Geography Optional Solved Previous Years' and Model Questions for UPSC Civil Services Mains Exam 2020 (2023)

Geography Optional Solved Previous Years’ and Model Questions for UPSC Civil Services Mains Exam 2020

Geography is a highly popular optional subject in the UPSC mains exam. It is especially popular with candidates with a science or engineering background because of the nature of the subject itself. It is a science and this makes it attractive for such candidates. It is also popular because of the overlap with the syllabus for UPSC.

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UPSC Civil Services Mains Geography Optional

Geography Optional pros and cons

There are many benefits of taking geography as an optional in the civil services mains exam like overlap, scientific nature of the subject, etc. There are also a few hiccups such as the rather vast syllabus. In this section, we discuss the pros and cons of the Geography optional in the IAS mains exam.

Advantages of Geography optional

Geography, as an optional, has a number of advantages which will help candidates up their final tally in the UPSC exam.

Overlap with General Studies

There is tremendous overlap with the GS paper I. This is true for both the prelims and the mains exams.

Overlap with the Mains GS papers:

There is a whole section for Geography in the GS paper I. Even some topics like tribal issues, reorganisations, etc. are covered in the optional subject. About 80 – 100 marks worth questions are asked in the General Studies I paper which you would have covered while preparing for your optional.

Even though there are not many topics in GS II with a direct overlap, some topics from International Relations finds links with Geography such as geopolitics of the Indian Ocean region, SAARC, India and her neighbours, BIMSTEC, and so on. Opinion-based questions like in geopolitics and regional geography is also a part of international relations and current affairs.

(Video) Geography Optional 2020 - Paper Analysis | UPSC IAS

In GS III, the topics that can be covered from the Geography optional include agriculture, cross-border crimes, planning, development, infrastructure, industries and resources, transportation, demographic dividend, etc.

Geography also has a lot of overlap with subjects like economy, environment and conservation.

Help in the UPSC Personality Test

Even in the interview, you may be asked about the regional geography of your hometown, such as the climate, soil type, vegetation, etc. which can be answered better with specialised knowledge of geography.

Nature of the subject

Geography is a multidisciplinary subject. Hence, it is popular with a lot of candidates with a science/engineering background. Once the concepts or the theory behind any phenomenon are understood, you can easily write the answers in your own words.

Scoring subject

Many consider geography a scoring subject because of many factors:

  • In theories, there are conceptual and fact-based questions where there is less margin to reduce marks.
  • You can draw diagrams, flowcharts and tables to represent your answers better and drive the point home. A single good diagram speaks for about a hundred words. This saves time in the mains exam.
  • Map-based questions are particularly scoring.

Disadvantages of Geography optional

The chief pitfall of this optional is that it has a vast syllabus. Also, the competition in this subject is also huge as almost 4000 candidates opt for this optional subject.

Geography optional strategy

How to start?

(Video) UPSC CSE IAS Mains Optional Geography 2020 Paper 1 Section A Solutions | Past Paper Solutions

To start with this optional, the NCERTs and GC Leong are excellent sources. NCERTs present the concepts in a clear and simple language. They are easy to read and understand, especially if you are a newbie to the subject. Both the NCERTs and GC Leong have very good diagrams which are very important for scoring marks in this subject.

Geography and current affairs

Until a few years ago, many questions asked used to be static in this subject and only Paper II had more of a dynamic nature. But now, most of the questions asked (both in Papers I and II) are linked to current affairs. It is very important to maintain a separate file of notes for Geography-related current affairs. The newspapers are the best source for this. Almost on a daily basis, you will find some news or editorials on topics like agriculture, industries, fisheries, monsoons, climate change, conservation, wildlife, energy, etc. So, you must jot down important and exam-related points from those news items. For example, the discovery of a new species of flora can be a potential question for the prelims. Along with the notes, you must also preserve any map or diagram given in the newspapers related to the event. Another example, if a particular year saw crop failure, you must understand the climatic reason behind it and the underlying phenomenon of seasons. Please remember, more than the raw facts and numbers, it is the underlying phenomenon or concept that is more important to study.

In 2018, Paper I had a question directly linked to current events.

Explain the unusual intensity of dust storms and thunder storms across India in the pre-monsoon period of year 2018. (10 marks)

Atlas by your side

It is essential that you keep an atlas by your side while preparing for this optional. Whether it is the static or the dynamic portions you are reading, having an atlas by your side will help you visually see what you are reading about. This will help you understand the concepts better and also helps in better retention. For example, when you learn about the geo-politics of the Indian Ocean region, an atlas will help you locate the countries and islands that are important to the issue.

Note making

Notes are very important during preparation, particularly when you are tackling a vast subject like geography. Make sure you make notes only for those topics for which textbooks do not provide a readable content. Otherwise, it would be a waste of time. Do not make notes for every topic. Note making is especially important for current affairs. Your sources for notes should be newspapers, magazines like Down to Earth, government reports, Economic Survey, etc. Augment your notes with diagrams and flowcharts.

Previous year question papers

It is important to solve previous year papers as it gives you a sense of the most important topics.

(Video) Geography Optional Mains 2020 Paper Analysis | Crack UPSC CSE/IAS 2021 | Ajit Tiwari


You must practice maps as these questions if done correctly, fetch great marks. It is advisable to prepare region-wise maps from standard textbooks covering topics like physical features, terrain, soil, rivers, agriculture, monsoons, industries, resources, drainage, etc.

Types of questions

There are basically three types of questions in the Geography optional.

Direct questions

These are direct questions straight from the syllabus such as the difference between tropical and temperate cyclones and the like. In such cases, since everybody writes the same thing, it is important to present your answer appealingly. Make the answer neat and precise. Draw diagrams wherever possible.

Open-ended questions

For these questions, there is more freedom to add positive and negative aspects of concepts. You should also cover multiple dimensions of the issue or concept asked in the question. As usual, do include drawings and map locations if possible.

Map-based questions

Practice the map-based questions that were asked in the last 20 years in the IAS mains. Practice daily so that you can internalise important locations, markings, etc.

Answer writing in geography

(Video) Geography (Opt.) PAPER 1 (Section A) - UPSC MAINS 2020 | LIVE Discussion by Himanshu Sir

Diagrams are very important. They help you explain concepts with fewer words. You can save time by including diagrams in your answers. They also fetch more marks. For example, in a question where you are writing about the intensity of the energy crisis in the world, you can draw a map of the world showing the areas of low crisis, moderate crisis and severe crisis.

Try to incorporate aspects of both physical and human geography in your answers. Wherever possible, try to present the human angle also. This will also provide an administrative angle to the issue. For example, in a question about Himalayan and Peninsular drainage systems, you can talk about the differences in cropping patterns also.

According to topper Pratham Kaushik, when you write answers, make them along the lines of the syllabus like illustrated below:

Examine the role of small towns in the regional development process.

Divide your answer into the following segments: Population and Settlement, Regional Development and Planning, Industries, Resources, Agriculture, Transport and Trade, Political Geography, and Cultural Setting. This will make the answer more diverse and multidimensional.

Tackling the huge syllabus

It is important to read the syllabus thoroughly before starting with the preparation. Basically, we can divide the syllabus into three:

  1. Physical Geography
  2. Human Geography
  3. Indian Geography

The first two sections form a part of Paper I and Indian Geography forms a part of Paper II. When you prepare, try to link paper I and paper II. Topics like population, regional development, climatology, settlement geography and so on can be used for both papers. Examples from one section can be used to make your answers for the other section more relevant.

General tips for geography optional preparation

There are two papers in geography optional and the syllabus together is huge. Get well-acquainted with the topics and check the trends in previous years’ questions to figure out which topics are most frequently asked about.

  1. For every topic, refer two-three sources to ensure you have the most authentic information and there is no chance of an error in your knowledge.
  2. Set a realistic goal for your study table and understand that this amount of syllabus will require 2-3months at least to be completed. Hence start your study accordingly.
  3. Instead of making all the notes alone, rely more on class notes from tutors which you will find in plenty online. Shabbir and Himanshu Sir are some of the top-recommended tutors whose notes are even referred by toppers like Pratham Kaushik (AIR- 5, CSE- 2017).
  4. Paper-1 in Geography optional covers two topics- namely, physical geography and human geography. Determine beforehand the section from which you want to attempt the maximum questions and plan your study table accordingly.
  5. Practices find interrelations between the topics explored in the syllabus for each paper. This way you can enrich your answers. When you are able to link the topics, you can make your answers more substantial with better references and even statistics, as needed.


Does questions repeat in UPSC optional? ›

Yes! UPSC papers have repetitions of questions from previous year's papers, but only for certain topics. As we have seen over the last ten years, frequent questions from subjects like that included history, economics, and history, as well as Indian politics, were noticed.

How many months geography Optional takes to complete? ›

4-5 months, if you study Geography 12-15 hours per week. This should be enough. Also, it depends on how much can you recall your graduation concepts. Ideally, aspirants need 4-5 months to complete the optional subject solely.

Is geography optional tough in UPSC? ›

The biggest negative point about Geography is that it covers a huge section of syllabus. The competition in this optional subject is gigantic as compared to some other optional subjects. The subjects are too lengthy and sometimes it becomes difficult to memorize a lot of information at one go.

Who got highest marks in UPSC optional Geography? ›

The highest-ranked with Geography optional was rank 4 holder Saumya Pandey.
Geography Optional Toppers.
2010Anurag Chaudhary34
24 more rows

Are PYQ enough for UPSC? ›

In mains practicing PYQs show you the mirror and help you in gauging your preparation. This process will let you know your weak areas so that you can fill the gaps in your preparation. Helps in analyzing the important parts of the syllabus. The syllabus for the UPSC CSE exam contains several topics.

Are essays repeated in UPSC? ›

These topics do not repeat further but through these topics you can have an assessment of the paper and these topics can be practiced to have a good grip on essay paper. There are two sections in essay paper - Section A and Section B each of which has four topics of essays.

Which optional has highest success rate? ›

UPSC Optional Subjects Success Rate 2016
No.Optional SubjectSuccess Rate
2Medical science16.3
3Animal husbandry12.3
13 more rows
3 Jul 2021

Can I prepare geography optional without coaching? ›

You can easily prepare for the GS Geography Optional Without IAS Coaching if you take guidance from the topnotch faculties which you can easily get at

Which is the easiest optional for UPSC? ›

How to select the easiest optional subject for UPSC from the list I have made after shortlisting?
S.NoOptional SubjectSuccess Rate Percentage
1.Medical Science23.4
3.AnimalHusbandry & VeterinaryScience23.1
20 more rows

Which is more scoring Geography or history? ›

It deals with things that happened in the past. It is more scientific in nature. It is considered less scoring than Geography because answers are descriptive generally.

What was Tina Dabi's optional subject? ›

She had pursued a degree in Political Science. Dabi takes an avid interest in Madhubani paintings and reading fiction. This was Dabi's first attempt at the civil services exam.
Related Links:
UPSC BooksCurrent Affairs Quiz
Success Rate of Optional Subjects in UPSC ExamUPSC Mains Syllabus
2 more rows

Which optional has smallest syllabus? ›

Philosophy has the shortest syllabus out of all of the optional subjects for the UPSC examination and is the reason for it is a popular choice amongst UPSC aspirants.

Which is the most taken optional subject in UPSC? ›

The IAS Topper Kanishak Kataria chose Mathematics as his optional subject in CSE 2018.
Popularity of UPSC Optional Subject – 2015-17.
Optional SubjectPublic Administration
24 more columns

Is NCERT geography enough for UPSC mains? ›

Is Geography NCERT Enough for UPSC Mains? Yes, this is compulsory for all the candidates to go through the NCERT books for learning the best topics and covered areas. It is enough for you in the UPSC preparation if you will provide it with adequate time and concentration. The books have every detail for you.

Can I skip NCERT UPSC? ›

It is recommended that candidates go through the NCERT books as the information available is not just comprehensive but also reliable. Textbooks from class VI to XII can be of great use for both prelims and mains examination. Read Further: Complete List Of NCERT Books Needed For UPSC Preparation.

Is 11 and 12 NCERT enough for UPSC? ›

UPSC Books from NCERT for General Studies Paper III:

For Economics: Reference of class 9 to 12 NCERT books for IAS should be ideal, but if you are familiar with the subject, class 11 and some chapters in class 11 and class 12 (micro + macro) would be sufficient.

Who scored highest in essay Upsc? ›

UPSC CSE: IAS officer T Prateek Rao scored one of the highest marks in the Essay paper of UPSC Mains.

Who has scored highest marks in UPSC essay? ›

Marks of IAS Toppers Across the Years:
YearName, RankMains
2019Pradeep Singh, 1140
2018Kanishak Kataria, 1133
2017Anudeep Durishetty, 1155
11 more rows
1 Jan 2021

What is a good score in UPSC essay? ›

Securing approximately more than 50% of the marks is considered good. Hence 125 and above is a good mark in this paper while 110-125 is considered average.

How much did Tina Dabi score in prelims? ›

UPSC Topper Tina Dabi (AIR-1) Scored 52.49% Marks
Civil Services (Pre.) Exam 2015
Roll No0256747
Marks Obtained
Paper I96.66
Paper II98.73
2 more rows

Is political science or optional geography better? ›

There is no better. They both are scoring and extensively helpful for future. If you are good with maps and mapping and locations, then you should go for geography. If laerning about new horizons excite you then ofcourse geography is for you.

Which optional has most overlap with GS? ›

The syllabus of Geography Optional overlaps with almost 40% of the GS syllabus.

Who teaches geography optional in Vajiram and Ravi? ›

Shabbir Sir is a well known faculty teaching in reputed coaching Vajiram And Ravi situated in Delhi. Shabbir Sir always teaches according to UPSC Geography optional syllabus.

Which geography optional test series is best? ›

What are the Top 5 Best Test Series for Geography Optional?
  • Plutus IAS , Best Test Series For Geography Optional.
  • Yojna IAS, Best Test Series For Geography Optional.
  • examophobia , Best Test Series For Geography Optional.
  • Online khan market , Best Test Series For Geography Optional.
3 Jun 2022

Who is Shabbir Sir for geography optional? ›

By Shabbir Sir – Co-Founder, Edukemy and Ex. Faculty of Vajiram & Ravi. An Intensive online learning programme that ensures holistic coverage and understanding of Geography Optional for UPSC-CSE. It provides in-depth coverage of all the concepts and topics by India's Best Faculty for Geography Optional.

Which optional is better sociology or geography? ›

Both Sociology and Geography are popular optionals in the Civil Services Exam. Geography surpasses Sociology if you look at the absolute numbers of candidates opting for the subjects. In fact, both subjects are considered scoring.

Did pratham Kaushik took coaching? ›

Pratham Kaushik Optional Subject

He did take coaching for his optional subject but not for his general studies but as geography is a part of general studies it definitely must have helped him indirectly if not directly.

Which Atlas is best for UPSC Geography optional? ›

Some students prefer to use the Oxford Atlas for India and the Orient Blackswan for world maps. One should also know the types of maps in Geography. You may learn about it in the linked article. Once you know about the maps, learn how to use maps effectively for UPSC examination in the linked article.

Does question repeat in sociology optional? ›

Aspirant can score good marks in sociology optional with adequate preparation and confirm their name in the final list. It offers great scoring potential as one can easily score 300+ marks with decent writing practice. Most of the Questions on theories are a repeat of previous years papers.

Do UPSC repeat questions Quora? ›

Well, the answer to this question is no. Questions do not get repeated in UPSC examination. Though, a lot of questions are moulded using other words and are presented with changed options in UPSC.

Does UPSC mains questions repeat Quora? ›

The UPSC Questions are unpredictable, so never expect to get the same questions in UPSC Mains. Get the idea of how to present if the question asked on Economy, Society, Women and etc.

Where do UPSC questions come from? ›

Most of the factual questions are asked from: NCERT Textbooks. Economic Survey. Newspaper.

Which optional has highest success rate? ›

UPSC Optional Subjects Success Rate 2016
No.Optional SubjectSuccess Rate
2Medical science16.3
3Animal husbandry12.3
13 more rows
3 Jul 2021

Which optional is easy in UPSC? ›

List of some easiest optional subject for UPSC based on toppers choices.
Optional Subject(Approx) Number of AspirantsSyllabus Overlaps with
Public Administration3000Prelims, GS II
Political Science1800Prelims, GS II
Sociology1800GS I, GS II, Essay
Philosophy1000GS IV. Essay
2 more rows

Is 2 Months Enough for sociology optional? ›

Syllabus. The UPSC syllabus for sociology optional is short and concise so it can be covered within 3-4 months time. Besides this no background is needed for this optional so even a fresher is comfortable for the preparation of this optional. There are two optional papers in the UPSC mains exam.

Does UPSC ask questions on bills? ›

There is no surprise in this because UPSC expects future Civil Servants to be knowledgeable about the important Acts/Bills/Rules etc.

How many questions are on the vision test series? ›

BookVision IAS - General Studies - Prelims Test Series 1 To 35 Questions With Solutions 2021 - English Medium - Combo Set
Publishing Date2021
Number of Pages2030
3 more rows

Is there scaling in UPSC Prelims? ›

The Scaling system is not only used in the UPSC Mains exam. While there are no official statements to be about this, it is also known that Normalisation is applied to the Prelims exams as well. This is known to be practiced to normalize the variation in the difficulty of questions in the Prelims questionnaires.

What kind of essays are asked in IAS? ›

The UPSC Civil Service Mains Exam contains a paper on essay writing. Here you will be asked to write two essays each one carrying 125 marks making a total of 250 marks. You will be given two sets of four topics out of which one has to be chosen from each section.

Does IAS mains have negative marking? ›

In short, the candidate will get a 1/3rd mark deducted for incorrect answers. There is no negative marking for blank answers.

Which topics are important in history for UPSC? ›

Important Topics in Modern India
  • Portuguese in India.
  • Dutch in India.
  • Danes in India.
  • The English.
  • The French.
  • The Carnatic Wars.
  • Anglo Maratha Wars.
  • Doctrine of Lapse.

What is the time gap between UPSC mains and interview? ›

Generally, there will be a 3-month gap between the UPSC prelims and mains exam i.e., around 120 to 150 days to prepare for mains within which candidates have to study for 9 papers with a total of 1750 marks.
9 Things you should know to crack UPSC Mains Exam.
IAS General Studies Notes Links
Extradition MeaningGovernment E Marketplace
Junaid Ahmad IASByzantine
3 more rows

Can a 20 year old give IAS exam? ›

UPSC Civil Services Exam Age Limit: Candidate must be a minimum of 21 years of age and must not be more than 32 years of age. General Category & EWS: 32 years; 6 attempts. OBC (with certificate): 32 years + 3 years; 9 attempts. SC/ST: 32 years + 5 years; unlimited attempts.

Which subject has more weightage in UPSC mains? ›

Many questions had a current perspective and required analytical thinking. Polity and governance had maximum weightage with 11 questions, 4 questions were from International Relations and the number of Social Justice and Welfare based questions were 5.


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