Geography for UPSC: Super-Simplified Scientifically for Prelims and Mains

What on Earth is Geography?

Everything that happens to the Earth IS literally, Geography. Geography is the story of the profound inter-connectedness of our world.

It is essentially the story of the Earth. This story features not only the Earth’s physical processes (Volcanoes, Earthquakes, Continental drift, ocean current etc) but also of its inhabitants- plants, animals, human communities, cultures and how the two interact with each other in myriad ways to make a world in which we consume the Earth, and the Earth consumes us in a cyclical feedback loop. For instance, when we cause global warming causing the Earth’s icecaps to melt, nature in turn, increases global temperature, sea-levels and disrupts human lives.

Excerpt from National Geographic website-

“Geography is the study of places and the relationships between people and their environments. Geographers explore both the physical properties of Earth’s surface and the human societies spread across it. They also examine how human culture interacts with the natural environment, and the way that locations and places can have an impact on people. Geography seeks to understand where things are found, why they are there, and how they develop and change over time.”

Read the full Article here:

This is why geography is understood at two broad levels- physical and human geography.

UPSC Geography Syllabus

upsc navigator geography
The Ultimate UPSC Navigator contains the most scientific organization of the entire UPSC syllabus ever created. It includes not only the syllabus but QR codes which lead to subject-specific resources and Color-coding which help the user to track, prepare and strategize.

A serious UPSC Aspirant should keep his focus on Indian geography after understanding the concepts and fundamentals of physical geography. Geography is deeply inter-connected with Environment and with Society (Human geography is nothing but a study of human societies from the point of view of a geographer instead of that of an anthropologist or a sociologist)

How to prepare Geography for UPSC?

Mapping is Key – The MAP7 PROTOCOL

Maps are densely packed visual information. Although it looks easier to understand than text, maps can be challenging because of the level of detail they can represent. A map can tell you about Soil conditions, physical features, human settlements, rivers, dams and everything all in ONE image.

upsc indian geography

This means your brain will not capture all of it at a glance- or at multiple glances.

The best way to memorize maps is to first understand what the Earth is like- to get a basic idea of geological processes.

For instance, before diving into a detailed map of India, you should know that the Indian peninsula was a separate landmass which collided with the Eurasian plate giving rise to the Himalayas.

upsc geography indian

After getting a basic idea of Earth’s geological history and major systems ( oceans, climate etc) the ideal way to consume visual content like maps is to do it alongside conceptual understanding and to OVERLAY layers of detail one on top of the other using the MAPSEVEN PROTOCOL (MAP7)


Step1: RECREATE the outlines of the Map with your OWN hands a few times before filling in the details.

Step2: Fill in the river systems and major drainage systems of the country. Notice how rivers form the basis of deltas, human settlements, borders of some states etc.

Step3: Fill in the next level of detail which is political boundaries of states.

Step 4: Fill in the other physical features such as mountains, deserts, plateau, plains etc. and notice how this too, is closely related to major river systems. Ex- Where you find dense vegetation on the map there must be a forest reserve or national park nearby.

Step5 : Fill in the location of different agriculture practices in different areas of the map. Notice how they correspond to the physical features and contribute to the ideal conditions for growing the crops which are grown there. Ex- notice and ask why coffee plantations are located in one part of the country and not in others.

Step6: Fill in details of natural resources of the country like Iron-ore, steel, coal and why this is the case. Ex- Uranium is found in some beaches of South India and nowhere else.

Step7: Fill in the location of major industrial centers and think about why they are located there- The reason will invariably be a combination of proximity to natural resources, access to ports, highways, cheap labor etc. Notice these inter-connections acutely.


**The above protocol has been designed following a conceptual progression of ideas which will help the learner make deeper inter-connections from the ground-up. Follow the above to maximize map-learning

Suggested Progression of topic for UPSC Geography for maximum conceptual clarity and learning efficacy World Geography

World Geography—> Indian Physical geography—–> Indian Economic Geography—-> Indian Human Geography—–>Current Events pertaining to Geography

Location, Location, Location

An important perspective to keep in mind is that while preparing is ‘distribution” – this means knowing where important things like national parks, volcanoes, ports etc. are located. This perspective is the reason a lot of Geography is factual- to build a base of knowledge, you should know where in India rivers are located, where the dams are located, where important highways are located etc. This is where mapping comes into the picture.

This distinguishes Geography from Economics. Where geography focuses on location of everything in the world- including humans, Economics focuses on the dynamism of human exchange and how geographical inputs are converted into terms of human value like goods, petrol, money, mobile phones and the buildings you see around you.

Everything is connected

The Earth is a system and every sub-system is connected to other sub-systems. A case in point is weather. What occurs in the atmosphere determines the price of bananas and onions in much the same way that the atmosphere is changed by what we do here on the surface ( see ozone holes)

upsc geography environment

This type of thinking is essentially Big Picture Formation of the Hexatask method– The most scientific method of learning geared towards the UPSC exam.

Once your foundations are solid, you will not see Geography as a series of disparate facts and locations to be remembered.

Geography is interwined with multiple subjects in the syllabus

Besides the intimate connection of Geography and Economics mentioned above, the other major areas of overlap, esp wrt to the UPSC syllabus are-

  • Geography and Environment are inter-twined While almost synonymous, there are subtle difference between the study of Geography and that of the Environment. Like everything else, they are intimately inter-connected.
  • Geography and Disaster management: Mother nature is the only manufacturer of Natural disasters and at times, an existential threat to human beings. Tsunamis, Earthquakes, Volcanoes, Cyclones and hurricanes are capable of destroying lives in the blink of an eye. The human capacity to detect the threat and to protect against is the subject matter of Disaster Management. The threat can only be understood or anticipated with knowledge of geography.
upsc geography india

Suggested Books and Resources for UPSC Geography

  • Class 11th NCERT: Fundamentals of Physical Geography
  • G.C Leong: Physical and Human Geography
  • Class 11th NCERT: India Physical Environment
  • Class 12th NCERT: Fundamentals of Human Geography
  • Oxford/ Orient Black swan Atlas for Mappings
  • Maps:

I hope you make the most of this lesson and treat Geography like a subject of fascination which it is.

All the best!


Ravi Kapoor, IRS

74 thoughts on “Geography for UPSC: Super-Simplified Scientifically for Prelims and Mains”

  1. Thankyou sir, I am Shubham Kumar, a final year engineering student. I am also an UPSC aspirant.
    Sir, This is very beautiful content for briefing ” What is Geography? “. Sir, but I did’t understand the second picture which include map about Indian plate and Eurasian plate, Can you please help me to get understand this very well.

  2. This is a wonderful article! I sincerely appreciate the thought you have put into creating MAP7 and it is also helpful that you have shortlisted resources to learn Geography which saves a lot of time for the beginners who are trying to find the right “book”.

  3. I’m very late to this but I have to catch up with all my reading. You have certainly outlined some very interesting tasks. Maps are fun and I can’t draw but I should try to fill in a blank map at least. Thank you, sir. 🙂

  4. It’s exciting, informational, explain in simple way.I feel geography is easy. frameworks are the best,give a specific way to explore geography. I am glad to join this program and thank you so much sir for creating a such type of guidance path.

  5. This super simplified overview of geography and map7 protocol really made everything easy to understand and interconnect the topics. Honestly I never thought that maps could be this simple to understand and learn.

  6. Thank you so much Sir however it is just an overview of the geography syallabus but most of the times we neglect it and directly jump into the books and don’t have much clarity about how deeper we have to delve into the topic…and waste our time by focusing and memorising on unnecessary things….
    ….I think the great man in this world is the one who make the copmlicated things simpler this is what you have done….:)

  7. Never paid attention to the features before, just read. Got the concept of mapping that how are they interrelated. What information does map convey. Thank you Sir.

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