Geography Optional

Geography Optional

Geography Optional -2025/26

Mode: Offline | Live Online Classes

Total Fee- Rs 38,000/-

  1. Why choosing right optional subject is important in UPSC Civil Services Examination (CSE)?
  • Optional subject is a game changer: As CSE is competitive examination, aspirant will always try to maximise his marks as compared to others. CSE Main written examination which consist of total 1750 marks has 500 marks weightage for optional (paper I and II) while 1000 marks for GS papers (I, II, III and IV) and 250 marks for Essay paper. Range of marks of All India Ranks 1 to 100 for optional subject is about 130 to 150 marks while that of GS-I,II and III is about 25-30 marks and for Essay and GS-IV paper it is about 40-50 marks. From this one can understand that marks in optional subject can decide whether you will feature in the list and whether you will get good rank (i.e. IAS) or not.
  • Once opted, difficult to change: As optional subject is about specialisation, it requires lot of time and efforts to be invested. Therefore, once optional subject is chosen it is difficult for aspirant to change that optional subject as all efforts will be undone.  
  1. What is geography optional subject in UPSC CSE?
  • Geography is the study of the physical features of the earth and its atmosphere, and of human activity as it affects and is affected by these, including the distribution of populations and resources and political and economic activities.
  • It can be divided into three main branches such as physical geography, human geography and biogeography (the interface between physical geography and human geography).
  1. Why geography optional is popular among UPSC CSE aspirants?
  • Geography is often called as mother of all sciences because of its inter-disciplinary approach. Geography has strong interface with natural sciences (like physics, chemistry, biology) and social sciences (like history, sociology, political science).
  • At the same time, it is neither pure science nor pure arts. It has the combination of both (Physical geography is more of natural science while human geography is more of social science). This makes it most suitable optional subject for students of both science and humanities background.
  • Besides, geography is more of logical, conceptual, scientific and reason based subject. Therefore, it becomes the most favoured optional subject especially for students of engineering or science background.
  • The syllabus of subject is given in detail which makes it easy for preparation topic-wise (while many other subjects have very abstract syllabus).
  1. Why one should opt geography as an optional subject?

In general, aspirants choose an optional subject after analysing subject from following perspectives:

  1. Reward (Success rate): The reward in this context means how many students give interview and how many of them get selected with geography as optional subject. If we analyse the previous year results from annual reports of UPSC, we get following results.
  • Highest number of students opt for geography optional and appear mains written examination when compared with other 6-7 most favoured optional subject by aspirants. E.g. out of 13060 aspirants appearing in UPSC CSE mains written examination 2017, whopping 2669 aspirants (20.43%) had geography as optional subject.
  • The robust success rate of about 5.5 % (average of 2013 to 2017) in final selection of UPSC CSE. While many other optional subject has experienced ups and downs, geography has consistently delivered success.
  • It is observed that about 2-3 ranks holders in top ten every year are from geography optional. Examples: Ira Singhal (AIR -1, 2014), Suharsha Bhagat (AIR- 5, 2014), Soumya Pandey (AIR-4, 2016), Shweta Chauhan (AIR- 8, 2016), Pratham Kaushik (AIR-5, 2017), Ayush Sinha (AIR-7, 2017), Junaid Ahmed (AIR-3, 2018).
  1. Relevance: The relevance in this context means how much geography optional is relevant to other parts of UPSC CSE examination i.e. Prelims, GS Mains, Essay and Personality Test.
  • Preliminary Test (PT): There are various subjects to be studied for General Studies i.e. paper-I of PT such as History, Polity, Economics, Environment and Ecology, General science. Geography is one of them. Since 2011 (when UPSC introduced changes in PT), about 12-15 questions out of 100 are form geography While 8-12 questions are being asked from environment and ecology (which is extensively studied in geography optional subject). If we consider the upper bracket of questions from two subjects we get total around 27 questions i.e. 54 marks. (Note- UPSC prelims cut off has hovered between 98 to 108). Now one can understand relevance of geography optional in PT. you can fetch almost half of your marks in PT because of your geography optional preparation.
  • GS Mains: GS-I paper contains explicit syllabus of geography and every year questions carrying marks about 90-100 out of 250 are from geography. In GS-II, International Relations part is overlapping with political geography. Therefore, about 40 marks in this paper can be cashed in because of geography optional. In GS-III, about 150 marks out of 250 can be cashed in from questions relating to agriculture, economy (infrastructure), environment and ecology and disaster management as they are dealt in detail in geography optional subject. Therefore, in total, about 290 marks in GS Mains can be fetched because of geography optional (This is probably the highest among when compared to other optional subjects).
  • Essay: Two essays carrying 125 each are asked in this paper. In general, one section contains philosophical topics while other section contains topics from economics, polity, IR and geography, environment/ecology. Therefore, geography optional students can write this essay in effective manner and fetch more marks.
  • Personality Test: Many questions in interview are asked about your home state, home town therefore, you need to know about geographical and cultural significance. At the same time, question related to demographic indicators, social indicators, industry, infrastructure, trade and communication, geopolitics (International Relations) are well answered by geography optional student. g. If you belong to Mumbai. Then probable question can be why Mumbai is economically more developed as compared to other cities. Answer would involve- Port location, climate (suitable for textile industry), location near to Persian Gulf (Oil import) etc.
  1. Resources: Resources in this context means books, notes, test series, mentor. This is very important aspect because if you have interest in particular optional subject and if you don’t have access to books, notes and right mentor then it becomes difficult to prepare that optional subject. It is good to know that basic and reference books of geography optional subject are easily and readily available everywhere. LUKMAAN IAS provides comprehensive course of Geography optional by an expert faculty. Also, LUKMAAN IAS has very well designed test series of optional subject where faculty/mentor himself evaluates copies and give feedback along with classroom discussion.
  1. What is the syllabus of geography optional?


Physical Geography

  1. Geomorphology : Factors controlling landform development; endogenetic and exogenetic forces; Origin and evolution of the earth’s crusts; Fundamentals of geomagnetism; Physical conditions of the earth’s interior; Geosynclines; Continental drift; Isostasy; Plate tectonics; Recent views on mountain building; Volcanicity; Earthquakes and Tsunamis; Concepts of geomorphic cycles and Land scape development; Denudation chronology; Channel morphology; Erosion surfaces; Slope development; Applied Geomorphology; Geomorphology, 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 frontogenesis; Temperate and tropical cyclones; Types and distribution of precipitation; Weather and Climate; Koppen’s, Thornthwaite’s and Trewartha’s classification of world climate; 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, agro-forestry; Wild life; Major gene pool centres.
  5. Environmental Geography : Principle 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.

Human Geography

  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 secularisation; 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: location 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; Concept 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 : System 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; Rostov’s model of stages of growth. Heart-land and Rimland theories; Laws of international boundaries and frontiers.


  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, Agriculture and poultry; Agricultural regionalisation; Agro-climatic zones; Agro-ecological regions.
  4. Industry : Evolution of industries; Locational factors of cotton, jute, textile, iron and steel, aluminium, fertiliser, paper, chemical and pharmaceutical, automobile, cottage and ago-based industries; Industrial houses and complexes including public sector undertakings; Industrial regionalisation; New industrial policy; Multinationals and liberalisation; Special Economic Zones; Tourism including ecotourism.
  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 (interregional, interregional 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 urbanisation 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 inter-state 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 related 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
  1. How should I begin my preparation of geography optional?
  • Keep in mind that like any other optional, there are two important gifts (hints/guides) given by UPSC itself to aspirants of geography optional also. They are syllabus and previous year questions. Therefore, throughout your preparation you should bind yourself to these two gifts and make the most of them.
  • For beginner, you should read 6th to 12th standard geography NCERTs and especially give three repeated revisions to 11th and 12th standard NCERTs.
  • After that, you can start reading G.C. Leong book (book with yellow cover). Some important topics like landforms and climatic regions are very well covered in this book with coloured diagrams.
  • Note: NCERTs + G.C. Leong book are also advised to read by all students for their prelims geography preparation.
  • After reading these books thoroughly, you can start reading ‘Physical geography’ by Savindra Singh from first chapter of your syllabus i.e.
  1. What should be my strategy to study geography optional?

First of all we will give you overall idea about preparation strategy and then we will go into details of each chapter.

  • Hard work + Smart work: Geography as an optional subject demands lot of hard work and dedication from aspirants which surely will pay off in results if we put our efforts in right direction. This is specifically important for geography optional because syllabus is very vast and lot of books and study material available in the market. Therefore, you have to be very smart in choosing what to read and how to prepare.
  • Geography is all about diagrams and maps: Student will not get good marks if he/she writes everything but do not draw required diagram or map in the answer. Therefore, we have to be well prepared with practice of drawing diagrams and maps. Student should keep a separate notebook of diagrams and maps which will be handy for revision at last minute. (Note: Students should become so proficient that he/she should be able to draw map of India in 10 seconds and map of world in 30 seconds).
  • Answer writing skill: Like any other optional, answer writing skill is very important for geography optional. Therefore, reading and writing should be a simultaneous task. Writing answers for PYQs will help you to build this skill and joining a standard test series will enhance your skill with right feedback from mentor to fetch you more marks. LUKMAAN IAS has very well designed test series of optional subject where faculty/mentor himself evaluates copies and give feedback along with classroom discussion.
  • Preparing model answers or writing structures of previous year questions (PYQs): When you read any topic of syllabus, first scan through what kind of questions have been asked already in previous exams. Then read and prepare topic and you can have your own answers to those PYQs. It will also improve your answer writing skills which is equally important in getting good marks. You can make group of 3 or 4 aspirants who could share their work honestly thereby getting mutually benefited saving time and work.
  • Making notebook of case studies and examples: You should have your own notebook of case studies and examples to be used especially in geography optional paper-II. Keep marking syllabus points while writing examples in notebook so that you will remember in which questions to use them.
  • Make wise use of internet for certain topics like applied climatology, environmental geography and biogeography (questions from these topics comes from current context or on contemporary issues like climate change, global warming etc.)

Specific strategy for some important chapters:

  1. Geomorphology: Very important as well as vast chapter. Conceptual clarity is important. Certain topics like slope development theories, erosion surfaces etc are difficult to understand. Therefore, make sure that you prepare these topics well.
  2. Environmental geography: The recent trend of UPSC suggests that more questions are being asked from this chapter, therefore you should prepare this chapter well. Also, it is overlapping with GS-III syllabus of environment and ecology as well as prelims, therefore it will benefit more.
  3. Perspectives in geography: Very important chapter and difficult to understand. Key to this chapter is you should follow chronology in evolution of various perspectives then only it is better understood.
  4. Models and theories: It is static topic therefore prepare your own notes of each model. Also, recent trend suggest some applied aspects are being asked on this chapter, therefor brainstorming is important to link these models and theories to current affairs. g. What is relevance of Makinder’s heartland and Spykman’s Rimland theory in contemporary time?
  5. Paper-II: Questions in this paper are mostly based on current affairs. Therefore, you should develop a skill to interlink current affairs with syllabus topics. Also, recent trend suggests that questions involve more than one topic of syllabus i.e. they are interlinking syllabus points with each other and framing questions. E.g. correlate the agro-climatic zones with agro-ecological zones of India (2019, 20 marks)

Note: We are providing comprehensive book list separately.

  1. What is the complete list of books for geography optional?

The syllabus of geography optional is very detailed and exhaustive. To prepare for that, we need to have clear understanding of which book to be read otherwise there will be lot of waste of time. Therefore, to streamline your preparation, we are providing this comprehensive booklist. In this booklist we have separated basic books from reference books to be used. The following booklist covers almost 100% of syllabus.

We advise that you should first read and understand the topic from basic books and then read reference books for value enrichment (if only time permits).

Note- Do not buy reference books right away if you are preparing for first time. Those who have already prepared subject or written mains examination, they can surely start using reference books.

Complete book list for UPSC Geography Optional subject:



Basic books

Reference books

Paper – I

(Physical geography)

1.       Geomorphology

 11th Standard NCERT (Fundamentals of physical geography)

 Certificate Physical and Human Geography – Goh Cheng Leong

 Physical Geography – Savindra Singh

  Physical geography – K. Siddhartha

  A textbook of Geomorphology – P. Dayal

 Physical geography- Strahler and Strahler

 Earth’s Dynamic surface – K. Siddhartha

 Principles of Geomorphology – W.D. Thornbury

2.       Climatology

 11th Standard NCERT (Fundamentals of physical geography)

  Certificate Physical and Human Geography – Goh Cheng Leong

 Physical Geography – Savindra Singh

   Climatology – Savindra Singh

 Climatology- D. S. Lal

3.       Oceanography

 11th Standard NCERT (Fundamentals of physical geography)

 Physical Geography – Savindra Singh

   Oceanography – Savindra Singh

    Oceanography for geographers – Sharma and Vatal

4.       Biogeography

Physical Geography – Savindra Singh

Made Simple Series by Rupa Publication-Vol-I & II

     Biogeography – Savindra Singh

5.       Environmental Geography

 Environmental geography – Savindra Singh

    Environmental Geography -Saxena

     Environmental Awareness – R.C. Chandna


(Human Geography)

6.       Perspectives in Human Geography

 Geographical Thought – R. D. Dikshit

  Evolution of Geographical Thought – Majid Husain

7.       Economic Geography

 12th Standard NCERT (Fundamentals Of Human Geography)

 Economic And Social Geography Made Simple – Rupa publication

 Economic geography – K. Siddhartha

 Economic Geography – Hartshorne & Alexander

8.       Population and Settlement Geography

 12th Standard NCERT (Fundamentals Of Human Geography)

Human Geography -Majid Husain

 Cities, Urbanization and Urban System – K. Siddharth and S. Mukherjee

·         A Geography by Population – R.C. Chandna

9.       Regional Planning

Human Geography -Majid Husain

·         Urban and Regional Planning – Peter Hall

10.   Models, Theories and Laws in Human Geography

Models in Geography – Majid Husain

·         Models & Theories in Geography – K. Siddhartha

Paper – II

(Geography of India)

11.   Physical Setting

11th Standard NCERT (India Physical Environment)

 India – A comprehensive Geography – D. R. Khullar

·         Geography of India – Majid Husain

12.   Resources

 12th Standard NCERT (India people and Economy)

India – A comprehensive Geography – D. R. Khullar

·         Geography of India – Majid Husain

13.   Agriculture

 12th Standard NCERT (India people and Economy)

 India – A comprehensive Geography – D. R. Khullar

 Current affairs

·         Geography of India – Majid Husain

·         Systematic Agricultural Geography – Majid Husain

14.   Industry

15.   Transport, Communication and Trade

16.   Cultural setting

17.   Settlements

 12th Standard NCERT (India people and Economy)

 India – A comprehensive Geography – D. R. Khullar

Current affairs

·         Geography of India – Majid Husain

·         Urbanization & Urban Systems in India- Ramachandran

18.   Regional Development

  Geography of India – Majid Husain

Current affairs

·         India – A comprehensive Geography – D. R. Khullar

·         Regional Planning In India – Chand and Puri

19.   Political Aspects

Current affairs

 Geography of India – Majid Husain

Websites and magazines:

·         World Focus

·         IDSA

·         The Diplomat

20.   Contemporary Issues

 Geography of India – Majid Husain

 Current affairs


·         Kurukshetra

·         Yojana

·         Down To Earth

·         Geography& You

Paper -II


Ten mapping points in first question of question paper (each for 2 marks)

  Geography Through Maps – K. Siddhartha

Newspaper and Magazines:

·         The Hindu newspaper

·         Down To Earth


Laxmikant Jaybhaye

Academic Head & Faculty- GS Foundation

He has done B.Tech (Mechanical) from College of Eng. Pune (COEP). He has a teaching
experience of 7 years in Delhi as well as in Pune. He has developed expertise in GS-I
(Geography) and GS-III (Environment & Ecology and Disaster Management). He
Focuses on conceptual clarity and interlinkages which make his lectures very relevant
to the changing pattern of the UPSC. He is also the academic head of the institute.
He teaches subjects like:
Current Affairs
GS PAPER-I (Geography)
GS PAPER-III (Ecology & Environment)

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