How to study Geography for Civil Services Prelims

Civil Services Preparation Tips
Civil Services Preparation Tips

When it comes to getting through IAS exams, Geography, as a part of General Studies, does play a great role. The reason is that it has high weightage in Mains exam and is also extremely important for Prelims. But furthermore, it can make GS extremely high scoring if prepared according to a judicious plan.

The syllabus notified by UPSC states that paper I of the CSAT will comprise of Physical, Social and Economic Geography of India and the World. More emphasis will be on Geography of India. Questions on Geography of India may include the main features of Indian agricultural and natural resources.

The emphasis, during the studies, should be on strengthening the basic knowledge. As Geography (particularly physical geography) is quite close to being a physical science, students must try to look for proper understanding of different phenomena.

From Indian Geography, there are some key areas to focus upon. These include the Physical Geography of India, Agriculture, Irrigation, Demography, Census, Industries and Mineral Resources of India.

Questions from Indian rivers have become a habit of the UPSC. In past three to four years questions from rivers have been asked without any gap. Here are a few questions from them:

  1. Consider the following pairs:

National Park                     River flowing through the Park

  1. Corbett National Park : Ganga
  2. Kaziranga National Park: Manas

III. Silent Valley National Park :   Kavari

Which of the above pairs is/are correctly matched?

(a) I and II (b) III only (c) I and III (d) None

  1. The Narmada river flows to the west, while most other large peninsular rivers flow to the east. Why?
  2. It occupies a linear rift valley.
  3. It flows between the Vindhyas and the Satpuras.
  4. The land slopes to the west from Cantral India.

Select the correct answer using the codes given below.

(a) 1 only (b) 2 and 3 (c) 1 and 3 (d) None

  1. Rivers that pass through Himachal Pradesh are:

(a) Beas and Chenab only                             (b) Beas and Ravi only

(c) Chenab, Ravi and Sutlej only                                (d) Beas, Chenab, Ravi, Sutlej and Yamuna

  1. Which one of the following rivers does not originate in India?

(a) Beas                (b) Chenab         (c) Ravi                                 (d) Sutlej

  1. At which of the following places do two important rivers of India originate; while one of them flows towards north and merges with another important river flowing towards Bay of Bengal, the other one flow towards Arabian Sea?

(a) Amarkantak                                 (b) Badrinath                     (c) Mahabaleshwar                         (d) Nasik

  1. Consider the following pairs: Tributary River Main River
  2. Chambal : Narmada 2. Sone : Yamuna 3. Manas : Brahmaputra

Which of the pairs given above is/are correctly matched?

(a) 1, 2 and 3                      (b) 1 and 2 only                                 (c) 2 and 3 only                                  (d) 3 only


Students should also study maps/atlas. Whenever you read any news, try to look for the associated place in the atlas. Map study should also include looking for important geographical points pertaining especially to the map of India. A recent example is:

  1. The latitudes that pass through Sikkim also pass through

(a) Rajasthan                     (b) Punjab                           (c) Himachal Pradesh                     (d)Jammu & Kashmir

Passage of important geographical lines like Tropic of Cancer, Tropic of Capricorn and Equator through important places should be known with respect to both India and World. The question about the river crossing the equator twice has been asked but the Indian River crossing the tropic of Cancer twice has not been asked. So these aspects must be kept in mind.

After analyzing six years questions; new emerging trends are:

  1. Number of questions from the demographic and cultural perspective has increased a lot

For example:

  1. Consider the following pairs:

Tribe                                      State

  1. Limboo (Limbu) : Sikkim
  2. Karbi : Himachal Pradesh
  3. Dongaria Kondh : Odisha
  4. Bonda : Tamil Nadu

Which of the above pairs are correctly matched?

(a) 1 and 3 only                                                 (b) 2 and 4 only                                 (c) 1, 3 and 4 only                             (d) 1, 2, 3 and 4

  1. There is larger emphasis on the physical geography, Resources (in particular Minerals) and Agricultural Geography of India.

For example:

  1. Which of the following statements regarding laterite soils of India are correct?

(1) They are generally red in colour.

(2) They are rich in nitrogen and potash.

(3) They are well-developed in Rajasthan and UP.

(4) Tapioca and cashew nuts grow well on these soils.

Select the correct answer using the codes given below.

(a) 1, 2 and 3                      (b) 2, 3 only 4                     (c) 1 and 4                           (d) 2 and 3 only

  1. Consider the following statements:

(1) Natural gas occurs in the Gondwana beds.

(2) Mica occurs in abundance in Kodarma.

(3) Dharwars are famous for petroleum.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 and 2                           (b) 2 only                             (c) 2 and 3 only                  (d) None

  1. Consider the following crops:

(1) Cotton                           (2) Groundnut                                   (3) Rice                                                 (4) Wheat

Which of these are Kharif crops? Select the correct answer using the codes given below.

(a) 1 and 4                           (b) 2 and 3 only                                 (c) 1, 2 and 3                       (d) 2, 3 and 4

  1. Each year at least two questions are being asked based on Atlas.

For example:

  1. Which one of the following pairs correctly matched?

Geographical Feature                    Region

  1. Abyssinian Plateau : Arabia
  2. Atlas Mountains : North-Western Africa
  3. Guiana Highlands : South-Western Africa
  4. Okayango Basin : Patagonia
  5. Questions from the applied field and the current based questions are on an increase.

It means that if a major event occurs at any place, students should be ready with the knowledge of the geography related to that place. For example, if any place, river, dam, etc. has been in news, students must be aware of it and he must give special heed to carefully cover the geographical aspects of such news matters.

For example, as the Tehri dam was in news so the question asked was:

  1. On which one of the following rivers is the Tehri Hydropower Complex located?

(a) Alaknanda                    (b) Bhagirathi                     (c) Dhauliganga                                 (d) Mandakini

For example, water crisis is increasing day by day and it has become a primary concern so the question was asked.

  1. On the planet earth, most of the glaciers. Out of the remaining freshwater, the largest proportion

(a) is found in atmosphere as moisture and clouds

(b) is found in freshwater lakes and rivers

(c) exists as groundwater

(d) exists as soil moisture

The important books that must be read to cover geography in order to crack the prelims are: NCERT (Class 6 to 12) and GC Leong. Apart from these an Atlas (Orient/Oxford/TTK) is a must.


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