Is geography a good optional subject for UPSC? Pros & cons

UPSC mains is the second stage of the civil service examination which is conducted every year in India.

In these exams you have some important papers which are, 

  1. Optional indian language 
  2. English
  3. Essay 
  4. General studies
  5. Optional subjects

You can click here to learn more about the pattern of mains exam.

There are 25 optional subject out of which you need to choose any one and write in the upsc exam.

Out of 25, geography is considered to be one of the most popular optional subject and many toppers of UPSC exams select this subject at the same time there are many other toppers who don’t like the subject at all.

And if you are a civil Service aspirant who is preparing for UPSC exams and confused regarding whether you should select geography as your optional subject or not.

You don’t need to worry about it anymore, Because in this article let’s take a look at the pros and cons of choosing geography as an optional subject for UPSC exams.

So let’s get started.

Pros and cons of geography optional

Pros of geography optional

1.    It is a Scoring subject

One of the main advantages of this subject is that it is considered to be a scoring subject not just the qualifying one. 

Geography is a scoring subject because unlike other subjects like history and other humanities it is not based on interpretation and 

There is no room for opinion in the exam paper. Rather, you can have clear cut answers which you can write in the exam paper and you can also score subjects based on drawing maps and flowcharts.

Because of this reason the average marks toppers score in geography is more than 250.

2.    Defined syllabus

Another big advantage of geography as an optional subject is it has a defined syllabus which you need to read in order to pass the exam.

Having a defined syllabus will give a proper direction for all the people who are trying to prepare for exams.

You can click here to learn about the syllabus of geography in optional papers.

3.    Help in other papers 

Another big reason to choose geography is that it can help you not only in optionals but also in other important papers of UPSC especially prelims and mains.

Indian and World geography important subjects included in the prelims exam along with environmental ecology, biodiversity and climate change.

And now let’s talk about the mains examination paper 1 of general studies which contains 250 marks where geography of the world and society are important subjects of the paper.

So you can clearly see that taking geography as an optional subject not only help you regarding getting better marks in optionals but also in other papers of the UPSC exams including both prelims and mains which can also save you a lot of time during preparation.

 this is another big advantage we have when it comes to choosing geography as an optional subject.

4.    Scientific subject

Another big advantage of selecting geography is,

Geography is a scientific subject not a art subject like history and political science so once you understand the concept behind any phenomenon.

You can explain the concept in the exam paper in your own words. You don’t have to read and remember the exact answer in the book in order to write in the exam.

But unlike mathematics, physics, chemistry, you do not need to remember or cram any theorems and formulas and also you do not need to remember many dates and events as compared to history and other humanities.

Because of the fact you do not need to mug up the answers and once you understand the concept which you can definitely do by not just reading the book but also watching many YouTube videos online apart from reading.

Apart from that there are a few topics in geography optional (like atmosphere) which you must have learnt in the social subject of your school in 9th and 10th grade which makes it easy for you to revise & recall the concepts during the preparation.

This is the main reason why the majority of the students with a science background, especially engineering, choose geography as their optional subject because it is a scientific one.

This is another key advantage we have with geography as an optional subject.

5.    Useful in interview round

Another advantage of geography is that it can not only help you in prelims and mains exam but also in the interview round of UPSC exams which is the last stage of UPSC.

The interviewers might also ask you questions regarding geography of your hometown and especially climate change and disaster management and how you would respond if some natural calamities occur in your district to understand your thinking pattern.

You should know that they will present you different questions in order to dig deep into your thinking pattern and analyse your mindset.

6.    Easy to read from books 

The last advantage of geography is,

You have an ample amount of books in order to study geography and the books are very easy to read and contain a lot of diagrams and images.

Since you only need to understand the concept and any phenomenon, for example if you want to learn about earthquakes and tsunamis and 

Other natural disasters you can watch youtube videos which explain step by step on how these occur so you can understand the concept behind it instead of reading long paragraphs in the book.

This can save you a lot of time and energy during the preparation time but it is not always possible with other optional subjects like mathematics and chemistry because you need to revise those problems by practicing them regularly.

These are all the main advantages of selecting a geography optional subject.

Cons of geography optional

1.    Competition

Now the main disadvantage of geography as an optional subject is the amount of competition it has compared to other optional subjects.

For example, according to 2016-2017 data of UPSC exams, 4000 students have selected geography as their optional subject which is the highest number among optional subjects but the success percentage was only 5.8%.

This shows that the geography optional subject has immense competition because majority of the science background students choose this optional subject because

 it is not just a scientific subject but also scoring one which helps the students to balance & get good marks compared to general studies papers.

2.    Syllabus

Another key disadvantage of selecting geography as optional subject is that it has a lot of syllabus.

Even though geography has a defined syllabus but it is quite heavy and vast which makes it quite hard to prepare for students who are new to the subject.

Now these are all the pros and cons of selecting geography as optional subject for UPSC.

Is geography a good optional subject for UPSC?

So after reading all the advantages and disadvantages of geography as an optional subject for UPSC.

If you want to learn if geography as a good optional subject then I would say of course it is.

Geography is definitely a good optional subject for a few people and it can be a good optional subject if you, 

  • You like to learn and understand the concept about the earth and India, oceans, volcanoes, etc
  • You have the ability to write answers using your own words and have good writing skills
  • You are a competitive person and willing to work hard 
  • You belong to a science background in under graduation like engineering 
  • You have good drawing skills and good memorization skills 
  • You like to select a subject which not only helps you to score good marks in optionals but also in other papers including prelims and general studies of mains so that you can save your time during preparation 
  • You want to select a subject which has a scoring potential in optionals so that you can balance the marks in general studies and pass mains exam 

In all these cases selecting geography as optional subject can definitely be a good choice and wise decision.

With that said let’s conclude the blog.


These are all the things you need to know about choosing geography as an optional subject for UPSC exams.

Do let me know your thoughts about which subject you would like to choose as an optional subject in UPSC.

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