HOW TO MAKE EFFECTIVE NOTES
• By Neeraj Kansal, Director crackIAS.com
Notes making is an essential component of the civil services examination. However, making right kind of notes is an art. If you know this art, you will know how lengthy & of what content, you should make notes. Over the period of almost 25 years as a student earlier and then as a teacher, I have learnt the way of making effective notes, which I thought I must share with you.
There are 2 aspects involved in making notes – 1) the adequate length to which a topic should be covered so that you can attempt any question; and 2) what type of content of a topic is relevant for coving in notes. You know, if you type any damn topic on Google, it will search thousands of pages of that topic. Does that mean that we need to read all these pages?
“What type of content” that you need to cover comes from the requirements of your exam (in our case, UPSC). The requirements of an exam can be learnt for a topic from its syllabus and previous year questions from that topic. These will help you avoid accumulating useless content in Notes.
If you have analysed the PYQs well, you will notice that every question has a keyword like Discuss, Analyse, Critically Analyse, Explain etc. Every keyword has its own meaning and depth. Further, the question generally has many sub-parts. Let us understand this with one example, in a question like –
“Critically analyse the problems associated with urban mobility sector in India.”
We need to break the question into sub-parts like
Critically analyse the issues associated with urban mobility sector in India. (200 Words)
Now, we need to see what critically analyse means. Critically analyse is the highest level of question that can be asked in UPSC. In such questions, you must write like a judge. Both, explanation (in favour – why & how), and its critique (why not & how not) are equally emphasised. Your opinion is also required.
Now in this question, you need to write many different angles on urban mobility sector. If you know just 5 points in favour, 5 against, and 5 as suggestions; your job is done. If we consider that every question in the next exam will be of this difficulty level; even then, you do not need more than 5 points on any aspect of the topic. It means that as far as any topic is concerned, you just need to prepare 5 points each for various aspects of a topic. You can View list of keywords & what they mean, and Access to UPSC PYQs and Syllabus at the end of this article.
Now, how to make notes
You must have seen people or even you may be preparing notes using the following process –
Normal way of making notes
Read a book → make concise notes from it → read another book/ notes → enrich earlier notes → so on
However, the problem in this method is that your focus is on book, not on what was needed to be read. You are just concising a book, irrespective of whether it is required from examination point of view or not.
A better and directed way of notes making is as follows. It will restrict you from collecting unneeded data –
Take an A4 size page
(Assign 1 page per topic – you will have 358 pages for 358 topics of UPSC. There may be very few topics that will need more than 1 page)
Fold this paper into two halves vertically
Now you have 4 pages in a single sheet (1/2/3/4)
On page 1, write topic name. Use page 1 and 2 for writing 5 points each against all the aspects (static portion) of that topic.
Use page 3 to write important current related developments from that topic.
Use page 4 to write important facts, good lines that you come across in newspapers, and some good diagram or value addition related to that topic. You must keep in mind that not every fact is important from exam point of view. Keep restraint in noting facts. Analysis of PYQs will develop your ability to know which an important fact is and which is not.
Using this method, when you know that you have only 1 sheet per topic, you will restrain to collect unnecessary info and will focus on important points only. Further, in this way, your notes will be crisp (not detailed), easy to remember and help in better time management. Don’t worry, in the exam, you will be easily able to expand the notes into full-fledged answers.
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