1. Geography MCQs’ drought continues
  2. Prelims-2019: Strategy for Geography
  3. Solution / Answerkey for Geography in Prelims-2018

Geography MCQs’ drought continues @Prelims-2018

In the recent years, the number of geography MCQs in UPSC Prelims has been falling because:-

  1. UPSC merged Forest service preliminary exam with civil services- consequently, there has been an increase in the number of questions from environment and agriculture. To make space for them, geography shrinkage was inevitable.
  2. Geography occupies 80-115 marks out of 250 marks in General studies Mains Paper-1 each year, since 2013. Thus, candidates’ knowledge about geography will be tested there, so, examiner seems to downplay it @ prelims-stage.
  3. For 2018, examiner devoted more space to international relations (IR), and few of those MCQs are “places in news” type. So, your world geography knowledge is tested, albeit indirectly.

As a result, the quantity of geography MCQs is reduced to barely single digit number in the latest three exams (2016, 2017, 2018.)
In 2018, barely 4 MCQs from geography. This quantity is so insignificant that it is futile to find a pattern e.g, “unlike last year rivers and tributaries were not asked, unlike last year, nothing related to monsoon / atmosphere asked etc.
UPSC Answerkey Geography

  • Although there is continuity: India map based questions are getting complex:
  • 2017: If you travel by road from Kohima to Kottayam, how many states you’ve to cross?
  • 2017: Which of the following is geographically closest to Great Nicobar?
  • 2018: Which of the following cities lies on a longitude closest to Delhi?
  • It does not mean, that you should devote a large amount of time preparing India’s map. Yes, those with geography optional subject would benefit from such exercise, because such location-based questions are asked in Mains-Optional-Geography paper. But for non-geo-optional student, the cost benefit will be poor.
  • It also doesn’t mean you should select geography as an optional subject to gain competitive advantage against others in the prelims stage. The rationale is same- which I had explained earlier why you should not pick up political science and international relations optional merely because someone says “it gives edge in Prelims’ Polity & IR section.”

Prelims-2019: Strategy for Geography

  • Although nowadays geography occupies barely single digit space in the Prelims GS Paper-1, But its significance at the main stage cannot be overlooked- it occupies nearly 50% of GSM1 each year since last five years. (Click me to see topicwise old papers)
  • If you think, “I will skip geography for the prelims and prepare it for the mains afterwards” – It will be a poor strategy because the time window available between prelims and mains is so narrow, it provides barely sufficient time for preparing the four general studies papers and an entire optional subject.
  • Therefore, geography should be prepared with a “Prelim cum Mains point of view” – And that too before the Prelims. [Although some topics you may skip before prelims e.g. “Industrial location factors” because it’s a GK-ish effervescent topic. You may forget it and will have to read / revise all over again before Mains]

Preparation Sources for Geography: Prelims cum Mains

  1. Base Material: Rajtanil’s Geography Lecture series at Youtube.
  2. (Must read) NCERT Class 11 and 12 Geography. They are even useful at the Mains stage, example Mains-2017’s Ocean Salinity question could be solved from Class11 New NCERT Physical Geography. Some of the chapters are indeed quite cumbersome- particularly those related to landforms and river shapes. You may downplay them because at Prelims, the “technical / advanced physical geography” MCQs are less prominent in Civil services, unlike the CDS and CAPF exams. IGNORE the “GIST OF NCERT” type books available in the market. Because in GIST preparation, the author would mention or skip the things which he considers important, whereas UPSC examiner -when lifting MCQ- will go for the original raw content of NCERT.
  3. If Time permits: NCERT Class 7 to 10. I’ve written “if time permits” because 1) geography as a whole occupies negligible space in Prelims, and 2) within that space, even if examiner has to design a Geography-MCQs from NCERT, he’ll first pick class 11-12 before going to lower classes’ textbooks. Same strategy for UPSC’s CDS and CAPF exam. Besides those 7-10 basics (like longitude, latitude, factors affecting temperature etc.) are well covered in Rajtanil’s Youtube lecture series.
  4. (When it’s published) India Yearbook 2019 by Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. Read Ch1. on Land and People, including the Census-2011 tables given at the end of it. Sometimes they ask physical geography questions about Indian drainage, sometimes Human Geo questions like ranking the states in literacy and sex ratios. (If time Permits) you may go for Ch.30 which has information on individual state /UT. Although in prelims,
    nothing directly came in recent years from Ch.30. But at interview stage, this provides useful information about your state, nearby states and the states / region where you’ve given top-cadre-preference.
  5. Selective Study of Certificate in Physical Geography by Goh Cheng Leong. Too much technical physical geography is not required in civil services, unlike CDS and CAPF. Some senior players would even recommend Physical Geography by Savindra Singh | हिंदी में भी उपलब्ध because in past some MCQs could be solved verbatim from there, but that much effort in mastering physical geography will give diminishing rate of return to those not having geography optional.
  6. Selective Study any one “base-book” on Indian Geography: Majid Husain | हिंदी में भी उपलब्ध OR DR Khullar. Problem with both the authors is that they’ve also written other titles containing khichdi of Indian-physical-world geography targeted towards mass-exams. But those “khichdi” books have almost NIL utility in UPSC. You’ve to be very clear in your head- what and how much you’ve to prepare in each segment. For example, World Geography at Mains is mainly focused at Asia and African region, and that too at resource distribution and disasters at a ‘macro’ level. They don’t ask trivial GK like which country has which type of mineral, capital and currency. So, don’t waste time in Khichdi books. Go for “Indian Geography” because it has better utility at prelims and mains- in terms of Physical India (associated disasters), resource distribution, Industrial and Human geography of India.
  7. Mains GS1 has a syllabus subtopic “Industrial Location Factors”. Go through my notes at Mrunal.org/geography
  8. School Atlas. You should cultivate the habit of finding the places in the school atlas, rather than doing Google map search. Because, Google Maps search will directly lead you to the exact place e.g. “Syria”, Whereas, if you manually search it on school atlas, then because of the trial-and-error- you’ll also come across additional information about its surrounding places, And thus your command over the map will improve.
  9. Solve old question papers, because questions / topics are sometimes recycled. This is true both for prelims as well as Mains. Observe:
  • Prelims-2015: Which of the following country doesn’t open out to the Mediterranean Sea?
  • Prelims-2017: Mediterranean Sea is a border of which of the following countries?
  • Mains-2013: Why more landslides in Himalayas than in Western Ghats?
  • Mains-2017: Discuss why Himalayas are highly prone to landslides and suggest mitigation.

Solution / Answerkey for Geography in Prelims-2018

India – Physical

Q47. Which one of the following is an artificial lake ? (Pre18 Set-D)

  1. Kodaikanal (Tamil Nadu)
  2. Kolleru (Andhra Pradesh)
  3. Nainital (Uttarakhand)
  4. Renuka (Himachal Pradesh)

Difficulty: Tough because at max, you can eliminate that Kolleru is natural, but afterwards, Guessmastergiri Not Possible.

Answer: – A) Kodaikanal has 154-year-old, artificially-built lake. (Ref: TheHindu Lifestyle page article in 2017, April.) – B) Kolleru Lake Situated in Andhra Pradesh, it is the largest fresh water lake of India. It is located between the deltas of the Krishna and Godavari rivers in the Krishna and Godavari districts. The lake serves as a natural flood-balancing reservoir for the two rivers, it’s also a Ramsar convention site. (Majid P3.35) – C) Nainital is situated in the foothills of the Himalayas, with the pear-shaped Naini lake at its centre. [So, now Hairsplitters can find fault in the option that UPSC examiner has wrongly used the word “Nainital” instead of “Naini”] – D) Renuka Lake Situated in the Siarmaur district of Himachal Pradesh, this lake has been named after the goddess Renuka. A lion safari and a zoo are major attractions at Renuka. It is a site for the annual fair in the month of November. (Majid p3.36)

Q55. Consider the following statements: (Pre18 Set-D)

  1. The Barren Island volcano is an active volcano located in the Indian territory.
  2. Barren Island lies about 140 km east of Great Nicobar.
  3. The last time the Barren Island volcano erupted was in 1991 and it has remained inactive since then.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 and 3
  3. 3 only
  4. 1 and 3

Difficulty: Tough because FactualGK.


  • Barren Island volcano became active again in March, 1991. A second phase of eruptions started in 1995. So it means third statement is wrong, by elimination, we’ve the answer A) only 1. Source: Geography by Spectrum Publication, Page 50.

Guessmaster-giri TM is Possible, if you go by GM-Rule#1 that in UPSC MCQs, all statements with dates, numbers, figures are usually wrong, then both 2nd and 3rd statements ought to be wrong, thus you directly get the answer.

Q72. Consider the following statements: (Pre18 Set-D)

  1. In India, State Governments do not have the power to auction non-coal mines.
  2. Andhra Pradesh and Jharkhand do not have gold mines.
  3. Rajasthan has iron ore mines.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

  1. 1 and 2
  2. 2 only
  3. 1 and 3
  4. 3 only

Difficulty: Medium to Tough depending on your seniority and optional subject.


  • As per the MMDR Amendment Act 2015 the state governments will conduct auction for grant of mineral concessions. The role of the central government is to prescribe the terms and conditions and procedures subject to which the auction shall be conducted. So first statement is wrong. [Economic Survey 2014-15 Vol2, page 140].
  • Largest gold ore (primary) are located in Bihar (44%) followed by Rajasthan (25%) and Karnataka (21%), West Bengal, and Andhra Pradesh (3% each). So, Andhra Pradesh indeed has a gold mine, so #2 is wrong. [IYB ch.19]
  • Hematite and magnetite are the most important iron ores in India…..resources of hematite are spread in Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Meghalaya, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. So, third statement is right.

Guessmaster-giriTM is Possible, if you go by GM-Rule#1 extreme worded statements are wrong, then first and second statement ought to be wrong, thus you directly get the answer.

India- Map based

Q74. Among the following cities, which one lies on a longitude closest to that of Delhi? (Pre18 Set-D)

  1. Bengaluru
  2. Hyderabad
  3. Nagpur
  4. Pune

Difficulty: Tough, because at maximum Pune can be eliminated, as it’s far away from Delhi-walli verticle line.

Answer: City’s coordinate figures will very depending on which site you refer to, so to maintain uniformity, I’ll use single site to fetch all coordinates- https://www.mapsofindia.com/lat_long/

  • Delhi is at 28°40′N (Longitude) and 77°20′E (Latitude)
  • – A) Bangalore: 12° 58′ N, 77° 38′ E. So, Latitude wise, Bangalore can be said to be the closest
  • – B) Hyderabad: 17° 20′ N, 78° 30′ E
  • – C) Nagpur: 21° 09′ N, 79° 09′ E
  • – D) Pune: 18° 31′ N, 73° 55′ E.

UPSC also asked about location of Aleppo, Crimea etc. “places in news” but I count them under International Relation (IR), so you’ll find their answerkey in the IR-section.