Geography: As an optional Subject

Geography is the ground on which we stand, use it for your stand in UPSC.

Although selecting the optional subject for the UPSC civil service mains exam is a personal decision but that decision must have some logical ground.  The decision related to optional subjects must be based on one’s educational and professional background as well as strengths and weaknesses. Apart from this, a candidate must weigh the pros and cons of a particular optional subject and if the pros outweigh the cons, he should go with it.

In this article I will talk about Geography as an optional subject, and will give candidates an answer to the question, why is geography a good optional for UPSC CSE.

What attracts aspirants towards geography?

  • Geography is a blend of science and humanities. Due to this, it is preferred by many aspirants from science, medical and engineering as well as humanities backgrounds.
  • Geography also has a lot of overlap with subjects like economics, environment, ecology and conservation which makes it more interesting, relevant, and dynamic.
  • Geography is a scoring subject because unlike pure humanities subjects, there is not much requirement for mugging up and interpretation. Only concepts need to be understood. Also, diagrams, flowcharts, etc. can be used to get more marks. The map-based questions are also scoring.
  • The definite syllabus of Geography and availability of standard books and study materials make it easy for the candidates and encourages them to go for it.
  • Success Rate of the subject is very high. There have been toppers with this optional in the previous years. The most famous topper is Ira Singhal who topped the civil services exam in 2015. Also, in the 2016 UPSC exam, rank 4 holder Soumya Pandayhad taken Geography as her optional subject.

An analysis of success rate:


No. of candidate appeared in mains 

Finally Recommended













  • It has tremendous overlap with General Studies both in prelims and the mains. Candidates can also use what they learn in Geography in their essay paper on various topics. Even in the UPSC personality test, Geography will be useful as the board can ask questions on the local geography of a candidate’s home town like soil, vegetation, minerals, environmental issues, geopolitics, climate change
  • Contribution of geography at different level of exam.

How to maximize score?

  • Geography has a lot of overlap with subjects like economics, environment, ecology and conservation.Interlinking of these subjects will help in fetching good marks.
  • Use of geographical languages, use of maps and diagrams and substantiating the answer with examples will also maximize

RICE IAS Institute is here to guide you and make you ready to tackle any challenges that may come up. We have well planned and scientifically designed course and study materials along with periodic tests, sectional as well as comprehensive. The process which we follow here will keep you in resonance with the evolving pattern and difficulty level of the exam and will ensure your success in UPSC CSE exam.

What are the changes required in the approach with the Evolving UPSC exam pattern? -PART 1

Charles Darwin in his book Origin of Species quoted the term- “Survival of the fittest”. The phrase denotes the similar idea that one’s survival during UPSC preparation is based on their capability to adapt to the changing exam patterns and demands of UPSC.

Since last few years we have witnessed certain changes in the examination pattern, the questions are now based more on one’s analytical skill rather than rote learning. Integration of several topics together and the increasing toughness of CSAT paper requires one to approach the exam differently and prepare himself or herself in a slight different manner.

So is the UPSC exam really Unpredictable? It is no longer possible to prepare for exams from existing sources?

Let's break this myth..!!!
UPSC itself guides you to prepare for the exam in the best possible way. Now after reading this line the first thing that come on your mind must be “Wait what”?

And we will say “Yes”, you already have the answer: it's the PREVIOUS YEAR QUESTION PAPER.
From time and again UPSC has brought home the fact that there is no other best possible way to understand its pattern than its own previous year question. However, we often end up exploring unrelated queries and resources, attributing this to the unpredictable nature of UPSC.

What kind of changes are we talking about when we witness the evolving and changing nature of the UPSC exam?

Let's summarize some key important changes that are required for you to fit in the exam process:-

Holistic and integrated coverage of topics - UPSC has become more multidisciplinary in its approach. You may find questions where topics of history are mixed with economics or may be society with history and so on.

Example: To what extent has the urban planning and culture of the Indus Valley Civilization provided inputs to the present day urbanization? Discuss? (The question is integration of history and society topic of urbanization).

We often see people saying - It's no more just the hard work rather the smart work now.. But how do we implement it?

"Employ your time in improving yourself by other men's writings so that you shall come easily by what others have labored hard for" - Socrates.

Hard work is when you give the ample amount of time required to cover the syllabus topics holistically. However smart work is when you smartly gather information from already existing sources

Example: Toppers notes, their answer sheets etc. Why do we have to work hard for something that has already been done by someone rather we can try to integrate and revise things multiple times. This is what we call value addition to our existing efforts.

Shall we really read newspapers or monthly magazines? This question has been asked by a multitude of aspirants...

Let's try to answer it.

Newspaper reading has multiple benefits from helping you to improve your English language to helping you improve your scores in reading comprehension in CSAT and also helping to articulate points for essay ethics and general studies paper. It's always an add on. Besides, it helps you to revise basics again and again.

Example: Reappearing topics like G20 , ASEAN, WHO ,WB, IMF,SCO- other international and inter-governmental bodies which upsc has been asking time and again.

In 2023 prelims we had a question on G20 and we are sure aspirants who have regularly read newspapers during their preparation can hardly get the answer of the question wrong. Apart from that, current affairs and magazines are helpful in covering topics in a holistic way but it gets monotonous .After 10 pages it seems nothing is comprehensible.

Let’s integrate both of them and make our preparation holistic. For example, make reading newspaper a habit in the morning for 1 month and you will feel the difference (I have always believed the घड़ी detergent tagline ad-'पहले इस्तेमाल करें फिर विश्वास करें…!)

The question regarding the increasing toughness of the CSAT paper still needs to be addressed…!!How we can approach it? Do we need to start preparing for CAT level math now? Is UPSC being unfair to the humanities students? How do one with a humanities background approach CSAT?

Let’s connect on our next blog to answer a few more interesting questions and unwind the changing approach needed for the preparation of the UPSC Examination.

Thank you.
I hope you enjoyed reading it.
Megha Agrawalla (Sociology faculty)
RICE IAS Faculty.
Email address love to hear from you)

How to Read Newspapers

"A newspaper is a circulating library with high blood pressure"
The quantum of news and opinions available in a newspaper is more than normal. It is difficult for a normal mind to digest all the news available there. So it becomes pertinent to decide the purpose of reading a newspaper which would ultimately help you in selecting the news relevant for you. To put things in context I would like to quote Michael Pena.

"I grew up reading the newspaper, mostly the sports section. I was a wrestler and I will check to see if I was ranked."

What should be the purpose of reading newspapers for UPSC aspirants?

UPSC CSE Examination as well as the job profile therefore demands you to be aware about the issues of national and international importance and which has bearing on the life of common citizens. In a welfare state like India, bureaucrats are working for the welfare of people and betterment of society. So, this exam is looking for problem solvers and agents of change and therefore the purpose of reading newspaper should be:-

● Awareness
● Understanding issues
● Identifying problems and challenges
● Exploring solutions
● Setting goals for future

How to select news?

The best guide who will help you in selecting the news that you should specifically read is the UPSC CSE Syllabus. It gives you the dimension of issues you need to be aware of. Proper understanding of the syllabus will help you in connecting news with static parts. While understanding the dynamic topics like environmental issues, economic issues, development in science and technology, international relations etc. will directly steer you to the relevant news.

How to approach the news?

Based on the events and their impact on the society, news should be categorised and different approaches should be applied for them:


● Incidence
● Initiative, national or international
● Reforms
● Rolling issues
● Matters in offing


Those issues which happen suddenly are called incidence .The first step for this type of news is to analyse the impact that is temporal as well as special impact. In case if it has long term impact in large area, then it should be given special importance and treated accordingly.


● Cause or background should be identified with details of events
● Impact of events on various dimension like social, economic ,political, environmental etc. should be analysed
● Look for instant, intermediate ,and long term solutions
● Look for the role of citizens, administration, NGOs, political setup and international bodies

National and international initiatives

These are schemes, programs, policy, plan campaigns, drives etc. started by Government, NGOs, and international organisations.


● Details of initiative
● Institution involved
● Reason for that initiative or some study reports
● Target group or sectors
● Financial supports or man power support to implement that initiative
● Anticipated goal and target
● Timeline if any
● Track the progress and analyse the gap
● Identify the bottleneck or challenges
● Suggest solutions or steps for improvement


Paradigm change in social, economic or political sphere


● Need of the reforms
● Detail of the reforms
● Problems with existing situation
● Related changes in law and constitution
● Anticipated goal
● Keep track of progress or impact of reforms
● Analyse the progress
● Analyse the bottleneck or challenges in the way of implementation
● Suggest the solution for the same

Rolling issues

Those issues which are evolving with time and going to be in the news for a long period of time are called rolling issues like climate change, water crisis , geopolitical issues etc.


● Genesis
● Details of the issue
● Dimensions and stakeholders
● Present condition
● Steps taken in that context
● Keep track of progress
● Way forward

Matters in offing

Those matters which are not the matter of concern in the present time but have potential to get bigger and more important in future are called matters in offing. Space debris, mass extinction, emerging technology etc. are the examples.


● Detail of the issue
● Genesis
● Present condition
● Anticipated impact
● Necessary steps
● Present response
● Way forward

You may not get everything in the Newspaper and here comes the role of the Internet. You can use Google to explore all dimensions of the issue and make an organised and structured notes and then eave space to incorporate the development.

Editorials and opinions should be read for enriching your knowledge and understanding of the issue.

However one must not be carried away by the views of the articles. You must try to know and understand each and every aspect of the issue before jumping to conclusions. Gandhi's quote is the guiding principle in this context.

"Newspapers should be read for the study of facts. They should not be allowed to kill the habit of independent thinking."

Written By -

Manish Kumar
Faculty RICE IAS