In my previous article I discussed “Why” note-taking is important and useful in so many ways. In this article I will focus on the “How” part of note-taking, while specifically keeping CSS preparation in mind. However, there is no one tip or trick that can be used for making the perfect notes because they are a personalized form of study and vary based on the person making them. By the time someone can attempt the CSS examination, they must have completed 14 years of education and by then the person has developed their own style of note-taking, which only requires a small amount of tweaking. Other than that, there are only general guidelines one can follow.
Notes should always be comprehensive and brief at the same time. Although that sounds counterintuitive, it means that that one’s notes should cover every topic required for CSS preparation but remain brief in the depth of detail provided. They are meant to serve as a reminder of what has been studied, which is why they take a form similar to that of a summary.
First, students must conquer all the logistical requirements for note-taking, among which is choosing the pen they plan on using because it should be the exact same one they will use during the examination itself. The reason this is important is because getting acquainted to a new pen is a luxury CSS aspirants do not have. They must use the same type of pen during their CSS preparation so that when it is time to appear in the examination, they are comfortable using it.
Next, they must decide what they want to take the notes on. Be it a 6 subject notebook or plain printer paper. Either way, like the pen, they should use the same paper for note-taking throughout their preparation. Many teachers advise that students should use Urdu answer-sheets for taking their notes because the booklet provided during the examination for answers is similar in size and spacing. Hence, using Urdu answer-sheets will provide practice.
It is up to the individual if they want to use highlighters, markers, sticky-notes, etc. That is entirely based on personal preference, especially since among these items, only markers can be used during examinations and that too, only for headings. One should adopt the method that is most convenient for themselves. Many students look at the student in the front of the classroom using 5 different coloured pens, 6 different highlighters, and 3 brightly coloured sticky notes and become intimated thinking that she is definitely going to pass and their own bland notes will fail them. This is not true! One must not become intimidated.
The actual process of note-taking is what will help the student conquer their CSS preparation. The first step is to select a topic and make comprehensive notes. For example, the topic selected is “Kashmir Issue”, the student must make notes based on the following 4 sources:
2. Suggested readings
3. Syllabus readings
4. Any other source of authentic notes
The notes should have a fixed structure with headings and subheadings. The first heading should be the Introduction in which the Kashmir Issue is discussed in detail and its history is elaborated. The body should focus on the topic as a whole and at the bottom there must be empty space allocated to “New Developments” where recent news related to the topic is discussed and added. At the end there should be a critical analysis of the topic that is updated with every new addition of developments. Finally, a conclusion should be added of the entire topic.
The second step is to write a summary of all the previous notes. If a student has written 20 pages of notes on the Kashmir Issue, they must compress those notes to fit a total of 5 pages. This is a sort of detailed outline that is structured in the form of an answer. As the student does this, they are storing the previous information in their long-term memory. Finally, they must compile all their notes of a single subject into summaries of one paragraph per topic, so all the notes of one subject can fit together in less than 4-6 pages.
National Officer’s Academy (NOA academy) offers classes online and on-campus (suspended due ongoing crisis) for a wide range of subjects needed in CSS preparation. Students can register any time on our website at https://noacss.pk/. NOA academy provides guidance on note-taking methods and also has teacher’s notes available for sale at the bookshop.
National Officers Academy