How to Study Geography GS UPSC IAS

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The first basic step towards success in UPSC CSE is understanding the Syllabus followed by understanding the nature of questions. I have focused on these two aspects in this post.

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Prelims syllabus

  • Indian and World Geography – Physical, Social, Economic Geography of India and World

Mains Syllabus

  • Salient features of world’s physical geography.
  • Distribution of key natural resources across the world (including South Asia and the Indian subcontinent); 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.

Topic wise breakup of syllabus

Physical Geography

Geomorphology

  • Earth’s Interior
  • Tectonics
  1. Continental Drift
  2. Seefloor Spreading
  3. Plaeomagnetism
  4. Plate Tectonics
  • Mountain Building [Orogeny]
  • Physical Phenomena
  • Earthquakes, Volcanoes, etc..
  • Rocks
  • Weathering & Erosion
  • Erosional and depositional Landforms [No need to study in detail. Just 10-15 points under each heading]
  • Fluvial landforms
  • Glacial Landforms
  • Marine Landforms
  • Arid Landfroms
  • Karst Landfroms

Climatology

  • The Atmosphere
  • Temperature Distribution
  • Pressure systems and Wind systems
  • Jet streams
  • Airmasses
  • Fronts
  • Frontal Cyclones or Temperate Cyclones
  • Humidity and Precipitation
  • Geographical Phenomena
  • Cyclones – Tropical and Temperate cyclones
  • Climatic regions of the World

Oceanography

  • Ocean relief
  • Temperature Distribution
  • Salinity
  • Ocean Currents
  • Tides
  • Coral Bleeching
  • Sea level change
  • Marine pollution
  • Laws related [United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea etc..]

Biogeography and Environmental Geography

  • Soil Profile
  • Soil degradation and conservation
  • Biotic regions [Topic closely related to Climatic regions of the world]
  • Deforestation and Conservation of forests.
  • Changes in critical geographical features – flora and fauna and the effects of such changes.
  • Environmental Pollution [Coincides with ‘Conservation, Environmental pollution …..’ topic of GS 3]

Physical Geography of India

  • Topics 1-9 [Introduction to Environment] from India A Comprehensive Geography By Khullar [Don’t read from page to page. Read only necessary Headings]

Economic Geography

  • Resource distribution
  • Marine resources
  • Water resources
  • Agricultural resources
  • Land resources
  • Mineral and Non-mineral resources
  • Factors responsible for the location of primary, secondary, and tertiary sector industries in various parts of the world (including India). Mrunal.org articles
  • For India Economic Geography
  • Selective Headings from Kullar
  • Ex: Water resources, Land utilization, Green Revolution, Mineral and Energy resources etc..
  • Topics of GS 3 like Cropping Pattern, Irrigation Topics can be studied from Kullar.

Prelims Syllabus Analysis

Indian and World Geography – Physical, Social, Economic Geography of India and World

how to study geography upsc ias

Booklist

  • Multiple books for each subject means too much burden on your pocket as well as brain.
  • So less books, more revision, more practice tests is the key.

Analysis of books for Geography (GS) Prelims and Mains

Contents form different books.
Physical Geography Paperback by Savindra Singh Certificate Physical and Human Geography by Goh Cheng Leong SPECTRUM GEOGRAPHY

by Spectrum’s

  • Nature of Physical Geography

Lithosphere (Geomorphology)

  • Origin of the Earth
  • Age of the Earth
  • Structure of the Earth’s Interior
  • Continents and Ocean Basins
  • Theory of Isostasy
  • Earth’s Movements
  • Rocks
  • Vulcanicty and Volcanoes
  • Earthquakes
  • Mountain Building
  • Plateau
  • Plains
  • Lakes
  • Weathering and Mass Movements
  • Cycle of Erosion, Rejuvenation and Polycyclic Relief
  • Drainage System and Patterns Running Water (River) and Fluvial Landforms
  • Groundwater and Karst Topography
  • Sea Waves and Coastal Landforms
  • Wind and Aeolian Landforms
  • Glaciers and Glaciated Topography
  • Periglaical Processes and Landforms

HYDROSPHERE (OCEANOGRAPHY)

  • Reliefs of Ocean Basins
  • Temperature of the Ocean Water Salinity
  • Ocean Deposits
  • Ocean Tides
  • Ocean Currents
  • Coral Reefs and Atolls
  • Marine Resources

ATMOPHERE (CLIMATOLOGY)

  • Composition and Structure of the Atmosphere
  • Insolation and Heat Budget
  • Temperature Air Pressure and Atmospheric Circulation
  • Humidity and Precipitation
  • Air Masses Frontogenesis, Cyclones and Anticyclones
  • Classification of Climates and Climate Types

BIOSPHERE (BIOGEOGRAPHY)

  • Biosphere
  • Ecosystem and Ecology
  • Biosphere: An Ecosystem
  • Plant Community
  • Animal Community
  • Biomes Index
PART I

PHYSICAL GEOGRAPHY

  • The Earth and the Universe 1 Exploring the Universe
  • The Earth’s Crust
  • Vulcanism and Earthquakes
  • Weathering, Mass Movement and Groundwater
  • Landforms made by Running Water
  • Landforms of Glaciation
  • Arid or Desert Landforms
  • Limestone and Chalk Landforms
  • Lakes 66 General,
  • Coastal Landforms
  • Islands and Coral Reefs
  • The Oceans

PART 2

WEATHER, CLIMATE AND VEGETATION

  • Weather
  • Climate
  • The Hot, Wet Equatorial Climate
  • The Tropical Monsoon and Tropical Marine Climates
  • The Savanna or Sudan Climate
  • The Hot Desert and Mid-Latitude Desert Cli-mates
  • The Warm Temperate Western Margin (Mediterranean) Climate
  • The Temperate Continental (Steppe) Climate
  • The Warm Temperate Eastern Margin (China Type) Climate
  • The Cool Temperate Western Margin (British Type) Climate
  • 23, The Cool Temperate Continental (Siberian) Climate
  • The Cool Temperate Eastern Margin (Lauren-tian) Climate
  • The Arctic or Polar Climate .

 

All the topics from the other two books present.

Advantages and Disadvantages of these books

Physical Geography Paperback by Savindra Singh Certificate Physical and Human Geography by Goh Cheng Leong SPECTRUM GEOGRAPHY

by Spectrum’s

Analysis
Degree book. Good for optional.

Extensive coverage of PG

Meant for civil services.

Good for GS and Optional

 

Meant for civil services.

Good for GS

Good to understand the syllabus of Optional

All topics of Physical Geography present Most important topic of PG – Plate tectonics, See floor spreading, Continental drift etc.. Missing All topics of Physical Geography present
Climatic regions not given enough empahasis Climatic regions given great emphasis. Climatic regions not explained properly
Langunage: Ok for beginner.

600 page book with only PG

Lot of repetition of sentences

 

Langunage: Ok for beginner.

200 pages only

 

Language: tough for beginner. NCERT basics must before reading this book.

1000 pages

All topics including Indian and Economic geography present.

Only PG

No Indian Geo, Economic Geo.

Must buy Kullar for Indian Geo

Only PG

No Indian Geo, Economic Geo.

Must buy Kullar for Indian Geo

Indian Geo present (But not explained in detail)

Kullar is better for Indian Geo.

Economic geo present (not given in enough detail. Should supplement with mrunal.org and internet)

Good for Prelims and Mains. But only PG Good for Prelims

Bad for Mains

Good for Prelims and Mains
The book is not revised as of 2014-15 The book is not revised as of 2014-15 The book is revised every year
India A Comprehensive Geography By Khullar
  • Very easy to understand
  • All topics related to Indian Geography covered extensively.
  • Book meant for Optional. So you need to be very choosy.
  • 1000 page bulky book. But only 200 – 300 pages needed for General Studies
Also view analysis by mrunal.org
http://mrunal.org/2014/09/answerkey-csat-2014-geography.html
http://mrunal.org/2014/04/mains-answerkey-gs1-geography-2013-part-13-analysis-booklist-mains-2014-contiental-drift-hot-deserts-western-ghat-deltas-sample-answers-explaination.html
Personally I would recommend
In simple words

Mains Syllabus Analysis

Physical Geography

Salient features of world’s physical geography.

Booklist

Or

Or

For Indian Geography

Economic Geography

Distribution of key natural resources across the world (including South Asia and the Indian subcontinent);

factors responsible for the location of primary, secondary, and tertiary sector industries in various parts of the world (including India)

Booklist

http://mrunal.org/geography

I have compiled notes and I will be posting them on My blog http://www.pmfias.com/

Important Geophysical phenomena

Physical Geography

  • Important Geophysical phenomena such as earthquakes, Tsunami, Volcanic activity, cyclone etc.,

A combination of Physical geography, Climatology (Climate Change)

  • 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.

Booklist

  • Same as for Physical geography
  • Current affairs play a major part here

Topicwise questions from 2013 and 2014 Mains Papers

  • Some questions fall under multiple headings

Physical Geography of the World

  • What do you understand by the theory of continental drift? Discuss the prominent evidences in its support.

Physical Geography of India

  • There is no formation of deltas by rivers of the Western Ghat. Why?
  • Bring out the causes for more frequent landslides in the Himalayas than in Western Ghats

Physical Geography – Climatology

  • Tropical cyclones are largely confined to South China Sea, Bay of Bengal and Gulf of Mexico. Why?
  • What do you understand by the phenomenon of temperature inversion in meteorology? How does it affect the weather and the habitants of the place?

Distribution of key natural resources across the world (including South Asia and the Indian subcontinent);

  • Account for the change in the spatial pattern of the Iron and Steel industry in the world.
  • Critically evaluate the various resources of the oceans which can be harnessed to meet the resource crisis in the world.
  • How does India see its place in the economic space of rising natural resource rich Africa?
  • With growing scarcity of fossil fuels, the atomic energy is gaining more and more significance in India. Discuss the availability of raw material required for the generation of atomic energy in India and in the world.
  • It is said the India has substantial reserves of shale oil and gas, which can feed the needs of country for quarter century. However, tapping of the resources doesn’t appear to be high on the agenda. Discuss critically the availability and issues involved.

factors responsible for the location of primary, secondary, and tertiary sector industries in various parts of the world (including India)

  • Why did the Green Revolution in India virtually by-pass the eastern region despite fertile soil and good availability of water?
  • Do you agree that there is a growing trend of opening new sugar mills in the Southern states of India? Discuss with justification
  • Analyze the factors for highly decentralized cotton textile industry in India

Important Geophysical phenomena such as earthquakes, Tsunami, Volcanic activity, cyclone etc.,

  • Tropical cyclones are largely confined to South China Sea, Bay of Bengal and Gulf of Mexico. Why?
  • The recent cyclone on the east coast of India was called “Phailin”. How are the tropical cyclones named across the world?

geographical features and their location

  • Explain the formation of thousands of islands in Indonesian and Philippines archipelagos.
  • Why are the world’s fold mountain systems located along the margins of continents? Bring out the association between the global distribution of Fold Mountains and the earthquakes and volcanoes.
  • Major hot deserts in northern hemisphere are located between 20-30 degree north and on the western side of the continents. Why?

changes in critical geographical features (including water bodies and ice-caps) and in flora and fauna and the effects of such changes.

  • Most of the unusual climatic happenings are explained as an outcome of the El-Nino effect. Do you agree?
  • Bring out the relationship between the shrinking Himalayan glaciers and the symptoms of climate change in the Indian sub-continent.
  • Bring out the causes for the formation of heat islands in the urban habitat of the world.
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    • Did you read these two posts?
      http://www.pmfias.com/tropical-cyclones-favorable-conditions-tropical-cyclone-formation/
      http://www.pmfias.com/storm-surge-cyclones-over-arabian-sea-bay-of-bengal-naming-of-cyclones-cyclones-during-south-west-monsoon-season/

      What will the name of next cyclone in Indian Ocean: http://i0.wp.com/www.pmfias.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/naming-of-cyclones-indian-ocean.jpg
      Was it a category 1 cyclone (Roanu has a maximum sustained wind speed of 100 km/h)? http://i2.wp.com/www.pmfias.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Categories-of-Tropical-Cyclones-destruction.jpg

      Path of Tropical Cyclones (Roanu had a more regular path)

      These cyclones start with a westward movement, but turn northwards around 20° latitude. They turn further north-eastwards around 25° latitude, and then eastwards around 30° latitude. They then lose energy and subside.
      Tropical cyclones follow a parabolic path, their axis being parallel to the isobars.
      Coriolis force or earth’s rotation, easterly and westerly winds influence the path of a tropical cyclone.
      Tropical cyclones die at 30° latitude because of cool ocean waters and increasing wind shear due to westerlies.

      Why there are very few Tropical Cyclones during southwest monsoon season?
      The southwest monsoon is characterized by the presence of strong westerly winds in the lower troposphere (below 5 km) and very strong easterly winds in the upper troposphere (above 9 km). This results in large vertical wind shear. Strong vertical wind shear inhibits cyclone development.
      Also the potential zone for the development of cyclones shifts to North Bay of Bengal during southwest monsoon season.
      During this season, the low pressure system upto the intensity of depressions form along the monsoon trough (ITCZ), which extends from northwest India to the north Bay of Bengal.
      The Depression forming over this area crosses Orissa – West Bengal coast in a day or two. These systems have shorter oceanic stay (they make landfall very quickly) which is also one of the reasons for their non-intensification into intense cyclones.

      Annual frequency of Cyclones over the Indian Seas
      The average annual frequency of tropical cyclones in the north Indian Ocean (Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea) is about 5 (about 5-6 % of the Global annual average) and about 80 cyclones form around the globe in a year.
      The frequency is more in the Bay of Bengal than in the Arabian Sea, the ratio being 4:1.
      States Vulnerable to Cyclones (map given in post)

  1. Hello Sir,

    Thank you very much for the help.

    I felt geography is very tough after your videos, notes and few other youtube videos. I can really say I’m good now. Sir I have NCERT and GC leong books. For physical and Indian Geography your notes is sufficient or should I purchase the mentioned books.

    Im beginner and aspirant of 2019. My optional is Sociology.

    So if you can guide me on this. Thats great.

    Thank you very much sir

    • “For physical and Indian Geography your notes is sufficient or should I purchase the mentioned books”

      My notes + Indidustrial Locational factors by Mrunal.org + Regular current affairs should be more than enough for GS.

  2. HII SIR ‘
    I am just beginner for this upsc preparation i dont know where to start for geography for GS ….is ur notes for geography and keep revising that or else i want to read all the standard books , please guide me from mains perspective for gs sir .
    i have doubt on how to read ur pmfias notes for geography?

 

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