How to use Atlas in IAS preparation?

UPSC IAS preparation is not only about reading books and notes. It also has some interesting aspects of learning from sources like Atlas, tables, diagrams etc.

In this article we will discuss the importance of Atlas in UPSC preparation and also discuss how to utilise the Atlas in regular reading of UPSC Civil Services Preparation.

 Importance of Atlas in IAS preparation

Atlas plays a crucial role in UPSC Civil Services exam, especially in Geography prelims questions. As most of the questions from geography are map based questions, students need to be updated on Map readings.

Not only in prelims exam, Atlas map reading will also be helpful in mains answer writing, not only for geography subject but also for International relations, Environment and Disaster Management topics.

It is advised to students to regularly update on map topics based on current affairs from newspaper. Since most of the questions asked in UPSC exams are based from current issues students need to be updated on it.

How to read Atlas in IAS preparation?

Atlas reading can be classified into two types, one based on static map reading and other is map reading based on current affairs.

Static Map reading

In the static map reading, students need to follow the geography subject along with Atlas. While reading Indian or world geography Students should have their map book along with them so that they can understand the geographical concepts easily.

Say for example: Indian Monsoon Southwest Monsoon and North East Monsoon.

In order to understand better about the monsoon reversal of wind and difference between South west monsoon and North East monsoon, map and diagram are essential for better clarity.


Apart from conceptual understanding, students also need to be updated on static map information for world and Indian Geography.


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Physical Geography

  • Important oceans, seas, bays, gulf and streams
  • Mountain ranges, highest peaks and Mountain Passes
  • Important Plateaus
  • Lakes, rivers and basins
  • Ports, Airports and Highways for India
  • Volcanoes, earthquake regions and so on


Political Geography

  • International boundaries
  • Islands
  • Countries, states and cities
  • Important industrial regions and so on

Current Affairs based Map reading

While reading current affairs from newspaper, always keep a Atlas handy. Mark the cities and regions which are in news especially for International issues. Because UPSC asks map based questions for major international issues. The same rule applies for India too and if it is related to geography based like boundary dispute, dam issues etc. then there is more probability of map based question from those issues.

Students should always be updated on the map works since map is one of the important sources for the IAS exam preparation.


What Atlas should be followed in IAS Preparation?

Students can follow either Oxford school atlas or Orient Blakswan School Atlas for the UPSC exam preparation. (Note: Try to have a highlighter and mark important places appear in news.)

If student is interested then they can have a wall hanging Indian political, Physical and World Map in their Study table.

 UPSC Map Based Prelims Questions

If you travel by road from Kohima to Kottayam, what is the minimum number of States within India through which you can travel, including the origin and the destination?

(a) 6 (b) 7 (c) 8 (d) 9

Answer is B

Which of the following is geographically closest to Great Nicobar?

(a) Sumatra (b) Borneo (c) Java (d) Sri Lanka

Answer is A

Mediterranean Sea if a border of which of the following countries?

1. Jordan 2. Iraq 3. Lebanon 4. Syria

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

(a) 1, 2 and 3 only (b) 2 and 3 only (c) 3 and 4 only (d) 1, 3 and 4 only

Answer is C

The above mentioned questions were asked in 2017 UPSC Prelims exams and these questions can be answered if students have followed their Map reading.

Follow Atlas on regular basis and it is advised to students to keep their Atlas book along with them on their study table so that they can access and update important places from book reading and newspaper reading.


All the Best.

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