This article is in response to many panic mails that I receive, “help! It takes more than 4 hours just to read The Hindu.”
- Why is it important to read the newspaper?
- Can’t I just use Chronicle, Civil Service Times or Pratiyogita Darpan?
- What are profile-based interview questions?
- Which newspapers should I read
- Should I read more than one newspaper?
- What are the important items in a newspaper?
- How to read the newspaper in less than 1 hour?
- The Review
Whether you are preparing for UPSC, GPSC, KPSC, MPPSC, MPSC, UPPSC, IBPS, CAT or any other exam that involves interview and heavy competition, you have to read newspapers.
- Because in the government job exams, at all three stages (preliminary, Mains and interview) . They ask questions related to current affairs.
- To write a decent essay, you need facts and viewpoints. For this you need “Fodder”, and newspapers are best sources for the fodder material.
- Such magazines only serve as “supplement” and not as “substitute” of the newspapers.
- Why? Because the magazines have the page limit, they cannot give justice to every single topic, even if they wish to. (and because on every second page, they’ve to put big advertisement of coaching classes, to cover the cost.)
- Same goes for the readymade blogs/ websites dealing with current-affairs, they’re only supplements but not the substitutes of a newspaper.
- Secondly, such magazines or websites for competitive exams do not help you in the profile-based interview questions or role-playing questions.
- In the UPSC IAS, IPS or CAT/IIM, Bank or any other job interviews, they ask you questions based on your profile.
- Your profile is made up of: Your Location + Academic Background + hobbies and Extra-curricular activities.
- Socio, political, administrative and economic problems of your city, district and state.
- And (Sometimes) the role-playing questions about how will you tackle them, if you’re an inspector, tehsildaar, Collector, DSP, Secretary, etc.
- For example, if you are an MBBS or Pharmacist, the current affairs relate to TB/HIV/Malaria/Delhi Superbug related research, etc.
- If you’re a B.A (English): What’s the latest trend in English literature? What was the controversy in the Jaipur literature festival? And so on.
- Tennis, Cricket, Chess, Computer: then you are supposed to know the current affairs related to that field.
- Most of the people, whether UPSC, State PSC aspirants or MBA aspirants: they don’t prepare for profile-based questions or current affairs until the 11th hour. (i.e. When the interview or group-discussion (GD) is barely 20-30 days away).
- Then They start google searching for GK related to their profile.
- In such a short time, you cannot cover all satisfactorily. Therefore, daily reading of newspaper is essential.
- Even if you’re going to write your Mains exam in Hindi/ Gujarati/ Tamil / Telugu medium, still you should refer to English newspapers because the local newspapers only serve the “masala” news of politics, cricket and Bollywood.
- It depends on your time and energy, otherwise one newspaper is enough.
- You might have seen some coaching “Sirs” advising that you must-read Hindu and Economic Times (ET). I think, this is an overkill. You don’t have to become a share market expert. If there is some really good columnist in ET (for example, example Bibek Debroy), then following him is excellent, but you don’t have to go through two or three “Whole” newspaper per day.
First go through the old question papers of UPSC (at least last three years), that should give you a rough idea on what questions are asked directly or indirectly from newspaper. And then read the newspaper keeping that in mind.
- Press conference of government, where they announce various policies, administrative reforms etc. (I’m talking about the press conference of union and State government, not the press conference of Congress and BJP.)
- Various bills, minutes of Cabinet meetings.
- The big full-page advertisements given by ruling party, about their achievements. (This usually comes before the election and on the birth anniversary of Nehru Gandhi Family). It is important because, they list out the various developmental schemes and provisions in it. Most important part is “who runs the scheme?” for example NREGA thing for under the jurisdiction of rural development Ministry (and not under Labour Ministry)
- Election related items: what will the initiatives taken by the election commission? Any problems or controversies.
- You have to prepare these for both Union as well as your own state Government. (Your state-Government schemes and Administrative reforms for the “profile Based Questions”)
What is not important?
- Press conferences of political parties and civil society.
- No need to do Ph.D on every scam. All you have to do is brief highlight of what was the scam, how was it committed, what is the presence status in investigation or court and how to prevent it in future. You don’t have to go in minute details like on 23rd October 2007, Mr XYZ the accountant of store-dept in Commonwealth games misreported a 50 rupees ball for Rs.5000. Learn to skip the garbage sentences while you are reading a news item.
- Same goes for elections: The XYZ by-elections were conducted on 23th October 2004 in which Mrs. XYZ wife of ABC belong with JYZ Political party defeated
- Maoists kidnap a collector = name of the collector is not important. But now experts and politicians say we need a comprehensive hostage-crisis guideline after this incidence= important.
- Railway accidents, how many killed =not important. Reason for the rail accident and suggestions to prevent future accidents = important.
- SP says BSP took 50 crores or vice versa = not important.
- How many killed in floods, landslides or tsunamis on which date= not important. But the reason behind those geographical phenomenons = important.
- ISRO sends an artificial satellite = important. How much does it weigh? = not important.
- When and How many men did leopards kill in Maharashtra = not important. Why is leopard killing men in Maharashtra= important. What is Government doing to stop the leopard? = important.
- Bilateral visits of prime ministers and presidents. What treaties or trade pacts did they sign?
- What is going on in UN, IMF, World Bank?
- Elections in the big nations : USA, Russia, China, France, UK.
- Political or military coup (usually in South America and Africa.)
- Any major event: the democratic uprising in Middle East, Israel palestine, US vs China / Russia missile defence, NATO-Afghanistan and so on.
- Meetings of organisations such as ASEAN, G20 etc , and particularly what India did in such conferences and meetings.
- Climate change, environment related news.
- Science and Tech related items for example CERN, China’s space program, missle tests by N.Korea, Iran’s nuke program and so on.
What is not important?
- Lady Gaga or Justine Timberlake’s world tours.
- How many people are killed in a car bomb blast in Pakistan or Afghanistan?
- XYZ researchers found out that eating tomato daily helps preventing tooth ache = not important.
- Anything “small-time”, that does not affect future of the World. For example sex-scandles of Italian PM or marital wooes of Sarkozy.
More on How to prepare India and World topic for General Studies (Mains) Paper II, is explained in a separate article. Click Me to read it.
- Press conference or press note by Government, SEBI, RBI, Planning Commission etc.
- ASSOCHAM, NASSCOM etc. (they usually complaint or suggest about Government policies that affect the business houses.)
- Columns and Editorials related to Economy.
- IIP, GDP, WPI, CPI etc. Not the “numbers” but the reasons behind that number and the future because of that number.
- International: ASEAN, World Bank, EU etc.
- Those preparing for Bank exams, should also note down the names of Chaimen of various companies and banks.
What is not important in Economy
- Daily Ups and downs of sharemarket.
- “Numbers”. Because Economy is not about number but the meaning, history and future related to that number.
- For example, if IIP was 0.13 on Jan-2012. That itself is not important. Whether it was 0.13 or 0.128? that is not important.
- Important Questions are : is this IIP good or bad? And why is it good or bad? What’ll be its impact on future of Indian economy and Government / RBI policies?
- There is a narrow column on the left hand side of the front page, most of the time, the yearbook related information, government schemes etc. appear here.
- The main news item on the frontpage: it is usually “not-very-important”. Reason most of the time it is the political news. For example, “Bihar Mahadalit Land Racket.” If you are a candidate from Bihar, you should read it, for the others, it is not worth it.
Question: What is a column / Editorial?
- These are big paragraphs like articles in the centre pages of a newspaper.
- Generally each article has photo of the author and usually the author gives a 20 years’ old photo when he/she was in college. If you ever happen to see them in actual TV Debate, it turns out they’re quite older than what they look in the newspapers.
- Editorial is written by the editor himself. For example Shekhar Gupta for IndianExpress on Saturday. While Columns are written by experts (including self-proclaimed experts) on a particular topic of politics, economy, international events.
- Usually columns are made up of 7-8 paragraphs. But not every sentence and line is important; there are just 3-4 gemstones in it, which you can use in your mains / essay / interview answers. So just note them down.
- Some people use highlighters to mark important lines and then file those newspaper cuttings. So do whichever method suits you (noting down or filing the cuttings).
- But Not every column is worth your time and energy. For example in Indianexpress, there is one guy writes about Nepal’s political turomil every week. But in Nepal, the Prime ministers are changed every week and this guy happens to give ball by ball commentery of everything. It’s not worth the “Cost-benefit” ratio. So skip him.
- Similarly there is one Yogindar Alagh in Indianexpress, who pretends to write on rural Development but just “I did this and that when I was a minister”=Not important.
- Maintain the balance: some column writers have a habit of being totally cynical and anti-Government. For example Tavleen Singh of Indianexpress, while I do admire her for having the guts to openly write against Sonia, Mohan and Rahul, but in your answers, You must not admire or criticize a particular individual (minister / politician) in the mains / interview. And don’t prepare a line that is “too leftist” or “too rightists.”
- And if you criticise the Government, then you should also offer the reform suggestions.
- Lifestyle = painting, pottery, music, fashion events etc. most of which cannot be afforded by middle class people.
- The last 3-4 pages of English newspaper are devoted to this. if your “hobby” is tennis or chess, then you must follow the related sport-news.
- For others, I say just skip it. Anything historic about Sports will get published in the competitive magazines and or the free blogs/ current-affairs related websites anyways. So daily following these sports-pages = not worth the time and energy.
- Bollywood and cricket related news = not important in any case. Unless something related to administration or polity for example should BCCI be brought under RTI? And the copyright act vs Bollywood.
Needs certain tools.
- A study-desk or Table
- A Red colored 0.7mm ballpoint pen and or a red sketch pen.
- Loose papers, folders, notebooks
- And last but not the least a newspaper.
Keep the red pen handy.
I’m taking Gujarat Edition of Indian express as reference; just follow the same procedure for your City /State’s edition of Indianexpress/ Hindu.
Circle down on important lines from the news (which news, that is already explained above).
Is usually Gujarat / Ahmedabad news for example
- 20 people died in car accident in rajkot
- xyz girl eloped with a neighbour
- A cop was found taking bribes
- Stone-pelting and rioting in XYZ part of Ahmedabad after a cricket match.
- Keshubhai Patel said XYZ against Narendra Modi.
- Sanjay Joshi’s men have put posters against Modi in Ahmedabad.
^none of above, is important.
Then what is important?
- Navjivan Trust of A’bad says no to Gujarati version of “Let’s kill Gandhi” written by Tushar Gandhi.
- Gujarat Maritime Board and pollution board gives clearance to ship-breaking of Exxon Valdez, but NGO lobby says it contains dangerous chemicals. (Names are not important, but the important part is the big “environmental issue vs. livelihood of ship-breakers in Alang”
- Gujarat State Government launches “Girl Child education” and “School enrollment drive”.
- Ahmedabad Municipal corp will give Rs.250/- to all Government school students who live more than 3 kms from the school, apart from the mid-day meal, Bicycle distribution and Vidhyalaxmi scheme.
We are done with 5 pages
- These are devoted to “national news”
- Only concentrate on important exam oriented news. Underline the important lines using your red pen.
- Highlight the gemstones and move on.
- Highlight the important news lines and move on.
- Highlight the important news lines for example the timing of Balika Vadhu. Haha just kidding, skip this page.
- Most important. Scan through every item, including small box news. Highlight the gemstones, if there are any important diagrams, cut and file them.
- Skip it.
We are done highlighting the important newslines. Now it is time for review.
- Go through those red lines and either write them in the relevant notebook / cut and file it.
- Your can either keep five separate full-scape notebooks. OR you can write these in loose papers and then file it in five separate folders.
- The advantage of loose papers = you can add more pages between, when the follow up news comes. For example in case of QFIs. Same is not possible in a notebook.
|Folder / Notebook||Sorting|
|Administration||All the polity, administration, Development related items should be either written or pasted here.|
|Your profile||One file or notebook, make three sub-parts in it. First part- write or paste the state/city related news. Second part- about your academic background
Third part- news related to hobbies.
|S&T||All the science-tech, environment, climate change related stuff.|
^ you don’t have to write the entire sentences highlighted in red-pen but just the keywords or phrases that’d help you recall the entire issue.
In the beginning, this’d be time-consuming mental torturing exercise.
But with time, you’ll develop the expertize of weeding out the unimportant news and note down the gemstones.
- I’ve seen Maestros who write the summary note of entire The Hindu newspaper on just one side of an A4 sized paper, without missing even a single important item. They don’t read every line of a newspaper, their eyes are trained to scan through the lines and hand automatically highlights the keywords. It’s an art and can be mastered only by practice Daily writing habit also improves your handwriting speed, which is again important for the Mains exam.
- Like a professional athlete This must be your daily regime as long as you’re a contender. Just because prelims are over or just because mains are over, doesn’t mean you stop this. You’ve to do this on daily basis.
- IF you’re unable to get Hindu in your city, you can read it using google reader: Click me to learn the trick