Making notes from “The Hindu” – My way

I’m a working aspirant. So, I grab what ever time I get like 10-15 mins here and there to read The Hindu daily newspaper online from this link Today’s Paper . Previously I subscribed to online e-paper edition and read it for few months. Comparing both, I felt the online edition reading has below advantages.

1. Today’s paper section is cumulative collection of all the editions of ‘The Hindu’ which means we don’t miss any article which appeared in any of the city editions (As you know different city had different editions and some time the articles published vary).

2. I prefer making online notes and once we read the article, we can save the link next to the points we make for future reference/revision which was not possible with e-paper edition.

Coming to making notes, first and foremost we need to by-heart the Syllabus given by UPSC. I also gave tags to each section in the syllabus. This helps us classify news articles into various sections of syllabus and also will help us while doing paper wise revision in future. We also need to go through previous 3-4 years question papers and see what kind of questions UPSC is asking. That will really help us in selecting the articles for reading news and making notes.

One more thing which I do is when I come across new abbreviations in news articles, I Google it and read about it and also save the link along with that news article. Now that I have a rough idea of the kind of questions UPSC has been asking, I try to frame one or two relevant questions for myself and Google them. This way we will find new and relevant articles from internet other than what we read from the newspaper.

Sometimes, news article content may not be important but the concept. For example: In any news article related to Israel and Gaza, content may not be that important but the questions we frame for ourselves like “How does this Israel-Palestine war impact us?” or “Bilateral ties between India-Israel” etc will be important since as we know UPSC mostly tries to frame questions from Current Affairs.

To do a selective study of news article as I said, we need to be thorough with our syllabus first and then automatically as soon as you see a news article our mind will internally identify the article related to so and so part of syllabus. This mapping is very important which comes automatically within few weeks of reading newspaper regularly.

Finally, Over the weekend, I try to once again go through the whole week’s news articles one by one and select few articles to make a detailed study (from Google, Wiki) and add more points to my notes. This will act as a revision as well as detailed study of important articles. I feel this exercise is very important to have a good grip of what we read on weekdays.

Software tools I use:

1. Google docs – Daily I make notes online so that I can access the same at home also.

2. One Note – Weekend I copy the notes from Google docs into daily page of One note(for eg: I make a page for each day with name ‘1st August 2014’) as we can organize it better here and also search for the tags easily. This will be very helpful during revision as you classify all the similar articles and read.

I designed this way of reading and making notes myself which is suitable to my styles of reading and comfort and also gives me a sense of satisfaction. This way may not be directly suitable to others. So, I suggest that you try different ways for few days and make your own way of reading and making notes which suits your style. Ultimately your comfort and sense of satisfaction is what is most important for smooth preparation 🙂

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Newspaper “The Hindu” reading – My way

‘The Hindu’ newspaper is considered as a bible when it comes to Civil Services preparation and it is one of the most preferred news paper. So, everyone’s first and foremost step for Civils preparation would be to read ‘The Hindu’ news paper religiously. You can take this part of preparation as concrete basement pillars for constructing a house.

Before starting I have gone through many websites and read few strategies of reading it and making notes. I also went through several questions asked by beginners on it. The primary concern for the beginners was “Reading The Hindu and making notes is eating up lot of time” and saw few expert’s suggestions where they suggested few easy ways to cover in lesser time.

But, when it came to me, may be it’s my mentality, those quick reading solutions seemed to leave a feeling that I’m missing something or rather missing to grasp something or everything fully.

So, after following few different methods of reading ‘The Hindu’, I arrived at a final solution to put an end to the question “How to cover ‘The Hindu’ in lesser time” and the solution was simple. I will better describe it as a small timeline below.

Week 1:

Started reading The Hindu for the first time. Took almost 5 to 5 1/2 hours.

  • Many topics were like bouncers flying over my head.
  • Hardly understood the Editorials.
  • Had to refer Dictionary for many words.
  • Sometimes had difficulty understanding few sentences. Had to read 3-4 times to really get the meaning.
  • Taking down notes was still not part of the process.

Week 2:

This is where I browsed for few strategies to read the new paper faster and tried few different things. Realized I need to improve on speed so started reading faster just for the sake of improving on time. Took about 4-5 hours.

  • Few topics still were like bouncers.
  • This time I was at least familiar with terminology, names, abbreviations but almost completely forget the next day.
  • Still was referring to dictionary.
  • Now editorials seemed familiar topics because I realized that at least one out of two was from recent news.
  • Started making notes by simply copying the news article links and few other relevant links.

Week 3:

Wait a min. From last week on wards my target was to complete reading ‘The Hindu’ faster. So, in the process of reading fast, I ignored the very basic thing, that was understanding completely what I read. It was like my target was to complete asap rather than understanding. I hardly remembered anything from previous week. This was kind of scary. I know we need to revise to remember what we read. That doesn’t mean we need to go through the entire article for revision but that is what is going to happen if I continue like this. So, I planned to tweak my strategy and concentrate more on basic i.e. understanding the news article completely no matter how much time it takes and browsing for information and previous articles if needed. So, here is how it went.

  • Very few topics were like bouncers. At least I used to get an idea which section of syllabus it belongs to.
  • Started remembering few names, abbreviations. Recollecting capability improved.
  • This is the point where I understood that dictionary reference is part of reading and our aim need not be to avoid it but to reduce the usage.
  • Editorials were more intelligible. Even if I didn’t understand it completely I used to refer to old news articles related to that editorial and then understand them fully.
  • Notes making has improved. Started referring several other materials, websites online and collected some good information related to each news which I felt was important.

Now, here is a catch. According to my new plan above, this week I started browsing for more information and started reading old news articles to understand the news completely and kept on collecting information for notes until I was completely satisfied. This whole exercise obviously took more time and believe me the reading time shot to 6+ hours.

Week 4:

Though it was taking 6+ hours, I went on – followed this strategy. Slowly and steadily, I started improving on all the 5 aspects mentioned above and you know what, I started reading faster, started understanding the news better, also had to refer comparatively lesser additional news articles and information to understand the news better. Obviously the reading time was reducing. In next 10 days with this same preparation I reduced 1 hour of my time and kept reducing even further day by day. I started improving on the notes taking part as well and each small improvement contributed to my reduction in time.

And here are few important point that I understood from this exercise of mine. I cannot guarantee if it works for everyone but may work for few who have my style of reading (I mentioned my style of reading in previous post http://wp.me/p463Xw-f) .

  1. Initially, please don’t reduce or follow any strategy to reduce the new paper reading time just for the sake of reading faster.
  2. Concentrate on understanding the articles better. Our aim should always be to fully understand articles rather than cutting the time.
  3. There  may be experts who say “I read new paper in 1 hour”. Don’t panic! This is Rome was not built in 1 day kind of stuff. We need to understand that it takes time initially and gradually reduces.
  4. We should not compromise on Quality reading for the sake of saving time (Quantity). This way we will remember better. Understanding should be our Primary goal and reducing reading time should be Secondary.

Finally, to Summarize the moral.

“Let the newspaper reading time reduce by itself. Do not force it”

I hope this articles helps or gives an idea about news paper reading for beginners.

Disclaimer: The timelines used above are not fully accurate and are designed only for better understanding. This may vary from person to person 🙂

Motivation and Strategy

Before starting anything professionally or personally, I have this habit of doing some research – not exactly research but to google – about it and go through information from experienced candidates. This is same like reading reviews before you buy an item online. Frankly speaking I would’ve gone through more than 50+ different blogs/videos related to this exam and did a thorough ‘so called’ research. I came across some very good blog posts and a big thanks to all those who have put some very good info in internet. I took a note of positives, negatives, different approaches, strategies from all those. Their success stories also motivated me a lot.

Now coming to me, right form my childhood I never used to like group studies. I cannot read for long hours. I generally like reading with many breaks and also like to switch between subjects because I get bored if I read the same subject for long time (except for the day before exam). Obviously this factor used to separate me from my group and for this reason I used to have my own study plan almost since 5th standard.

Also, what I understood from many toppers is that a good plan, approach or strategy of one person may not necessarily fit in well for the other. Because every individual is different and his capabilities are different. Certain factors like grasping power, memory power, preparation while working, unable to read continuously, Egineering background will play an important role while designing Strategy. Obviously all these factors will be rarely same for two individuals. My understanding is that strategy is mostly ‘one for one’ and not ‘one for many’.

So, considering the above, I have to say that designing my own plan for studying is the best approach. This whole exercise of mine before starting preparation was a good one and gave me a fair idea of what UPSC CSE is. It taught me below points which are important for my preparation.

  • Keeping UPSC CSE vast syllabus in mind, it is more important to know ‘What to read and What not to’
  • A bird in hand is better than two in the bush i.e. It is better to read a topic from one source rather than reading from many sources.

Soon, I am going to design my strategy and will post it.