Geography optional strategy by Raju Mishra ( AIR 65, CSE 2014)

This blog post is re-built from excerpts of interviews, blogs written by UPSC rankers on how they went about a particular optional. The intention is to compile the best practices at one place in an easy to digest manner.


  • My strategies are simple and useful for me but don’t know about others
  • Try to read reference books thoroughly that what I didn’t do
  • Make adjustments according to your strengths, weakness and evaluation

Why geography?

  • Though it is conceptual, scientifically oriented, easy availability of materials and coaching, I choose it because of its use in GS paper and essay writing
  • Found topics like Human Development, Agri issues, resource distribution very interesting and hence didn’t mind going extra mile in these topics specially part B
  • Your optional must be mastered by you so that you can solve any questions
  • It is very lenghy, needs quite effort
  • In spite of that one can score good marks

Book List:

Paper 1

  • Physical Geography by Suvindra Singh
  • Climatology by Lal
  • Rupa Made Simple Series
  • Human Geography by Mazid Hussain
  • Models, theories by Mazid Hussain
  • Geographical thoughts by Mazid Hussain

Paper 2

  • Geography of India from Mazid Hussain and relevant topics from above books

My Strategy:

  • Coverage of entire syllabus from basic books like NCERT, Suvindra Singh and G.C Leong and then go for advance
  • Regular update notes with current issues and try to relate is with geographical point of view. Useful specially in part 2
  • Test series, answer writing , daily diagram/ map practice


  • I had done my coaching from Neetu Singh IAS academy
  • Covers 70% of syllabus in her notes
  • It formed core of preparation
  • After basic books, I went for her notes repeatedly
  • Stuck to one source and kept adding information from internet, reference books, test series etc
  • Many people get coaching material from different sources. All are repetition of each other and confuse candidate

Advantages & Disadvantages


  • Lots example on topics. Helps in answer writing and make it more comprehensive
  • Good coverage of maps pointing in class
  • Good coverage of part B in both papers
  • Thorough coverage of Indian Geography which is enough for Mains bt not so much for prelims
  • Provide sufficient data on different reports, census, forest coverage etc


  • Poor coverage of part A. for that I used shabbir sir’s notes
  • No answer writing practice
  • Many important topics fall in 30% of syllabus. She does not cover in class
  • In part B some time she misses out or just mention the concept in passing instead of explaining them in detail

Overall guidance from coaching helped in exam and to understand the fundamentals of geography. Hardly read any reference book, just read NCERTs. However it doesn’t mean that coaching is compulsory.

How to tackle the current events?

  • Maintained separate notebook for Geography Current events
  • Newspaper: The Hindu, Indian Express
  • Online: topics like IPCC, food security, sustainable development and other contemporary issues
  • Magazines: Kurukshetra ( Agri issues), Geography and You, The Hindu Environmental survey, Terra Green

How to read Current affairs from Geography perspective?

  • Newspaper are rich source of data and maps
  • Try to cut down any article on environment
  • Note down recommendation of different committees of environment, disaster management etc
  • Focus of issues on manufacturing industries like aluminium, iron steel etc. note down their percentage of reservoir and locate their location on maps
  • Note down different schemes regarding environment, agriculture etc

What about maps and Answer writing?

  • Maintained separate note book for maps. NCERT and GC Leong has excellent diagrams
  • If saw any good diagram, cut it down and paste in your notes
  • Bad strategy to draw diagram at the end. Draw it first at proper place. Try and make one diagram for each question
  • Write comprehensive answer with proper data and diagram/map
  • Practice to write more question so that improve your writing ability
  • Practice more number of previous year’s question papers

Thoughts and experience with test series?

  • Helps to improve your writing speed and capability
  • Group discussion helps in increase in knowledge and develop skills
  • Clarity of concept
  • Coverage of maximum number of questions so that improve ability of writing to the point
  • Learn how to crop unnecessary things

Final tips!

  • Cover the whole syllabus properly
  • Don’t go for number of books
  • Use limited number of books and read it again and again
  • Stuck to one proper source
  • Practice answer writing
  • Maps should be done properly. Helps in Mains as well as prelims


Compiled and curated by Neha

By Root

Caretaker @civilsdaily

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