Fortunately or unfortunately, truth stands that the UPSC syllabus is not for the faint of heart. It is comprehensive and difficult to study, but not impossible. With the right plan and method in place, you can give yourself one good year to successfully achieve your dream of becoming an IAS officer. In this article, we will understand why you must make notes in your IAS exam preparation, and also 11 sure-shot tips to make notes for IAS exams like a pro.

So, is note making actually useful?

Yes, it is. Absolutely.


Because of the following reasons:

  1. There is no other way but to make notes during your preparation.
  2. How else are you going to remember all that you have read so far? Surely, you didn’t think you could read the entire book over and over again, did you?
  3. Notes are like little textbooks, only smaller in volume and more precise.
  4. They are and should be your only tool for revision.
  5. It is any day convenient to pick up your notes, and re-read whatever is written in there.
  6. Do not even think about going through the same book/magazine/newspaper you’ve already read. It is nothing but a waste of time.

Now that we have established how useful notes can be, let us move on to the next important issue at hand :-

Tips to Make Notes for IAS Exams –How Can I Make Notes the Right Way?

This is easily the most common doubt by any IAS aspirant.

Everyone wants to make the perfect notes, but no one has a clue about how to start!

Before you set out to making notes, get these things cleared in your mind: –

  • Your notes are the summation of only the crucial parts of a topic.
  • Do not make the mistake of getting over-excited in the earlier stages and start making notes like a journal.
  • Learn to manage time while making notes.
  • If you are spending too much time making notes rather than on study and research, you are doing it wrong.
  • Make notes with the intention of using them as a tool for revision.
  • Revision means reading the important points again. So, make sure your notes are concise, crisp and clear.

Also Read: How to Make Notes for UPSC Preparation? UPSC Topper [AIR 77] Shares Secrets!

11 Useful Tips to Make Notes for IAS Exams:

1. Choose The Right Pattern To Make Notes

Making notes can be tedious, and searching around frantically in your notes for xyz topic can be crazier. Good notes are organized impeccably.

The best thing to do is always maintain notes as per your syllabus. This means that you must maintain notes exam-wise, and then further divide it into papers, sub-papers and finally into individual subjects.

This way, you wouldn’t have to sweat around trying to find Polity notes for your mains’ GS paper (pun intended!)

2. You Can Keep A Big Register

You will be making notes for all your subjects. You will also need notes for The Hindu, magazines and crucial information you read on the Internet.

Choose the right tool to get started.

You can buy yourself a big register and divide it into sections.

Let’s say, if your register is for Mains. Divide the register into GS1, GS2, GS3, GS4, OPTIONAL Paper 1, OPTIONAL paper 2. Finally break these sections into smaller sections subject wise.

3. You Can Maintain Different Folders

You can also opt for this method. Instead of maintaining one chunky register, you can keep separate folders for different papers.

Make sure that you buy huge files with claw clasps. This will ensure that you don’t lose any sheets.

Here you can write on loose pre-punched sheets of paper, and arrange them accordingly. Loose sheets make it easier for you to add on to your topics at a later date.

You must make it a point to label and number your sheets accordingly to keep track of all the pages.

4. You Can Make Soft Notes

The best software to make great notes is either Evernote or Microsoft OneNote.  Digital notes are great as they tackle the issues of back-up, editing, organizing, easy find and replace, convenience effortlessly.

5. You Must Read Your Book First

Again, do not attempt to make notes the first time you are reading a book. Our experts strongly suggest reading your reference book as a novel first and comprehending the information provided.

Now that you know what lies inside the book, you can start making notes while taking on the topics sequentially.

6. Your Notes Are Good only If They Answer The 5w1h

Who, what, when, where, why and how; these are the primary parameters for your note making. Once you target this, move on to examples, merits, demerits, data, schemes, and other highly relevant information.


For bilateral relations between India and the USA, make notes that answer the following questions:

  • The history of relations between India and the USA

(This should include major dates and the respective events)

  • Why is India important for the United States of America?

Include short bullets of the following:

  • geographical importance
  • defence
  • terrorism
  • education
  • service sector
  • international diplomacy etc.

7. You Must Choose The Right Source

Once you have spotted an important topic in a book/magazine/newspaper, look it up on Google.

Try and understand the topic. Make notes starting with a short summary of the definition, followed by relevant current issues.

8. You Must Make Notes In Your Words

There is no point in noting down sentences from your reference source, or even copy/pasting them in case you are making digital notes.

Your notes are you go-to revision tools. It must always be in your choice of words, written out of your comprehension of a topic at hand.

This will also help you a great deal in understanding your concepts better. Not to forget developing smart writing skills and an increased vocabulary.

9. Apply The 20 % Rule

If  you are on a lengthy topic, try to understand the topic thoroughly first and then compress it into approximately 20% of its actual size. Making micro-notes can be difficult at first, but you will get used to it with daily practice.

Pick out key phrases, notable authority, and date etc. out of the information to make it recall-worthy at a later date.

10. Draw It Down

Instead of putting down words in sentences, you can map it out into a smart diagram.

11. You Must Avoid Over Analysis And Information Overload

I hope these 11 tips will help you greatly when preparing notes for your IAS examination. Just like everything else, note making too takes practice. You can always get help from a good mentor who can assess the quality of your notes for you.

Learn the Art of Note-Making from UPSC 2017 Topper [AIR 77]

A few weeks back, UPSC Pathshala toosk an interview of AIR 77 Himanshu Kaushik. To help fellow UPSC aspirants, Himanshu shared a few of his tips that helped him with his preparation. He also shared PDFs of his notes so that you can download the UPSC Topper Revision Notes too!

As we have established until now, UPSC Preparation comes with an unsaid and unspoken rule of making effective notes for all the subjects. Hope this article has helped you with these very important Tips to Make Notes for IAS Exams.

Good Luck!

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About the Author

Greeta Sulochana

Greeta Sulochana is a content evangelist with a flair for compelling creative writing. She has penned down her thoughts in poetry and prose since the past five years, and has catered her skills to the Indian and international audiences. She started out as an advertising intern with Grey worldwide, and is now a full-fledged writer in passion and profession, who has worked for major national brands.

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