When one analyses the questions asked in previous year papers be it Prelims or Mains or be it even the questions asked in the interview stage of the UPSC Civil Service Exam, one will notice a number of map-based questions being asked each year.

Now, the important question is how can one study maps? Maps can make you retain information for a longer time period as compared to reading the same information.

Firstly, let us have a look at the types of questions asked from this section in Prelims exam.

Ques : Consider the following pairs

Famous place River
Pandharpur Chandrabhaga
Tiruchirappalli Cauvery
Hampi Malaprabha

Which of the pairs given above are correctly matched?
(a) 1 and 2 only
(b) 2 and 3 only
(c) 1 and 3 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3

Ques: Which one of the following pairs of islands are separated from each other by the ‘Ten Degree Channel’?

Andaman and Nicobar
Nicobar and Sumatra
Maldives and Lakshadweep
Sumatra and Java

Ques: Consider these pairs

Cardamom Hills Coromandel Coast
Kaimur Hills Konkan Coast
Mahadeo Hills Central India
Mikir Hills North-East India

Which of the above pairs are correctly matched?

1 and 2
2 and 3
3 and 4
2 and 4

Ques : Consider the following pairs

Wildlife Naturally found in
1. Blue-finned Mahseer Cauvery River
2. Irrawaddy Dolphin Chambal River
3. Rusty-spotted Cat Eastern Ghats

Which of the pairs given above are correctly matched?
(a) 1 and 2 only
(b) 2 and 3 only
(c) 1 and 3 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3

Ques: Consider the following pairs

Sea Bordering country
1. Adriatic Sea Albania
2. Black Sea Croatia
3. Caspian Sea Kazakhstan
4. Mediterranean Sea Morocco
5. Red Sea Syria

Which of the pair given above are correctly matched?
(a) 1, 2 and 4 only
(b) 1, 3 and 4 only
(c) 2 and 5 only
(d) 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5

Why to study maps effectively for UPSC CSE?

Helps to understand the Physical geography of India and world: elaborates the spatial characteristics of the different natural phenomena combined with biosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere, and atmosphere.
Helps to grasp Human geography of India: important locations, the capital cities, important cities, transport connectivity, waterways, and mineral deposits etc.
Helps understand History of India and World
Helps in gaining Infrastructure knowledge
Helps in understanding International relations

What to study in the maps?


Neighbouring countries, regions
International relations-based locations
Lines: important latitude and longitude lines, ‘concept based’ lines, nature of coastlines, etc.
States: one should be able to draw political map by hand (important for Mains), states share boundaries, important cities, extents of the states and UTs.
Rivers: Origin, Sources, Flow routes and tributaries
Various gaps/passes.
Soils and Rainfall
Natural Vegetation
National Parks, tiger reserves, wildlife sanctuary, biosphere reserves, etc.
Important Places: pilgrimages, world heritage sites, nuclear power stations, ports, plateaus, wetlands, mineral rich locations, etc.


Important latitude and longitude lines on the world map (like Tropic of Cancer, Tropic of Capricorn, Arctic Circle, Equator).
International Date Line, Prime Meridian and which countries fall on which side.
Current Affairs
Prepare each of the continents one by one.
All-important mountain ranges, seas, lakes, rivers, volcanoes, plateaus, climatic regions, transport links, waterways, mineral resources regions, flora and fauna mentioned in NCERTs, Geography, history, economy books
Current Affairs.

It is noteworthy to mention that studying maps should be taken as a recreation rather than additional burden. Also, care should be taken not to mug up everything under the sun but to be smart and make calculative choices from the examination perspective.

Remember, maps will make study of large portions of current affairs, geography, world history, economy etc. very intuitive and they will aid greatly in understanding.

Happy Learning!
Good Luck!