Strategy to Prepare Environment & Ecology for UPSC Prelims

By Hemant Kumar|Updated : May 31st, 2020

Environment and Ecology strategy for UPSC IAS prelims. UPSC post the changes in 2011 by merging the preliminary exam of UPSC IAS Prelims and UPSC IFS (Forest Services) has increased the weightage of this section considerably in the IAS Prelims Exam. With this trend, Clearing Prelims becomes very difficult if the Environment and Ecology section of the UPSC Syllabus is not done in a comprehensive manner. In this article, we will discuss the best way to approach the Environment for UPSC Prelims Examination.

Strategy to Prepare Environment & Ecology for UPSC Prelims

Relevance of Environment for UPSC IAS Exam:

In the prelims exam, the number of questions asked from this section has always been more than 10% in the past 9 years. Below is the table showing the total number of questions asked in past years:

Total Number of Questions asked from Environment and Ecology:

S/No.YearNumber of Questions Asked

For the Mains Exam, Environment, Ecology and Biodiversity also constitute a good chunk in General Studies Paper-3 and is helpful in other papers of IAS Mains exam also.

As per the UPSC IAS Syllabus, Preliminary Exam requires one to have knowledge on General issues on Environmental Ecology, Bio-diversity, and Climate Change - that do not require subject specialization. 

Common Issues faced by Aspirants:

Devoting less time

Usually, students devote a lot of time to subjects like polity, geography and history but not enough to the environment and ecology portion. Since question from the core subjects like geography, Polity and history are asked in similar quantity as that of Environment so it is required that equal attention is given to the dynamic subjects like Environment and Ecology. 

What to Read

One major problem with this subject is that there is doubt in the mind of aspirants about sources from where to read. They either do not know which books to read or they read too many books and online articles to get a feeling that they have covered the topic in totality.

In a subject like Environment and Ecology, one cannot read each and every topic because their content is very wide as well as there is no rigid boundary line of the content and the subject is dynamic so one has to limit the content they are reading in order to utilise them qualitatively. 

Difficulty in Understanding

One major problem with these subjects is the difficulty in understanding the concept in the first reading. So the aspirants get bored and disinterested while reading these subjects. So the basic thing required while preparing this subject is patience. If a student reads the same material 2-3 times, they will find it interesting and easy. But one should revise them at least 5 times, so as to recall the studied content in the exam. 

Covering Current Affairs

Environment is a very dynamic subject and so require equally a dynamic approach. Questions are asked about the happenings related to Environment, Ecology and Biodiversity in past one year or so. Aspirants need to be aware of those happenings in complete details. Questions on International Organisation, Conventions etc are more common in UPSC Prelims Paper and these are asked from Current affairs itself so Reading and revising it is very necessary.


For Environment and Ecology, students should select one book which covers all the core concepts and basic information in details and apart from this all other dynamic portion needs to be covered from Newspaper etc.

  • For static part, refer to the NCERT textbooks of Geography (classes VI to XII), biology (classes XI and XII) (Download NCERT Books) or can also Refer to Shankar IAS Environment Book (Latest Edition).
  • India Year Book: Environment and Geography Chapters
  • The Hindu and Down to Earth newspaper
  • Science Reporter magazine

Students should select one basic book & stick to that book. One should read it at least 3 times, even if one gets bored while reading that.

Important Topics

Though all topics are important, some topics are more relevant than others as per the trend of UPSC IAS Prelims Previous Year Question Paper. We are presenting a list of the topics which are more important than the rest:

Environment and Ecology:

  • International Environmental Conventions:
    • Rio summit and its outcomes, Ramsar Convention on wetlands, CITES, Convention on Conservation of Migratory Species (CMS), IUCN, Stockholm, Rotterdam and Basel convention, UN convention to combat Desertification, Vienna Convention and Montreal Protocol. Apart from these other conventions under the aegis of the United Nations are important.
  • Environmental Organisations: 
    • National Biodiversity Authority, Wild life Crime Control Bureau, Animal Welfare Board, central zoo Authority.
  • Acts and policies regarding the Environment:
    • Wildlife protection act, Environment protection act, Biological Diversity act, Forest Right Act
    • Forest policy, wetland rule, NGT, ozone-depleting substance rule.
  • Institution:
    • CAMPA, Clean energy fund, wildlife action plan, National Afforestation and Eco-Development Board, Mangrove for future. and other such relevant institutions which have in news.
  • Climate Change:
    • Climate change organisations: UNFCCC, Kyoto protocol, REDD/REDD+, IPCC, Green Economy
    • Impact of climate change: impact on India, India’s position on Climate change, NICRA, Green Buildings, NAPCC, Nation Communication.
    • Ozone depletion
    • Mitigation strategies: Carbon Sequestration, Carbon sink, Carbon credit, Carbon offsetting, Carbon tax.
    • Ocean acidification.
  • Biodiversity:
    • Biodiversity types, services, level and measurement.
    • Protected area network: Wildlife sanctuaries, National Parks, Sacred Grooves, Biosphere Reserves, Biodiversity hotspots.
    • conservation efforts: Project Tiger, Project Elephant, Project Hangul, Ganges Dolphin, Crocodile conservation
    • Schedule list of wildlife protection.
  • Ecosystem:
    • Function of Ecosystem, energy flow, food web, food chain.
    • Concept like Ecotone, ecological succession.
    • Aquatic ecosystem: Lake ecology, Eutrophication, Mangrove system, Coral reefs.
  • Environmental pollution: E-waste, Air pollution, Fly Ash, Smog, Bio remediation, Indoor air pollution.

The above-mentioned topics should be revised thoroughly before the exam.

Check Here:

Few Other Tips to Prepare better:

  • Analysing the Past Year Paper on the type of questions asked on Environment provides you with an idea about the nature of question expected from UPSC.
  • Revision of what you have studied on a regular basis is very crucial because of the vastness of information which at times becomes confusing if not revised well.
  • Practice Questions from Test Series helps you in avoiding silly mistakes and also for quick revision.
  • Glancing over the official websites like of Ministry of Environment, UNFCCC, UNEP etc at times are very helpful.

To Read Important notes on Environment Click Here

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Hemant KumarHemant KumarMember since Nov 2019
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Bhavya Sri

Bhavya SriMay 31, 2020

🙏🙏🙏👍👍thank you sir,,,,,
Ekta Raj

Ekta RajJun 1, 2020

Sir link provided by you for important topics of environment is not working
Mansha Upadhyay
Virat Kohli Sharma
Thank you brother

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