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How To Study Maps for UPSC IAS

How To Study Maps for UPSC IAS



  • Learn about all the India's neighbouring countries. Make a note of various Indian states which share their boundaries with such neighbouring countries. Give relatively more importance to countries of Indian Subcontinent.
  • Study thoroughly India map for oceanic region around the peninsular part of India and the islands in the Indian Ocean. For example: Extent of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Countries closest to Lakshadweep Islands, Various channels – 10 degree, 9 degree, etc.


  • Study the important latitude and longitude lines on the India map. For example, you must study the states through which Tropic of Cancer passes.
  • Make a note of different states and places through which Indian Standard Meridian (i.e the longitude of Indian Standard Time) passes.
  • Also, you must study ‘concept based’ lines, nature of coastlines, etc. For example: Division of India on the basis of 10°C isotherm.


  • You should be able to draw political map (an outline) of India by hand (Very important for Mains Paper GS I and GS II). Learn about which states share boundaries with which other and how many states.
  • Study all the important cities on India map. You should be able to point them and also be able to locate which city is to the west/east/north/south of a particular city.
  • Make a note of important cities which were in news recently. Ex. Kasargod in Kerala came into the global limelight, after excessive use of the pesticide Endosulfan.
  • You should be able to identify the eastern/western/northern/southern extents of the states and UTs. Whenever a new state is carved out from the existing territory of India, the subsequent changes in the state boundaries must be duly noted.


  • Note down - Origin, Sources, Flow routes and tributaries of all the rivers in India. For example, question asked in Prelims on River Teesta needed such information to correctly arrive at an answer.
  • Identify left bank and right bank tributaries of major rivers. You should draw rough diagram on a blank paper for each important river drainage basin.


  • You should be able to point out lakes on political map and also identify which states share any particular lake.
  • Also, many lakes have certain unique features. Make a separate list of such lakes. For Example: Wular Lake (Jammu & Kashmir) is one of the largest fresh water lakes in Asia.


  • Note down the extent and important peaks of all the mountain ranges i.e. both - Himalayan and Peninsular. You should be able to draw the full mountain range on a India political map and show the highest peak for it.
  • Study locations of various glaciers which are to the north of the Vindhyas. Also, various rivers originating in these mountain rangers/ glaciers should be noted.
  • Study various gaps/passes, national parks, flora, fauna, states etc. lying within the geographical spread of such mountain ranges.
  • Adopt a comparative approach for the Western Ghats and Eastern Ghats mapping.

Natural Vegetation:

  • The great diversity in the Indian natural vegetation should be studied in context of variation in the climate across India.
  • Make a note of spatial distribution of a particular type of forest across India. For example: Rainfall deficient areas of Rajasthan – Thorny Shrubs and no forest.

National Parks:

  • You should be able to locate all the important national parks, tiger reserves, wild life sanctuary, biosphere reserves, etc. and also their extent across states.

Important Places:

  • You should be able to identify all the important places in India, including pilgrimages, world heritage sites, nuclear power stations, ports, plateaus, wetlands, mineral rich locations, etc and also other important physiographic features nearby.


Lines on the Maps:

  • Study the important latitude and longitude lines on the world map (like Tropic of Cancer, Tropic of Capricorn, Arctic Circle, Equator). Note the countries through which each of the lines pass.
  • Also, study the International Date Line, Prime Meridian and which countries fall on which side. (Update such information from the current affairs magazine).

Physiographic Features:

  • Note all the important physiographic features that you come across in the NCERTs and standard geography/history/economy books. NCERTs have many relevant maps and you must study all of them.

From Current Affairs:

  • For any important recent news, check out the required location on the Atlas maps. Learn about the National boundaries and bordering nations. For example, if Syria is very much in the news, you should be able to tell which country shares border with which other countries in West Asia. Also, you should know which countries border Mediterranean sea, or other nearby seas. etc.


You should purchase blank Political India maps from market. First learn to draw guidelines on such blank map. You can use Latitude 76 °E, latitude 92 ° E, Indian Standard Meridian and Tropic of Cancer as guidelines for mapping work. With the help of these guidelines, start plotting important places/features (which are already asked by UPSC in previous year papers) on your blank Political India maps. This method will help you to learn which important place/feature lies in which state/s. When you get comfortable with Political Maps then repeat the above process on ‘blank Physical India’ maps. You can create your master record of all such Physical India maps. Value addition can be done by writing one liner unique quality / feature about the entry on the map itself. You can adopt the method mentioned above for World Maps also.

Drawing Schematic Maps of India/World:

Search for a small size India Physical (Blank) map outline in google. By using it as a reference map, try drawing India map outline on a blank page. You must divide your map outline in 4-5 parts. Then practice each part separately. When you are comfortable in drawing all parts of India map then you can start drawing complete India map outline. Start from the top i.e Jammu & Kashmir and then draw map in clock-wise direction. You can adopt similar method for World Maps also.

Note to Students:

Studying maps is not an additional burden and can be done as recreational work during your study breaks. Mind maps of India and world will make study of large portions of current affairs, geography, world history, economy etc. very intuitive and they will aid greatly in understanding. Map work is not useful in scoring easy marks in the prelims, but being able to draw good maps and locating important places/features will be very useful, especially in GS-1 Geography/History and GS-3 Economy.

Good Luck!