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How and When Do I Start Making Notes For The IAS Exam?

Guest Article

Vinay Nagaraju

This is a very interesting question we come across and people always have conflicting opinions about it. Some say, start it the first time you read. Some say, wait till about 2 weeks for the exam and some others say, don’t even bother making them, it is going to be very huge and becomes impossible to revise. But I think there is a far more important question you have to answer before getting into this.

  1. Why am I making the notes?

We generally get various answers here –

  • Because it has more points than the one given by the guide/teacher/professor
  • It gives me the calculating edge, more points means more marks
  • I like making notes. It is fun and writing makes me remember more stuff
  • It is the one stop answer for all the questions; I don’t have to keep flipping over more books.

I think all the answers above are extremely valid; I especially buy the one stop solution for all questions. But just for the sake of argument, let us say you make notes; the question is what it would have. Notes can never be bigger than your textbook; it can only be an addition in the set of points. There is no point in having notes which is twice as big as your textbook.


  1. When should I make notes?

I think this is a far more fulfilling question to ask. Some say right at the start, the very first time you are reading something. Let us try this premise, if you are reading for the first time, everything you come across is new and every idea seems like a great one. Eventually we end up having everything in the notes.

Is there a better way to handle this?

I believe so! Instead of writing everything down, why not try marking it? You can play with various colours if that interests you. Seriously! Don’t bother! Just mark it, may it be pen or pencil or even scratching, no one is going to check your books while they are evaluating!

I personally believe that notes should be made in the end and it should be as small as possible. Something you can refer to at the fag end and recollect. It should be a set of points, small cliff notes I would say so that it would help you recollect the ideas and get your faculties in order. The more you have piling with you in the end, the lesser probability of you revising it before the exam.

  1. What should go into the notes?

Anything that makes sense to you. The notes should not have the points just cos your friend feels great about it. It is about you using those points to make an answer. You can bring the same points in any answer as long as it makes sense. The exam gets very different from our degree papers where we already know the type of questions. This is more about relating wide arenas and making the answer sensible by correlating various viewpoints.

  1. Can I survive without making notes?

Of course you can, it is not about making notes for the sake of it. It is there just to make your life simpler. If it is draining too much of your energy, just chuck it. It doesn’t make sense. But I would still suggest making notes, the smaller – the better giving you the thoughts and perspective at the nth moment for the exams. Make sure you make notes from few standard books. It saves lot of time and energy.

  1. Should it be ruled or unruled paper?

Do you think anybody ever cares about the lines, colours and pens that we use? The utility of notes is mere recollection and simplification not of meticulous sophistication.

Thumb rules for making notes

  • Make it for the core subjects where breadth of the syllabus is clearly known.

  • Keep it extremely simple and organized, with points.

  • Refer as few books as possible.

  • Abbreviations are more than welcome in making notes.

  • Make sure it has points you want to remember, it is a choice and the important ones alone deserve to be a part of it.

  • Don’t go in for senior’s notes, those are the ones which will keep you off track. Maybe you can use it as a reference, don’t try to build over it since it is made for his/her convenience. A topper’s notes doesn’t ensure you a rank. Your own notes has a better chance of doing that

  • Don’t spend too much time or effort on it, it is supposed to simplify your life not complicate further.

  • Make a copy of it, you shouldn’t miss out on effort and end up with a repetition.

  • Make the notes at a time closer to your exams, you’d have had enough maturity on the subject by then and trivia will not be the biggest chunk of it, instead very solid points will make the headlines.

In the end I would say, make notes and KISS – Keep It Simple and Short!



Vinay Nagaraju