Tips & Strategy

Making Notes For UPSC IAS Exam

Learn to make short notes during UPSC preparation, especially in the context of Civil services main examination.

The IAS Civil Services main exam consists of the descriptive type of questions. It is mainly about testing the candidate’s analytical, critical, and communicative abilities. The most important thing to be kept in mind is the time constraint. Therefore candidates have to answer the questions quickly and effectively and in minimum words.

How to Make Notes for UPSC?

It is very important to learn to make short notes during UPSC preparation, especially in the context of the Civil Service Mains examination. One cannot hope to gain success in the Main examination without intensive study and without preparing their own notes and revising them regularly.

The IAS main examination demands the candidate to think with conceptual clarity and organizes their view, perception, thoughts in a flawless manner. Such kind of conceptual clarity and organization can be gained only through regular writing practice. The short note making is one of the best ways to achieve it.

The important thing about taking notes from books is your understanding of the material, so it is essential to write down what you understand in your own words. Re-writing the information from the source does not help you in the examination.

Candidate should be thorough with the syllabus and do make the study plan accordingly. Along with this one has to prepare short notes on the topic to wise using your pragmatic mind, prudence and with the flavour of common sense. All you need to do is read the topics, find the previous year questions from that specific area and accordingly make the notes. Before preparing the notes you should be familiar with the authentic books related to the topic. Reading an authentic book does not mean you need to extract the whole essence of the book. Pick out the relevant information needed for UPSC examination with the help of syllabus.

Jot down and highlight the most important point while preparing the short notes. The different question needs different perceptions. Here we bring you some easy steps which will help you develop effective note-making skills.

First, you need to take care of practical matters, develop some general strategies, and decide what to jot down, structure your notes, make use of common abbreviations and then develop your own ways of speeding things up.

How to Make Notes for IAS?


  • A4 spiral exercise book with separators for different subjects.
  • Use a pen and colour highlighter.
  • Don’t Record every line.
  • To differentiate between the major and minor points, use capital letters, boxes, asterisks, underlining and highlighting.
  • Don’t write complete sentences, streamline with abbreviations and symbols, organize – leave out the small connecting words.
  • Link your notes to your syllabus
  • Revise your notes regularly
  • Paste sticky note to add recent updates.

Guidelines for structure

  • What- When-Why-How- Current relevance- Final comments
  • Follow personal abbreviation system and form your own short forms for common, frequently-used words.
  • Jot down the previous year UPSC mains questions related to it.
  • Do include the arrow to denote increase and decrease.
  • A structure of main points and supporting information or facts.

For example:

  • Major Heading
    • Subheading 1
      • Details
    • Subheading 2
      • Details
    • Major heading

What to take down

  • Principles, Concept and theories
  • Key highlights
  • Examples and real-life illustrations
  • Simple diagrams and charts
  • Timelines and any new words
  • All quotations, definitions, and summaries

Helpful abbreviations:

Symbol Meaning
& and
+ in addition to
= is equal to
is not the same as
leads to
w/ with
e.g. for example
etc. and the rest
NB important
no. Number

There are different methods of making notes. Candidate should decide which method suits you the best. The two types are linear notes and the branching notes.

Mind maps or spidergrams are examples of branching notes. In branching notes, the topic should be written in the centre of the page or top of the page, with the different topics of the topic should be branching out. This will help the candidates to widen the perspective and jot down the point considering all spheres. Candidate can you these type of notes for geography, science etc. This method helps to focus on the key issues and acts as a summary which is handy for revision.

Linear note-taking is the typical outline format. It is a style of writing down information in the order in which you receive it. It follows the order of the points made. This is the most commonly used method of taking notes. This method is very flexible. For making linear notes, use a wide margin, further you can add recent updates in that and keep the notes dynamic. These can be done Reading, Listening to a lecture, Class discussions, and Organizing thoughts.

For example for linear notes

Topic 1:……………………………….

  • Key points

Topic 1:……………………………….

  • Key points

Conclusion of How to Prepare Notes for UPSC

After making notes, critically review your notes and do a regular revision. This is an essential initial step to help you get an overview of the topic and decide whether it is relevant. This process is not a time consuming one. Scan through the main contents, reasons, key features, advantages, disadvantage, impact on different spheres, pros and cons etc. Briefly examine any lists of key points, dates or events. This technique will save you time and allow you to discard any texts that are not relevant.

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