UPSC Main: Strategy for Geography (Optional)
Geography as an optional subject has become very popular
since the introduction of new scheme in 1979 for Civil Services Examination. The
subject has a scientific flavour and is objective and analytic. It is this
scientific nature of subject which has made geography a very popular optional.
The past performance of candidates clearly reveals that the subject is highly
scoring and reliable. Also, unlike common belief, the subject is not vast and
can be easily prepared in 2-3 months time if worked systematically.
The syllabus for the Mains examination has two papers :
Paper-I deals with the Principles of Geography whereas Paper-II encompasses
Geography of India. Very often, these two papers are taught or studied in
isolation, which is a wrong approach. In fact, the two papers are intricately
related. In Paper I fundamental principles of Geography are to be learnt and in
Paper-II the fundamental principles learnt in Paper I are to be applied in the
context of India. Thus, Paper I is concerned with understanding of concepts and
Paper II seeks the application of those concepts. Prepared this way, the subject
becomes objective, analytic, less time-consuming, very little or no mugging is
required, and gives advantage over all other subjects of humanities and social
Geography can be taken as an optional by any candidate who
has a scientific temper and average level of intelligence. Elementary
understanding of concepts of everyday science is an asset. It is specially
recommended to Science and Social Science graduates and also for those who do
not have very good command over language.
Like any other subject, guidance by properly trained subject
experts, i.e. Geographers; specially those teaching in universities and who have
a feel of Civil Services Examination system can greatly help students in the
preparation and getting best and of limited time. Fortunately, proper guidance
in geography is available in most of the major cities of India. But students
must take guidance from the right persons, otherwise guidance from untrained,
self-proclaimed geography expects can even harm their interest.
Besides understanding the concepts, more important from the
point of view of Civil Services examination is writing answers and, if possible,
getting them properly evaluated.
Five questions are to be attempted; out of which two
questions are compulsory—one on map and the second on short notes. Three full
length questions to be attempted — two from one section and one from the other
section. For question on map, the student is given the option of World or India
map. If you have familiarity with world, then you may opt for World map
otherwise concentrate on India. For question on map, students should practice
map filling on blank maps. Try to learn using proper symbols for map filling.
Also, one has to write in 10 words about the location asked. For this, one
should write the most salient feature of the location.
For other four questions students should first understand all
the basic concepts given in the syllabus and then focus on the more important
concepts that can be found out from past years question papers or from a proper
Three full length questions are to be attempted. Students
should try to attempt two questions from Section A (Physical Geography) as these
questions are comparatively more scoring. The important topics are
Geomorphology, Climatology, Eco-System, Settlement Geography and Economic
Geography. Some questions on Political Geography and Human Geography are also
As mentioned earlier, Paper II is to be taken as the case
study of India i.e. application of the geographical concepts in Indian context.
Thus, students should try to examine and explain the spatial patterns in India
with the help of concepts learnt in Paper I.
Traditional Geography books on India are far from
satisfactory; specially with respect to socio-economic aspects as books on
Geography of India have narrow and limited vision and data are not recent. The
students need to develop a holistic view and here a proper guidance can help a
lot. In Paper II, for getting high score, a holistic approach plays a very
important role. Also, students should understand and study any one region of
India in detail as many questions ask to write your answer with reference to any
region with which you have familiarity.
The important topics in Paper II (keeping in view scoring as
well) are Physical aspect, Resources, Agriculture, Industry, Regional
Development and Planning.