Exam preparation is a tricky domain. You can never be sure about which way to go, what to read and what to leave or which method is the best to remember. Especially if the exam is something like the civil services exam which has a big syllabus which concerns many subjects. Students preparing for UPSC exams can always be in a fix about which books to read, how to prepare notes and more importantly, how to remember everything that they read.
When you talk about learning mechanisms and what is the way to remember and retain most of what you are reading, rather consuming, on an everyday basis, you can rely on the fact that human brain can retain, remember and reproduce things learnt in one particular way rather than others.
One of the most sure shot way to remember things you study is studying and understanding them using visuals. It has been proven scientifically that most humans can remember things they have seen and heard more effectively and for a longer time than things they have read because our brain is like an image processor rather than a word processor. We are often able to reproduce movie dialogues rather than quotes from books. We are also often able to remember visuals, for instance, photos and visuals in the textbooks, than the text itself.
Consider studying the syllabus of UPSC exams, for instance say current affairs from videos rather than reading them from newspapers and magazines. You might wonder why and how will the video be more effective. Video will be more effective because your brain will be able to remember the words and the information in hears and sees from the video more than what it will remember after reading from a newspaper. Videos are easier to handle in the sense of the convenience in handling them, storing them, but most importantly, while revision. We all know that UPSC exam syllabus is too huge and if you really has to go through every book, every magazine, every newspaper that have been suggested for civil service exam preparation, you might as well think of the preparation time as 2-3 years. Videos can be efficient also because they will give you the information you need and you don’t have to keep on filtering the information in terms of what is important and what is not.
Also, we are all very aware that notes making and revision are the most crucial steps in the preparation for civil service exams and that UPSC aspirants cant afford to take any of these steps lightly. Both of these are tedious and time consuming processes, but learning from videos can make these processes easier. Aspirants can prepare concise and to-the-point notes while watching the videos and revising those notes will also be easier. Also, if you need to revise one whole concept, say about the Indian national freedom movement, instead of going through all the textbooks and other written materials that contains information about it, you can just watch the video and revise the topic very easily.
What you read may remain in your memory for short-term but the human brain can’t store abstract words in the long-term memory. Long term memory works with images and visuals that are meaningful to us. UPSC preparation, we know, is a long process and the aspirants can’t afford to forget things they have learnt in a short span of time. Which means that the concepts you study have to be remembered by you for a longer span of time. To do this, learning by visuals and videos will be very helpful. Videos also involve more senses than reading from textbooks does. You are seeing as well as listening to something instead of just looking at words are making meaning from them. These senses will help you better in not just understanding what you are studying but also retaining them in your brain.
Civil services is an exam that takes time of its own. To be able to crack it you not just need to work hard but also work smartly. Smart work includes figuring out what might be the most effective learning mechanism for you and implement it in your preparation. Several psychologists have vouched for learning that happens through visuals and its efficiency. We all have also seen and read of the smart classrooms in schools, universities etc which makes the teaching-learning process not just more interesting but also more meaningful. To get through civil services exams and its increasingly dynamic nature, the aspirants have to get smarter and replace the old textbook reading with methods that will be more effective and beneficial for their preparations and eventually, the result.
Author: Akshay Palande
Akshay Palande is a passionate teacher helping hundreds of students in their UPSC preparation. With a degree in Mechanical Engineering and double masters in Public Administration and Economics, he has experience of teaching UPSC aspirants for 5 years. His subject of expertise are Geography, Polity, Economics and Environment and Ecology.