UPSC Exam: Types of Maps in Geography

Geography maps for IAS

Understanding and reading maps is an important part of your Geography preparation for the UPSC civil services exam. Every year a lot of questions in IAS prelims questions on Geography are based on map reading by the candidates. So it is important for candidates to understand maps and learn them effectively. There are several types of maps and for the uninitiated, it becomes difficult to use them for studying. This article tells you about the major types of maps to ease your UPSC preparation.

First of all, let us understand the terminologies. The study of maps is known as Cartology or Cartography. People who create maps or are involved in cartology are known as cartologists.

Types of Maps

Physical maps

Physical maps show the geography of an area. They mark the physical features like mountains, rivers, grasslands, valleys, etc. of a region. They also show elevations from sea-level. Areas like coastal regions which are generally of lower elevations are shown green in colour. Higher elevations are showcased in orange or brown. The figure below shows the physical map of India. Notice the colours green, brown, yellow, etc. Rivers are also seen.

physical map

Political maps

Political maps show state, national and international boundaries of countries. They also showcase capitals and major cities. Given below is the political map of the African continent.


Climate maps

Climate maps are an example of thematic maps and show the climatic conditions prevailing in different parts of a country or the world. They show the different climates like tropical, temperate, arid, Mediterranean, polar, etc. There are different climate maps like ones which show the vegetation of a region, which show rainfall received, etc.


Economic maps

Economic maps illustrate the economic activities in an area. They portray the economic regions, economic centres, territorial-production complexes, economic ties, economic development levels and the specialisation of production. These maps use different symbols and colours to show the various activities. The following map shows the levels of economic development in India.


Road maps

Road maps show roads and transport links in a region. They also showcase highways, railroad tracks, airports, points of interests, etc. They are basically a kind of navigational maps. The following map is the road map of the city of Bangalore.


Topographic maps

Topographic maps have contour lines to show the shape and elevation of an area. Lines that are close have a steep terrain and lines far apart have a flat terrain. They give a quantitative representation of relief. The following is a topographic map of a volcano in Hawaii, USA.


Why are symbols and scales used in maps?

  • For direction
  • For scaling (distances)
  • For major locations and landmarks
  • For boundaries

Example map-based questions asked in previous years UPSC Prelims exam:-

  1. Q) Turkey is located between (2014 CSE Prelims)
    • a) Black Sea and Caspian Sea
    • b) Black Sea and Mediterranean Sea
    • c) Gulf of Suez and Mediterranean Sea
    • d) Gulf of Aqaba and Dead Sea

Answer: b

  1. Q) Consider the following rivers: (2014 CSE Prelims)
    1. Barak
    2. Lohit
    3. Subansiri

Which of the following flow/flows through Arunachal Pradesh?

  • 1 only
  • 2 and 3 only
  • 1 and 3 only
  • 1, 2 and 3

Answer: b

Also Read | UPSC Exam Preparation: Revising World Geography through Maps

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