Current affairs is not only the most dynamic subject in the UPSC syllabus, it is also increasingly becoming one of the most important. I’m sure most of you have seen the previous 2-3 years papers and gauged its significance. So how does one deal with a subject that is both vast and ever expanding?
I too grappled with this question while preparing for the exam but I did manage to find a way through the labyrinth and emerge with flying colors; in just a short span of 6 months that I had! Here, I share with you my strategy to tame the current affairs monster.
1. There is no Alternative to Reading the Newspaper
Don’t let any institute or anybody tell you otherwise! Reading the paper EVERYDAY is vital for your preparation. I read the papers every single day for the short time I had for my preparation.
Once I decided to appear for the exam, the first step I took was to subscribe to the Hindu and religiously devote two hours daily in reading it end to end. In my opinion, reading the paper yourself not only helps in better retention, it also ensures that you are preparing for the Mains simultaneously.
My habit of reading the papers was a great help not only in the Prelims but also during the answer writing in Mains. I would remember facts and figures from the news that I had read and used that in questions where I had little information to frame a proper answer.
Also the editorials were of great help in essay type questions. So my most important recommendation would be that you begin reading the paper from the day you decide to appear for the exam, and read it daily so as to not have backlogs.
2. How to Read is as Important as knowing What to Read
One has to be clear about their aim while reading the news. While you may know which piece of news is of importance, you must also be able to dissect the news to figure out the parts you need to retain. While I did read the papers earlier too, it was more of a leisurely activity and not an exercise.
For example if I was reading about a scheme, I did not bother about the Ministry that was implementing it or the number of districts it was to benefit etc. I would only be aware that such a scheme existed.
But once I began the prep and went through the previous year’s papers, I knew what exactly to look for in a piece of news. This know-how is an important aspect of reading the paper.
Aimlessly reading the entire paper is futile and will be counter-productive. So go through the previous year’s papers and understand the format of the questions, then read accordingly. Also, stick to the syllabus in front of you to avoid deviating and losing time.
3. Supplement with Current Affairs Magazines
I subscribed to PT 365, the monthly magazine by Vision IAS. Such magazines help you to cover any area or news that you might have skipped or missed. They are also helpful in giving you a context or background of the news article.
Also if you subscribe to a magazine, it eliminates the need to make notes on current affairs since most of it is covered by them. I made notes initially but then realized that the magazine had already taken care of that task for me. I did make notes after that but only as factsheets listing important schemes for quick revision during Mains.
4. Take Daily Tests/Quizzes
Taking an online quiz/test daily in the evening was another important part of my current affairs preparation. I’m glad I followed this ritual because it helped me consolidating and cementing all that I had read during the day. It ensured that I retained more and forgot less. There are ample daily tests available online that you can subscribe to.
5. Watch the News
I watched the news on most days during my preparation. Rajya Sabha TV was my favorite for its neutral and unbiased content. I made it a point to watch the debates on the program RS Vishesh. They helped me understand more things in lesser time and were a good source of information on burning issues. I used to watch TV during meals to save time.
6. The HINDU is tailor-made for UPSC
I would suggest reading at least two papers and personally, I read the Hindu and Indian Express (especially their Explained Section and Op-eds). Besides these two I also read relevant articles from The Post and other papers to get different perspectives.
But if you have to choose one, then go for the Hindu. It has various sections like history/environment/agriculture/science and tech etc., which form the basis of the kind of questions asked.
One thing to remember is that you do not need a separate paper for economics as UPSC does not economics in a great depth. You only need to have basic knowledge which is covered well in the business section of Hindu.
7. Group Studies are not a Great Idea for Current Affairs
I saw many of my friends forming study groups for current affairs. They divided the various sections of the newspaper amongst themselves and then discussed it together. But I feel this is best avoided.
Mainly because to study in a group one needs people of the same caliber and understanding, otherwise, there is a mismatch. Also, reading just one part of the paper is something I would not recommend.
However, my roommate and I did discuss the news at the end of the day just to get a different perspective and have a healthy informal discussion.
8. Keep a Note of the Cross – References
A lot of times you will come across static portions of your syllabus in the news. For example, the news of a bi-election or a recent countervailing duty imposed on a piece of import.
Most of the times it will be for subjects like polity and economics, so do keep an eye out for such news articles as they may be combined with a static concept and asked in the paper.
9. Read, Revise and Be Regular
Give current affairs its due importance as it now forms a major portion of the paper. So keep abreast with this changing trend and devote sufficient time to it. While it is neither advisable nor possible to study each subject every day, current affairs is an exception.
The only way to ace it is to follow the news, not have backlogs and take revision tests. Don’t get bogged down by the amount of time it takes to religiously read the paper. It would take me 2-2.5 hours initially but gradually I was able to bring it down to 1 hour during the Mains and 45 minutes during the interview preparation period.
As you keep reading, you will realize that a lot of news is just a follow-up of the pre-existing one. So it will take you lesser time once you become regular at it.
At UPSC Pathshala, we prepare you for current affairs through fun and engaging video lectures. The course is packed with current affairs videos (Approximately 150 hours), which are made on a regular basis by our faculty members. You just need to watch the videos and make your notes. This is by far the most effective way to prepare for current affairs.
This article is based on the Interview Mayur Kathawate IAS Topper 2017 (AIR 96) had with UPSC Pathshala