-Amit Kumar Singh, IRS
Most of the aspirants who start studying for UPSC are overwhelmed with the amount of the factual information they are expected to memorize to achieve a good GS score.
It is true not just for UPSC prelims but even for the essay and mains. Even during the interview it is always helpful if you can back your argument with some hard facts.
But, how do you remember all these facts and figures which are vital for a strong GS Score?
The answer is thankfully not very hard. With a slight adjustment in your studying technique and using some cool memorization techniques you can remember any kind of facts easily.
Even more fun is that we all use these techniques in our day to day lives without explicitly understanding them.
In this article I will try to introduce a few fun techniques which will make this memorization part easier and one time. Once you use these techniques the facts memorized will be forever.You can then use these to boost your GS score.
Lessons from IIT
I learnt these technique at IIT Kanpur where I was introduced to a different way of taking exams. Most of the exams were open books or open notes exams. There was freedom to take any books or any notes to the exam.
At first it appeared that giving such exams will be very easy but in reality during the exam even with a book in hand a lot of time is wasted just browsing the books back and forth looking for the answers between the lines. Same with the notes unless you have really prepared the notes very intuitively.
So we needed to prepare easy to read notes. Crisp and to the point. Everyone used some short- form notations. Some pictures or graphs.
We wanted to see exactly what we need from the notes during the exam. You don’t want to waste even half a minute reading through a paragraph.
I applied to same techniques to UPSC preparation and I always walked into the examination hall with full confidence as if I had all my notes in my hands and I don’t need to rote mug up anything. Thus, my mind was calm and composed. This increased my GS score substantially and always gave me an edge in the exams.
Steps for Memorization Cheat code for maximum GS Score
Before we start , quickly you need to first learn to identify the real facts to be memorized.
Pick up any topic you need to study. It can be divided into a concept or analytical part and facts.
Remembering facts is beneficial only when you understand the analytical part of the topic perfectly for the UPSC preparation.
This is where the open notes mindset comes in handy. During the first reading where ever you see any facts which need to be memorized , just mark them and assume that they will be available to you during the exam.
As you focus just on the conceptual of the topic, after the second and third reading , you shall see that the truly factual part is reduced considerably.
It will take some practice to come to this mindset for the UPSC journey .You need to identify which parts are really factual. A good test to analyze this would be the Open books scenario mentioned above. You see any topic and decide how much would you like to write about it and carry with you to the exam if it was an open notes one.
Now Let’s understand few such techniques –
You all have used mnemonics some time or the other. Although you may not realize it
With some variations – How many of you remember the sequence of planets using this phrase-
My Very Educated Mother Just Showed Us Nature.
( My Very Educated Mother Just Showed Us Nine Planets – was the version till Pluto was also categorized as a Planet)
This is what Mnemonics are – rearranging the information into catchy phrases or patterns which are easy to memorize.
Once you start making mnemonics explicitly they can be really fun. They don’t need to make any sense at all.They may be complete gibberish. They only need to convey the underlying pattern and information to you.
For example consider an example from Polity which is part of GS in the UPSC syllabus.
Article 143 of the Constitution – “ Power of President to consult Supreme Court ( 1 ) If at any time it appears to the President that a question of law or fact has arisen, or is likely to arise, which is of such a nature and of such public importance that it is expedient to obtain the opinion of the Supreme Court upon it, he may refer the question to that Court for consideration and the Court may, after such hearing as it thinks fit, report to the President its opinion thereon”
Once you have understood the article is about the power of the President to consult the supreme court , all you want to remember only the number of the article – i.e. 143 and what it is about to connect to the understood concept in the brain.
Now , 143 is numeric equivalent of the phrase – I Love You ( being the number of alphabets in each word)
Now that you know this , the article can be remembered forever by just remembering this phrase (No contempt intended) –
It can be mentally read as – “President 143 Supreme court. “
With little practice and repetition this phrase shall come automatically to your mind whenever your think of President and his power to consult the Supreme Court.
You shall never forget this article and can use this for Polity preparation- a crucial part of UPSC syllabus.
There can be any personal sequence also. For example I always remember this article 141 using my birthday.
Article 141 says – “The law declared by the Supreme Court shall be binding on all courts within the territory of India.”
Now, 14 January or 14-1 is my birthday and I remember it as on my birthday whatever I say shall be binding on all within the territory of India.
Now, it may be complete gibberish to read for you, but because I have made this connection in my brain. I can always remember Article 141 and what it is about just by making this personal connection with the digits.
Let’s Try memorizing this random number – 558723.
Now , you will see that you must have divided the number into small parts. Most would have read it like 55 – 87- 23 .
Being a 6 digit number it appears so natural to us to divide it into groups of two.
Further the 55 in the starting made it so obvious to our brain that it happens automatically.
Even if you did not divide into groups of two’s and rather three’s like 558-723. Still the process is same for the brain. It is just a matter of pattern recognition by the brain.
This method is called Chunking. Breaking down of the information into small chunks for easy memorization .
You all use it to remember 10 digit mobile numbers. Try saying your phone number, you must have broken it down into smaller chunks to remember.
But this technique is not limited to memorizing long digits. It can be applied anywhere.
Let’s again take a UPSC related example important for your GS score –
We shall try to learn the dates and duration of all Anglo Maratha wars using a short code.
This is the sequence of the wars –
- First Anglo-Maratha War (1775 – 1782) – duration – 7 years
- Then a gap of 21 years.
- Second Anglo-Maratha War (1803 – 1805) – duration 2 Years
- Then a gap of 12 years
- Third Anglo-Maratha War (1817 – 1818) – duration 1 Years.
Now, try to remember all the above information once and for all using one catchy phrase by making its connections in your brain
Your connection may be completely different, but here is what I have come up with like a phone number –
1775-21-12 extension 721 .
Remember the above like a phone number. This sequence gives all the information needed about Anglo Maratha wars.
You need to remember the above sequence and make the following connection in your mind –
“First Started in 1775 for 7 years till 1782 then next after 21 years started in 1803 for 2 years till 1805. Last started 12 years later in 1817 for 1 year till 1818. “
Now, this sequence is connected to this information. Everytime you say the key numbers, the whole information will come flowing to your brain. After a few iterations , you wont even have to consciously remember the dates. They shall flow naturally.
Key is again that the Keywords or numbers must may sense to you and form a connection in your brain. These connections are a map of the world. The richer the map, the higher will be your GS score in the UPSC exam.
3- STORY TELLING
Everyone loves a good story. We all remember the stories of the movies we saw years ago. Still we don’t remember what we studied in the school in the same year. Why is it so? Does our brain differentiate between interesting information and boring information?
Well not exactly. The long term memory of our brains is unlimited for all practical purposes. Our brain remembers everything. It also remembers what you studied in the school the year you watched Star Wars. Even though you only remember the story Star Wars actively today.
Rest of the memory is stored in the sub conscious part of our brain. It is not easily retrievable.
What made the story of a favorite movie still fresh your mind is the connection that story made with your brain.
That connection was strong and it was reinforced over the years every time you saw even a scene from the movie or a poster of the movie. Use this for GS score maximization.
So, even though you may not have seen the full movie for years now, you still remember it.
Now, similarly if you can tell your brain a good story and make a strong connection with your brain. Then you can remember any seemingly tedious facts for covering the UPSC syllabus.
The story can be a short one with a few sentences. The idea is to capture the information in a fun way for all of GS score.
The trick is in converting the boring facts into a fun story –
Lets take another UPSC related example –
PART IX : THE PANCHAYATS of the Constitution covers Article 243 to Article 243 0
That is 16 articles , let’s try to memorize them once and for all using story telling technique as simple as you remember A for Apple , B for Ball…..
Let me again emphasize that first step is to understand the concept of the topic clearly which is rule number 1 for securing a good GS score. Once you have fully understood the articles, You only need to memorize the article number and a key word associated with the contents of the article to make the mental connection with the underlying concept.
We will start by identifying the keywords in each article heading – the key word must be so chosen that it instantly makes the mental connection with the contents of the article.
For example, For Article 243 A – Gram Sabha is the term that should make the mental connection to the concept – “A Gram Sabha may exercise such powers and perform such functions at the village level as the Legislature of a State may, by law, provide.”
The keyword need not be the part of the article also. It may be any random word which is capable of making the connection.They may even not be of English only. Even Hindi or any other language keywords may be used.
Only condition is that the underlying connection must be clear to your brain. It is going to be used only by you during the UPSC exam.
Below, in a table I have listed the keywords for each article. Now, seeing that articles are sequenced as 243 A, B , C, D…..O . I have added a connection word which also starts with same alphabet and gives the same meaning as the keyword.
If you remember the sequence of connection words like –
A for A gram sabha
B for बनाया ( Constitution किया is the mental connection) and so on.
GS SCORE MEMORIZATION CHEAT CODE
Here is my list of key words ( Your keywords may be different also)
|Article 243 A||A gram sabha||आम आदमी( Every voter is part of gram sabha)|
|D||Reservations||Due representation to women SC/ST|
|E||Duration||End ( End of duration)|
|F||Disqualification||Fail ( Synonym of sorts for disqualification)|
|H||Tax||हफ्ता ( J ) ( Funny word to connect to taxation by govt)|
|I||Finance Commission||Income ( Income will come from FC)|
|J||Audit||जांच ( Audit is जांच पड़ताल of documents)|
|K||Elections||कैसे होगा Election|
|L||Union Territories||Lt. Governor( They are only in UT’s)|
|M||Not to apply||मना है|
|N||Continuance/Existing||No effect on existing|
It may appear a tedious job at first, but this is a one time exercise. Once you have made these mental connections. You can easily remember the sequence of one word per alphabet from A-O.
You shall never forget these articles again and you will be 100% sure while marking your answers in the exam. You can answer the correct article always using this technique with 100 % confidence.
In my experience both during my IIT days and UPSC preparation days I have not yet come across any piece of information/facts which cannot be simplified to be remembered easily and in one go.
COMBINATION OF MNEMONICS IN ACTION
There are MANY tricks to do it. Here’s one example of a mnemonics technique which I use. All numbers are rhyming words-
- 1 is a bun
- 5 is a hive
- 2 is a shoe
- 3 is a tree
- 4 is a mole
- 6 is sticks
- 7 is heaven
- 8 is a gate
- 9 is a fine
- 10 is a hen
Modern Indian History is an important part of the IAS syllabus. One important reform initiated by the British during colonial times was in the field of Education following the report of the Wood’s dispatch.
Now say you have to memorize that WOODS DISPATCH was set in 1854 for education. It is very important to know WOODS DISPATCH because it suggested teaching in local language, Education of women and English medium etc.
Memorize like this- you know it is was in 1800s so you want to memorize the numbers 54.
5 is a hive and 4 is a mole+ WOODS DISPATCH—-> Make a VISUAL STORY IN YOUR MIND about it.
In the woods there was a hive of bumblees. One day a mole went into the hive to educate female bees and taught them in local bee-lingo and stressed that female bees should also be educated.
You will never forget the image of a mole teaching a classroom of honey bees!
And as a result, you will never forget the key words which are-
WOODS→HIVE(5)→MOLE(4)—->suggested—-> LOCAL LANGUAGE ED—->FEMALE ED
All the essential info all packed up in these words, knit into a story. And the error rate in recall will be VERY LOW!
Anxiety destroys learning ability. This is why I always used humor, animations and memes to learn almost anything in the IAS syllabus
I have given my own keywords I came up with, you need to give the topic a good hard look and form your own connections.Your GS score depends on these connections because If you can form a good strong connection then it shall remain in your brain actively forever.
Doing so, there should not be any pressure on your mind while entering the exam hall. You will not be mugging up the night before the exam.
By using such techniques you can be calm and composed during the exam. Answer in the exam with full confidence. While studying you can focus your mind only on understanding the concepts in the UPSC syllabus.
Another aspect is that while making these connections, we go through the topic many times in detail. Doing so we understand the topic thoroughly. You can read about forming deep interconnections in UPSC syllabus here.
The extra time consumed in coming up with these techniques is made up because once memorized by these techniques, continuous boring revision is not required. A quick brushing up of your personalized keywords will refresh your entire memory instantly and you will notice the difference in your GS score.
Lastly, using these techniques also add a fun aspect to routine studies and .
There are many other such techniques such a Loci technique, Mental maps, picture memory etc which can also be employed. I shall try to cover them in another article.
I hope you will consciously use these mental memory techniques to the maximum to improve your performance in the UPSC exam.
All the best.
-Amit Kumar Singh, IRS and Ravi Kapoor, IRS