Geography (Pre + Mains)

Geography is an important subject as far as the UPSC civil services exam is concerned. It is a part of the UPSC prelims and mains exams. Geography is also an optional subject offered by the commission and as far as the numbers go, it is an immensely popular optional. Its rational nature and scoring ability make it especially popular among candidates with both science and arts backgrounds. But even if you don’t opt for Geography optional, you cannot escape studying Geography if you want to clear the IAS exam. In this article, you will read about the syllabus of Geography for IAS exam – prelims and mains. Geography syllabus for UPSC is given in detail below.

UPSC Prelims Geography Syllabus

Indian and World Geography – Physical, Social, Economic Geography of India and the World.

As you can see, the syllabus mentions only 1 line. Let us look at the details now.

Indian Geography

1. Basics of India

  • Location, latitude, longitude, time zone, etc.
  • Neighbours
  • Important straits
  • States and their position
  • States with international boundaries

2. 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

3. 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

4. Climate

Monsoons – driving mechanism, El Nino, La Nina

  • Seasons
  • Cyclones

5. Minerals and industries – mineral distribution, industrial policies, location

6. Agriculture

  • Land utilisation
  • Types of agricultural practices
  • Green revolution
  • Soils and crops
  • Irrigation
  • Land reforms
  • Animal husbandry
  • Government schemes

7. Natural vegetation and fauna

  • Classification of natural vegetation
  • Rainfall distribution in India
  • Biosphere reserves, national parks, etc.
  • Red-listed species

8. Economic infrastructure

  • Transportation (highways, inland waterways, etc.)
  • Power and energy sector
  • Conventional and non-conventional sources of energy
  • Energy conservation

9. Human Geography

  • Demographics
  • Recent census


World Geography

  1. Major natural regions
  2. Regional geography of developed countries
  3. Regional geography of developing countries
  4. Regional geography of South Asia


Physical Geography

1. Geomorphology

  • Origin of the earth
  • Interior of the earth
  • Types and characteristics of rocks
  • Folding and Faulting
  • Volcanoes, earthquakes
  • Interior of the earth
  • Weathering
  • Landforms formed by fluvial, aeolian and glacial actions

2. Climatology

  • Atmosphere – structure and composition
  • Temperature
  • Pressure belts of the Earth
  • Wind systems
  • Clouds and types of rainfall
  • Cyclones and anti-cyclones
  • Major climatic types

3. Oceanography

  • Ocean relief
  • Temperature, salinity
  • Ocean deposits
  • Ocean currents
  • El Nino and La Nina
  • Waves and tides

4. Biogeography

  • 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, urbanisation, functional classification of towns, million-cities and megacities

Location-based questions pertaining to India and the world are also asked in the prelims.

The UPSC Notification contains the syllabus of the Geography optional along with other subjects.



UPSC Mains Geography Syllabus

Geography is part of the GS paper I in the IAS mains exam. The syllabus for GS Geography is given 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, air masses, 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

There is a good overlap of the environment in some of the topics in geography. The Geography UPSC syllabus is quite comprehensive, as you can see from above. It is an important subject as far as the UPSC exam is concerned and every year, many questions are asked from the syllabus of geography for UPSC.

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