[Strategy] How to prepare Current Affairs from Newspapers in Less than one hour for UPSC IAS IPS CSAT Exam

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Nitin Singhania Art & CultureShankarIAS Environment

This article is in response to many panic mails that I receive, “help! It takes more than 4 hours just to read The Hindu.”

  1. Why is it important to read the newspaper?
  2. Can’t I just use Chronicle, Civil Service Times or Pratiyogita Darpan?
  3. What are profile-based interview questions?
  4. Which newspapers should I read
  5. Should I read more than one newspaper?
  6. What are the important items in a newspaper?
  7. How to read the newspaper in less than 1 hour?
  8. 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.
Why is it important to read the newspaper?

  • 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.

Can’t I just use Chronicle, Civil Service Times or Pratiyogita Darpan?

  • 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.

What are profile-based interview 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.

Location-based questions

  • 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.

Academic background based questions.

  • 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.

Which newspapers should I read

  • 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.

Should I read more than one newspaper?

  • 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.

What are the important items in a newspaper?

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.

Administration/ Polity

  1. 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.)
  2. Various bills, minutes of Cabinet meetings.
  3. 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)
  4. Election related items: what will the initiatives taken by the election commission? Any problems or controversies.
  5. 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?

  1. Press conferences of political parties and civil society.
  2. 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.
  3. 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

National News

  • 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.

International News

  1. Bilateral visits of prime ministers and presidents. What treaties or trade pacts did they sign?
  2. What is going on in UN, IMF, World Bank?
  3. Elections in the big nations : USA, Russia, China, France, UK.
  4. Political or military coup (usually in South America and Africa.)
  5. Any major event: the democratic uprising in Middle East, Israel palestine, US vs China / Russia missile defence, NATO-Afghanistan and so on.
  6. Meetings of organisations such as ASEAN, G20 etc , and particularly what India did in such conferences and meetings.
  7. Climate change, environment related news.
  8. 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?

  1. Lady Gaga or Justine Timberlake’s world tours.
  2. How many people are killed in a car bomb blast in Pakistan or Afghanistan?
  3. XYZ researchers found out that eating tomato daily helps preventing tooth ache = not important.
  4. 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.


  1. Press conference or press note by Government, SEBI, RBI, Planning Commission etc.
  2. ASSOCHAM, NASSCOM etc. (they usually complaint or suggest about Government policies that affect the business houses.)
  3. Columns and Editorials related to Economy.
  4. IIP, GDP, WPI, CPI etc. Not the “numbers” but the reasons behind that number and the future because of that number.
  5. International: ASEAN, World Bank, EU etc.
  6. Those preparing for Bank exams, should also note down the names of Chaimen of various companies and banks.

What is not important in Economy

  1. Daily Ups and downs of sharemarket.
  2. “Numbers”. Because Economy is not about number but the meaning, history and future related to that number.
    1. 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.
    2. 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?


  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Columns / Editorials

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.

What to prepare from Columns/ Editorials?

  • 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.

Sports / music / life-style/ Bollywood

  • 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.

How to read the newspaper in less than 1 hour?

Needs certain tools.

  1. A study-desk or Table
  2. A Red colored 0.7mm ballpoint pen and or a red sketch pen.
  3. Loose papers, folders, notebooks
  4. And last but not the least a newspaper.

The beginning
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.
The front-page and second page
Circle down on important lines from the news (which news, that is already explained above).
Third, fourth and fifth page
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
The 6 to 9 Page

  • These are devoted to “national news”
  • Only concentrate on important exam oriented news. Underline the important lines using your red pen.

Page 10-11 (Columns and Editorials)

  • Highlight the gemstones and move on.

Page 12-13 (International)

  • Highlight the important news lines and move on.

Page 14 (TV, Astrology, Cartoon strips)

  • Highlight the important news lines for example the timing of Balika Vadhu. Haha just kidding, skip this page.

Page 15-16 (Business and economy)

  • Most important. Scan through every item, including small box news. Highlight the gemstones, if there are any important diagrams, cut and file them.

Page 17-20 (Bollywood, Lifestyle, Sports)

  • Skip it.

We are done highlighting the important newslines. Now it is time for review.
The 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 / NotebookSorting
AdministrationAll the polity, administration, Development related items should be either written or pasted here.
EconomicsSame exercise
Your profileOne 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&TAll the science-tech, environment, climate change related stuff.
InternationalSame exercise

^ 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 feedly browser addon: Click me to learn the trick

Mrunal recommends

  1. (free) NCERT, NIOS, TN-Books 4 History,Geo,Sci
  2. Indian Polity M.Laxmikanth (Hindi | English)
  3. Spectrum: Modern History (Hindi | English)
  4. Maths: Quantam CAT Sarvesh Kumar
  5. Objective General English SP Bakshi
  6. Word Power made Easy -Norman Lowe
  7. Topic wise Solved Paperset by Arihant

So far 428 Comments posted

  1. PremKumar B.Rathod

    Sir, how to prepare political science optional subject

  2. mounika

    can i choose microbiology or biotechnology as my optional subject?
    which one will be best?

  3. Siddharth


    How should I prepare notes from the newspaper. Should I clip important editorials and articles and stick them in a notebook?
    Should I jot down the important news in brief?

  4. malar mannan

    sir.. i jus started my preparation for 2015 civil srevice exam… and i chose anthropology as my optional subject… after seeing its syllabus…pls give guidelines for me to prepare for that subject..like what books to read,how to prepare…subject stratergy at exams… thank you

  5. Saba Alam

    Thank u so much sir for guiding we IAS Aspirants in such an effective manner. You r like a MESSIAH for us. I have taken coaching classes in Delhi ( not mentioning name) but that could satisfy me nor could provide such effective guidance alongwith compact study material as you do.
    Please Continue this adventure. God Bless You!

  6. hemant kumar mishra

    work hard you will get success

  7. gaurang

    Sir, I’m a student of b.tech now in second year . I want to start preparing for upsc exam from now onwards . Kindly guide me .

  8. shivukumar

    sir, how to make notes for static portions?

  9. vishan

    Sir.i am an aspirant from hindi medium. Being History as my optional subject what are the suggested books?

  10. shasha jain

    sir , firstly i would like to salute u for your extraordinary job. You always solves everyones query. This time i m also with one query. sir mu question is regarding the directive wordsin essay type questions. I dont know how to write answers differently with different directives. Sir I request u to please explain each directive word and a question of each directive in such manner that it will be easily absorble. Although i have no doubt regarding your guiding n problem solving capability but i request you to solvemy problem as early as possible.
    I am waiting for your precious guidance

  11. aman siddhu

    really helpful….thnksss..

  12. Sudarshan

    An excellent article. nd a must for beginners like me. Thank you!!

  13. Priyatosh Sarkar

    Sir, I am preparing for UPSC 2015, I need your guidance in maintaining self discipline and how to start my preparation. I have been studying from Feb 2014 but I feel I lacked direction as well as techniques of preparation. Thank you and looking forward for your support.

  14. Farsana

    Sir, i am an agricultural graduate (Bsc (Hons). Agriculture) and preparing for 2015 UPSC Civil Service Examination.

    I have opted Economics and Geography for the main examination.Can you please suggest me the books and journals that i should refer to prepare for the same?

    Is there any importance for fluency in english language while attending the interview?

    I used to sort out the informations gathered, as, administration and indian constitution, economy, geography and environment, history and national and international affairs.How much emphasis i should give for the history part?

    This is my first try, and want to grab the fruit on my first beat! Please help me with a detailed answer and your blessings.Thank you.

    1. Abhishek Jha

      Brother, there is only one option to choose now. First read the whole notification of UPSC before starting your preparation.

  15. Sameer

    Sir, i am a kidney transplanted thin and 162cm height graduate student, can i be eligible for the ACIO post? pls help me anyone regarding this.

  16. Gurmeet Chopra

    MRunal bhai….Total respect for you for the commendable work done by you for aspirants like us.
    I read your article at how to read newspapers effectively which has helped me a lot.
    I just have a doubt regarding the news of other states whic are published in The Hindu. As i am using the e-version of the paper and feedly suggested by you, there are lots of news coming in the states section which are of national importance(e.g : periyar dam etc). As i am from Gujarat, i only follow Gujarat’s news, but what to do abt the other state’s news which are equally important.
    Pls help me out with this matter.

  17. puja

    the contents and the way in which you have written is just great sir. It’s really encouraging . I am preparing for rbl grade b officer 2015 exam. I have gone through your website many times . Sir, i will totally follow your ideas . I am starting my preparation now only..but sir, i want to ask..is it possible to crack rbi in 6-7 months ?

  18. sagar

    sir plz upload optional paper botany notes

  19. vidhya

    sir i am prepering for UPSC exam.how should i read the newspaper please kindly guide me.iam confused

  20. Kavya

    Sir, you have mentioned that Business and economy page in the newspaper is important to read. But, most of the page has MNC related (XYZ company bought ABC company, XYZ bank started some service, XYZ bank cut interest rates etc). So what should be mainly focussed on in the Business page?


    I just started UPSC preperation but I am a bit in confusion about what subject to choose botany or zoology? I am from hindi medium. please guide me where can i get the hindi medium study material for botany and zoology.
    reply ASAP.

  22. santosh

    I m preparing for mpsc. Note preparing is very time consume so any other alternative can u tell plz or note r good for best study?

  23. gajendra gautam

    I just started preparation for cse n I visit ur site regularly to follow a planning for it.I am greatful to u.plz guide me in proper way as I have a job.

  24. mani

    Can you plz suggest me either political science or socialogy better choice for optional

  25. durgesh shukla

    Sir i m also just preparing for upsc what subject i can choos in main exam for early prepration so aujest pleas

  26. prags

    very helpful. thanks

  27. atish kumar maurya

    Sir I am preparing the cgl exam please help math and eglish how prepared this subject

  28. shivam sood

    Which is the best news paper to read for current affairs plz recommend a good news paper

  29. annu singh

    can i choose microbiology or biotechnology as my optional subject?
    which one will be best?

  30. sim

    sir i have already made geo notes frm ncert 3 months ago and forgotten them..now should i follow your videos or revise my notes..?

  31. komal sikka

    hello sir,
    firstly thank u .. amazingly written and most importantly i enjoyed reading it .. i ll keep in mind what u above said .. please reply for the newspaper , books and authors to taken into consideration , also i don’t find books intresting , is reading online 75 % worthwhile ? remaining from books .

  32. sabita sahoo

    sir,i am graduate with physics.How i prepare for upsc civil service examination, plz give me idea.

  33. RENJI.A.S

    sir, i am graduate in maths and i am preparing for bank exams. How could i improve my english , general awareness and maths .So, please guide me to prepare well for these subjects.

  34. priya

    What is your Message? Search before asking questions & confine discussions to exams related matter only.thanks forguiding me for how to read the newspaper

  35. Mahesh bhoir

    Please guide me.

    How to prepare MPSC Pre. CSAT comprehension &Book’s for practice same?

  36. Genuine happiness

    How long before the exams should the candidate start reading the newspaper(for current affairs, if Someone plans to appear in UPSC in 2017 should they start reading newspaper a year or a two in advance)?

  37. priya chelani

    sir i want to take part in a compitition which is a state level in a compitition is a news making so i want a topic make for news and how to make a news

  38. kirtika gupta

    sir wat should be able to read newspaper for reading comprehension with speed for banking examination ? n where should i start from ?

  39. Shivam Rathore

    From where we have to start current affairs ?

  40. sangeetha

    Sir i finished MBBS.. But i wish to become an IAS.. What are the materials needed for CSAT and how to prepare for prelims.. Give me some idea.. Thank you..

  41. Rahul

    How we preparation for cat ..actually I am from Hindi medium so plz give some suggestions for achieve our goal

  42. vijaya

    Sir,im in 3rd B.Tech now,when can I take prelims exam

  43. noni

    sir plz provide how to grab international news…. terms and names used are very toung twistr

  44. Suraj kothari

    Good evening sir, I have completed my bcom graduation last year. I am planning for upsc.i am planning for August 2017 attempt. Sir I am new to this field so how should I start the preparation and from where should I start the preparation?? I want to do self-study. I will opt COMMERCE AND ACCOUNTANCY as my optional subject. Please guide me sir. Thank you.

  45. Naiyar Ali

    Thnaks a lot Sir….

  46. [email protected]

    sir, I am from f.y.b.com student. I should prepare upsc study . I should give exam on my complete my graduate. which newspaper I should read and which books I have to read it ??

  47. pallavi bendre

    guide me sir . I am new for this field

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