Ultimate guide to Geography UPSC Syllabus: Detailed analysis [2020-21]

Ultimate guide to Geography UPSC Syllabus: Detailed analysis [2020-21]

In UPSC exam, for understanding the nerves and pattern, Syllabus is most important and geography subject cover more marks than other subjects, therefore, Geography UPSC syllabus is very important to the ultimate guide of UPSC prelims and mains as well. In this article, you will find complete geography syllabus for UPSC prelims and mains with their PDF and info-graphics.

Here is the Geography syllabus which is given in UPSC notification

Geography UPSC syllabus for Prelims

Here is the syllabus of Geography for UPSC CSE prelims which is given in UPSC notification-

  • Indian and World Geography-Physical, Social, Economic Geography of India and the World
  • General issues on Environmental Ecology, Bio-diversity and Climate Change

Geography UPSC syllabus for Mains

Here is the syllabus of Geography for UPSC CSE mains which is given in UPSC notification-

  • Salient features of the world’s physical geography.
  • 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)

Geography Syllabus infographics 

geography upsc syllabus

Detailed Analysis of Geography syllabus for Mains

1. Salient features of the world’s physical geography

• Geomorphology
a) Meaning & Scope of Geomorphology
b) Internal Structure of Earth
c) The Theory of Continental Drift
d) Plate Tectonics theory
e) Rocks
f) Classification of Forces affecting the landforms
g) Mountain Building
h)Earthquakes & Tsunamis
i) Volcanism
j) Plains and Plateau

• Oceanography
a) Ocean Bottom Relief
b) Temperature and Salinity of Ocean Waters
c) Ocean Currents
d) Tides
e) Coral Reefs
f) The geopolitical importance of the Indian Ocean

• Climatology
a) Earth’s Atmosphere
b) Weather and Climate
c) Air Mass, Fronts & Cyclones
d) Climatic division of India

2. Distribution of key natural resources across the world (including South Asia and the Indian sub-continent)
• Distribution of soil
• Distribution of minerals
• Distribution of rivers
• Distribution of crops

3. Factors responsible for the location of primary, secondary, and tertiary sector industries in various parts of the world (including India)
• Introduction
• Primary sector and locations
• Secondary sector and locations
• Tertiary sector and locations
• Issues in industrial development
• GOI steps
• Recommendations

4.Important Geophysical phenomena
• Earthquakes
• Tsunami
• Volcanic activity
• Cyclone etc.

5. Geographical features and their location
• Mountains
• Plains
• Plateaus
• Other features
• Degradation due to human activities

6. Changes in critical geographical features
• Human impact on geographical features as climate change, ocean acidification, water depletion, pollution, deforestation, desertification, erosion.


Geography optional is one of the popular subjects in the UPSC main examination. It is widely chosen by many aspirants since the syllabus less when compared to other syllabuses. Candidates can score good marks in the geography optional subject if they had prepared well.

Physical Geography

i) Geomorphology: Factors controlling landform development; endogenetic and exogenetic forces; Origin and evolution of the earth?s crust; Fundamentals of geomagnetism; Physical conditions of the earth?s interior; Geosynclines; Continental drift; Isostasy; Plate tectonics; Recent views on mountain building; Vulcanicity; Earthquakes and Tsunamis; Concepts of geomorphic cycles and Landscape development ; Denudation chronology; Channel morphology; Erosion surfaces; Slope development; Applied Geomorphology: Geohydrology, economic geology and environment

ii) 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 frontogenesis, Temperate and tropical cyclones; Types and distribution of precipitation; Weather and Climate; Koppen?s, Thornthwaite’s and Trewartha’s classification of world climates; Hydrological cycle; Global climatic change and role and response of man in climatic changes, Applied climatology, and Urban climate.

iii) 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.

iv) 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; agro-forestry; Wildlife; Major gene pool centers.

v) Environmental Geography: Principle of 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

i) Perspectives in Human Geography: Areal differentiation; regional synthesis; Dichotomy and dualism; Environmentalism; Quantitative revolution and locational analysis; radical, behavioral, human and welfare approaches; Languages, religions, and secularisation; Cultural regions of the world; Human development index.

ii) Economic Geography : : World economic development: measurement and problems; World resources and their distribution; Energy crisis; the limits to growth; World agriculture: typology of agricultural regions; agricultural inputs and productivity; Food and nutrition problems; Food security; famine: causes, effects and remedies; World industries: locational patterns and problems; patterns of world trade.

iii) Population and Settlement Geography: Growth and distribution of world population; demographic attributes; Causes and consequences of migration; concepts of 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: Concepts 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.

iv) Regional Planning: Concept of a region; types of regions and methods of regionalization; growth centers and growth poles; regional imbalances; environmental issues in regional planning; planning for sustainable development.
v) 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; Von Thunen?s model of agricultural location; Weber?s model of industrial location; Rostov?s model of stages of growth. Heartland and Rimland theories; laws of international boundaries and frontiers.

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

Part II

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: land holdings, land tenure and land reforms; Cropping pattern, agricultural productivity, agricultural intensity, crop combination, land capability; Agro and social forestry; Green revolution and its socioeconomic and ecological implications; Significance of dry farming; Livestock resources and white revolution; aquaculture; sericulture, apiculture and poultry; agricultural regionalisation; agro-climatic zones; agro-ecological regions.

4. Industry :
Evolution of industries ; Locational factors of cotton, jute, textile, iron and steel, aluminium, fertilizer, paper, chemical and pharmaceutical, automobile, cottage and agro-based industries; Industrial houses and complexes including public sector undertakings; Industrial regionalisation; New industrial policies; Multinationals and liberalization; Special Economic Zones; Tourism including eco-tourism.

5. Transport, Communication, and Trade:
Road, railway, waterway, airway and pipeline networks 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 program.

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, intraregional 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 interstate issues; 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 relating 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.

Ultimate guide to Geography UPSC Syllabus: Detailed analysis [2020-21]
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