Geography Optional Strategy
First go through the whole syllabus of Geography Optional bit-by-bit and piece-by-piece. Revise it until it gets memorized!
First reading of Geography NCERT books from 6th Standard to 12th Standard thoroughly. Along with NCERT you should also cover G C Leong’s Certificate Physical and Human Geography. While reading for first time just give a light underlining with pencil to the important points. Have Atlas with you while reading and keep on seeing geographical features like rivers, places, mountains etc.
Have a special focus on diagrams and understand it before you proceed further. Geography is all about understanding so have special focus on this point.
Second reading, you should go through the core matters of the books and again focus on diagrams. Here also you should underline the important lines with pencil but this time line should be dark as you have already develop some insights into the subject and now you should re-highlight the points and keep in mind. Here you can also draw some diagrams or short points to revise later on.
Third reading, you should have to make up your mind that you have develop basic understanding of Geography and now you can write or speak on some important concepts. Here you can use dark pencil or even colored pen to highlight the points. Here also you can include few lines in book itself.
After doing this exercise you will see that your 50 percent of the UPSC CSE Geography Optional syllabus has finished but your work has not stopped here. You have to keep on revising along with covering the syllabus through standard sources. There is no limit of revision. Now let’s talk about it in more details.
How to Study Geography Optional?
Try to study PAPER-1 and PAPER-2 combindly for example if you are reading Climatology in Paper-1 then also study Climate chapter/Monsoon in Paper-2, similarly for Population Geography etc.
Go through questions of previous years after just finishing the topics you will realize that what you studied and how question are framed. It will give you insights when you study next time that where to focus more.
After finishing a topic write answers of questions asked on that topic in previous years before moving to next topics. This is painful but remember if you are not doing this means you are missing your seat in the final list. All rankers do the same thing.
Prepare one repository of all-important diagrams at one place and put flag for easy access and keep revising. Remember in geography diagram is half of your content and rest half is explanation of that diagram. If you have command on diagrams/flowcharts/data/facts/figures then you can explain the concepts in better way. Some geography toppers have used at least two diagrams in one answer and explain it nicely.
Specific to PAPER-1:
You have to focus on entire syllabus because you never know which part UPSC will emphasis in your exam. Currently UPSC is focusing more on Human Geography but it can never be guaranteed. Go through the question paper of last 5 years and you will surprise to know that huge shift towards Human Geography. So have no mercy with Human Geography and prepare well.
For Paper-1, have special focus on one section, either Physical Geography or Human Geography. You should know in advance from which section you would be attempting three Questions.
Use concept of Paper-2 in Paper-1 as well and vice-versa. Make your answer diverse and innovative.
Geographical Thoughts are very core to Geography Optional. Prepare it thoroughly and use it extensively in simple but geographical language. You can use Geographical Thoughts in Paper-2 as well.
In general prepare both sections of PAPER-1 properly but make one section very strong so that you can bring quality in writing.
Specific to PAPER-2:
Questions in Paper-2 would be similar to GS Mains Paper but do not fall in the trap, for example, if Smart Cities ask in GS as well as in Geography Paper-2 then your approach would be different for different paper. Use concepts of Paper-1 and GS in Paper-2 to fetch good marks. Here remember one thing that you cannot write Paper-2 in GS style but you have to use content of Paper-1 and GS in a proportionate manner in Paper-2 to give a geography answer’s look. This approach will fetch a great marks.
Make small bullet point notes for often-repeated topics from standard books and revise them repeatedly.
Prepare maps of India thoroughly based on theme like Drainage Pattern, Resources, Hills etc. Note down the significance of each location. Make theme based short map of the region, for example, if question is on Iron Ore then just show only that portion of India’s Physical Map where iron Ore is found.
Use of Atlas?
Use atlas while studying Geography Optional. It gives permanency to whatever you read and also it helps to understand the concepts in better way. While reading newspaper you just note down the location if any and in the end you locate in atlas and also try to know significance of that place on Google.
How to enrich your answers?
- Maps and Diagrams in each question. Make extensive use of maps and diagrams but relevant one. Make sure to write title of diagram. E.g. if question on religious minority then do not forget to draw a map of India and show religious minority pockets and write about their culture or Constitutional safeguards in one or two line.
Characteristics of biological desert draw a Ocean map showing Ocean Bottom Topography of Arctic, Antarctic etc.
2.Incorporate both Physical and Human dimensions in questions except in Core question like Plate Tectonic Theory etc. e.g. if question is difference between the drainage pattern of Peninsular vs Himalayan region then include Physical aspects, Climatological aspects, Agricultural aspects, human aspects etc.
- Try to write answers along the lines of Syllabus to give a well-structured format. For example Physical->Industries->Human etc.
How Geography is related with Current Affairs?
Now the focus of UPSC is more on current affairs and UPSC does aspect a Para of current affairs related with the question, should be added and emphasized upon in answer.
So candidates are required to have good knowledge of current affairs related with Geography and use the same in answer smartly.
The newspaper editorials, G&Y Magazine, Yojana & Kurukshetra should be covered thoroughly. It would also help greatly in GS and Essay writing.
Topics like Environment & Ecology, Agriculture, Climate Change, Technologies like Robotics, Nano, AI, Space etc must be covered in details. These topics should be used in answer writing practice in Test Series so that it becomes handy to use in actual exam.
Candidates should keep in mind while covering current affairs related news that you should not be collecting mere facts or data but focus should be on concepts supported by some facts or data.
Geography Books for UPSC
Books for Paper I:CLICK TO BUY
- Physical Geography – Savindra Singh
- Certificate Physical and Human Geography – GC Leong
- Human Geography – Majid Hussain
- Rupa Made Simple Economic and Social Geography
- Models and Theories in Geography – K Siddhartha and S Mukherjee
- Climatology by D S Lal
Books for Paper II:CLICK TO BUY
- Geography of India – Majid Hussain
- India A Comprehensive Geography – Khuller
- Map Entries in Geography – K Siddhartha
- Orient Blackswan/Oxford Atlas
- Class XI and XII NCERT Books
TimezoneIAS Geography Optional Test Series are designed on these lines and we will make you to practice. Each feedback would be a boon for you provided you use it in your next Test.
ALL THE BEST!!