Geography is a very common choice of optional paper among IAS candidates specifically those who belong to a science or engineering background. This is one of the topics that can make you score higher and, at the same time, has various technological aspects that cater to candidates with a scientific background. In addition, the optional geography, prelims, and Mains syllabus coincide making it easier to prepare your study timetable.

Since 2012, the progress rate of the optional take-over of geography has been 7.2-5.8%. In 2017, there are four top 60 toppers with optional geography, 4 from 2016 and 2014 as well. It can be concluded that geography has enabled many aspirants to create an incredible rank in the IAS exam and is therefore considered to be one of the most beneficial subjects to be chosen.

Learning From UPSC Geography Previous Year Optional Question Papers

You need to solve the question paper of 300 marks in 180 minutes. So we’re going to get 0.6 minutes for one mark. It can be easily estimated that preferably for the 15 mark question we get 9 minutes and almost 150-200 words and for the 30 mark question we get 18 minutes. So what you’ll need to do is select a question randomly from last year’s question papers, have a stopwatch next to you, and try to complete the answer within the specified time and word limit.

Mapping has become a real challenge in recent years. The technique to deal with the issue of the map of India is again a practice. What you’re supposed to do is practice maps every day for an hour. Begin with the mountains the first day, then the lakes, waterfalls, then the important cities, and so on. Even mark the important places that come in the news.  Daily practice will make you fast and confident in mapping.

Why Should You Take Up Geography?

Geography can also overlap with your mains and Prelims planning as an alternative. You will come across 10-20 questions each year in the GS paper 1 that are directly linked to the Geography Optional Paper. It’s around 80-100 marks of questions that you’ll still have to plan when you study geography as an option.

It also benefits in the personal interview round where you might be asked about the geography of your hometown, its climate, and sometimes even vegetation.

It gives the ability to draw graphs and diagrams to define your point, and this graphical illustration of your answer helps to increase your mark as well.

There are map-based problems that also hold quite a significance.

There are theories and principles that are easy to grasp but can help you score a lot of marks from multiple questions that are based on these ideas. In addition, there is less deduction margin given that the definitions are explicit about these theories.

Also Read: List of Geography Books for UPSC 

Get to Know the Geography Optional Syllabus for Paper 1

  • Physical Geography- Factors influencing the formation of the earth, endogenetic and exogenetic forces, origin and evolution of the earth’s crusts, fundamentals of geomagnetism, physical conditions of the interior of the earth.
  • Climatology- Temperature and pressure belts of the world, earth’s heat budget; air circulation, air equilibrium and instability. Atmospheric winds and local winds.
  • Oceanography- Bottom topography of the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans, ocean temperature and salinity, heat and salt budgets, ocean deposits.
  • Biogeography-  Soil genesis, soil classification and distribution, soil profile, soil erosion, degradation and conservation
  • Environmental geography- Influence of human beings on biodiversity and the environment, management and protection of the ecosystem, environmental degradation, conservation, and management
  • Human geography-  Distribution of population, types of regions, sustainable development, economic development, rural and urban settlements.

Get to Know the Geography Syllabus for Paper 2

  • Geography of India
  1. Physical Setting- Space relations between India and surrounding countries, Structure and relief, Drainage system and watersheds.
  2. Resources- Land, groundwater, energy, minerals, bio-and marine resources, forest and wildlife resources, and their conservation, energy crisis.
  3. Agriculture- Infrastructure: water, seeds, fertilizers, power, structural factors, land ownership, land distribution, and land reform.
  4. Industry- Industrial evolution, Locational factors of cotton, jute, cloth, iron and steel, aluminium, fertilizer.
  5. Transport & trade- Rapid growth of ports for domestic and foreign trade, trade balance, trade policy, export processing zones.
  6. Contemporary issues- Environmental hazards: earthquakes, landslides, tsunamis, floods, environmental contamination problems.

If you think Geography is not the Subject to which you can dedicate your time then you may explore other optional subjects here. 

How to Shine in Your Writing Asset

  • The structure of your answers should be simple and easy to read. Maps and diagrams make your answer more clear and at the same time make your presentation more beautiful. If the examiner finds it easier to grasp your points, they are more likely to read your response script carefully and evaluate it well.
  • Based on the questions you answer, combine the physical and human geography to best support your responses.


Geography has a vast expanse, but with smart planning, you can study it in an effective manner and thus complete the entire syllabus. The key is to start studying at the earliest possible time. Make sure you take time to attempt geography previous year optional question papers to have a clarity of the UPSC exam. There are various platforms that offer you sample question paper  2018, 2019 so make sure you check them out.

Also Read: Geography Notes for UPSC

Content Protection by
UPSC  Geography Previous Year Optional Question Papers: All You need to Crack UPSC 2021
Article Name
UPSC Geography Previous Year Optional Question Papers: All You need to Crack UPSC 2021
You can excel in the geography optional subject for UPSC if you follow the steps mentioned in this article. Improve your score with Geography.
Publisher Name
UPSC Pathshala
Publisher Logo