Is geography optional easy for UPSC? What are its Advantages & Success rate?

When it comes to choosing the right optional subject for your UPSC mains, generally you would want to take up a subject that is pretty much easy to comprehend, and definitely has a lot of overlap with the prelims general studies paper as well.

And for this very reason, students opt for the Geography optional subject. Apparently, it has been observed that students from the engineering background and even other sciences opt for Geography as their optional for the UPSC mains only because it is a science in itself, thus making it an ideal choice.

Here, in this blog, we will discuss in detail the success rate, benefits, or advantages of this optional subject, that is, Geography, along with how to prepare really well for the same.

Is Geography really an easy subject?

Well, Geography as an optional subject has a definite syllabus that is pretty much easier to grasp with all its concepts being really simple. Therefore, you can definitely term it as an easy subject to take up. We all have had geography subjects in our schools, or even during college, at some point in time. So, every student is well aware of what Geography is all about. 

But, considering the dynamic nature of the UPSC exams, geography has seen many changes over the past few years, and how the questions from this section have evolved over time, from being more theoretical to more analytical and relevant to contemporary issues. It has now more relevance to the current affairs section.

However, whether it is an easy subject or worth taking it up is entirely an individual choice, after reading this blog, you can have a great idea as to whether you would like to really give it a thought.

Success Rate of Geography as an Optional for the UPSC Mains

The following table will give you a clear picture of the success rate for the Geography subject as an optional for mains. This table covers the trends from the past five years.

Year of UPSCSuccess Rate in %

Well, as per the data from the UPSC, Junaid Ahmed, AIR 3 in 2018 chose his optional subject as geography. You should also know that every year, many students opt for this subject. But not all make it through the mains or the interviews. 

Thus it is clear that whatever the success rate might be, it is completely an individual choice and depends entirely on your personal interest in the topic to help you secure really great marks in the same. Your score is also determined by your hard work, perseverance, patience, and dedication to this subject.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Geography optional in UPSC

Now, let us have a look at some of this subject’s advantages and disadvantages to help you get a better picture of the subject and also to help you make your decision better.

Advantages of Geography optional

  • Being a multidisciplinary subject, aspirants from various educational backgrounds such as engineering, science, medical, etc. can easily opt for this subject. You clearly don’t need any specific educational background in Geography to pursue this topic as your optional.
  • You will find a huge part of questions being asked from the geography subject in the PSc prelims GS paper 1 as well. Thus, there is a huge overlap of this subject and you thus, save a lot of your time while preparing for it as an optional and being prepared equally well for the GS paper 1. Even in GS paper 2, you will find plenty of questions about International relations or even current affairs being relevant to geopolitics, regional geography, etc. You can also find tresses of geography in other topics like the economy, conservation, ecology, and environment.
  • The subject consists of various concepts that you simply need to understand and thus no need of mugging up any content and wasting your time.
  • It is known as the best-scoring subject owing to its conceptual nature.
  • There is a lot of studies and reference material available on the subject of Geography.
  • Knowledge of Geography is also essential in the essay paper.
  • You can also expect questions on Geography such as some details relevant to your location such as soil, agriculture, and other important infrastructure-related questions in your personality test.

Disadvantages of Geography optional

  • The portion to be covered in this subject is extremely vast.
  • Also, there is a lot of competition from various candidates taking up Geography as their optional.

How to prepare for Geography optional in UPSC Mains?

While preparing for your UPSC exams in their entirety, you generally consider choosing your optional subject right in the first place to help you cover it sooner and look if it really has some overlap with the GS papers from the prelims, helping save you a lot of time.

Let us have a closer look at the kind of strategy that toppers adopt to score really well in geography as their optional subject for UPSC Mains.

Strategy for Studying Geography Optional

  1. It is always a great idea to skim through the entire syllabus of the topic before starting your preps to give you a better understanding of the entire topic right beforehand.
  2. Next is to start by reading the NCERTs to get a better understanding of the concepts which are very easily explained in these books. You can even refer to the GC Leong book for Geography.
  3. Unlike the earlier day, when geography was considered a very static subject, these days, the subject finds more relevance in its dynamic nature in connection with current affairs. Therefore, if you are choosing this subject for your optional, then better look out for news related to geography in any way in the newspapers or anywhere else.
  4. Keep a tab on the newspapers and their editorial sections.
  5. Try to take and maintain notes wherever possible to help with your revisions at a later point.
  6. Having an atlas and a map always with you while reading through the several topics and concepts will always give you a very clear idea as to what you are reading about.
  7. And last but not least, you should try to join a test series and solve as many question papers from previous years to help you with a lot of practice.

With that being said, you should really join the Pragnya IAS Academy to help you with a better and core understanding of the topic under the guidance of the experts themselves and clear this subject with flying colors.