The UPSC examination includes geography as a subject to test the knowledge of aspirants when it comes to India, its neighbours, and the world. Candidates are expected to have a fairly good understanding of the Indian subcontinent, major geographical features such as hill ranges, plateaus, rivers, coastline etc. This also extends to the political map of the world where all borders which may be of concern to India are expected.
Geography is covered in UPSC Prelims as well as Mains. There is no pattern the questionnaire follows and hence there are no ‘hacks’ to prepare specifically for the same. A holistic approach, with a thorough study of all maps and geopolitics, is the way to go while preparing for the UPSC with maps.
Let us go through a few tips which would come in handy in your preparation:
The grid is a simple pattern of straight lines, horizontal and vertical, crossing each other to form squares. Considering any particular intersection as the zero-point, we can form a system of coordinates to identify any place on the grid. In the case of the Earth, we can pinpoint places using coordinates thus formed using the grid.
Latitudes and Longitudes
On every modern map, horizontal grid lines are called latitudes and vertical lines are called longitudes. Some of the most important lines form the basis of differentiation. This differentiation can be used to separate climatic zones of the planet, time zones, hemisphere demarkations etc.
Most famous latitudes are the Equator, Tropic of Cancer (23.3°N) and Tropic of Capricorn(23.3°S).
The GMT longitude which passes through the British town of Greenwich marks the zero point of all global time zones. I.e. all times zones are calibrated considering the GMT as the standard time. All countries to the east have their clocks ahead of GMT and vice-versa for the west.
This continues till the obscure International date line longitude. The date line is not a straight line to accommodate for countries through which it passes and hence is not a true longitude.
Learning how latitudes and longitudes affect the globe makes further study of maps easier.
Since the UPSC recruits officers to serve India, naturally, our country becomes the top priority to learn about. India’s geography is vast, complex and very detailed. Right from varying ground conditions, to different climates and altitudes, our nation has almost every geographical feature imaginable.
Getting an Atlas of India, updated with latest features is a must while preparing India’s geography with maps. The main maps one should study are:
Consisting of all the geographical features India has, such as mountain ranges, rivers, plateaus coasts, lakes etc.
Highlighting all the states, their capitals and major cities and towns of India
This map would highlight the types of soil, different types of forests and jungles, major animal habitats etc. Fun fact-India has four out of thirty-six biodiversity hotspots in the world.
This one would highlight the major industrial centres, ports, large cities, natural resources, airports, rail network, road network etc. It is preferable if candidates prepare separate maps for this to avoid confusion.
Climate and Weather
This one is particularly important because unlike the rest of the world, we get monsoons. As a result, we have six seasons instead of the typical four in the rest of the world. Learning about India’s climate is essential for every officer.
India’s neighbours share some or the other geographical feature with India. Knowing your neighbours is as important as knowing your home. Very good knowledge of politics of our neighbouring countries, their borders with India, economic and geopolitical relations, is a plus point for every candidate.
All of India’s neighbours, not just the ones we share land borders with, impact us. Candidates tend to forget our Oceanic neighbours such as Maldives, Mauritius, Seychelles etc. Also, technically, Indonesia is India’s neighbour.
Apart from those, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afganistan, China, Nepal, Myanmar and Bhutan are the other neighbours we have. Considering their maps and know a little bit about our neighbours is necessary to understand the impact they have on us and take decisions accordingly.
Physiographic Features of Our Planet
Knowing about global climatic conditions, how seasons change in different parts of the world, major mountain ranges, rivers, fertile regions, etc. are important features of the globe which ought to be known to candidates.
Other than physical features, major countries, their borders, major cities form the political aspect of world map.
Economic hubs of the world, largest industries such as coal, petroleum and natural gas, agricultural produce etc. are important aspects of global geography.
Being able to recall the largest of these with current affairs in mind is enough more often than not. However, this doesn’t qualify as a hack to not study the world map in detail.
Maps are an important aspect of data representation all over the world. Knowing how to make a map, how to read one, and how to extract data points from one is a key skill every IAS officer must-have. While preparing for the UPSC with maps, knowing as much as possible about India, its neighbours and the world sets the stage for a good score in the exam. Try practising making all kinds of maps without looking and then compare it with the original.
This will help you make sense of available data as well as put it on paper.
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Also Read: Common problems faced by all UPSC Aspirants