What a newspaper needs in its news, in its headlines, and on its editorial page is terseness, humour, descriptive power, satire, originality, good literary style, clever condensation and accuracy, accuracy, accuracy!
In our childhood, most of us got an advice from our parents and teachers that we should inculcate the habit of reading newspaper as it not only improves knowledge quotient but also helps improve language skills and vocabulary. The importance of this advice cannot be overemphasised for the preparation for UPSC Civil Services Exam as well. It is however, not just an advice, rather an instruction, given explicitly by Rau’s IAS Study Circle to all of its students who aspire to get a rank in the UPSC IAS Exam.
Newspaper provides information about current affairs which is indispensable for both IAS Prelims and IAS Mains papers. With UPSC’s focus slowly weaning away from static and gravitating more towards current component of syllabi, the significance of reading newspaper for IAS Exam has increased tremendously. It is thus imperative that students pay required attention to this aspect.
While regular reading of newspaper is an indispensable part of IAS exam preparations, there is no need to read the entire newspaper as topic, verse and line. There are some do’s and don’ts of reading newspaper, which if followed will give maximum benefit. Those who perfect the art of newspaper reading are bound to manage time effectively and will obviously have brighter chances of doing better than others. There are few more thing which you need to do as prerequisites before commencing with daily newspaper reading. These are: –
(a) Keep a copy of the UPSC Mains Syllabus with you.
(b) Learn the keywords of UPSC syllabus.
(c) Carry out thorough analysis of previous year IAS question papers.
(d) Make a conscious effort to focus on the issue rather than the news.
(e) Develop the habit of focusing on what and why rather than when and where.
Before we proceed ahead, let us also know about what all you need to focus on in the newspaper. You must divide news or issues in few categories like:
- International Relations,
- Environment & Biodiversity,
- Personalities and Awards,
- Government Policies and Schemes,
- International Organisations,
- Economic Policies,
- Science and Technology etc.
Focus of the reader should be broadly on these aspects. Here, it will be worthwhile to also talk about what not to focus upon! You can surely skip political news/political statements, state/city specific news (unless it has a larger national implication), the nitty-gritty of the share market, entertainment news, sports news (unless it is your hobby mentioned in the DAF).
Out of many newspapers available in the market, ‘The Hindu’ newspaper is most popular amongst Civil Services IAS aspirants. It stands out with its effective and detailed coverage of important national and international issues and is well known for its unbiased, forthright views on array of issues. That’s why some of the best columnists in the country choose to write for The Hindu newspaper. It is also a proven fact that in the past many questions in the Prelim exams had been framed straight from the articles published as Editorials, ‘Opposite to the Editorial’ (commonly called as Op-Ed) or covered otherwise by the newspaper.
Now that you are well settled with the fact that every aspirant needs to read the newspaper and, that ‘The Hindu’ is an apt newspaper for UPSC preparation, let us move on to the most commonly asked questions by all UPSC IAS aspirants – how to read the Hindu Newspaper?
After all, one can’t afford to invest 5-6 hrs everyday just to read a newspaper! Let us try to decode a distinctive strategy for studying The Hindu newspaper. First and foremost, let us know the layout of The Hindu: –
a) Page 1 is generally about the Headlines of the day (one read recommended)
b) Pages 2-5 carry regional news (can be skipped)
c) Pages 6-8 deal with State News (can be skipped)
d) Page 9 deals with National News (Important)
e) Page 10 is Editorial Page (most Important)
f) Page 11 is Op-Ed page (most Important)
g) Pages 12-13 contain news in general (one read recommended)
h) Page 14 is about World affairs (one read recommended)
i) Pages 15-16 focuses on trends, growth parameters, fiscal and monetary policies, socio- economic issues etc. (Important)
j) Page 17 and rest is on Sports etc. (can be skipped)
Priority I Read: The most important and indispensable portion of ‘The Hindu’ newspaper is its editorial page. Editorial and Op-Eds pages are the most valuable and informative sections and hence these should be read thoroughly as priority one read. If you are short on time on a particular day, you may skip other sections of the newspaper but certainly not this. The columns/articles written on these two pages are well researched and cover various issues in a very detailed and comprehensive manner. It’s advisable to read this section every day and develop a habit to read the full editorial in one go to get an overview of all dimensions of the issue.
Almost all of the topics covered in Editorials and Op-eds have relevance to the IAS exam. Therefore, high yielding notes can be prepared from these two pages. Try to pick up good introductory and summative lines on crucial issues from here; it can enhance the value of your answers exponentially. You can keep updating these notes every time a new editorial appears on the same issue.
Priority II Read: After finishing Editorials and Op-eds, you can focus your attention to the Business section. This section has important updates about Stats, Ratios and Figures which are useful for Prelims. It also has information about Guidelines/reforms in the economy which is useful from Mains perspective. This section has coverage on policies and stats/figures pertaining to SEBI, RBI and other national and international monetary institutions, which can be noted to add factual value to your answers.
Priority III Read: Lastly, do a cursory reading of the national and international pages to note only those topics or happenings which are frequently stated in the newspaper. Some of these are Supreme Court and High Court verdicts, Parliamentary debates, government policies and orders, important bills in the Parliament, advertisements given by the ruling party where achievements are listed (this will give you a list of the developmental schemes and their provisions, you will know which ministry deals with what schemes), issues of national and international importance, major political events in other countries that have possible international ramifications like a military coup, uprisings, visits of the Head of States and treaties and agreements signed, International organisations like the UN, ASEAN, WHO, IMF, etc. and their reports/publications, India’s role in these should also be read.
Other Important Tips on how to read The Hindu newspaper for Civil Services exam: –
a) Be thorough with UPSC syllabus so that when you read newspaper, you are able to discern what is related to the syllabus and what is not. Those who have understood the syllabus and pattern of the examination well, will take less time to assimilate but a beginner(having less understanding of syllabus and pattern) will definitely take substantial time to read and prepare.
b) Always remember that your goal is more important than your interests when it comes to reading the newspaper. It is easy to get tempted to read about a favourite topic or person featured in the newspaper but this will be at the cost of frittering away your precious time on non-important things. Remember you are reading the paper with an aim of preparing for UPSC civil services exam and not for your entertainment or having a break from studies.
c) Make notes as and when you read the newspaper. Your notes should be brief and crisp. Remember, brevity is the key for making good notes. Write in your own words. Keep it simple and easy to learn.
d) Remember that you are not doing research for PhD but understanding an issue/concept for preparing for an exam. Stick to the scope of syllabus.
e) When you read Editorials/Op-eds you must note down the pros and cons, positive and the negative sides to an issue. Understand the issue from multiple perspectives. Usually, editorials/ authors tend to lean towards one perspective, but when you read and extract info from them, make sure to incorporate both the points of view and you must have a balanced approach. This aspect is critically analysed at the later stage in Personality Test.
f) You must sit at your study table while reading newspaper so that you don’t miss out on any vital news and also enable you to make notes alongside. Some students tend to read newspaper while travelling/commuting with an aim to better utilise time but then the pitfall of this habit is that one can’t make notes while travelling. You can definitely read the notes made out of the newspaper while travelling.
g) Avoid reading newspaper with the perspective of relevance of articles/news for Prelims, Mains and Interview. Keep your life simple …just read the newspaper. Your mind and memory will be able to access info as required.
For a beginner, it will take more time to extract relevant information from newspapers and you may find it difficult. There would be days when you will be spending more time than usual in going through the newspaper and there would be days when you will be able to finish it much quickly. But you will learn gradually and once you have mastered the basic concepts, you will start loving this habit of reading newspaper. This will also help bring a positive change in your outlook towards this exam and your confidence in your preparations.
Reading newspaper will help you prepare for all the stages of the UPSC IAS exam; the Prelims, Mains and the Interview. Apart from that, it is also an excellent habit which will go a long way in making you a well-informed, socially aware and a responsible member of the society.
If you find reading and learning from ‘The Hindu’ newspaper tough, we can help you get started. You can follow Rau’s IAS Daily News Simplified (DNS) free videos on YouTube to assist you in your daily newspaper reading.