Geography Optional Strategy and Booklist

This article Geography Optional Strategy and Booklist answer frequently asked questions of aspirants who have geography as an optional subject in Civil Services Mains Exam.

Geography Optional Strategy and Booklist: Paper 1


( You can skip the Geomorphology portion of Physical Geography by Savinder Singh as it is well covered in this book).

Prepare only those chapters which are there in the syllabus, focussing on Chapter 2 ‘Fundamental Concepts in Geomorphology’ and Chapter 3 ‘Theories of Landform Development’. This is an extensively written book on Geomorphology which gives a poor cost benefit ratio. Hence, prepare it selectively and make pointers to help you remember the material.

  • Class notes or 500+ notes of Himanshu Sir  

(He covers the topics in excessive detail, so again be selective in preparation) 

Prepare topics like Concepts of geomorphic cycles and Landscape development, Erosion surfaces, Slope development in great detail with ample diagrams. 

  • Biogeography and Environment Geography
    • 500+ notes of Himanshu Sir
    • Classnotes and Test Series notes of Shabbir Sir
    • Prepare Ecology topics in great detail
    • Environmental Geography by Savinder Singh (stick to topics mentioned in the syllabus)
    • Internet (prepare pointers for topics such as Social Forestry, Environmental Management etc)
  • Perspectives in Human Geography

First, read the Test Series classnotes by Shabbir Sir. It’ll build a broad understanding and chronology of the evolution of geographical thought.  Then, read Geographical Thought by R D Dixit (Chapter 1-8, Chapter 11) and Fundamentals of Geographical Thought by Sudeepta Adhikari (Chapter 11, Chapter 13-16). If required, refer to 500+ questions and notes for this topic by Himanshu Sir.

This will equip you to write extremely good answers as you’ll have precise definitions, theories, and lots of examples given originally by Geographers in their studies. Use the original quotes by Hartshorne, Febvre, Semple etc along with the names of their thesis or books. Use chronological flowcharts while answering questions.

Also prepare topics like Languages, Religions, Cultural Regions and HDI, and link these with Geographical Thought. Example – Link HDI with Welfare Geography; Languages and Religion with Diffusion and Cultural Landscape of American and German Geographers.

Economic Geography and Regional Planning

  • Classnotes or 500+ notes of Himanshu Sir (You can also refer to the printed material of RDP topic by Himanshu Sir)
  • Classnotes of Shabbir Sir
  • NCERT Class 11 and 12
  • Extensively use world maps and examples in your answers.

Population and Settlement Geography

This topic is crucial as it is scoring and easy but needs good presentation. Prepare exact definitions of terms like Conurbation, Metropolitan region, Slums, Satellite towns, RUF etc along with the Human Geographers who have given these concepts. Use diagrams in settlement geography and maps in population geography as much as possible. Have some statistics handy so as to make the answer on Population Geo more effective.

Terms in syllabus such as Social well-being and quality of life, Population as social capital etc should be specifically prepared with names of thinkers, examples from present world etc.  with help from any classnotes and internet. Both Quality of life and Social Capital were asked this year. Questions from these topics might be repeated and diversified in coming years.

It is the second most important topic after Geographical Thought. It has ample scope to be very presentable with lots of diagrams, flowcharts, maps in many questions (Rimland Heartland Theories, Von Thunen, Boundaries and frontiers etc), names and books of Geographers, few examples from the present world like CPT, Von Thunen, Rostow etc.

Read models and theories independently from Majid Husain and then try to link them to their original sub topic.

Always, always attempt the question from this topic using all the above for better presentation, as knowledge and content will be same with everyone. Prepare pointers and short notes for each model and theory and learn each postulate by heart.

Systems Analysis is a becoming a favourite of UPSC and questions are getting more diverse. Example: Geographical Systems, Application of System Analysis, Importance of system analysis etc. Prepare these from any classnotes, the above mentioned book and some help from internet. Once prepared, do not look for excessive value addition in content and try to enrich your answer by flowcharts of systems.

Geography Optional Strategy and Booklist: Paper 1

  • India: A Comprehensive Geography by D R Khullar (It is enough for static material for Paper 2. You need not refer to any other source. In fact, try to reduce this bulky book to your own notes in form of specific pointers, short definitions and lots of maps. Pick a sub topic from syllabus, read and underline/highlight from Khullar and paste simplified notes in the book only.
  • Current Affairs from Vision PT 365 (use them as examples) and Mains 365 (Topics relevant to Syllabus)
  • Case Studies from magazines such as Yojana, Kurukshetra, Geography and You (Prepare case studies as a form of elaborated example i.e. the case study should not exceed 4-5 lines. Have at least 10 case studies ready to be incorporated in answers. Also, the case studies need not be obscure but simple, common and explanatory.
  • Maps – You need not remember specific data for rainfall, population, road density, agricultural productivity etc for maps. Rather, simplify the complex maps given in Khullar in your own notebook.

Some ways to simplify are:

a) Brackets such as Low, Medium and High,

b) Below, At and Above National Average,

c) Shading a particular region,

d) Flow maps depicting migration, trade patterns, diffusion of language from its hearth etc. example – Make an arrow of more width directed from China to India and an arrow of lesser width from India to China depicting the trade deficit.

Also you can use an opening arrow over the map to show expansion of something and closing arrow to show reduction.

Maps in Geography are used for explanatory and indicative purposes. Maps made in exam hall are crude, rough and indicative and can be made using the PEN itself. Try practicing maps at home and draw partial maps wherever required (Example – To show Indira Gandhi Canal, draw only western India, for Indo China border disputes draw only the Northern and NE region.)

Always label maps and diagrams and try to replicate the original boundaries of the map of India. Also, have a look at the boundaries of states in case you need to draw a map of any state. In that case, Maharashtra and MP should not look like rectangles.

  • Have short notes ready for common topics mentioned in Paper 2 syllabus as Contemporary Issues, such as floods and droughts, epidemics, deforestation, soil erosion, river linking etc because it is difficult to explain such topics in 150-200 words in a lucid manner. If such notes are not there, you may end up with two pages of ineffectively answered question.

Read More: Geography Optional blog [Syllabus, Notes, Articles etc]

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