How to Study World Geography with Maps for UPSC

How to Study World Geography with Maps for UPSC
13 Jan

How to Study World Geography with Maps for UPSC

Strategy to prepare Geography of the world subject for IAS Exam.

If you are preparing for UPSC Civil Services Prelims exam then you would know that studying maps is an integral part of IAS preparation. Map related questions are asked in Preliminary Exam and it is also very important in the optional subject paper of Geography in UPSC Main Exam. In general you can expect 9 to 10 questions from the Maps section in the Preliminary exam. We know that in earlier exams earlier you were given blank maps and had to mark places etc on that map, but now you are not given maps, only the questions contain names of places and you have to place them in the correct order.

Therefore, your understanding and knowledge of maps should be clear. There is a misconception among some UPSC aspirants that maps can be learned by rote parts like other subjects. But this is wrong, we must understand that questions asked by UPSC and how to tackle them require a strategic understanding of maps in a candidate.

This article will give you some essential tips to solve the questions in the world map section and you will know what to learn, how to learn and what you can expect from this section.


Mountains and Continents

You must know about the mountains and continent of the world where they are located. For example, a possible question might be "In which continent are the Rocky Mountains located?" (The answer to which is North America). Similarly, you should also study grasslands and deserts.


East Asia

China is very important in this area. Be aware of the Sea of ​​Japan, the Yellow Sea, the East China Sea, the South China Sea, which places are bound by their borders.

Important cities in China are Beijing, Shanghai, Harbin, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Zhengzhou and Chengdu.

Bangalore and Chengdu are being developed as Twin Towns or Sister Cities. Kolkata and Kunming, a route has been planned between these two cities.

A possible question is also to arrange Kolkata, Dhaka, Naypyidaw and Kunming in the East, West.


West Asia

This region is called West Asia from an Indian point of view, but to the west it is known as the Middle East. You must be aware of the different seas like the Caspian Sea and the Aral Sea.

Possible questions:
1. Which countries border the Caspian Sea?
To which the answer is Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Iran and Azerbaijan.

2. In the middle of which country is the Aral Sea located?
The answer is Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.


South Asia

View all SAARC countries (Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Maldives).


Arabian Peninsula

It is important with respect to UPSC exam because of the ongoing problem related to ISIS in this area. Get information about all the countries and their capitals here. Remember that you may also be asked to arrange all capitals from north to south, or from east to west. Know all the capitals and their locations like Riyadh, Doha, Amman, etc and this area is also an important point Red Sea.

Possible questions:
 1. Which country is surrounded by the Red Sea?
The answer is Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Sudan, Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia. Other important areas here are the Gulf of Aden, the Gulf of Aqaba and the Gulf of Suez.


Scandinavian Peninsula

Learn about the countries around it and the capitals of those countries, the Baltic Sea, and the Kiel Canal.


Persian Gulf

Pay special attention to this area as questions related to Israel and Palestine can be asked. Learn about areas of Palestine such as the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights and the West Bank.

It is advised to the candidates that you must be aware of all the relevant capitals from North to South or East to West. Also, focus on the Black Sea region and learn about important seas such as the Sea of ​​Azov, the Sea of ​​Marmara, and the Aegean Sea.

Possible question:
1. What are the countries that are bordered by Israel?
The answer is Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.

2. Names of the countries around the Black Sea.
The answer is Russia, Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey and Georgia.

Crimea or Crimea is an important region, because Crimea has been important in history and many countries and ethnicities have fought over its possession, as well as keep information about Central Asian countries. Learn about the capitals of countries like Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan and more.


South China Sea

The places here are China, Vietnam (Vietnam, Hainan), Malaysia and the Philippines. China is involved in disputes with many countries here, the places which are in this dispute are - Paracel ), Scarborough Shoal and the Spratly Islands.

A possible question related to this may be "which island is in dispute between China and the Philippines?"

Rivers in Southeast Asia: A possible question related to this could be "arrange the rivers from west to east - Irrawaddy River, Salween River, Chao Phraya and Mekong (Chao Phraya)" River and Mekong River).



Focus on Sumatra and Jakarta as Sumatra was a major epicenter of the 2004 tsunami.



The four major islands here are places to learn and remember - Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu - Fukushima, Osaka, Hyogo, Kyoto (Kyoto), Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Tokyo.



Its physical map is very important, such as - Great Dividing Range, Simpson Desert, Great Barrier Reef, Great Victoria Desert, Arafura Sea, Timor Sea, Gulf of Carpentaria, Bass Strait, Tasmania, Murray–Darling basin.

Possible question:
1. In which continent is the Great Dividing Range located?

2. Also arrange the major cities of Australia such as Sydney, Canberra, Perth, Adelaide, Darwin, Brisbane and Melbourne from north to south.


New Zealand

The Cook Strait is located between and separates the North and South Islands of New Zealand. Also learn about Mount Cook, the Southern Alps, and the cities Christchurch, Dunedin, Napier, Hamilton, Auckland, and more.



Here Mediterranean Sea, Turkey, Greece ityaadi is an important part. In this possible question you can be asked about the countries around the Mediterranean Sea like - Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Israel, Lebanon, Cyprus , Syria, Turkey, Greece, Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Slovenia, Italy, France and Spain.

Greece: Learn about the Aegean Sea, the Ionian Sea, the Mediterranean Sea, the Sea of ​​Crete, and the island group of Greece.


North America

Understand its physical map, Appalachian Mountains, Ozark Plateau, Edwards Plateau, Rocky Mountains, Columbia Plateau, Sierra Nevada, Sonara Desert, Colorado Plateau. Lakes include Lake Superior, Michigan, Huron, Lake Erie, Ontario, etc. The places here should also be practiced in arranging them in the order they are asked.


South America

This country is important so that one can ask "Which country borders both the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico?", to which the answer is Colombia.

1. Which country in South America does not share a border with Brazil? To which the answer is Chile and Ecuador.

Know the capitals here and its physical map includes the Amazon Basin, the Brazilian Highlands, the Brazilian Shield, the Pampas, the Patagonian Desert, the Andes Mountains , Llanos, Campos and Llanos, Atacama Desert, Galápagos Islands, etc.



What are the countries in the western regions which are called Ivory Coast, Gold Coast, Slave Coast of West Africa and Grain Coast. Study about the Red Sea region as this region is important due to activities like piracy.

South Africa: Know which are the enclave countries? Which are - Swaziland and Lesotho. Get to know important places in South Africa like Cape Town, Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban and Bloemfontein. Study important countries like Angola, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique and more.

Its physical map includes the Sahara Desert, Congo Basin, Namib Desert, Kalahari Desert, Lake Victoria, Lake Tanganyika, Atlas Range Mountains), the East African Rift Valley, and rivers such as the Nile, Congo River, and Aswan Dam.

In order to score good marks in this section, the following are the important things to remember:

  • Know the physical composition and features of all the continents.
  • Arrangement of important places and cities in order from north to south or east to west.
  • To have information about seas, lakes, deserts, mountain ranges etc.
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Best Regards, Sriram's Team