I consider this as a skill which lot of aspirant doesn’t give much thought to. Usually what happens is that as soon as one start preparation, they start making notes in some manner – either jotting down important points in a copy, or scribbling in the book or highlighting it. And as they progress, they are stuck in that particular manner of making notes since one has already invested some time in
In my humble opinion and experience of last 4 years, you need to be constantly on your toes to improve your efficiency in notes making.
There are certain priorities that one should keep in mind
1> Notes should be comprehensive in a way that you don’t need to refer to other sources while revising or in subsequent attempts
2> Try to combine materail from different sources/books/coachings at one place for each topic. Otherwise you’ll be overwhelmed before final exam. For example if you have basic notes on SHGs from M Puri sir’s classes then keep on adding to them from current affairs for any SHG related news.
3> For certain books especially Lakshmikant for Polity, Spectrum for History etc- it is impossible to make notes. Don’t try to do that.
My strategy for making notes
I had both online and offline notes for each topic. This was because I felt that it would consume lot of my time to convert all offline notes to online.
For online notes, I used evernote. It is easy to use and dedicated to note making.
- At the top level I created a stack for UPSC..
- Under 4 different notebooks for GS1-4. They contained notes for each topic in syllabus
- Notebooks for different subjects – Culture, History, Geography, Society, Economics, Polity etc. These notebooks contained notes for topics which weren’t directly part of syllabus or demanded separate notes
- Tags like gs1-4, essay for overlapping topics like Governance (GS2, GS4), Corruption, Poverty etc
- Evernote provides a functionality to create table of content based on a list of notes – so you can use that
- Collection of Datapoints, Quotes, Anecdotes
I use to copy whatever I found useful from online sources to my main notes. Also for all the tests (both prelims and mains) I use to gather solution PDFs so as to copy important content from there to my notes. Later I created Revision notes for each subject so that it becomes easy to revise just before exam.
Ultimately my goal was that before the exam I should not be having 500-700 pages to revise. It becomes overwhelming when you have to revise all of it in 1 day.