Geography Optional

What is Geography ?

In simple words, UPSC Geography Optional Syllabus is the study of land and its physical features.


  • Scientific, no rote learning
  • Ample study material
  • High success ratio
  • Overlaps with prelims syllabus
  • Will help in General Studies 1, General Studies 3 and Essay papers 
  • Well defined and limited syllabus
  • Popular among Science students, Engineers etc.
  • It has an important role to play in preliminary exam as around 15 to 20 questions from Geography are asked every year in prelims.
  • Geography integrates your prelims and mains preparation. Thus, saving time for other topics.
  • Most of the topics of GS paper I of Civil Services Main examination are covered under Geography optional itself.
  • In GS paper 4 (Ethics, Integrity $ aptitude) of Civil Services Main examination, many thinkers are Geography scholars.
  • Again, in the UPSC- Civil Services interview, some questions are asked from Geography irrespective of your academic background. 


Geography optional is yielding 300+ marks every year to the UPSC-Civil Services Examination toppers. Here are some facts to prove this argument

Name of the candidateYear of passingRank securedTotal marks (500) in Geography

Optional subject marks play an important role in improving your UPSC-CSE all India ranking. Also, if you have not scored well in GS papers, if you can score well in optional papers, you can still find your name in UPSC-CSE final list.


Since, Optional subject constitutes 500 marks out of 1750 in Civil Services main examination, it proves to be a significant factor in deciding your selection. In recent years, Geography optional has helped many candidates in securing Top ranks in UPSC-CSE.

  1. INTEREST – Interest in a particular subject should be given top priority while deciding an optional subject. If you are having interest in Geography, you can go for it.
  2. BACKGROUND– If you are not having any educational background in technical subject and wish to opt for a non-technical subject, you must go for Geography optional subject. Many of the topics will also overlap with your GS syllabus of civil services examination.
  3. RESOURCES- Availability of resource plays an important role in deciding which optional subject one should take. In Geography, adequate study material is available. Although, you are not required to read all of them and experts from Vignan IAS Academy will guide you properly.
  4. In case you choose any other optional subject, then also, you would have to read considerable amount of Geography chapters in GS paper 1, Indian Agriculture in GS paper 3, Current Affairs, etc.
  5. If you are left with lesser time, it is advisable to opt for Geography. It will reduce your burden and will save your time.


This course has been specially designed for those who are –

  • Interested in opting Geography as optional with or without academic background in Geography.
  • Facing problems in correlating and connecting theories and concepts.
  • Studied the subject on their own and facing problem in writing standard answers.
  • Facing challenges in unfolding their knowledge to clear basic notions and theories.


  • While writing Geography optional paper, candidates must keep in mind that your answer for Geography should look different from the GS answers.
  • Scholar views, facts & technical words can be added in the optional subject to score well in Geography.
  • Type of questions based on thinkers; start with books and quotations written by them. A brief life history of the thinker can also be added.
  • Usually, type of questions asked in Paper I are of static type and that of Paper II are of dynamic type. For optional Paper II, try to interlink your answer with current events.





1. Geomorphology: Factors controlling landform development; endogenic and exogenic forces; Origin and evolution of the earth’s crust; Fundamentals of geomagnetism; Physical conditions of the earth’s interior; Geosynclines; Continental drift; Isostasy; Plate tectonics; Recent views on mountain building; Vulcanicity; Earthquakes and Tsunamis; Concepts of geomorphic cycles and Landscape development ; Denudation chronology; Channel morphology; Erosion surfaces; Slope development ; Applied Geomorphology : Geohydrology, 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 front genesis, Temperate and tropical cyclones; Types and distribution of precipitation; Weather and Climate; Koppen’s, Thornthwaite’s and Trewartha’s classification of world climates; 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; argo-forestry; Wild life; Major gene pool centres.

5. Environmental Geography: Principle of 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.


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 secularization; 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: typology of agricultural regions; agricultural inputs and productivity; Food and nutrition problems; Food security; famine: causes, effects and remedies; World industries: locational 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 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: Concepts 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: 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.



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 wild life 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, apiculture and poultry; agricultural regionalisation; agro-climatic zones; agroecological regions.

4. Industry: Evolution of industries: Locational factors of cotton, jute, textile, iron and steel, aluminium, 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.

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, intra- regional 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 urbanization 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 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.

10. 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; Globalisation and Indian economy.

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



  • Physical Geography – Majid Hussain/Savindra Singh
  • Modern Physical Geography – Strahler and Strahler (Optional)
  • Certificate Physical and Human Geography – Goh Cheng Leong
  • Physical Geography Made Simple – Rupa Publication
  • Dictionary of Physical Geography – Penguin
  • Evolution of Geographical Thought – Majid Hussain
  • Economic and Social Geography Made Simple – Rupa Publication
  • Models in Geography – Majid Hussain
  • Dictionary of Human Geography
  • Oxford Student Atlas
  • Vignan IAS Academy Study Material


  • India – A Comprehensive Geography – Khullar
  • Regional Planning in India – Mahesh Chand
  • India Year Book – Publication Division
  • Yojana and Kurukshetra Magazines