World Geography Through Maps - Preparation Strategy

Geography is one of the main subjects of the UPSC Civil Services Examination. It comprises Human Geography, Physical Geography, and World Geography. Questions from World Geography are asked in both Prelims and Mains of the IAS Exam. This article gives you certain tips needed to solve the map questions from the world maps section. Read on to find out what to learn, how to learn, and what questions you can expect from this section.

Aspirants can also refer to the articles related to Geography preparation from the links given in the table below:

Revising World Geography through Maps - UPSC 2020

Revision Tips for World Geography Through Maps

The list of 20 tips are provided below to revise World Geography through maps:

  1. You must know about the mountains of the world and the continent in which they are present – For eg., a probable question can be, ‘in which continent are the Rocky Mountains present?’ (Answer: North America). Similarly, you should study grasslands and deserts.
  1. West Asia – This region is called West Asia from an Indian point of view, but is known as the Middle East in the West. You must know about the various seas like the Caspian Sea and the Aral Sea.
    • Probable question 1: Which countries border the Caspian Sea? Answer: Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Iran, and Azerbaijan.
    • Probable question 2: Between which two countries is the Aral Sea situated? Answer: Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan

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  1. Arabian Peninsula – This is very important as far as UPSC is concerned because of the ISIS problem going on in that region. Here also, observe all the countries and their capitals. You may be asked to arrange all the capitals from north to south or from east to west.
    • Know all the capitals like Riyadh, Doha, Amman, etc. and their locations.
    • The next important point in this region is the Red Sea.
      • Probable question 1: The Red Sea is surrounded by which countries? Answer: Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Sudan, Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia.
      • Other important areas here are the Gulf of Aden, Gulf of Aqaba, and the Gulf of Suez.

Revising World Geography through Maps - Arabian Peninsula

  1. Persian Gulf – Focus on this region since you always get a question on Israel and Palestine. Know about the regions in Palestine like the Gaza Strip, Golan Heights, and West Bank.
    • Possible question: Countries which border Israel. Answer: Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon
    • Again it is reiterated that you must learn to arrange all relevant capitals from north to south or east to west, etc.

Revising World Geography through Maps - Map question

  1. Focus on the Black Sea area – Important seas like the Black Sea, Sea of Azov, Sea of Marmara and the Aegean Sea.
    • Possible question: countries surrounding the Black Sea. Answer: Russia, Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, and Georgia.

Revising World Geography through Maps - Black Sea, Aegean Sea, Sea of Marmara

  1. Crimea is an important region as there is a lot of unrest here.
  2. Central Asian countries – Know the capitals of countries here like Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, etc.
  3. East Asia
    •  China is very important – Important cities in China are Beijing, Shanghai, Harbin, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Zhengzhou, and Chengdu. (Bengaluru and Chengdu are being developed as sister cities)
    • Sea of Japan, Yellow Sea, East China Sea, South China Sea (know what places border them)
    • Places in China.
    • Kolkata-Kunming – a route is planned between these two cities.
    • A possible question is: Arrange Kolkata, Dhaka, Naypyidaw (officially spelled as Nay Pyi Taw), and Kunming from East to West.

Revising World Geography through Maps - China related map question

  1. South China Sea – Places here are China, Vietnam, Hainan, Malaysia, and the Philippines. China is involved in disputes with many countries here. Places in dispute are Paracel, Scarborough Shoal, and The Spratly Islands.
    • Possible question: Which island is disputed between China and the Philippines?

Revising World Geography through Maps - South China Sea Map Question

  1. Rivers in Southeast Asia – Possible question: Arrange the rivers from west to east – Irrawaddy, Salween, Chao Phraya, and the Mekong.
  1. Indonesia – Focus on Sumatra and Jakarta. (Sumatra was the epicenter of the Tsunami in 2004)

Revising World Geography through Maps - Map Question

  1. South Asia – SAARC countries (Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives)
  1. Japan
    • Four major islands – Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu
    • Places to remember – Fukushima, Osaka, Hyogo, Kyoto, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Tokyo.

Revising World Geography through maps - Japan Map

  1. Australia – Physical map is important.
    • Great Dividing Range, Simpson Desert, Great Barrier Reef, Great Victoria Desert, Kimberley Plateau, Arafura Sea, Timor Sea, Gulf of Carpentaria, Bass Strait, Tasmania, Murray River Basin.
    • Possible question: Which continent is the Great Dividing Range situated?
    • Cities in Australia – Sydney, Canberra, Perth, Adelaide, Darwin, Brisbane, and Melbourne. Eg. Arrange from north to south.

Revising World Geography through Maps - Australia Map Question

  1. New Zealand
    • North Island and South Island separated by Cook Strait.
    • Mount Cook, Southern Alps
    • Cities – Christchurch, Dunedin, Napier, Hamilton, Auckland.
  1. Europe
    • Mediterranean Sea, Turkey, Greece (important)
    • Possible question: countries around the Mediterranean Sea. Answer: Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Israel, Lebanon, Cyprus, Syria, Turkey,       Greece, Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, Slovenia, Italy, France, and Spain.
    • Greece
    • Aegean Sea, Ionian Sea, Mediterranean Sea, Sea of Crete.
    • Islands of Greece

Revising World Geography through maps - Mediterranean Sea Map question

  1. Scandinavian Peninsula
    • Countries around
    • Baltic Sea
    • Kael Canal
    • Capitals of the countries

Revising World Geography through Maps - Europe

  1. North America
    • Physical map
      • Appalachian Mountains, Ozark Plateau, Edward’s Plateau, Rocky Mountains, Columbia Plateau, Sierra Nevada, Sonora Desert, Colorado Plateau.
      • Lakes – Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, Ontario
      • Places here – must know how to arrange them in the asked order

Revising World Geography through maps - North America Map Question

  1. South America
    • Countries are important – Eg. 1. Which is the country that borders both the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico? Answer: Columbia. Eg. 2. Which countries in South America do not share a border with Brazil? Answer: Chile and Ecuador
    • Know the capitals.
    • Physical map (Amazon Basin, Brazilian Highlands, Brazilian Shield, Pampas, Patagonian Desert, Andes Mountains, Llanos, Campos and Llanos, Atacama Desert, Galapagos Islands)

Revising World Geography through Maps - South America Map Question

  1. Africa
    • Western areas – Know what all countries are called Ivory Coast, Gold Coast, Slave Coast, and Grain Coast.
    • Red Sea area – important because of piracy
    • South Africa – Eg. Which are the enclave countries? (Swaziland and Lesotho) Important places in South Africa (Cape Town, Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban and Bloemfontein)
    • Important countries – Angola, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique.
    • Physical map – Sahara Desert, Congo Basin, Namib Desert, Kalahari Desert, Lake Victoria, Lake Tanganyika, Atlas Range, East African Rift Valley, River Nile, Congo River, Aswan Dam

Revising World Geography through Map - Africa Map question

Importance of Revising World Geography through Maps

“Before maps, the world was limitless. It was maps that gave it shape and made it seem like territory, like something that could be possessed, not just laid waste and plundered. Maps made places on the edges of the imagination seem graspable and placable.”     – Abdulrazak Gurnah

If you are preparing for the UPSC Prelims, you would know that studying maps is an integral part of your IAS preparation. Map related questions are asked in IAS prelims and the geography optional paper in UPSC mains. In general, you can expect 4-5 questions from the maps section in IAS prelims, however, the numbers of these questions can differ.

Earlier, you were given blank maps and you had to mark the places, etc. on the map. Now, you are not given maps. The questions only contain the names of places and you have to, say arrange them in any order asked. So, you have to have a clear picture in your head about maps.

There is a wrong notion among some UPSC candidates that they can learn everything by heart as far as maps are concerned. But this is incorrect. What is needed is a strategic understanding of the kind of questions asked by the UPSC and tips on how to deal with them.

In a nutshell, these are the important points to remember:

  • Physical features in all continents
  • Arranging cities and places from north to south, east to west, etc.
  • Seas
  • Lakes
  • Deserts

UPSC Preparation:

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