Preparing for Current Affairs in UPSC Exam, Explained

By | July 20, 2019

Note: For the benefit of UPSC aspirants, I am working on a detailed guide book on how to write powerful Essays and compelling answers in the UPSC exam. Subscribe to this blog to download a free chapter and to hear first when the book launches.

In the past one year, thousands of aspirants emailed me with their UPSC exam queries. One topic that constantly featured in majority of them is Current Affairs. Though I tried my best to reply to those emails individually, the volume of mail on current affairs never abated. So I thought a detailed blog post on it would be ideal so that everyone can read and get their doubts clarified.

As I mentioned in my posts on Essay and GS, there’s no one best way to prepare for this exam. The rest of the post merely reflect my learnings; you must pick and choose what you feel is right and what you are convinced about. For instance: I read everyday newspaper meticulously, but I never made any hand-written notes from it because I felt it was a colossal waste of precious time. I found a better alternative in making notes online (more on this later). But if you are used to making effective hand-written notes from newspapers in limited time, don’t change it for the sake of it.

In this post, I list out 5 principles that helped me cover news comprehensively and could score well in GS-1 (123), GS-2 (123), and GS-3 (136). 

Principle 1: Limit your sources

A fundamental problem with Current affairs is the deluge of reading material. In my earlier attempts, I used to buy current affair material out of whim, in the delusional hope that more material meant more marks. My room used to be filled with CSR, Pratiyogita Darpan, EPW, Chronicle, Yojana and every random magazine you can name of. I’d buy them out of excitement, keep them safely on my desk, never to reopen again for lack of time. I learned the hard way that running after too much material is counter-productive. Choose quality over quantity.

“A wealth of information leads to a poverty of attention” — Herbert Simon

My Current Affair sources:

  The Hindu (One English Daily)
  IE Explained section on website (for comprehensive understanding of an issue)
  One daily compilation (Choose any among Insights/ IAS Baba/ Forum/ Vision/ Civils Daily etc.)
  One monthly compilation
  All India Radio— Spotlight/Discussion
  Misc (RSTV’s Big Picture, India’s World, and PRS India)

Some aspirants spend an indefinite amount of time researching about the “best website” and the ‘best coaching material’ website for current affairs and  invest less time actually reading it.  Others have this perfectionist mindset that forces them to make copious notes and compilations from tons of material available in the market. Desist from this. Do your research for a day, decide on your sources, and stick with it. You’ll do just fine.  

Principle 2: Limit your time

The problem with most aspirants is not that they neglect newspapers, but they overplay its importance. Some read newspapers for almost 3-4 hours a day, leaving them with no time to read other subjects. 

Current affairs are important, newspapers are important, but not so much that you invest disproportionate amount of time in it. In my experience, ideally one should finish reading day’s current affairs under 2 hours. 3-4 hours for everyday current affairs is an overkill. 

My current affairs preparation consisted of 

  Newspaper reading (30-45 min, no note making)— everyday
  Online reading of the daily news compilation (choose any institute material for this)— everyday (45 min, highlighting and capturing the material on Evernote)
  A revision of last week’s issues, catching up on All India Radio (selectively), and internet research on selective issues —  weekends
  Referring to a monthly compilation (choose any institute material for this) — at the end of the month.

Principle 3: Focus on issues, not news

What’s the difference? News talks about an incident. Issues focus on ideas. Let me give you a couple of examples. 

1.  Prime Minister talking about $5 trillion economy is news. Merely focusing on the speech or what’s reported in the newspapers isn’t enough. You must research and understand the larger issue: Why the number 5 trillion? What sectors to focus on and what steps should the government take? How should we rapidly increase the pace of investment? What are the impediments facing the economy? How can we overcome them to realise the 5 trillion goal by 2024? etc.
2.  International Court of Justice’s (ICJ) verdict on Kulbhushan Jadhav is news. But the larger issue is about bilateral relation between India and Pakistan, ICJ— its structure and mandate, who are its subjects, how are cases referred to the court, India’s role in global fora etc.,

So to understand any current issue, I used to follow the following framework:

  Reason— Why is it in news? (This is usually reported in the newspapers)
  Background Knowledge— (Data, facts, authentic reports etc.)
  Current Status— What has the government done or not done so far? 
  Both sides of the issue— Pros and Cons/ Opportunities and challenges 
  Opinion/ Suggestions/ Way forward— What we must do about it?

Many a time, coaching material covers issues comprehensively. If it doesn’t, use the internet to find quality content and make online notes so that you have complete understanding of each issue.

Principle 4: Learn to make notes online

I never made any hand-written notes for current affairs. Making them online saved me a lot of time. I used to read the papers, and then utilised Evernote to capture and highlight the daily news compilations put out by coaching institutes (choose any one.)

But then, a follow up question is frequently asked. Can I skip newspaper altogether and just read these compilations? I wouldn’t suggest it becasue:

  Reading newspaper gives a good summary of what’s happening, and it becomes that much easier to read the daily compilation later. Since you read it twice, you tend to retain it longer.
  Presumably, examiner will set current affairs questions from the newspapers. So recurring issues in newspapers will tell us how weighty an issue is and what we must focus on.
  Anecdotes and examples for essay, ethics and interview can be sourced only from reading the newspaper.
  Consistent reading of an English daily subconsciously improves your vocabulary and writing.  

Besides, download Evernote Web Clipper extension from the Chrome webstore. This tool is incredibly useful in clipping online articles, highlight them on the spot and organise neatly into your Evernote. How my Evernote collection looked: Screenshot

Principle 5: Read. Revise. Execute.

The aforementioned methods will ensure that you capture 90-95% of current affairs in a manner relevant to this exam. But current affairs is a continuous topic that keeps piling up by the day. The best way to retain the content is through constant revision and by executing them in the answers you write during daily practice or test series. Just mentioning the relevant issue in a sentence or two will add tremendous value to your answers.

Besides, it’s best to revise current affairs immediately after you read the concerned static part of a paper. For example, if you are preparing for a GS-2 mock test, right after you finish the static part, revise that relevant current affair segment. This will help you subconsciously link the static and the current and helps you write a good answer when you take the test. 

Even after reading and revising, you may not be able to recollect all current affair material in the exam hall. That’s okay. No one really can. Like perfect notes, perfect answers are a myth. You job must be to write the best answer you can in the limited time you have. Trust your instincts and have that unflinching self belief. You will outperform your own expectations. 

Best wishes,

Note: For the benefit of UPSC aspirants, I am working on a detailed guide book on how to write powerful Essays and compelling answers in the UPSC exam. Subscribe to this blog to download a free chapter and to hear first when the book launches.


55 thoughts on “Preparing for Current Affairs in UPSC Exam, Explained

  1. Hemima

    Sir i was really motivated by the way you keep on encouraging and inspiring me all the time. Thank you.

    1. Rituraj Ray

      Sir this helps us a lot thanks please give strategy for beginners who wants to prepare for upsc in 2-3 years later

  2. anjalik11

    Anudeep Sir …… Thank you more than words could say . I was eagerly waiting for this one post.
    You are My Mentor . The way You are continuously Encouraging, motivating & helping out all the aspirants , A mere Thank You word won’t gonaa be suffice ever !
    Forever Grateful to You Sir 🙏🏻

  3. anjalik11

    And YES, you are working on a Guiding book for the aspirants !
    This is something so important I was desperately waiting for so long !
    That Book by you, the moment it came , I’m gonaa have it first. I need this , it’s damn Important for me.
    My Mentor, you are An Inspiration 🙏🏻

  4. Abinash

    Sir please never stop writing irrespectiveof work loads … i really get inspired by your words…

  5. Saumya

    Most awaited post….. Thanku so much sir….. U r the best!!!!

  6. Sahiti G N

    Thankyou very much sir for your consideration. Its beneficial for us to follow ur guidance. Filled with gratitude😇

  7. Shivangi rai

    Big confusion has been cleared after reading this blog. Thank you sir. ❤

  8. Raja Singh

    Thanks a lot sir…..🙏🙏🙏 Sir aapko koti koti pranam….

  9. Bhavana

    Thank you is a very small word for the help and support you are givng 🙏Anudeep sir, waiting for your book.

  10. Jaishree vaish

    Sir this post is very useful. Thank you so much. One confusion ~ Did you search on any institution, provisions of laws,policies anything in detail which is in newspaper for PT, as many toppers suggest or had you completed by compilation only.?
    Because these things consume more time..

  11. Prateek

    Thanks sir. I just want to ask: how do u use AIR for catching up with issues?
    And what type of issues did you research on internet. Some examples will be sufficient to clear the doubt.

  12. Charan

    Thank you so much sir for the detailed write up on current affairs! This helps a lot. Could you also kindly tell us how many months of current affairs are required considering the recent trends of the exam?

  13. Sumantha

    Thank you for taking out your time to write this article.🙂

  14. Kaviya

    Thanks a ton for sharing valuable inputs with us sir! It helps a great deal in getting clarity & confidence! ☺
    Regarding current affairs, we often hear from toppers to read from PIB & PRS sites sir. Can you shed some light on this please?
    Please do write in detail also on Online Note Making of Current Affairs sir. Thank you in advance for that sir! ☺

  15. Ankur Goyal

    Sir, how to incorporate notes online for static part or those that we read from hard copy notes/ books.
    Or is it just that we should use evernote for current affairs only.
    Hope you reply 🙂

  16. Jagadeesh

    I have no words to say about sir…..
    But .. thank you so much sir🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏

  17. akash chavan

    thnk u so much sir….bt im little bit in dilemma sir..wheather to go with Ms word or evernote(bcoz im just started it with Ms word)…so plz reply sir…..

  18. Rahul Bakolia

    UPSC tum sb amiro ko liye hoti, hum jeso ke liye nhi hoti. Hum jeso ko koi coaching m ni aane deta. Everyone says UPSC is all about luck or any exam is all about luck. Yes luck metter we don’t have privilege that you have. We don’t have a separate room for studies our fathers monthly income is 3000 and in delhi room ka kiraya 8000.yes luck matter a lot. If you have money Log pujege apko, apki care krege but if you don’t have money then your own family members insult you. Yes UPSC is not for me. Despite scoring 280 marks in JEE Mains in 2017 without coaching I couldn’t join any NIT OR IIT. Yes because no one wants to pay. You guys are already lucky. Congratulations Mr. Anudeep.

    1. Tannu kumari

      Luck doesn’t matter , but hard work does . Please change your thoughts . UPSC is not only for the rich people . They are several poor students who have qualified UPSC . Congrats for getting such good marks in IIT JEE MAINS . I am sorry no one helped you . But if you have the confidence, zeal,passion, determination to become IAS you will definitely become . For example Anu mam (UPSC 2017 2nd topper) did preparation for UPSC in her maternal aunt’s village . I suggest you to follow a particular IAS officer’s strategy, Booklist . See the videos . Practice questions . Be confident. Stay positive . All the best .

  19. Khushboo Gupta

    Really liked this post Anudeep Sir. You have cleared many confusions again here. You are doing a very good job for us. thanks for keeping us motivated and inspiring.

  20. Aman sharma

    Thank…u so much sir for leaving this blog nd it’s solve many problems of Aspirants

  21. Shabbbi

    Plz someone clearify
    Do we have to revise from monthly compilations or highlighted daily CA saved in Evernote or both? For revision *

  22. Yash verma

    Tysm sir ,
    I’m very confused for this
    Sir apka blog bade muskil se mila jab kaniska sir share kiye

  23. Rathod Kuldeepsinh D

    Thanks a lot to both the toppers. To Anudeep sir for this awesome article and To Kanishak sir for devoting valuable time to share this article. Actually till now I was in immense dilemma thag what should I follow for CA bt this article has made my day.

  24. Ajay C

    I had watched your felicitation program where you had delivered a speech.
    Every time I read your blog I can literally listen you.
    It’s really appreciable that you are sharing all your knowledge specially your notes.Scanning huge number of papers and uploading it is not an easy task.
    Thanks for everything 🙏🏼
    If possible please write something on meditation(for how much you used to practice it,from where you learned,how much it benifitted you)

  25. Anu Sharma

    It’s really very helpful in preparation for UPSC. Thanks a lot.

  26. Adarsh

    Sir, kindly share your evernote notebook of current affairs. It’ll give us a deeper understanding of how the news can be organised.

  27. Rashmi Khantwal

    Thank you so much again and again because your guidance very helpful for every aspirants. Your writing skills……….you are a really great writer thank you so much…….

  28. Somani Acharya

    Hello Sir,
    hearty congratulations to you on your success. To be honest Sir i did never knew about your blog one of my friend suggested me to go through and it really did helped me a lot in selection of books as I’m a beginner persuing B.A. 1st year.
    But now I am confused in making notes or should I acquire knowledge as much as I can by going through books…? or Should I start making notes from the very beginning of the study ? Should I even make the notes of Current Affairs ?
    Please help me in this Sir I can’t go for coaching classes so notes becomes a imp part for me.

  29. Abhi

    Sir is it necessary to go to delhi for coaching
    I’m confused about it because many are suggesting but some of the rankers are suggesting it as an optional one

  30. Rickta Roy

    Hi sir, as now I’m a college student,I’m not able to spent much time in reading news papers due to the semester exam pressures n it okay to follow “current”,a monthly journal,as a substitution of daily news papers?

  31. Pooja Agrawal

    No Substitute of you Anudeep sir , thankxx a ton.You alwayz Inspired me by your words n calmness. Great Respect to You from heart. I wish to meet you Once.

  32. Ritish

    Hello sir, would you advise joining forum ias mains test series for mains 2020 right now ?

  33. Dharmaprakash

    Sir can u plz tell me how to manage a time for all general studies paper daily..

  34. Chandramauli pati tripathi

    You r the humblest person I’ve ever known after Kane Williamson 🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏

  35. charitha akkiraju

    sir….dont it take more than 45 min for the background check you have mentioned in point 3?

  36. Praveen

    Hello sir…. I’m from AP sir i want to became a IPS and i was started my pptn in recently .. could you please help in UPSC examination pptn and exam point of view topic wise.. pls

  37. Prity

    You have explained it very well.thanx a lot anudip sir.Now there is no doubt regarding it.Great work done by you

  38. Prity

    But I want to say one more thing that I want to know what you have done for the district alotted to you in the past one year. Plz make a blog on it

  39. Minal Marathe

    Sir can you share your evernote notes? so we’ll get an clear idea about how to make crisp notes using evernote

  40. Viraj Yadav

    Hello sir, I am proud of you as you are our Telugu topper especially from our TELANGANA STATE. What do you suggest for a upsc IAS aspirant studying degree first year?
    Can you advise me the book list for Prelims and mains.

    Yours truly.

  41. Malik

    Anudeep bhaiya..I am in confusion to choose magazine either vision ias or Vajiram
    But some toppers are suggesting that Vajiram is best for upsc mains perspective than vision ..plz reply bhaiya

  42. Harshitha

    Hello Anudeep. Thanks for explaining the post in detail. I have a question though, let’s say if you have started the preparation in December, how to cover previous month s CA. Can you suggest the method you followed.


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