UPSC Geography Optional: Best Preparation Strategy, Books, Coaching Institutes

Geography Optional for UPSC, UPSC Geography Optional

A question is arriving in the minds of many aspirants which is why to choose UPSC Geography Optional Subject? What are tips and tricks to score high in UPSC Geography Optional. We will cover all the things stepwise. But first you should understand the importance of UPSC Geography Optional Subject. This is beautifully described in this picture. - UPSC Geography Optional

UPSC Geography Optional Preparation Strategy

  • First of all read the syllabus of Optional subject carefully and it should be in your tips. It will act as a lighthouse during your preparation.
  • Try to read a topic from 2-3 sources only (one from a standard textbook and other from coaching notes). Keep your resources limited and revise those limited resources again and again.
  • When you have completed a topic, then try to solve past year questions related to that topic as it will help you in revising that topic well. If you are not able to solve them then don’t feel panicky and revise again. Through this process, you will be able to develop an insight about the examiner’s perspective while setting the paper.
  • Try to save your time. But how? You don’t have to make notes of each and every topic which you study. Instead you can take your classroom notes and add those section in them which are not covered. Guys, please make notes of only important topics or which you find difficult to understand in your class notes.
  • Make a strategy about how you are going to attempt your paper 1. Have a clear thought about which section you are going to to give your preference ie, Physical Geography or Human Geography. After some research I found that Human Geography is more rewarding so try to attempt it’s 3 questions. Above all, the choice is yours.
  • For Paper 2, Make small notes of topics which are often repeated and from standard books only.
  • Prepare regional/region wise maps from standard books and ensure that these maps cover all the topics like topography, climate, soil, agriculture, industries and so on. This thing is going to benefit you a lot in Paper 2.
  • Always try to link the subject matter of both paper 1 and 2. It means when you prepare any topic try to prepare it for both the paper. For example, when you read population and settlement read it in such a way that if a question comes related to the topic in any paper you can write it’s answer easily.

Preparation Strategy for Paper 1 ( UPSC Geography Optional)

Friends,the booklist which I will refer you for UPSC Geography Optional Subject is based on the advice of UPSC 2017 AIR 5 Pratham Kaushik. Also, i am not covering the books like GC Leong, NCERTs here as you already know about them and you have read them for prelims preparation. So, let’s start.


  • You can read the book on Geomorphology by Savinder Singh.
  • Since this book has a lot of topics in detail so study it wisely. What I meant to say by studying it wisely? Read only those topics which are in the syllabus like Chapter 2 Fundamental Concepts of Geomorphology, Chapter 3: Theories of Landform Development, etc.
  • 500+ notes of Himanshu Sir . These notes have covered things in detail. So be selective and read only those topics which are in the syllabus.
  • Do prepare some topics such as Erosion surfaces, slope development, geomorphic topics etc in great detail with a lot of  diagrams because their chances to be asked in the exam are more. So properly practice these things.

Climatology and Oceanography

  • The booklist is almost same as above.
  • Physical Geography can be covered by Savinder Singh.
  • 500+ notes of Himanshu sir.
  • Climatology by DS Lal. You have to cover only specific topic. Don’t waste your time in reading the whole book.

Bio Geography and Environmental Geography

  • Environmental Geography by Savinder Singh. Cover only those topics which are in the syllabus.
  • As mentioned above, 500+ by Himanshu Sir.
  • Class notes of Shabbir Sir. Apart from this its my request to all geography candidates that do prepare for Ecology diligently.
  • Internet: You can use the internet in getting some good points on some topics which you may not find in books.

Perspective in Human Geography

Since by booklist is based on the advice of Pratham Kaushik, so he told about this subject’s strategy in detail as it was his strongest subject in UPSC Geography Optional and with the help of which he scored 166 marks in Paper 1. Let’s start.

    • First of all, Read the class notes of Shabbir Sir as it will help you in properly understanding the Chronology of Evolution of Geographical Thought and will give you a broader view about that.
    • After you have completed the class notes then read Geographical Thought by RD Dixit. Don’t read all the chapters. But read chapter 1 to Chapter 8 and Chapter 11.
    • Apart from these read Fundamentals of Geographical Thought by Sudeepta Adhikari . Read Chapter 11 and Chapter 13 to 16.
  • All these things will make you able to write better quality answer as you have precise definitions, theories and a number of examples, many of which are used by geographers in their studies.
  • While writing answers make diagrams and flowchart as it makes your work beautiful and easy to understand.
  • Also be ready for topics like culture, religion, HDI and ensure that you are able to link it with the Geographical Thought.

Economic Geography and Regional Planning

  • Read 500+ notes.
  • Shabbir Sir – Class notes
  • Class 11 and 12 NCERT Geography Books.
  • Extensive use of maps and examples will help you in scoring high.

If you want NCERT Books in PDF form, then Click here.

Population and Settlement Geography

  • 500+ notes
  • Class notes – Shabbir Sir
  • Models in Geography – Majid Hussain
  • Indian Geography – Dr. Khuller. You can use it for giving examples of India.
  • The best part about this subject is that it is easy, scoring and can change your fortunes. So be good at presentation of answers. Prepare proper or exact definitions of topics like mega, metropolitan cities, Slums, conurbation and so on.
  • For Population Geography, use of Maps will help you a lot. For Settlement Geography, use of diagrams is important.
  • If we talk about the syllabus prepare for some terms like Social well-being, Population as a social capital and so on. What I believe that probability to come in upcoming exams is more.
  • Overall, I was trying to say that you should have prepared for each term from the Syllabus.

Models and Theories

  • Models in Geography – Majid Hussain

First thing which you should know that it is the 2nd most scoring subject after Geographical Thought. So, try to write presentable answers which contain: flowcharts, diagrams, examples, maps.

  • When you have read models from Majid Hussain,then try to link them
  • with the original subtopic. It will be very beneficial for you.
  • Prepare short notes on different theories and models and learn them from your heart.
  • Attempt all the questions from this topic and write good answers

Preparation Strategy for Paper 2 (UPSC Geography Optional)

  • For the static part of Paper 2, India: A Comprehensive Geography by D R Khullar will be enough. You need not to follow other material. Read it underline the important points and make notes.
  • Current Affairs: Vision PT 365 and Mains PT 365. Ensure that you are reading relevant topics for your optional.
  • Case Studies: Read magazines like Yojna, Kurukshetra, Geography and You. You should have at least 10 case studies prepared which you can use to enrich your answer. The case studies should be simple and easy to understand.
  • Maps: Practice map, it’s not compulsory that you have to remember the data on rainfall, agriculture, population. But map practice is one of the most important things.
  • Maps in Geography which are mostly found in books are made to explain things to a reader. But in the exam hall,  you can make rough maps but these should be indicative. It means the examiner should be able to understand the things. So, start making practice maps and you can use a pen in the exam for making maps.
  • While working in maps ensure that you make the boundaries of countries or states proper. Don’t make one state square,other rectangle. Try to make similar maps.
  • Dear aspirants, prepare notes on contemporary issues like flood, drought,soil erosion,etc. You can find these topics in the syllabus. But why I am telling this?  As in the exam you have to write fast and give a lucid and quality answer in short time. So, if you have notes you can do that.

How to write quality answer?

This becomes one of the most important things because we all know that a person will usually score between 400-500 in General studies paper. So, optional subject can actually help us in clearing Mains and providing us a higher rank.

While Writing answers you have to focus on presentation for which you have to follow some rules. I have categorized them into 3 categories.

  1. First Rule of Presentation
  2. Second Rule of Presentation
  3. Third Rule of Presentation

First Rule of Presentation

  • This rule focuses on M&D which means Maps and Diagrams. Try to make maps and diagrams in every question possible. Though in many questions diagrams cannot be made. So in such case you can make maps. But the main thing is that you have to make either map or diagrams or both. It would be more convenient if you will make both.Let’s understand this with an example.
  • For example: In a question where you are asked about Characteristics of Biological Desert, you can describe the answer by making map in which you can show deep ocean regions, Antarctica, Arctic, etc.
  • Lets understand it more with another example: Intensity of Energy Crisis varies regionally. Do you agree? Explain. In this, you can make a map/diagram where you can show high, medium and low Intensity regions.

Second Rule of Presentation

Friends, try to include both Physical and Human dimensions in your answers.Try to add human element in your question related to physical things except for question related to Geographical Thought. Let’s understand it with an example.

  • For example: If a question comes on difference between Himalayan and Peninsular Drainage then you can add cropping pattern, industrial use of water in difference. This will make your answer more shiny. Now, your answers will have some administrative view.

Third Rule of Presentation

Try to write your answer on the way prescribed in the syllabus. You can write your answer on the lines of syllabus such as terrain, drainage, climatology, soil,environment issue,Agri and industries,etc. This will make your answer more organised. Lets understand it in greater detail through one example.

  1. What is the role of small towns in the regional development process. Examine.


(Try to take topics from the syllabus before writing the answer)

  1. Population: Small towns help in reducing the burden from urban areas, act as a counter magnet and is a new and emerging Solution to urbanisation.
  2. Resources: These towns also helps/aids in the conservation of resources.
  3. Agriculture: They have become a broker between the village and the cities. Farmers find it easier to sell their products here and cities get products from here.
  4. Industries: Availability of MSMEs as well as Footloose industries helps in creating employment opportunities.
  5. Cultural setting: They helps in building a better and more cohesive society.

Now, we have gathered some points. You can add some other points on environment, Biogeography, Trade, Political Geography,etc.

You have to add a map in this answer. You can take the example of Delhi NCR and the nearby small towns. You can make it’s map and can show inflow and outflow of people.

Here we have described Human element in our answer.

Hence, it is fulfilling all the rules.

Important Advice

In recent times what I have analysed that UPSC has also asked some unfamiliar/ unconventional questions from candidates. So in such situations, what you can do is simply try to relate that answer with your syllabus, try to make a map/diagrams. I know in such questions you will not have enough content but you can write whatever you know because it will give an  opportunity to the examiner to award you marks.

Best Coaching For UPSC Geography Optional

Guys, the coaching is important if you don’t want to attend foundation course then join test series. Today, there are multiple coaching Institutes for  UPSC Geography Optional, many of them are not of good quality. So, after deep research i have shortlisted 3 institutes for UPSC Geography Optional Coaching. These are :

  • Shabbir Ahmad Sir’s (Vajiram and Ravi) Test Series Classes.
  • Vision IAS
  • Analog IAS study

Apart from this read standard books and per from coaching material and give your mock test with dedication and check whether you have done improvement or not.

Try to control your wits in exam Hall as nervousness can destroy your preparation. Be confident and do your best!

Never lose hope, This is your time, go ahead! Next year you should be in LBSNAA

You can read the Preparation Strategy of UPSC CSE AIR 2 IAS Anu Kumari by clicking here.


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