So some aspirants have asked me questions about how the newspaper is to be read. To someone that has been in the habit of reading, the question may seem a little odd. But I’m going to try my best to deal with the issue, in this post.
When to read the paper
First of all, the newspaper is meant to be read in the morning. You need to know of the events of the previous day right when you start a new day. For those who are not in the habit of reading the paper, it may seem a tedious and boring task initially but when you get used to it, it will become a part of your routine and will be like having breakfast in the morning. Do not accumulate newspapers from two or three days. That will just burden you unnecessarily and freak you out.
What to read, what to skip
Issues in the short term, like the Lalit Modi scandal or the Vyapam Scam, are news items that deserve only a cursory glance. These are only events and can at best be used as examples. No UPSC paper will contain questions asking you details about these issues.
Issues of long term importance, like the various Bills being considered by Parliament, civil war in West Asian countries, nuclear deal between Iran and the P5, the Indo-US Nuclear deal, RBI Monetary policy, are issues that are significant from a policy making perspective and therefore deserve close attention. Any news item or editorial regarding such issues must be your focus.
What to highlight in an article
Most of us find every line in an article important and end up highlighting the whole page. This is absolutely normal in the beginning since we don’t want to miss out on any crucial information. As a result we end up highlighting stuff that is subject to change in perhaps the span of a few days.
What should you do then? Simple. Cut out the whole article and paste it in your register where you maintain newspaper notes. Gradually when you start remembering finer details related to important issues, you will automatically stop highlighting them in every related article and you will finally mark/highlight only those points that you actually need help remembering. This is when you just jot down these ideas in the form of bullet points.
Look for the following things in an article:
- When did the issue originate?
- Who are the people/parties/countries involved?
- What are the benefits (in case of bilateral deals or agreements)?
- What are the problems/shortcomings/threats/negative impacts?
- What are the various perspectives on the issue, like socialist, market, normative, empirical, conservative or liberal (or in case of issues like war, country perspectives)?
- How can the problems or negative impacts be minimised?
- What are the implications for the future?
How many newspapers should I read?
I read only one newspaper and that was The Hindu. If you read this one properly you won’t need any other paper. Occasionally you can read editorials by some good authors like Pratap Bhanu Mehta or C. Rajamohan on the Indian Express website. But otherwise, one newspaper is just fine.
When should I start making notes? Wouldn’t I accumulate too much stuff if I make notes/cut out articles a year before I give the attempt?
Well of course you will accumulate a lot of stuff, may be too much stuff, if you start the previous year. But look at the upside; you will be in the habit of note making and filing, which will therefore be much faster for you closer to the exam. You will also have a personal reservoir of information and you will never have to look into any coaching class material for current affairs. So even if you are giving the attempt in 2016, start taking your newspaper seriously right away!
How can I improve my reading speed?
This is a question that some aspirants have asked me far too often. Habits cannot be acquired overnight. Nor can they be improved overnight. Therefore you must learn to be patient in general and be patient with your newspaper in particular. As you read more and more and with full focus, your speed will improve automatically. Practice makes one perfect, goes the proverb, and let me tell you it is almost accurate. As I have mentioned, as you begin to remember details of various issues, you will be able to just skim through the paper and pick out the important news items. So don’t worry about your reading speed.
Do I need newspaper reading classes?
Let me be very blunt here. If you can’t figure out what is important in the newspaper, how will you run the administration of the country? As I have mentioned in a previous post, please assess yourself objectively before you take the plunge into the black hole that is the Civil Services Exam. Once you have done this, strategise according to your needs, your strengths and your weaknesses. Therefore, if you find that you absolutely cannot deal with the newspaper on your own, then you may invest in some class, although I personally disapprove of such spoon feeding. Civil servants are expected to think for themselves and taking a class for everything just defeats that very principle.
It all boils down to having confidence in your own capability and that dear friends, is the most important thing to crack the exam. Without self confidence, no amount of preparation is going to be enough. That is not to say that only confidence and shoddy efforts will do the job. You need a balance of both. Let your confidence be based in the amount of hard work you put in. On this note I sign off today and on this same note I will come with a new post very soon. Cheers!
For further doubts, please feel free to write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.