects offered. Geography as an optional has a high success rate and easy availability of study material, which makes it a preferred optional subject for many. It is advised that the candidates should at first go through the syllabus and only if it looks interesting, they should opt for the Geography optional. At the end of the day, you need to master our optional. The syllabus is quite vast and lengthy which requires consistent effort and strategy. Check below the detailed syllabus of Geography optional for the UPSC IAS Mains 2020 exam. 

UPSC (IAS) Civil Services Exam Pattern 2020

UPSC Optional Paper Syllabus for Geography- Paper I 

  1. Physical Geography

1. Geomorphology

  • Origin and evolution of the earth’s crust; 
  • Physical conditions of the earth’s interior; 
  • Continental drift; 
  • Plate tectonics 
  • endogenetic and exogenetic forces.
  • Recent views on mountain building; 
  • Channel morphology; 
  • Fundamentals of geomagnetism; 
  • Factors controlling landform development; 
  • Earthquakes and Tsunamis;
  • Slope development; 
  • Concepts of geomorphic cycles and Landscape development; 
  • Isostasy ; 
  • Erosion surfaces; 
  • Geosynclines Denudation chronology; Vulcanicityand Applied Geomorphology: Geohydrology, 
  • economic geology and environment.

2. Climatology

  • Heat budget of the earth; 
  • atmospheric stability and instability. Planetary and local winds; 
  • Monsoons and jet streams; 
  • Air masses and frontogenesis, 
  • Temperate and tropical cyclones; Weather and Climate; 
  • Atmospheric circulation;
  • Koppen’s, 
  • Thornthwaite’s and Trewartha’s classification of world climates; 
  • Temperature and pressure belts of the world; 
  • Hydrological cycle; 
  • Types and distribution of precipitation; 
  • Global climatic change and role and response of man in climatic changes, Applied climatology, and Urban climate.

3. Oceanography:

  • Temperature and salinity of the oceans; Marine resources: 
  • biotic, mineral and energy resources; 
  • Coral reefs, Waves, currents and tides; Bottom topography of the Atlantic
  • Indian and Pacific Oceans; 
  • Heat and salt budgets, Ocean deposits; 
  • coral bleaching; 
  • sea level changes; 
  • law of the sea and marine pollution.
  1. Biogeography:
  • Soil profile; 
  • Soil erosion, Genesis of soils; 
  • Problems of deforestation and conservation measures; 
  • Social forestry; 
  • Wildlife; 
  • Classification and distribution of soils; 
  • agro-forestry; 
  • Factors influencing world distribution of plants and animals; 
  • Major gene pool centers and Degradation and conservation.
  1. Environmental Geography
  • Global and regional ecological changes and imbalances; 
  • Ecosystem their management and conservation; 
  • Human ecological adaptations; 
  • Influence of man on ecology and environment; 
  • Environmental degradation, management, and conservation;
  • Principle of ecology; 
  • Environmental policy; 
  • Biodiversity and sustainable development; Environmental hazards and remedial measures; 
  • Environmental education and legislation.

Human Geography

  1. Perspectives in Human Geography
  • Dichotomy and dualism; Environmentalism; 
  • Quantitative revolution and locational analysis; 
  • regional synthesis; 
  • Areal differentiation; 
  • radical, behavioral, human and welfare approaches; 
  • religions and secularisation; 
  • Languages, Human development index and Cultural regions of the world.
  1. Economic Geography
  • World resources and their distribution; 
  • Energy crisis; the limits to growth; 
  • World agriculture: 
  • typology of agricultural regions; 
  • agricultural inputs and productivity; 
  • World economic development: 
  • patterns of world trade.
  • measurement and problems; 
  • Food and nutrition problems; 
  • famine: 
  • causes, effects and remedies; 
  • Food security; 
  • World industries: 
  • locational patterns and problems; 
  1. Population and Settlement Geography
  • Causes and consequences of migration; concepts of over-under-and optimum population; 
  • Growth and distribution of world population; 
  • Population theories, world population problems and policies, demographic attributes; 
  • Social well-being and quality of life; Population as social capital. 
  • Types and patterns of rural settlements; Hierarchy of urban settlements; 
  • Urban morphology: 
  • Concepts of primate city and rank-size rule; 
  • Environmental issues in rural settlements; Functional classification of towns; 
  • Sphere of urban influence; 
  • Rural urban fringe; 
  • Satellite towns; 
  • Problems and remedies of urbanization; Sustainable development of cities.
  1. Regional Planning
  • Concept of a region; 
  • Types of regions and methods of regionalisation; 
  • Growth centers and growth poles;
  • Regional imbalances; 
  • regional development strategies; environmental issues in regional planning; 
  • Planning for sustainable development.
  1. Models, Theories and Laws in Human Geography
  • Systems 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.

UPSC IAS Mains 2020: Optional Subject Syllabus for Public Administration (Public Ad)

UPSC Optional Paper Syllabus for Geography- Paper-II

  1. Physical Setting
  • Space relationship of India with neighboring countries; 
  • Physiographic regions; 
  • Structure and relief; 
  • Drainage system and watersheds;
  • Mechanism of Indian monsoons and rainfall patterns, 
  • Tropical cyclones and western disturbances; Floods and droughts; 
  • Climatic regions; 
  • Natural vegetation; 
  • Soil types and their distributions.
  1. Resources
  • Energy, minerals, biotic and marine resources; 
  • Land, surface and ground water, 
  • Forest and wild life resources and their conservation; 
  • Energy crisis.
  1. 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; aquaculture; 
  • sericulture, apiculture, and poultry; agricultural regionalization; 
  • agro-climatic zones; 
  • agro-ecological regions.
  1. Industry:
  • Evolution of industries; 
  • Locational factors of cotton, jute, textile, iron and steel, aluminum, fertilizer, paper, chemical and pharmaceutical, automobile, cottage, and agro-based industries; 
  • Industrial houses and complexes including public sector undertakings; 
  • Industrial regionalisation; 
  • New industrial policies;
  •  Multinationals and liberalization; 
  • Special Economic Zones; 
  • Tourism including eco-tourism.
  1. Transport, Communication and Trade:
  • Road, railway, waterway, airway, and pipeline networks and their complementary roles in regional development; 
  • The 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 program.


  1. 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, intra- regional and international) and associated problems;
  • Population problems and policies; Health indicators.
  1. 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 urbanization and remedies.
  1. 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.
  1. Political Aspects:
  • Geographical basis of Indian federalism; State reorganisation; 
  • Emergence of new states; 
  • Regional consciousness and interstate 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.
  1. Contemporary Issues: Ecological issues
  • Environmental hazards: 
  • landslides, earthquakes, Tsunamis, floods and droughts, epidemics; 
  • Issues relating 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; 
  • Globalization and Indian economy.

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