Effective Way of Making Notes for IAS Exam

You might have heard a hundred times about the importance of taking small or micro notes for the IAS exam. But how do you do it in a manner that the notes are concise, effective, readable in a short time, all at once. After all you will need to go through these small notes for IAS exam before the preliminary and/or the Mains in just a few days. Or even hours.

Make Separate Notes for Prelims and Mains

You should prepare separate notes for Prelims and Mains exam of UPSC. Why is it so? Because for Prelims you require extensive coverage of topics without going too much in details or facts and figures while for Mains you need selective but in-depth coverage of the chosen topics. In addition, the events for Mains need to be tracked and updated on continual basis while majority of the events for Prelims do not need to be updated continually.

What Should be Included in the Notes?

Quite frankly, you do not need to make notes for every single sub-topic given in the syllabus for every paper of the Prelims and Mains. Rather you should be selective in approach. Which are the important topics? Which information you would like to recollect easily during the exam (Prelims and Mains)? Which topic contains important facts and figures? Which topic is of current relevance and needs to be updated? Ask yourself these questions if in doubt over which topics to make notes for. The rule of thumb says you should prepare notes for current affairs related information for Prelims and the GS and optional papers of Mains exam.

How to Make Notes for UPSC

Step 1

The first step is to maintain a dedicated register, book or take down notes on flip cards if you are comfortable with this method.


Flip cards. Click to enlarge

[/one_half_first][one_half_last]What is a Flip Card?

Flip Cards or flash cards are papers where you can write information on both sides that you can quickly revise before exams. Flip cards are best used to make short and crisp notes for Prelims or Mains where the important points are jotted down along with the important facts and figures that you would like to remember at the time of attempting the Prelims and Mains papers.


Even if you make notes in a register please remember that your notes should be concise and precise (to the point) and should not be a copy of the book or newspaper or the printed notes from where you have sourced the information. This will help you to quickly revise the notes at the time of the Prelims and Mains papers. Also the shorter the notes the more number of revisions you can squeeze in just before the actual exams. And we all know the saying Practice makes a man perfect.

[thrive_text_block color=”note” headline=”Recommended Books for Prelims and Mains”]Get all the Recommended Books for Prelims and GS Mains Papers at one place. The most updated book list on the internet. [/thrive_text_block]

Step 2

Click to enlarge


In the next step, divide the pages of the register by months or topics. In a particular month you could write events topic wise on each page or you could divide the register topic wise, like some pages devoted exclusively for Economy, some for Sports etc. I prefer the first approach and will explain it with the help of the illustration alongside.

Notice that I have clubbed different events month-wise and have written the topic name before each entry for easy scannability. Also observe that each entry is just a few sentences long and it contains only the most relevant information from Prelims view point. Another important aspect of this notes making strategy is that I’ve included some background information to that immediate event as well.

That’s why in the Sports entry I’ve mentioned that India and Sri Lanka were both beaten by Australia in their previous finals. This is important as UPSC has a habit of asking questions concerning not just the immediate issue but some past events as well connected to the current event.

For this reason in the PSU entry, I’ve mentioned the names of other Maharatna PSUs as well so that I can easily recollect all the Maharatna PSUs while going through these micro notes for IAS exam. This is also a good way to prepare for current events and GK at the same time.

Some Points to Remember While Making Notes for UPSC Mains

  1. The example cited above is good for making notes for Prelims. While you can use flip cards and registers for making notes for making notes for Mains exam, while making the notes you should include the latest facts and figures which you can use while writing your answers. Answers backed by relevant facts and figures always help you score more marks in Mains than general answers, however well written.
  2. Always allocate more space or pages to important topics while making notes since new developments take place routinely and you will need to update your notes as per these developments. Example of such topics include Governor’s powers (what happened in Karnataka, Goa, north-eastern states recently), Indo-China border issue, simultaneous elections etc.

As mentioned above, whichever method you follow, the notes should make sense to you since you will use them for revision purpose before the exam. So prepare the notes in such a way that they provide the most important information at a glance.

Note: Also learn to Read the Newspaper for IAS

Recommended Books for IAS

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About the Author: IAS Kracker

IAS Kracker is your friend, mentor and guide to help you crack the IAS exam. We have been guiding hundreds of IAS Aspirants since 2009 to help realize their dream of cracking the IAS exam. Know more about us.


  1. hallo to everyone

    time witnessed different but experimenting approaches on my part of notes-making process.in a nut-shell i wish to share my modus-operandi since sep.2007 when i begin my preparation for CSE while doing my part -1 of undergraduation course. initially ,i was preparing for hindi-lit. and economics(it was also my subject of specialization at Bachelor degree level of my formal study) as my two optionals.since jan.2011 i have opted for Pub. Ad. & Psych. as my new optionals due to the good reson that i needed some refreshment.

    now i ought to enumerate about my notes making process. for my optionals i followed an objective way.it used to jot down my daily readings into my notebook in point wise form.that's it. for G.S. ,for conventional topics i didn't make any notes rather i used to underline the important statements and revise it whensoever i think it to do so( honestly speaking i hardly reveise it ever) .but today i came to know about the importance of revision work while considering the assignements of syllabai to be so voluminous. as far as current affairs was concerned i used to do exactly the same which has been said above.i used to note it in about 2 to 3 lines .i did it till P.T.2010 .

    Afterwards i resorted to some other way. i just dedicate to Pratiyogita Darpan,esp. current affairs section.once i gone through it ; for future refernce & and revision work ,i used to tear it from the main volume and file it properly.but my habit of underlining the main theme & statement has not been left ! also i am regular viewer of P.I.B.'s website and government of india's official website(very esp. the International section). hereon, i want to know that is it enough for the preparation of the paper-2 of G.S.,too ?my approach for GS preparation is just to create familiarity with the issues at hand with very slight retrospective touch. please reply……..

    1. Hello sir,

      I am new for this UPSC ,and i will choose public admin is the one opt and i am confused in choosing the another one. plz could u guide me which opt is best and easy for mains,while plz send me a copy of public admin notes(e-book) b'cos i dont have any books

  2. I am new for this UPSC and i am just start the prepretion. so plz send me a copy of GS and public admin notes(e-book) b’cos i dont have any books

  3. Hi sir,
    I wanted detailed note on subject selection for the upsc exam ….as well as the optional subjects available .
    Wud b waitin for ur rply .

  4. thanks. for such a wonderful and compact guidance. I am housewife and preparing for upsc 2013 prelims, it helped me in boosting my morale.i am always thinking that I am not standing in competition but now I am ready all to set the upsc exam

  5. one more thing sir. I have done degree in business administration and also two years of mass media course and now pursuing m.a along with upsc . I have selected political science and sociology as an optional. it is very difficult for me to seriously concentrate for long hours per day. how I schedule my time as a housewife and mother of five year old kid.nobody else to look after. very serious for becoming ias

  6. Respected, admin of iascracker.com, I HAVE two QUERIES REGARDING TEST SERIES OF PRELIMS
    2-how many times can I attempt a test??

    1. Hello Kishor,
      1. All tests are being converted to mobile-friendly format that can be attempted from any touch-screen smartphone. This conversion process will complete by April 15th ’14. Right now, about 12 tests have been converted to mobile frinedly format. Also, all new tests being added are mobile-friendly.

      2. Unlimited times. There’s no limit.

  7. your style of put the things are really very nice
    thanx for nice efforts
    for gs paper 1 what is right strategy for study ?


  8. Dear Sir,
    I am confused and unable to decide in making notes for my four Gs papers.I would like to get your advice,on which of the four Gs papers in mains(history,poitics,economics and ethics)should i make my own notes.Besides,I am already in making notes for the prelims especially current affairs and gk from the hindu.
    Thank you

  9. I can sense the desperation of the candidates from above comments. Few of them are quite genuine and few needs everything at their doorstep (send me the e-book and so on). I would like to make a suggestion here, you need to search internet or exploit it to the level that you shouldn’t be depended on other to get you the study material.

    There are many books priced at the lowest on this website. All you need to do is to pick up your card and order the books you like, everything is given in simple steps. Stop Begging and start preparing….Best of luck to all 🙂

  10. Sir there is no photo at ‘click to enlarge’. What to do??? I am following your suggestions to prepare for IAS and seems that they are the best out of all the websites, I have seen yet. So please help for note making. Thank you very much.

  11. Hello sir. I am in the second year of my mechanical engineering. Will it be possible for me to prepare for ias along with my engineering studies? I need your guidance.

  12. Hello Sir,

    I am very new to UPSC exams.So CAn you plase guide me from where and how to start preparation.
    I am also little bit confused for choosing optioanl subject.Kindly guide me appropieatly.

  13. hi..I am Priya…recently I completed my graduation in engineering..but my aim is to become a IAS officer.. recently I bought civil services book(McGraw hill publication) through online..but I don’t know ,how to prepare for this…how to make a notes for this…pls tell me to some tips…

  14. Good afternoon sir hai my name is Vijay chakravarty from Varanasi and I want to crack the uppcs prelims and mains exam so how can i get the success in the exam.

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