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How to Prepare for Current Affairs in UPSC Civil Services Exam- By Anudeep Durishetty, Rank – 1 CSE-201

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How to Prepare for Current Affairs in UPSC Civil Services Exam

By Anudeep Durishetty, Rank – 1 CSE-2017

 

Note: For the benefit of UPSC aspirants, I am working on a detailed guide book on how to write powerful Essays and compelling answers in the UPSC exam. Subscribe to my blog to hear first when the book launches.

 

In the past one year, thousands of aspirants emailed me with their UPSC exam queries. One topic that constantly featured in majority of them is Current Affairs. Though I tried my best to reply to those emails individually, the volume of mail on current affairs never abated. So I thought a detailed blog post on it would be ideal so that everyone can read and get their doubts clarified.

As I mentioned in my posts on Essay and GS, there’s no one best way to prepare for this exam. The rest of the post merely reflect my learnings; you must pick and choose what you feel is right and what you are convinced about. For instance: I read everyday newspaper meticulously, but I never made any hand-written notes from it because I felt it was a colossal waste of precious time. I found a better alternative in making notes online (more on this later). But if you are used to making effective hand-written notes from newspapers in limited time, don’t change it for the sake of it.

In this post, I list out 5 principles that helped me cover news comprehensively and could score well in GS-1 (123), GS-2 (123), and GS-3 (136).

 

Principle 1: Limit your sources

A fundamental problem with Current affairs is the deluge of reading material. In my earlier attempts, I used to buy current affairs material out of whim, in the delusional hope that more material meant more marks. My room used to be filled with CSR, Pratiyogita Darpan, EPW, Chronicle, Yojana and every random magazine you can name of. I’d buy them out of excitement, keep them safely on my desk, never to reopen again for lack of time. I learned the hard way that running after too much material is counter-productive. Choose quality over quantity.

 

“A wealth of information leads to a poverty of attention” — Herbert Simon

My Current Affair sources:

  • The Hindu (One English Daily)
  • IE Explained section on website (for comprehensive understanding of an issue)
  • One daily compilation (Choose any among Insights/ IAS Baba/ Forum/ Vision/ CivilsDaily etc.)
  • One monthly compilation
  • All India Radio— Spotlight/Discussion
  • Misc (RSTV’s Big Picture, India’s World, and PRS India)
  • Internet

Some aspirants spend an indefinite amount of time researching the “best website” and the ‘best coaching material’ website for current affairs and  invest less time actually reading it.  Others have this perfectionist mindset that forces them to make copious notes and compilations from tons of material available in the market. Desist from this. Do your research for a day, decide on your sources, and stick with it. You’ll do just fine.

 

Principle 2: Limit your time

The problem with most aspirants is not that they neglect newspapers, but they overplay its importance. Some read newspapers for almost 3-4 hours a day, leaving them with no time to read other subjects.

Current affairs are important, newspapers are important, but not so much that you invest disproportionate amount of time in it. In my experience, ideally one should finish reading day’s current affairs under 2 hours. 3-4 hours for everyday current affairs is an overkill.

My current affairs preparation consisted of

  • Newspaper reading (30-45 min, no note making)— everyday
  • Online reading of the daily news compilation (choose any institute material for this)— everyday (45 min, highlighting and capturing the material on Evernote)
  • A revision of last week’s issues, catching up on All India Radio (selectively), and internet research on selective issues — weekends
  • Referring to a monthly compilation (choose any institute material for this) — at the end of the month.

 

Principle 3: Focus on issues, not news

 

What’s the difference? News talks about an incident. Issues focus on ideas. Let me give you a couple of examples.

  1. Prime Minister talking about $5 trillion economy is news. Merely focusing on the speech or what’s reported in the newspapers isn’t enough. You must research and understand the larger issue: Why the number 5 trillion? What sectors to focus on and what steps should the government take? How should we rapidly increase the pace of investment? What are the impediments facing the economy? How can we overcome them to realise the 5 trillion goal by 2024? etc.
  2. The International Court of Justice’s (ICJ) verdict on Kulbhushan Jadhav is news. But the larger issue is about bilateral relations between India and Pakistan, ICJ— its structure and mandate, who are its subjects, how are cases referred to the court, India’s role in global fora etc.,

So to understand any current issue, I used to follow the following framework:

  • Reason— Why is it in the news? (This is usually reported in the newspapers)
  • Background Knowledge— (Data, facts, authentic reports etc.)
  • Current Status— What has the government done or not done so far?
  • Both sides of the issue— Pros and Cons/ Opportunities and challenges
  • Opinion/ Suggestions/ Way forward— What we must do about it?

Many a time, coaching material covers issues comprehensively. If it doesn’t, use the internet to find quality content and make online notes so that you have complete understanding of each issue.

 

Principle 4: Learn to make notes online

I never made any hand-written notes for current affairs. Making them online saved me a lot of time. I used to read the papers, and then utilised Evernote to capture and highlight the daily news compilations put out by coaching institutes (choose any one.)

But then, a follow up question is frequently asked. Can I skip newspaper altogether and just read these compilations? I wouldn’t suggest it because:

  • Reading newspaper gives a good summary of what’s happening, and it becomes that much easier to read the daily compilation later. Since you read it twice, you tend to retain it longer.
  • Presumably, examiner will set current affairs questions from the newspapers. So recurring issues in newspapers will tell us how weighty an issue is and what we must focus on.
  • Anecdotes and examples for essay, ethics and interview can be sourced only from reading the newspaper.
  • Consistent reading of an English daily subconsciously improves your vocabulary and writing.

 

Besides, download Evernote Web Clipper extension from the Chrome webstore. This tool is incredibly useful in clipping online articles, highlight them on the spot and organise neatly into your Evernote. This is how my Evernote collection looked: Screenshot

 

Principle 5: Read. Revise. Execute.

The aforementioned methods will ensure that you capture 90-95% of current affairs in a manner relevant to this exam. But current affairs is a continuous topic that keeps piling up by the day. The best way to retain the content is through constant revision and by executing them in the answers you write during daily practice or test series. Just mentioning the relevant issue in a sentence or two will add tremendous value to your answers.

Besides, it’s best to revise current affairs immediately after you read the concerned static part of a paper. For example, if you are preparing for a GS-2 mock test, right after you finish the static part, revise that relevant current affairs segment. This will help you subconsciously link the static and the current and helps you write a good answer when you take the test.

Even after reading and revising, you may not be able to recollect all current affairs material in the exam hall. That’s okay. No one really can. Like perfect notes, perfect answers are a myth. You job must be to write the best answer you can in the limited time you have. Trust your instincts and have that unflinching self belief. You will outperform your own expectations.

Best wishes,

Anudeep.

 

Note: For the benefit of UPSC aspirants, I am working on a detailed guide book on how to write powerful Essays and compelling answers in the UPSC exam. Subscribe to my blog to hear first when the book launches.