Memorizing for UPSC Examination

How to remember so many things in UPSC Civil Services Examination

Memory is the diary that we all carry about with us Oscar Wilde.

The human brain has an astounding ability to adapt, change and remember-even into old age. If you are an IAS aspirant, the question that must be bothering you right from the moment you envisioned becoming a Civil Servant is how will I remember everything that I have studied for the UPSC exams?

Undoubtedly, the syllabus for UPSC is vast as the sea and it takes careful planning, navigation and preparation to get through them. Often students, feel and even believe that they do not have good retention ability and basically cannot remember information. But that isn t true.

The solution lies in emotionally connecting with whatever you have read or see. Knowledge is important but conceptual understanding is even more important in the case of UPSC. As an aspirant, you must do everything you can to up your chances of cracking one of the toughest exams in the country.

NeoStencil has complied some basic tips and techniques to help you improve your memory skills.

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.

Ebbinghaus 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.

So don t fret. Everybody does struggle in their own ways with retaining information.

The best way to really improve your memory is by proper revision before the exams. When you revise systematically, the information doesn t go anywhere!

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.

For 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 and finish the book easily.

Second Reading

The real examination preparation starts in the second reading. So read carefully.

During the second reading read each subject chapter wise. Once you are done with all the chapters completely 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 at 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. It is quite natural to get half the answers wrong.

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 the questions, 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 and try to be as legible as possible.

# Answer writing practice

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

The benefits include writing speed improvement and memory skills ofcourse. As time progress you will be able to answer within the given word limit and finally feel confident as well.

# Proper Revision

The best way to improve memory skill is indulging in no nonsense revision. It is advised that you 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.

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Reading Technique for each subject


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 continuously 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.)

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

Also Read: IAS Preparation Tips for Beginners


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.

Geography Reading technique


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. So, don t waste your time on blindly memorizing the article numbers.


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, 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.

All the Best.

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