General Studies

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.

35 thoughts on “General Studies

  1. Priya

    Sir I’m confused. Actually how to start reading a book of any gs paper? Main thing is how to know which portion of the book is imp and which is not..
    And sir Pls share your booklist in detail.. Pls reply Sir 🙏

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    1. dhananjaysy Post author

      Topic wise book list is shared under General Studies paper wise link on this page itself.

      Most books are important in entirety and there’s little that is not important. You will have to open the book yourself to find the little that you can actually skip.

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  2. Ashish sahu

    What was your revision strategy for current affairs of onenote i mean daily,weekly, monthly..if i take 30% of insight article what is important how to know that ?

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    1. dhananjaysy Post author

      1. Weekly and monthly I guess as it depended on Insights prelims test syllabus
      2. Anything common sense or too trivial things should not be included (some 2-3 trivia involving questions will be asked by UPSC anyway, not worth the effort to try and remembering thousands of inane things)

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  3. Ambikesh Gupta

    quick question: how much material from the notes did you actually remember by the actual mains day(s) like in terms of percentage roughly?

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    1. dhananjaysy Post author

      It’s honestly hard to tell how much you actually remember. Some things you remember clearly, some things vaguely, some not at all. Maybe 50% if not less.

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  4. Buyer

    Sir, how did you revised Geography? As in revised it via Question Bank or directly from your short notes?
    (Asking as the Question Bank looks like an Ocean :-P)

    Hope you are taking good care of yourself in this pandemic situation. Stay Safe.

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  5. shubhampatil6625

    Sir, how did you revise laxmikant, sprectum, shankar, ramesh singh etc. that you have not made notes but prepared questions… So how did you revise from questions?

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  6. Anonymous

    Sir, on a daily basis insightsias post 6-10 current affairs article explained in a detail manner.
    Shall we cover all of them on daily basis by making notes on them ?
    Or shall I skip some of them ? If skip then how to know what to skip ?

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  7. Jerrel

    Sir. Thanks for sharing.
    How, when & how often did u revise the current affairs notes that you took from insights ?

    When to revise the static portions?
    After reading all the subjects? or after finishing each subjects?

    When shud i take notes?
    While reading for the first time itself or after few revisions?

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    1. dhananjaysy Post author

      1. Thanks to the Insights test series, whenever their tests required me to. Same is true for static or current affairs.
      2. I preferred taking notes along with first time reading

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  8. amoghaaithal

    Hello sir.
    If i m reading the (Hindu+insights daily CA+insights into editorials) and making notes out of these, is this enough(for both prelims and mains)? Or do i need to refer vision monthly magazine, PT365 and mains365 in addition to these?

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  9. Premanshu Thakre

    Sir, Insights give so bulky pointers for any topic. Ultimately It takes a lot of time to concise the daily CA . Since you’ve retrospectively went throigh Jan 2017 CA can you just give an overview how did u complete past 7 months CA along with GS prep?

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  10. Premanshu Thakre

    Sir, Insights give so bulky pointers for any topic. Ultimately It takes a lot of time to concise the daily CA . Since you’ve retrospectively went throigh Jan 2017 CA can you just give an overview how did u complete past 7 months CA along with GS prep?

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    1. dhananjaysy Post author

      From Jan/Feb 2018 onwards, I had added 3-4 days worth of daily CAs from Jan 2017 onwards in my normal schedule.

      Insights gives bulky pointers true, but that’s true for daily CA from any website. Hence own notes to ensure you have to revise only pertinent information.

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      1. Aditi

        Sir,
        How did you manage to squeeze out time for your optional?
        And kindly state your exact resources for Art & Culture.

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  11. Tina

    Sir, as you said that you mostly prepared as per the Insights test series time table. But that test series exculdes certain topics of the mains syllabus like GS paper 4, governance, society etc. So did you do those topics as well or you did them after prelims and focussed on what was there in the Insights time table.

    You also mentioned that you covered Insights daily CA from January onwards. Since I am preparing now I have missed the CA of previous months. Should they be done now or can I skip them and focus on July onwards? How did you do the previous months CA if you had started them late.

    Thank you in advance.

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    1. dhananjaysy Post author

      I didn’t do certain topics of mains syllabus until after prelims. I focused mostly on prelims, and hence GS4, governance, society etc. could be left until I cleared prelims.

      Insights daily current affairs are organised date wise. I simply started from 1 Jan 2017 after I decided to cover it from Jan 2017. Alternately you can cover it from monthly compilations (which are nothing but a summation of all daily CAs for a given month) but I hated going through monthly booklets because they depressed me 😦

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  12. forthrighted

    Sir you have shared your questions on
    1. Polity 2. Environment 3. Spectrum.
    I also revise with questions so can you share questions of Other subjects like Economy And Art and culture can you please add them too.

    Thank You for this treasure, and congratulations for your results sir!

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    1. dhananjaysy Post author

      I had not linked question docx of Geography NCERTs till now. Had blantantly picked it up from AIR 38 (2015) and didn’t even revise it before prelims. Now added under Notes tab.

      I didn’t prepare these for any other topic.

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  13. Ananya Roy

    Sir, could you please put a detailed explanation of how you made current affairs notes from insights? I have been struggling with preparing the same and filing it properly. Moreso since, i feel I retain better if I write down things on paper. But then filing it again becomes a big headache. How to come out of this situation.!?

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    1. dhananjaysy Post author

      1. See my OneNote notebook. I used to make it under a suitable heading and try to include important information while keeping it concise (1/3 size of information Insights is providing)
      2. Whether it’s paper or online, you’ll have to revise it MULTIPLE times to retain it. Do whatever makes you more comfortable. I don’t remember better by writing things down, and of course editing paper notes is difficult, hence I went with online notes

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    1. dhananjaysy Post author

      I prefer the physical copy of anything I read. However, if the physical paper wasn’t delivered, I would read the editorial and op-ed columns online. Anything important in other pages would get covered by Insights daily current affairs.

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