General Studies preparation
Reading the newspaper and making notes
I followed The Hindu (IE is good, but not tailor made for CSE imo) and covered the editorial and oped pages online if the physical copy was not delivered.
One of the main problems many of us face is determining what is important and what is not in the newspaper. This comes through time and patience as you move through UPSC syllabus and solve sample MCQs on a daily basis. This is a skill you would need to pick up for yourself. Hope the following pointers help:
- I never made notes out of the newspaper. 3-4 months in, I aimed to finish the paper in under 1 hour by ignoring political, sports and city news; this happened over time as initially it would take almost 2 hours to read just the entire newspaper.
- Headed to Insightsonindia and opened daily currents affairs of a day before. I made short and crisp notes of everything I found pertinent (25-30% size is usually important, trivial news completely ignored) – this was one of the best advice I had read first month into my prep.
- Didn’t make notes out of editorials. If it was an important, it would be covered in daily current affairs anyway, and those points would be more or less covered already. If I thought an editorial deserved to be added, I would do it but this an exception rather than the rue.
- Additionally, I used to do the daily quiz on Insights and ForumIAS, without fail. This was more important to develop a knack for informed guessing but I added any information to my notes if I thought it was relevant.
- There are some news which are relevant only from prelims point of view, I made a separate page and added all these one line items there (see pdf here)
This whole process took 2 to 2.5 hours at minimum and was grunt work (I also googled extensively and added relevant points to the topic/news from Indian Express, Livemint, et al). I started my notes from Jul-2017 but later caught up from Jan-2017 through Insights.
This ensured I was on top of current affairs the entire time and didn’t need to look at any other material through the course of this exam (means: no monthly compilation, no PT365, no Yojana, no PIB, and not even RSTV).
I didn’t prefer reading directly from monthly compilation for two reasons:
- They are HUGE. Any monthly magazine runs into 150+ pages and is visually cramped with lots of information; it might be pertinent but you CANNOT remember it all. It’s almost 5 times the size vs making your own notes by cutting down the words and skipping information you are willing to risk.
- Topic wise compilations for the full year only come a month or so before prelims. Making your own notes helps you have 1+ year of topic wise notes 3 months before the prelims. It helps in efficient revisions which aids in better retention.
If I had to write this exam again, I would probably sit down in one week and make notes from monthly magazines (would still recommend daily for anyone at their first serious attempt). Having said that, there are lots of people who successfully clear the exam with top ranks by following only monthly magazines. You will need to find your own comfort zone.