Preparing for Geography matters a lot if you wish to score well in both the IAS Prelims and Mains Exam 2016. In this blog, we would be talking about a detailed strategy to tackle Geography as a part of Civil Services Exam. Please do not skip any part or section of this article as it might cost you valuable marks, which are essential for cracking IAS Prelims Examination.


We begin by providing a brief introduction on the topic of discussion, which is, Geography.

IAS Prelims 2016: Introduction to Geography

Before we take it further, here’s a brief analysis of Preliminary Exam conducted over the past few years. Look at the numbers and analyse the weightage allocated to Geography over the past few years:

Number of Questions asked

Geography accounts for 15-20% of the questions asked in the IAS Prelims exam. Now that CSAT has been made qualifying only, It is only natural that 30-40 marks from the Geography section could prove critical to your chances of qualifying IAS Preliminary Exam.

NDMIAS suggests you to keep this in mind and prepare well for this section.

IAS Prelims 2016: Preparation Tips and Study Guide for Geography Section

Understanding UPSC Syllabus & Geography as a part of it:

Geography finds a direct and clear mention in the UPSC IAS Prelims Syllabus. If you have a look at the revised UPSC Syllabus for Civil Services Examination, you’d find Indian & World Geography: Physical, Social, Economic Geography of India & the World mentioned categorically.
Geography is divided into two parts:
1. Indian Geography
2. World Geography

It has been seen that Indian Geography is given more weightage in the Preliminary Examination. As an IAS Aspirant, you should learn to prioritise your targets. However, this does not mean that you can safely do away with World Geography.

How to Prepare for Indian Geography ?

Before we start with the detailed strategy to tackle Indian Geography, have a look at the syllabus first.

UPSC syllabus for Indian Geography (IAS Prelims) talks about Physical, Social and Economic Geography of India.
For a clearer approach, we categorise these respective subsections of Indian Geography for you:

Indian Geography: Broad Level Classification

Indian Geography can be broadly classified into the following topics:
1. Physiography of India
2. River Systems of India
3. Climate
4. Mineral Wealth of India
5. Soil & Soil Types in India
6. Agriculture
7. Forests
8. Wildlife & Conservation
9. Human Geography

Correct Approach: Physical, Social & Economic Geography of India

1. Eye for Details:

While you prepare for Physical Geography of India, always remember to stop chasing only the facts. Mere cramming up information would be no use. Before you take up Physical Geography of India, Onlinetyari recommends a clear understanding Fundamentals of Physical Geography first. After you are thorough with the concepts involving Physical Geography, you are fit to proceed towards Physical Geography of India. Here, understand each section, sub-section in great details.

For example, if you have to understand Physiography of India, look for critical pieces of information around the same. This would include Characteristics of each region, the process behind their formation, its mineral wealth, the climate of that region and why that is the way it is, Vegetation in that region and its direct/indirect relation to Climate & Human activities etc.

Similarly for ‘River Systems of India’, focus on its evolution, classification, drainage pattern (states these rivers flow through), characteristics of the river system, difference between the two river systems and salient features of each river system.

Now, there are very interesting facts about River Systems in India. For instance, East Flowing rivers form deltas, Some of the rivers flow westwards while most flow towards the east etc.

This information is mentioned in NCERT Books and should be understood & remembered in great details. There can be/have been direct questions being asked from these sections in the Civil Services Preliminary Exam.

Climate is extremely important and fun to understand also. No book explains Monsoons in India better than NCERT. While you are study Climate in India, make sure you include factors determining the Climate of India, Indian Monsoon, Upper Air circulation- Jet streams & Westerlies, Cyclones – tropical and temperate, El-Nino, La-Nino.

It is important to know the location, factors behind location of minerals, characteristics of minerals, their uses and hazards (if any) to understand ‘Mineral Wealth of India’.

2. Refer to the right sources & books

NCERT Geography books of Class VI to XII.

Oxford student atlas or Orient Blackswan school atlas

To brush up your basics, refer to NCERT Class VI to X books. While the four NCERT Geography books of Class XI and XII will help you get an advanced understanding of the topics.

Always remember to highlight important points as you read along. Make notes from the books simultaneously as you read the topics.

3. Use a School Atlas

We all must agree that geography at times can be a bit boring. Well, why not use maps? Pictorial representation of facts enhances your understanding as well as retention. Always carry an atlas with you while you prepare for Geography.

4. Test Your Preparation level & Learn from your mistakes

We can never undermine the importance of tests for IAS Exam preparation. To begin with, you can always solve previous years’ question papers. Refer to numerous question banks available in the market and solve them. Try and take weekly tests around the same repeatedly so that you can clearly see improvements in your preparation.

A good test series will always help you evaluate yourself better and give you enough pointers to improve upon.

How to prepare for World Geography ?

Numerous concepts and phenomena related to Physical Geography are a part of World Geography. It is extremely important to highlight here that your understanding of World Geography would make Indian Physical Geography and a few other topics like Environment very easy for you.

World Geography: Broad Level Classification:
World Geography can be broadly classified into the following topics:
1. The Earth & the Universe
2. Landforms and their formation
3. Atmosphere
4. Wind System
5. Clouds & Precipitation
6. Hydrosphere
7. Different Types of Climate & Climatic Regions of the World

1. Break Each Topic down into Sub-Topics

Pick up each topic and further classify it into sub-topics. The Table of Contents would give you a fair amount of idea as to what all a particular topic includes.

For instance, we classify ‘The Earth & the Universe’ as under:

The Solar system
Motion of the Earth – Rotation and Revolution – Day and Night
Inclination of the Earth’s Axis – it’s effect on seasons
Latitude and Longitude
Important Parallels and Meridians
Solar Eclipse, Lunar Eclipse and Tides and their significance
Earth’s crust
The Structure of the Earth
Classification of Rocks – Igneous, Sedimentary, Metamorphic

2. Identify Focus Areas & Prioritise your approach:

Now as you read along the book, always ensure that you know the sub-topics you have to pay more attention to. These focus areas are necessary because they could be topics that are usually asked directly/indirectly in the exam OR are critical to your understanding of other topics as you proceed. As you prepare, always pay more attention to these areas.

Make sure you have thoroughly understood each of them before you proceed further.

We would come up with our own list of Focus Areas in a later blog post.

3. Refer to the right sources & books

‘Certificate Physical & Human Geography’ by Goh Cheng Leong is a must have. Its a succinct book that covers everything you need to know to master World Geography. Besides when you are stuck somewhere, there is always Internet.

4. Use a School Atlas

We all must agree that geography at times can be a bit boring. Well, why not use maps? Pictorial representation of facts enhances your understanding as well as retention. Always carry an atlas with you while you prepare for Geography.

5. Make your own Notes as you read

Merely highlighting important points in your book is not sufficient. Make your own notes from the books simultaneously as you read the topics. This would come in handy as you revise later.

6. Test Your Preparation level & Learn from your mistakes

We would essentially reiterate what we said earlier. A great test series would help you schedule your preparation better, minimise silly mistakes in the actual exam, help you evaluate yourself and give you enough pointers to improve upon.

Stay connected for more updates, study tips and insights. Please mention your thoughts and queries in the comments section below.

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