How to Prepare Environment & Ecology for UPSC?

Environment and Ecology prepare for upsc

Preparing Environment and Ecology for the UPSC Civil Services Exam is vital if you want to crack the exam, especially the prelims. With the same exam, UPSC CSE Pre, being used as a screening test for both IAS/IPS/IFS/IRS and Forest services, the weightage for this subject has increased significantly.

In the Prelims, where your quick grasp of environmental basics is tested, the Mains exam tests your understanding of deeper ecological issues.

This guide is your roadmap to prepare Environment and Ecology for UPSC exam. We’ll first unravel the syllabus and understand the exam pattern. Then, we’ll dive into the essential topics and sprinkle some expert tips to give you an edge. Plus, we’ll guide you to some fantastic resources – from simple-to-understand NCERTs to more elaborate materials.

Let’s begin without any further ado!

Understanding the Syllabus and Exam Pattern

As stated earlier, Environment and Ecology are a significant part of the UPSC Prelims (General Studies Paper I) and are also woven into various sections of the Mains.

Prelims Environment & Ecology Syllabus

Mains Environment & Ecology Syllabus

The UPSC Mains syllabus doesn’t explicitly have a dedicated section for Environment and Ecology, but aspects of it are integrated within General Studies Papers.

Here’s how Environment and Ecology topics are distributed in the UPSC Mains syllabus:

General Studies Paper III (Technology, Economic Development, Biodiversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management):

  • Conservation: This involves understanding and addressing issues related to conservation of natural resources and biodiversity.
  • Environmental Pollution and Degradation: This includes the study of causes and effects of environmental pollution, and measures for its control and reduction.
  • Environmental Impact Assessment: Knowledge about EIA processes, its significance, and application.
  • Climate Change: Issues related to climate change, its impact on ecology and society, and related policy responses.
  • Disaster Management: This includes understanding the role of environmental factors in disasters, disaster mitigation strategies, and policies.
  • Sustainable Development: Concepts and challenges of sustainable development, and strategies for achieving sustainability in various sectors.
  • General issues on Environmental Ecology, Biodiversity and Climate Change: This is broad and often overlaps with current affairs and recent developments in these fields.

General Studies Paper II (Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International Relations):

  • International Treaties and Conventions related to Environment and Ecology: Understanding India’s position and commitments to international environmental agreements.
  • Policies and Politics in India related to Environment: Discussions on national policies, legal frameworks, and governance structures concerning environmental conservation and protection.

Key Areas to Focus On

  • Basic Concepts of Ecology: Understand ecosystems, food chains, food webs, and ecological pyramids.
  • Biodiversity: Dive into the variety of life forms on earth, endangered species, conservation strategies, and hotspots.
  • Climate Change: Grasp the science behind climate change, its impacts, and mitigation strategies.
  • Environmental Pollution: Learn about different types of pollution, their sources, and effects.
  • Sustainable Development: Know about sustainable development goals and practices.
  • Policies and Treaties: Familiarize yourself with national and international environmental policies and treaties.

Books and Resources for Environment and Ecology

Choosing the right books and resources is critical for covering this vast subject effectively.

NCERT Textbooks:

NCERTs, known for their simplicity, are the best starting point. They lay the foundation and clear basic concepts.

Compass Environment Notes

Compass Environment Notes by Rau’s IAS Study Circle are exceptional for UPSC aspirants, especially for mastering the Environment and Ecology segment.

These notes are intelligently curated to align precisely with the UPSC syllabus, ensuring comprehensive coverage of all relevant topics, such as biodiversity, climate change, sustainable development, and environmental policies.

Their clarity and conciseness set these notes apart, making complex subjects accessible and easy to grasp.

They are regularly updated to include the latest environmental developments and case studies, which is crucial for both Prelims and Mains. Additionally, the inclusion of diagrams and data aids in better retention.

Reference Books:

For deeper insights:

  • “Environmental Studies: From Crisis to Cure” by R. Rajagopalan: This book is a favorite among aspirants for its comprehensive coverage and straightforward language.
  • “Environment for Civil Services Prelims and Mains” by Khuller and Rao: Known for its in-depth analysis, this book is great for understanding the intersection of environment and current affairs.

Reports and Documents:

  • Government reports, such as those from the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, and annual reports of the Environment Protection Agencies provide the latest data and insights.
  • Reports by international bodies like the UNEP, WWF, and IPCC are essential for understanding global environmental trends and policies.

How to Prepare for UPSC Environment and Ecology?

How to Prepare for UPSC Environment and Ecology?
  1. Start with Basics: Get your foundation right with NCERTs before moving to advanced books.
  2. Use Visual Aids: Diagrams, charts, and videos can help simplify complex ecological concepts.
  3. Current Affairs: This area often sees a linkage with current happenings. Keep abreast with the latest environmental news and policies.
  4. Case Studies and Examples: Use real-world examples to understand environmental issues and policies better.
  5. Focus on Policies and Treaties: Understand the objectives, provisions, and impacts of various environmental agreements and policies.
  6. Practice Questions: Solve previous years’ questions and take mock tests focusing on the environment and ecology.
  7. Make Notes: Create concise notes for quick revision, especially of important terms, policies, and recent developments.
  8. Answer Writing Practice: Especially for Mains, practice writing well-structured answers that include a mix of factual information and analytical insights.
  9. Link with Other Subjects: Understand how environment and ecology intersect with geography, economics, and ethics.


Preparing for Environment and Ecology for UPSC is about connecting with the world around you in a meaningful way. It requires a blend of theoretical knowledge and understanding of real-world environmental challenges and solutions. With the right strategy, resources, and dedication, you can master this fascinating and crucial subject and crack the exam with ease.

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