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UPSC Prelims & Mains Syllabus: Geography Notes | Study Geography for UPSC CSE - UPSC

Document Description: UPSC Prelims & Mains Syllabus: Geography for UPSC 2022 is part of How to Prepare Geography for UPSC? for Geography for UPSC CSE preparation. The notes and questions for UPSC Prelims & Mains Syllabus: Geography have been prepared according to the UPSC exam syllabus. Information about UPSC Prelims & Mains Syllabus: Geography covers topics like Introduction, UPSC Prelims Geography Syllabus, UPSC Mains Geography Syllabus, Geography Optional Syllabus for UPSC Mains, Paper 1: Principles of Geography, Paper 2 and UPSC Prelims & Mains Syllabus: Geography Example, for UPSC 2022 Exam. Find important definitions, questions, notes, meanings, examples, exercises and tests below for UPSC Prelims & Mains Syllabus: Geography.

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Table of contents
UPSC Prelims Geography Syllabus
UPSC Mains Geography Syllabus
Geography Optional Syllabus for UPSC Mains
Paper 1: Principles of Geography
Paper 2
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Geography is an important subject as far as the UPSC civil services exam is concerned. It is a part of the UPSC prelims and mains exams. Geography is also an optional subject offered by the commission and as far as the numbers go, it is an immensely popular option. 


  • Its rational nature and scoring ability make it especially popular among candidates with both science and arts backgrounds. 
  • But even if you don’t opt for Geography optional, you cannot escape studying Geography if you want to clear the IAS exam. 
  • The geography syllabus for UPSC prelims, mains and optional is given in detail below.

UPSC Prelims Geography Syllabus

Indian and World Geography – Physical, Social, Economic Geography of India and the World. As you can see, the syllabus mentions only 1 line. Let us look at the details now.

Indian Geography

1. Basics of India

  • Location, latitude, longitude, time zone, etc.
  • Neighbors
  • 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 utilization
  • 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

World Geography

  1. Major natural regions
  2. Regional geography of developed countries
  3. Regional geography of developing countries
  4. Regional geography of South Asia

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 anti-cyclones
  • 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

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, urbanization, functional classification of towns, million-cities, and megacities

Location-based questions pertaining to India and the world are also asked in the prelims.

UPSC Mains Geography Syllabus

Geography is part of the GS paper I in the IAS mains exam. The syllabus for GS Geography is given below:

  • 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 (geomorphology, climatology, oceanography, biogeography, and environmental geography)
    (i) Geomorphology – the interior of the earth, tectonics, physical phenomenon, mountain building, volcanoes, earthquakes, weathering & erosion, rocks, landforms
    (ii) Climatology – atmosphere, temperature distribution, jet streams, pressure & wind systems, air masses, fronts, cyclones, humidity, precipitation, geographical phenomenon, climatic regions of the world
    (iii) Oceanography – ocean relief, temperature distribution, ocean currents, salinity, coral bleaching, marine pollution, sea-level change, UN laws, etc.
    (iv) Biography – soil profile, degradation, conservation), biotic regions, deforestation, and conservation of forests, changes in critical geographical features, environmental pollution
  • There is a good overlap of the environment in some of the topics in geography. The Geography UPSC syllabus is quite comprehensive, as you can see from above. It is an important subject as far as UPSC is concerned and every year, many questions are asked from the syllabus of geography for UPSC.

Geography Optional Syllabus for UPSC Mains

The UPSC optional subject list contains 48 subjects in total, one of which is Geography. The optional syllabus for this subject has a huge overlap with General Studies. It is one of the most popular optional subjects in the Mains exam. 

  • The topics included in this subject are related to physical and human geography, economic geography, and the geography of India. 
  • Candidates who choose Geography as an optional subject in UPSC often find the syllabus to be vast. Notwithstanding the large number of topics included in the syllabus, the subject is relatively easy to prepare due to the wide availability of study material and its popularity in the Mains exam. 
  • Apart from this, a large portion of the geography syllabus can be covered while preparing for General Studies.
  • Geography Optional has 2 papers (paper I and Paper II) in UPSC Mains. Each paper is of 250 marks with a total of 500 marks. 

Paper 1: Principles of Geography

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 Landscape 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 fronts;

Temperate and tropical cyclones; Types and distribution of precipitation;

Weather and Climate; Koppen’s Thornthwaite’s and Trewar Tha’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, agroforestry; Wildlife; Major gene pool centers.

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: a 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 the 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 regionalization; Growth centers 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; Ostov’s model of stages of growth. Heart-land and Rimland theories; Laws of international boundaries and frontiers.  

Paper 2

Geography of India

1. Physical Setting: Space relationship of India with neighboring 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 groundwater, energy, minerals, biotic and marine resources, Forest and wildlife resources and their conservation; Energy crisis. 

3. Agriculture: 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; Aqua-culture; Sericulture, Agriculture and poultry; Agricultural regionalization; 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 underkings; 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 net works 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 (inter-regional, interaregional 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 urbanization and remedies. 

8. Regional Development and Planning: Experience of regional planning in India; Five Year Plans; Integrated rural development programs; Panchayati Raj and decentralized 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. 

9. Political Aspects: Geographical basis of Indian federalism; State reorganization; Emergence of new states; Regional consciousness and inter-state issues; the 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.

NOTE: Candidates will be required to answer one compulsory map question pertinent to subjects covered by this paper.

The document UPSC Prelims & Mains Syllabus: Geography Notes | Study Geography for UPSC CSE - UPSC is a part of the UPSC Course Geography for UPSC CSE.
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