Geology Optional For UPSC | Geology Syllabus, Booklist & Preparation Strategy

Geology is one of the optional subjects offered by UPSC for the UPSC Mains Exam. Generally, students who have studied Geology in graduation take up this subject. In this article, we have discussed the syllabus of Geology optional, how to prepare geology optional for UPSC as well as the recommended booklist. 

Students opting for geology optional for UPSC must go through its syllabus exceedingly well. Some of the pros of geology optional are:

  • A science-oriented subject, geology is objective in nature. The answers are concrete and not left on the interpretation of the reader. This makes Geology optional extremely scoring.

  • It is easy to understand and a very straightforward subject.

However, the syllabus is specialised and a little on the heavier side. Hence, take up geology optional for UPSC only if you’ve studied it in graduation and you’re highly interested in the subject.

Syllabus of Geology Optional For UPSC

Geology Optional Syllabus For Paper-1

  1. General Geology:

    1. The Solar System, Meteorites, Origin and interior of the earth and age of earth; Volcanoes- causes and products, Volcanic belts;

    2. Earthquakes-causes, effects, Seismic zones of India; Island arcs, trenches and mid-ocean ridges;

    3. Continental drifts;

    4. Seafloor spreading, Plate tectonics;

    5. Isostasy.

  2. Geomorphology and Remote Sensing:

    1. Basic concepts of geomorphology;

    2. Weathering and soil formations;

    3. Landforms, slopes and drainage;

    4. Geomorphic cycles and their interpretation;

    5. Morphology and its relation to structures and lithology;

    6. Coastal geomorphology; Applications of geomorphology in mineral prospecting, civil engineering;

    7. Hydrology and environmental studies;

    8. Geomorphology of Indian subcontinent.

    9. Aerial photographs and their interpretation-merits and limitations;

    10. The Electromagnetic spectrum;

    11. Orbiting satellites and sensor systems;

    12. Indian Remote Sensing Satellites;

    13. Satellites data products; Applications of remote sensing in geology;

    14. The Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Global Positioning System (GPS) - its applications.

  3. Structural Geology:

    1. Principles of geologic mapping and map reading, Projection diagrams, Stress and strain ellipsoid and stress-strain relationships of elastic, plastic and viscous materials;

    2. Strain markers in deformed rocks;

    3. The behaviour of minerals and rocks under deformation conditions;

    4. Folds and faults classification and mechanics;

    5. Structural analysis of folds, foliations, lineations, joints and faults, unconformities; Timerelationship between crystallization and deformation.

  4. Palaeontology

    1. Species- definition and nomenclature;

    2. Megafossils and Microfossils;

    3. Modes of preservation of fossils;

    4. Different kinds of microfossils;

    5. Application of microfossils in correlation, petroleum exploration, paleoclimatic and paleoceanographic studies;

    6. The evolutionary trend in Hominidae, Equidae and Proboscidae; Siwalik fauna;

    7. Gondwana flora and fauna and its importance;

    8. Index fossils and their significance.

  5. Indian Stratigraphy:

    1. Classification of stratigraphic sequences: lithostratigraphic, biostratigraphic, chronostratigraphic and magnetostratigraphic and their interrelationships;

    2. Distribution and classification of Precambrian rocks of India;

    3. Study of stratigraphic distribution and lithology of Phanerozoic rocks of India with reference to fauna, flora and economic importance;

    4. Major boundary problems- Cambrian/Precambrian, Permian/Triassic, Cretaceous/Tertiary and Pliocene/Pleistocene;

    5. Study of climatic conditions, palaeogeography and igneous activity in the Indian subcontinent in the geological past;

    6. Tectonic framework of India; Evolution of the Himalayas.

  6. Hydrogeology and Engineering Geology:

    1. Hydrologic cycle and genetic classification of water;

    2. Movement of subsurface water; Springs;

    3. Porosity, permeability, hydraulic conductivity, transmissivity and storage coefficient, classification of aquifers;

    4. Water-bearing characteristics of rocks; Ground-water chemistry;

    5. Saltwater intrusion; Types of wells;

    6. Drainage basin morphometry; Exploration for groundwater;

    7. Groundwater recharge; Problems and management of groundwater;

    8. Rainwater harvesting; Engineering properties of rocks;

    9. Geological investigations for dams, tunnels highways, railway and bridges;

    10. Rock as a construction material;

    11. Landslides-causes, prevention and rehabilitation;

    12. Earthquake-resistant structures

Geology Optional Syllabus For Paper-2

  1. Mineralogy:

    1. Classification of crystals into systems and classes of symmetry;

    2. The international system of crystallographic notation;

    3. Use of projection diagrams to represent crystal symmetry;

    4. Elements of X-ray crystallography.

    5. Physical and chemical characters of rock-forming silicate mineral groups;

    6. Structural classification of silicates;

    7. Common minerals of igneous and metamorphic rocks;

    8. Minerals of the carbonate, phosphate, sulphide and halide groups;

    9. Clay minerals.

    10. Optical properties of common rock-forming minerals;

    11. Pleochroism, extinction angle, double refraction, birefringence, twinning and dispersion in minerals.

  2. Igneous and Metamorphic Petrology:

    1. Generation and crystallization of magmas;

    2. Crystallization of albite-anorthite, diopside-anorthite and diopside-wollastonite-silica systems;

    3. Bowen’s Reaction Principle;

    4. Magmatic differentiation and assimilation;

    5. Petrogenetic significance of the textures and structures of igneous rocks;

    6. Petrography and petrogenesis of granite, syenite, diorite, basic and ultrabasic groups, charnockite, anorthosite and alkaline rocks;

    7. Carbonatites; Deccan volcanic province. Types and agents of metamorphism; Metamorphic grades and zones; Phase rule;

    8. Facies of regional and contact metamorphism;

    9. ACF and AKF diagrams;

    10. Textures and structures of metamorphic rocks;

    11. Metamorphism of arenaceous, argillaceous and basic rocks;

    12. Minerals assemblages Retrograde metamorphism;

    13. Metasomatism and granitisation, migmatites, Granulite terrains of India.

  3. Sedimentary Petrology:

    1. Sediments and Sedimentary rocks:

    2. Processes of formation; diagenesis and lithification;

    3. Clastic and non-clastic rocks their classification, petrography and depositional environment;

    4. Sedimentary facies and provenance;

    5. Sedimentary structures and their significance;

    6. Heavy minerals and their significance;

    7. Sedimentary basins of India.

  4. Economic Geology:

    1. Ore, ore minerals and gangue, the tenor of ore, classification of ore deposits;

    2. Process of formation of minerals deposits;

    3. Controls of ore localization;

    4. Ore textures and structures;

    5. Metallogenic epochs and provinces;

    6. Geology of the important Indian deposits of aluminium, chromium, copper, gold, iron, lead-zinc, manganese, titanium, uranium and thorium and industrial minerals;

    7. Deposits of coal and petroleum in India;

    8. National Mineral Policy;

    9. Conservation and utilization of mineral resources;

    10. Marine mineral resources and Law of Sea.

  5. Mining Geology:

    1. Methods of prospecting-geological, geophysical, geochemical and geobotanical; Techniques of sampling;

    2. Estimation of reserves or ore;

    3. Methods of exploration and mining metallic ores, industrial minerals, marine mineral resources and building stones;

    4. Mineral beneficiation and ore dressing.

  6. Geochemistry and Environmental Geology:

    1. Cosmic abundance of elements;

    2. Composition of the planets and meteorites;

    3. Structure and composition of Earth and distribution of elements;

    4. Trace elements;

    5. Elements of crystal chemistry, types of chemical bonds, coordination number; Isomorphism and polymorphism;

    6. Elementary thermodynamics.

    7. Natural hazards-floods, mass wasting, coastal hazards, earthquakes and volcanic activity and mitigation;

    8. Environmental impact of urbanization, mining, industrial and radioactive waste disposal, use of fertilizers, dumping of mine waste and fly ash;

    9. Pollution of ground and surface water, marine pollution;

    10. Environment protection - legislative measures in India;

    11. Sea level changes: causes and impact.

How to Prepare Geology Optional For UPSC

Now that you’ve read the syllabus for Geology Optional, it is important to have a fair idea of how to prepare geology optional for UPSC. We’ve discussed the topic wise preparation strategy for geology optional for UPSC

Topic-Wise Preparation Strategy For Geology Optional Paper-1

General geology

  • Being a basic concept, it is extremely important yet easier to understand.

  • Some of the important topics that are frequently asked from this topic are earthquakes, tectonic plates, the age of the earth, and the formation of the universe;

  • You can refer to Principles of engineering geology by KP Banger to cover all these topics extensively.

  • There is a significant overlap between this topic and the syllabus of Geography in UPSC Prelims and UPSC Mains GS-Paper 1.

Geomorphology and Remote Sensing

  • Focus on the basic subtopics such as the formation of rivers, mountains and soil while studying the concepts of geomorphology.

  • Further, some important must-read topics from this topic include Indian satellites and other technologies used for remote sensing, the advantages and limitations of remote sensing, Control and prevention of disasters.

  • Keep an eye on the latest current affairs related to this topic to substantiate your answers with the related events. You can read remote sensing related topics from the website of the national remote sensing authority.

Structural geology

  • This is again one of the most basic topics in the syllabus. Most students must have read topics belonging to this section at the school level. Hence, it is easier to understand and grasp.

  • You can read Structural geology by Marland P Billings to cover all the subtopics of this section.


  • This is a very factual and static part of the syllabus. It deals with ancient life forms and fossils. Some of the important topics include the evolution of humans, horses and elephants.

  • To grasp this topic well, set tables for each of these species and follow the pattern to remember and understand the course of evolution better.

  • The difference between different types of fossils is yet another important topic in this section. The mode and process of fossilization are also often repeatedly asked in exams.

Indian stratigraphy

  • In this section, you need to focus on types of rocks and the geological time scale, and the regions where they are found.

  • For this section as well, it is best to set tables that will help you to remember the answers better.

Hydrogeology and engineering geology

  • The topic is all about the different climatic and geological structure of the areas and how it influences the types of materials to be used for undertaking different engineering projects in the area.

Topic-Wise Preparation Strategy For Geology Optional Paper-2


  • In this section, Properties of different minerals found in the rocks and their uses are generally asked. Hence. focus on rocks and minerals that are found abundantly in India.

  • In the past few years, applied questions are also being asked from this chapter. Hence, your preparation and answer writing style should be accordingly adapted.

Igneous and metamorphic petrology

  • You must have covered the topics included in this section in school.

  • One of the most important sections of this topic is Sedimentary petrology. You must study this section while keeping in mind as many examples from India as you can.

Economic geology

  • This chapter requires you to have a thorough understanding of the economic conditions of the country and how it affects geology positively or negatively.

  • Focus on understanding how geology can influence overall economic development.

  • Focus on the distribution of coal and petroleum and the different kinds of ores and minerals used in the industries.

  • Read about industries and the raw materials used in those industries.

  • Further, National mineral policy, marine mineral resources and laws of sea are also some of the important topics from this section.

Mining and geochemistry and environmental geology

  • This is an important chapter owing to the number of notable mines in India. Have a clear understanding of how mining works, where to mine and recognized mining areas.

  • Geochemistry is largely about different types of elements and why some are rare while others are found in abundance. Read all of them in detail.

  • Further, natural hazards, pollution, urbanization and similar topics and their effects on the earth’s terrain and its modification is studied under environmental geology.

  • This is an easy topic but demands frequent revision to master the concepts.

Booklist for Geology Optional For UPSC

Some of the books that you can refer to cover the syllabus of Geology optional for UPSC are mentioned below. However, you do not have to read these books from cover to cover. Be syllabus specific and read-only those portions which are relevant to the exam:

  • Engineering And General Geology by Parbin Singh

  • Delta Sedimentation: East Coast of India- Singh, I.B. & Swamy, A.S.R.

  • Geology and Evolution of the Indian Plate by SM Naqvi

  • Berkeley University Notes on palaeontology

  • General geology by GB Mahapatra

  • The Elements of Palaeontology by Rhona M. Black

  • Palaeontology by Jain and Anantharaman

  • Structural Geology by Marland P. Billings

  • Trends in Objective Geology – Aussif Sayeed

  • Text Book of Geology – P.K. Mukherjee

  • Concise Geology – P.K. Mukherjee

  • Geologic Settings and Petroleum Systems of India’s East Coast Offshore Basins: Concepts and Applications- Ravi Bastia

  • Principles of Igneous and Metamorphic Petrology by JD Winter

  • Groundwater Hydrology by David Todd

  • Principles Of Engineering Geology by KM Bangar

  • Economic Geology: Economic Mineral Deposits by U Prasad

  • Rutley’s Elements of Mineralogy

  • Delta Sedimentation: East Coast of India- Singh, I.B. & Swamy, A.S.R.

  • Dimensions of Himalayan Geology- Biyani, A.K.

  • Early Man in Eastern Himalayas: North-East India and Nepal- Sharma, A. K.

  • Geological Maps- D.K. Awasthi

  • Mineral Exploration: Recent Strategies- S. Rajendran

This is the complete overview of the Geology Optional for UPSC including the syllabus, booklist and preparation strategy. Make sure you remain syllabus-specific while reading the books prescribed for Geology optional for UPSC.

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