How to prepare Environment for UPSC CSE

Since the prelims for the Indian Forest Services examination merged with the UPSC CSE prelims examination, Environment has become an important section in the Civil Service exam preparation. Secondly, due to increasing issues related to climate change and global warming worldwide, the potential bureaucrats must have a thorough knowledge in this field. That’s why its weightage increased in the UPSC prelims paper.

The Environment section is also an important part of the UPSC Mains exam, especially for GS-paper-III. Good knowledge of environmental topics helps to write better answers. Even questions from this section are asked in the interview.

However, many students find it difficult to cover and prepare the environment syllabus. In this article, we are going to discuss how to prepare for environmental topics. Before discussing how to prepare, let’s first discuss the syllabus of the environment.

Important points regarding the Environment syllabus

Whenever we start the UPSC exam preparation, the first step is to read the syllabus of the subjects. But in the case of an environmental section, there is no clearly defined syllabus. You will also find its significant overlapping with other subjects like Geography, Science and technology.

The Environment itself is a combination of three different parts: Ecology, Biodiversity, and Climate Change. Another important factor about the environment section in the UPSC exam is that it is strongly linked to current affairs.

How to prepare

The best way to start studying the environment section is to first go through the previous year’s question papers. After analyzing the environment questions, try to cover the environment syllabus by prioritizing the sub-topics in it.


Ecology has both definitions as well as conceptual parts. It consists of concepts like an ecosystem, ecotone, keystone, food chain, biological oxygen demand, biogeochemical cycles, oligotrophy, etc. You can cover this section from a good book on the UPSC environment.


Most of the topics of Biodiversity overlap with geography. Topics that come under this part are flora and fauna, species, In-situ & Ex-situ, National parks and wildlife sanctuaries, biodiversity hotspots, green revolution, etc. To cover portions like species, flora and fauna, use a good source with vivid images.

National Parks, sanctuaries, reserves

It is an important portion of the exam. While studying the national parks and wildlife sanctuaries, always use maps and try to locate them. Also, write down important points related to national parks in the news.

Climate Change

This part of the environment consists of topics such as global warming, environmental degradation, ozone layer, ozone hole, acid rain, etc. Other important topics are conventions or protocols like Montreal Protocol, Kyoto Protocol, Ramsar convention, etc. Whenever you hear news regarding conventions or protocols, note down important points from it.

National and international initiatives

This portion includes all the government initiatives at the national and international levels. Under this comes topics related to the UN like UNFCC and other international organizations. You should also know about government initiatives like the National solar mission, National missions for sustainable developments, etc.

Useful books for the Environment

  • NCERT Geography.
  • NCERT Science IX & X.
  • NCERT Class Biology XII.
  • Shankar IAS Book on Environment.
  • The newspapers.
  • Down to Earth and Science reporter.

Example of questions asked in the Examination

Q1. Consider the following statements:

         1. Agricultural soils release nitrogen oxides into environments.
         2. Cattle release ammonia into environment.
         3. Poultry industry release reactive nitrogen compounds into the environmenet.
Which of the statement given above is/are correct?
 (a) 1 and 3 only
 (b) 2 and 3 only
 (c) 2 only.
 (d) 1, 2, and 3 
Q2. Consider the following statements:

        1. Asiatic lion naturally found in India only.
        2. Double-humped camel is naturally found in India only.
        3. One-horned rhinoceros is naturally found in India only.

Which one of the statement given above is/are correct?
 (a) 1 only
 (b) 2 only
 (c) 1 and 3 only
 (d) 1, 2, and 3
Q3. In which of the following States is Pakhui Wildlife Sanctuary is located?
 (a) Arunachal Pradesh
 (b) Manipur
 (c) Meghalaya
 (d) Nagaland
Q4. "Momentum for Change: Climate Neutral Now" is an initiative launched by:
 (a) The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
 (b) The UNEP Secretariat
 (c) The UNFCCC Secretariat
 (d) The World Meteorological Organization
Q5. Consider the following statements:
        The Environmental Protection Act, 1986 empowers the Government of India to:

1. state the requirement of public participation in the process of environmental Protection, and the procedure and manner in which it is sought.
2. lay down the standards for emission or discharge of environmental pollutants from various sources.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
 (a) 1 only
 (b) 2 only
 (c) Both 1 and 2
 (d) Neither 1 nor 2
Q6. In India, 'extended producer responsibilty' was introduced as an important feature in which of the following?

 (a) The Bio-medical Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 1998
 (b) The Recycled Plastic (Manufacturing and Usage) Rules, 1999
 (c) The e-waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2011
 (d) The Food Safety and Standard Regulations, 2011
Q7. With refrence to the management of minor minerals in India, consider the following statements:
1. Sand is a 'minor mineral' according to the prevailing law in the country.
2. State Government have the power to grant mining leases of minor minerals, but the powers regarding the formation of rules related to the grant of minor minerals lie with the Central Government.
3. State Government have the power to frame rules to prevent illegal mining of minor minerals.

Which of the statement given above is/are correct?
 (a) 1 and 3 only
 (b) 2 and 3 only
 (c) 3 only
 (d) 1, 2, and 3
Answer to the above questions:

Ans1. (d)
Ans2. (a)
Ans3. (a)
Ans4. (c)
Ans5. (c)
Ans6. (c)
Ans7. (a)

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