Every year the Union Public Service Commission holds the Civil service exams to recruit civil servants. The exam is conducted in three parts such as prelims, mains and the interview aka the final round.

UPSC offers various options to the candidates for choosing their optional subjects, some of the optional subjects are botany, zoology, geography, chemistry, sociology etc. A very crucial step while filling the UPSC form is the right selection of the optional subject. 

In this article, you will get to know about the geography syllabus for UPSC prelims and mains. UPSC geography optional syllabus is also given in detail below.

Geography Syllabus for UPSC Prelims

As the UPSC exam is concerned, geography is a widely chosen subject by the candidates. In UPSC prelims general studies paper geography is included as well as in the main exam’s GS paper 1. Even if someone doesn’t take geography as the optional subject, he/ she has to study this subject in order to clear the IAS exam.

In the prelims syllabus, there are four parts such as Indian, world, physical and human geography. Let’s take a clear look at this.

Civil Service Geography Prelims Syllabus – Part 1

Geography syllabus for UPSC prelims Topics

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
  • 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

IAS Geography Prelims Syllabus – Part 2

Geography syllabus for UPSC prelims Topic

World Geography

  1. Major natural regions

  2. Regional geography of developed countries

  3. Regional geography of developing countries

  4. Regional geography of South Asia

Also Read: What are Endogenic and Exogenic Forces? IAS Geography Notes 

Civil Service Geography  Prelims Syllabus – Part 3

IAS prelims geography syllabus Topic

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
  • Wind systems
  • Clouds and types of rainfall
  • Cyclones and anticyclones
  • 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

Geography Syllabus for UPSC  Prelims – Part 4

Syllabus for UPSC  Prelims Topic

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

IAS Mains Geography Syllabus

  • 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, cyclone 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 that includes geomorphology, climatology, oceanography, biogeography and environmental geography.

Looking at the topics included in the geography mains syllabus, it can be said that the UPSC mains geography syllabus is a comprehensive one. It is important for students to understand the IAS mains geography syllabus well and prepare accordingly to achieve a better score at it.

Also Read : Recent GI Tags in India 2020: Current Affairs Booster for UPSC Exam Preparations

Geography as an Optional Subject in IAS

A large part of the Geography syllabus is in common with the syllabus of GS paper I & IV of the preliminary exams, especially GS paper I thus encouraging many aspirants to opt for this.

Candidates who opt for geo optional find the syllabus to be very vast but since many aspirants choose geography as an optional subject in IAS, there are ample amount of resources available for this subject thus making the preparation journey less troublesome.

Geography syllabus for UPSC optional includes paper 1 and paper 2 and each of that paper carries 250 marks. Now let;’s have a look at the UPSC geography optional syllabus.

Geography Syllabus for UPSC Optional – Paper 1

There are two parts under part 1 of the optional civil service geography syllabus that includes physical and human geography.

Physical Geography – Geo Optional Syllabus


  • Origin and evolution of the earth’s crust

  • Physical conditions of the earth’s interior

  • Continental drift

  • Plate tectonics and 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • Soil profile

  • Soil erosion, Genesis of soils

  • Problems of deforestation and conservation measures

  • Social forestry

  • Wildlife

  • Classification and distribution of soils

  • Agroforestry

  • Factors influencing world distribution of plants and animals

  • Major gene pool centres and Degradation and conservation.

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 – Geo Optional Syllabus

Perspectives in Human Geography

  • Dichotomy and dualism

  • Environmentalism

  • Quantitative revolution and locational analysis

  • Regional synthesis

  • Areal differentiation

  • Radical, behavioural, human and welfare approaches

  • Religions and secularisation

  • Languages, human development index and cultural regions of the world.

Economic Geography

  • World resources and their distribution

  • Energy crisis; the limits to growth

  • World agriculture: a typology of agricultural regions; agricultural inputs and productivity

  • World economic development: measurement and problems

  • Food and nutrition problems; famine: causes, effects and remedies

  • Food security

  • World industries: locational patterns and problems; patterns of world trade.

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

  • The 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.

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

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.

Also Read : Tina Dabi Time Table: UPSC IAS Topper Tina Dabi Daily Routine

Geography Syllabus for UPSC Optional – Paper 2


  • Energy, minerals, biotic and marine resources

  • Land, surface and groundwater, Forest and wildlife resources and their conservation

  • Energy crisis.


  • Infrastructure: irrigation, seeds, fertilizers, power

  • Institutional factors: landholdings, 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 regionalisation; agro-climatic zones; agro-ecological regions.


  • 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.

Physical Setting

  • Space relationship of India with neighbouring countries

  • Physiographic regions

  • Structure and relief

  • The 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.

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 the economy and society

  • Indian space programme.

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, intraregional and international) and associated problems

  • Population problems and policies

  • Health indicators.


  • 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.

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 the backward area, desert, drought-prone, hill, tribal area development; multi-level planning

  • Regional planning and development of island territories.

Political Aspects

  • Geographical basis of Indian federalism

  • State reorganisation

  • The 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.

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 the Indian economy.


Aspirants who choose geography as an optional subject in IAS have to follow a proper strategy for it. They should go through the previous year papers as well as keep on practising sample questions. Mapping plays an important role in geography syllabus for UPSC so one should also focus on that part. With proper preparation and practice, one can easily score good marks in this options paper.

Now that you know what is there in the civil service geography syllabus, how do you plan to prepare for it? Do share your thoughts with us by commenting in the below box.

Also Read : Most Brilliant IAS Questions: Here are Some of the Trickiest UPSC Interview Questions

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Geography Syllabus for UPSC Prelims and Mains: Insight into Geography IAS Optional
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Geography Syllabus for UPSC Prelims and Mains: Insight into Geography IAS Optional
What is there in the geography syllabus for UPSC prelims and mains? What topics to study if you take geography as an optional subject in IAS? Read on to know everything about UPSC geography syllabus.
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Shilpa is a professional web content writer and is in deep love with travelling. She completed her mass communication degree and is now dedicatedly playing with words to guide her readers to get the best for themselves. Developing educational content for UPSC, IELTS aspirants from breakthrough research work is her forte. Strongly driven by her zodiac sign Sagittarius, Shilpa loves to live her life on her own notes and completely agrees with the idea of ‘live and let live. Apart from writing and travelling, most of the time she can be seen in the avatar of 'hooman' mom to her pets and street dogs or else you can also catch her wearing the toque blanche and creating magic in the kitchen on weekends.

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