How should we prepare notes, smartly, for UPSC?

Note making is an integral part of the Civil Services Exam preparation. But the question remains, to what extent must an aspirant prepare notes to achieve maximum benefits without wasting time. You must be aware that by note making, you are effectively having a good revision but at the same time the time invested in making notes is enormous, and it can also drain your energy. Hence, it would help if you selectively made notes for a few subjects and for the others you either study directly from the textbook or make margin notes.

Let us start with the first subject when it comes to note making- Current Affairs. Since its presence is spread over all the three levels; Prelims, Mains, Interview and across all the subjects, aspirants should give adequate time for preparing Current Affairs notes. However, some aspirants may end up giving  excessive time and attention to it. To avoid such situations, whenever you come across current affairs material that is good and concise, there is no need to take further notes from it since the material will already have the best information trimmed down to a few lines. You can instead add micro notes if you want to add additional points or key words on the margins of the current affairs material for easier and quicker revision. Take a look at the Officers’ Pulse Current Affairs material to understand how the content is made in a simpler way so that note making can be avoided and you can gain more time for your preparation.

The next subject I would like to talk about is History (including Art & Culture). Now, this is one subject where notes making is beneficial as there are countless dates, characters etc. that are to be studied. Hence, make micro notes while you learn the topic post-revision and maintain the same for other chapters. Do keep in mind that it is better to start making notes in the second or third reading because you might end up taking extensive notes if you start doing it from the very first reading. Extensive notes defeat the purpose of faster revisions and so try to underline and understand the important parts to study in the first reading. This can help you streamline the content to make note of.

Considering Polity, most of the aspirants refer to Laxmikanth these days. While the language in it is quite simple, it would also be nice to read the bare acts of the constitution itself for the best clarity. Instead of making notes, try writing along the margins of the textbook itself after referring to relevant portions from the constitution.

In the case of Economy, the least amount of note making is required and hence focus only on the key concepts and terms. The questions that are asked from Economy can be answered with a basic understanding of concepts, supplemented by revisions from a standard Economy textbook. For subjects like Environment, Geography you may take notes according to your comfort and expertise in the subject. The syllabus of Environment is large but at the same time it is relatively easier to understand. For Geography, the NCERTs give you all the relevant information. Hence, it is up to you to decide whether the notes have to be made for these. Either way, repeated revisions are a must.

For newspapers, it is wise to make notes, but it should not exceed a page for each day. Make micro notes for both the news and the editorials in a concise manner so that you can revise it along with the current affairs. For NCERTs, it is better to make notes after you read it. NCERTs are very important for building the base. Hence post your reading, make notes of the important NCERTs for future revisions. When you make the notes for NCERTs, do it in a way that the essential concepts are covered. Revise these important topics before the exams.

While you make notes for your Mains related preparation, do it in such a way that it has only the relevant keywords, data, figures, facts etc. It would be wise to understand and retain the logic behind each topic for Mains and keep the data in notes for quicker revisions. 

While the above paragraphs were about how to tackle each subject specifically, this one is dedicated to the tricks in note-making. Add figures, mind maps, mnemonics for shortening the content and for remembering quickly. This will immensely help in the exam time. Also, write in bullet points and short forms for faster note-making. Please remember that note- making in itself is an art, and it should not be just a reproduction of the text. It should contain information that you are likely to forget quickly and the ones that are important from an exam perspective.
Best wishes for your Civil Services journey and I hope this article helps you in making better notes.

Published by
Officers IAS Academy – Best IAS Coahing in Chennai.

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