UPSC Civil Services Exam: How IAS Aspirants Can Prepare Best Notes In Less Time Covering SyllabusMore than eight lakh students appeared for the UPSC Civil Services 2019 exam (Raj K Raj/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

A lot of UPSC aspirants are flabbergasted by the sheer size of the syllabus. The different subjects, prelims preparation, Mains preparation, as well as daily current affairs, seem too much to handle at the same time.

A serious challenge for the candidates in face of humongous syllabus is how to make proper notes so as not only memorise the content but also have something for revision. Students also feel if they make notes of everything, there simply would be no time to cover the whole syllabus!

Just like there needs to be a strategy for time management, syllabus coverage, there also needs to be a notes-making strategy of the students. The whole preparation can be divided into two groups:

Compulsory notes-making: The students should compulsorily make notes of the static subjects. (History, Geography, Art and Culture are predominantly static subjects. They require a thorough understanding and revision of the material). These should include NCERTs and class notes (if you have joined any classes). If it is one of those bought-out class notes, you can skip detailed notes making, but it is still advisable to make short notes of the material that you can revise later on.

Optional notes-making: The material that is available in already concise form, and has to be read daily, say daily current affairs summaries and quizzes that different websites provide don’t require to be made into notes. Candidates should practice reading them with concentration and revising them once in their own heads.


While making notes, in order to save time, students should focus on writing keywords of the topic, instead of long sentences. The students also focus on sequence- organising a topic in the one would write an answer on that topic.

Using Technology for time-saving:

Candidates can use e-documents for easy and organised notes-making. A great advantage of electronic medium is that you can have a contents page, search the relevant topic easily and append new material on the topic at the same place. Electronic notes can be divided into categories- Paper I, II, III, IV or subject wise. A file for quotes and sayings can be prepared for Essay paper.

Candidates can also have their own current affairs notes- making them as a word-file would be convenient as well as time-saving.

A lot of students wonder whether electronic notes-making is as good as hand-written notes. It doesn’t matter as long as the notes are written in your own words and not a mere copy-paste of the book/newspaper you are reading. They should be made after finishing the reading, not looking at the material. The candidate can make notes, write keywords on the side, and then should take a cursory look at the source to ensure he/she didn’t forget anything.

However, Mains preparation should involve as much handwriting as possible to prepare for the long written test.

One should also remember that notes-making and revision go hand-in-hand. While it’s true that notes-making helps in memorising, it is only by revision that the material is thoroughly understood and ‘absorbed’.

Also read: How IAS Aspirants Can Crack UPSC Civil Services 2019 Using Crucial Months Between June And October

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