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How to remember so many subjects in UPSC?

Here, I will provide some basic tips and techniques to improve your memory skills and in later part of discussion I will provide you some strategies on each subject also.

The Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve

First, just how quickly do we forget? It’s by no means a hard-and-fast rule for every person, but Hermann Ebbinghaus (German psychologist) noticed startling trends from his research back in 1885. Based upon his own memory, Ebbinghaus studied random syllables and plotted what he could remember onto a graph that we now call the “forgetting curve.”

The results? For starters, Ebbinghaus found he only remembered 100 percent of the information at the time of acquisition. After that, he started forgetting information very quickly. In a mere 20 minutes, 42 percent of what he’d learned was lost. Within 24 hours, 67 percent was gone. Finally, a month later, he only remembered 21 percent of what he’d originally memorized.

The best way to improve your memory is by proper revision before the exams.

Tips and Techniques to improve memory skills

# Reading Technique

First Reading

While reading any subject, in the first reading just read the subject book as novel reading.

Let me explain with an example:

Say, if you are reading Modern History for the first time Read it as general reader and don’t read like as you are preparing for the IAS exam. So if you follow this technique, you will be able to follow the flow of the chapters.

Second Reading

The real examination preparation starts in the second reading onwards.

During the second reading read each subject chapter wise. Once each chapter completed try to recall the things you have read for the last one or two hours. If you are able to recall completely then fine. If you are able to recall partially, then read again and try to recall all once.

Once you are done with second reading you would feel like you have read something but when you start solving questions you will be 50% correct.

So don’t feel dejected.

Third Reading

Third reading is the most essential and important in the competitive exam preparation like IAS.

While you are reading for the third time. After completion of each chapter try to solve 3 to 4 prelims questions related to that chapter and one or two mains related question.

If you are comfortable in answering then you are on right path, If not don’t worry you will be comfortable once you start revising.

# Note making

While reading try to make simple and readable notes.

Caution: Don’t try to make note making in the first reading.

Try to make notes from the second reading onwards. When you make notes write in your own words.

# Answer writing practice

For improving memory and writing skill, try to solve one or two questions on daily basis once you have done your third reading.

By way of answer writing, it gives you many benefits apart from improving memorizing skills like improves your writing speed, as time progress you will be able to answer with in word limit and finally increases your confidence.

# Proper Revision

The best way to improve memory skill, proper revision before the exams.

It is advised you to revise minimum 2 to 3 times before the exam and maximum is up to you.

Note: Don’t read any new topics or subjects before the examination date.

# Healthy diet and regular exercise

UPSC preparation is not only about reading and writing, try to spend some quality time for your personal extracurricular activities and hobbies too.

Strategies for each subject

History

Read History subject as story reading and don’t try memorize the years and names in the first or second reading. Try to grasp the core theme of the chapter and try make a link between each chapters.

For example:

If you are reading the important acts and policies in the Indian National Movement, don’t read it in isolated form, i.e, don’t read each act alone read it continiuously along with the background information.

Say, In Government of India act 1919, Nationalist opposed the diarchy provision in the provincial government, which was later abolished in the 1935 act.

So, while reading history, read comprehensively and before coming to any conclusion just recall what happened before the event and what followed after the event. (Eg: Dandi march – why Gandhiji started dhandi march, what is the output of that march and what was followed by nationalist after dandi march.)

Let’s take one example. I have picked a paragraph of book Fine Arts & Culture – Class XI NCERT Page 11.

The best way to remember such information would be to read the paragraph 1 or 2 time and then frame questions like

  1. Seals are made of which materials ?
  2. What was the purpose of Seals?
  3. What are the salient feature of seals?
  4. Which animals are usually found on seals?

You can add more such questions to the above list.

Now when you sit for revision the next time try not to read the paragraph again but instead try to answer the above question. Now initially you will struggle to answer most of them. When you find that despite your best effort you are not able to recall, read the paragraph again.

If you do the above exercise then your brain cells will be put through real test and the information learnt will be better remembered.

If you prepare in this way, you will be able to follow history clearly.

Geography/Environment

Read geography subject along with atlas and world/India map along with your study materials. Because Geography subject is more of places and locations.

The best way to prepare geography is try to sketch the geographical aspect as explained in the books to improve your memory skills.

Say for example:

If you are reading plate tectonics, along with reading try to draw the picture of mountain building techniques. Even in examination also you need to draw more diagrams for geography answers. So, while preparing itself if you draw, it improves your memory skill along with drawing practice.

Polity

In the initial reading don’t worry about the 22 parts and 445+ articles in the Indian Constitution.

Read the basic and core knowledge of the subject. Try understand what is Fundamental Rights, importance of it and analysis of FRs. Don’t worry about the articles number.

As time progresses you will be able to find the article numbers. You can remember articles by segregating them and putting milestones like on 1st day from article 1-11, 2nd day from article 12-16, 3rd day again from 1-16, 4th day from 17-20, 5th day again from 1-20 etc. I guarantee in this way, you will not be going to forget articles in your whole life.

Most important part to remember in Polity is to do mock tests, UPSC previous years question papers.

Economy

Regarding economy subject, try to understand the economical concepts like

What is repo rate and how it affects banking system in India

What is inflation and its impact on Economy

What is fiscal deficit and its role in government budgeting and so on…

Don’t need to memorize all the data and figures related to Indian Economy. Like Inflate rate (in%), GDP growth rate, fiscal deficit and other economical data’s.

In the initial stage of preparation focus on basic concepts than giving importance to factual information. Once you have conceptual clarity then factual information is just needed to supplement your answer, that you will able to do by way of regular answer writing.

So, Don’t worry, you are still initial stage of preparation, as time progresses you will be an expert in all information related to IAS exams… but one condition…. You should be confident enough on all basic concepts in all the subjects.

Hope, you will improve your memory skills and also get conceptual clarity as your preparation progresses.

Finally, it’s about connecting dots between different subjects and getting the big picture, which your brain would be capable of with or without your knowledge.

So, remembering things is also an art which when done with perfection will give you the result you are looking for.

Good Luck !

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