How to Prepare CDS English?

By BYJU'S Exam Prep

Updated on: September 25th, 2023

In this article, we have provided the CDS English preparation tips collated by subject matter experts. Out of the 3 sections of the exam, English for CDS plays a vital role and so, here are some important tips and the CDS English syllabus for the exam. Read these CDS English preparation tips thoroughly to understand the approach one should adopt while studying and to score good marks in the English section of the exam.

CDS English Preparation

The English section of the CDS Exam, consists of 120 questions, leading to a total of 100 marks. As mentioned above, the duration of the CDS English paper is 2 hours. That leaves the students with less than one minute per question. Hence, it is essential to be well-versed in all the topics in the CDS English section. Broadly speaking, the most common areas one must be thorough with are, “Vocabulary”, “Reading passages” and “Grammar”.

CDS English Syllabus

The Combined Defence Services exam consists of 3 subjects, namely General Knowledge, Elementary Mathematics, and CDS English. Each subject is for 100 marks, and the duration of the paper is 2 hours. One needs to clear all three papers to qualify for IMA, INA, OTA, or AFA posts under the exam. Commonly asked questions of the CDS English syllabus based on the below-mentioned topics are:

  • Sentence arrangement
  • Error Correction
  • Sentence ordering questions
  • Cloze tests
  • Fill in the blanks
  • Word substitution
  • Synonyms and Antonyms
  • Idioms & Phrases
  • Reported Speech
  • Active/ Passive Voice


Tips to Prepare English for CDS

CDS English is very important for aspirants who are appearing for the exam. It covers 1/3 of your syllabus for those who are appearing for IMA, AFA, and INA and 1/2 for OTA aspirants. Below are the topic-wise tips every aspirant must follow to prepare for CDS English.

Grammar for CDS English

Grammar is a topic of CDS English that most of us have studied since our 2nd grade or so. And we stopped learning those extensive grammar rules by the time we were in the 7th grade. Well, nothing much has changed in learning grammar.

  • Pick up a known grammar textbook, (such as Wren & Martin) and brush up on all the rules in important topics such as nouns, pronouns, prepositions, articles, tenses (a personal favourite of the examiners), etc.
  • Grammar questions usually come in the form of “Fill in the blanks”, or “Spot the errors”, for which knowledge of the grammar basics is essential.
  • Practice questions after reading these rules. Simply a glance at the rules is not enough and sometimes, can be confusing.
  • It is vital to practice CDS English questions based on all that you read so that you completely comprehend the topic and can tackle the different varieties of questions asked them. Practice will take you a long way.

Vocabulary for CDS English

This is perhaps the most important of all the topics in the CDS English section. Be it reading comprehension or filling in the blanks, knowing the meaning and the contextual usage of words is paramount.

  • While practicing, write down words that you find difficult.
  • Learn those words and their meaning, and try to understand the context they were used in.
  • Use these words in sentences and while speaking; it helps you remember the words better.

Reading Comprehension for CDS English

There are certain easy steps that can be followed while attempting a reading passage of the CDS English section:

  • First, find the central idea in the passage and the logical structure that it follows.
  • Secondly, summarize the passage and understand the tones used in the passage.
  • Thirdly, answer the questions smartly by drawing an inference from the passage.
  • Speed and accuracy are the keys to scoring optimally in a reading comprehension passage.
  • Improve your speed, by practicing more, of course.
  • Accuracy can be improved by working on specific areas, like, vocabulary, understanding and identifying tones, contextual summarizing, etc.
  • Practice regularly and try to finish a medium-level reading passage within 8-10 minutes.

Steps to Approach English for CDS

Let’s now see how one must prepare for the topics from which questions are asked in the CDS English section:

1. Spot the Errors – As the name suggests, spot the errors are questions in which a sentence is given with certain incorrect parts, and the student must find out the mistakes in the sentence and mark the answer from the given options.

  • These incorrect parts usually relate to spellings, tenses, prepositions, verbs, articles, conjunctions, etc.
  • Hence, it is essential to understand CDS English grammar rules thoroughly.

2. Cloze Tests – A cloze test is a passage, given to the candidates where he or she is expected to replace the missing word with the options (already given in brackets) and form a logical sentence of the passage.

  • Cloze tests aim to test a specific area of knowledge.
  • Therefore, Vocabulary, Grammar, and Inference-based, can be the type of questions that you might have to tackle in cloze tests.
  • In cloze tests, the best way to attempt the questions is to read the entire passage and work backward with the help of the options.
  • Eliminate the options as required and derive the answer.

3. Fill in the Blanks – Fill in the blanks are questions that can be asked on any topic in the CDS English section.

  • Questions can be on grammar, CDS Vocabulary, or simply (as in most cases) fitting the correct answer for the passage.
  • It is quite like a cloze test.

4. Sentence Arrangement – As the name suggests, it is an exercise to test the ability to understand a set of sentences and rearrange it in their most coherent form as one single passage. To solve these questions, the trick is:

  • To look for the connecting words. Sentences beginning with “if” or “but” will not be the first sentence.
  • Sentences that have some sort of introductory explanation or definition can be zeroed in as the first sentence.
  • Concluding sentences usually use the words “therefore”, “hence” and their likes. That is an indicator of a conclusion. Even if such words are not used, concluding sentences usually have reasoning for the issue discussed. That too can be an indicator.

5. Word Substitution – Word substitution can be quite a tricky area to score in CDS English section.

  • To attempt these questions, you must have an intimate understanding of the sentence and its meaning, as well as the meaning of the word that needs to be substituted.
  • Eliminating the options is the best way to get more marks on this topic.

6. Vocabulary-based Questions (Idioms/ Phrases and Synonyms/ Antonyms) –  Vocabulary isn’t something that you can excel in a day’s preparation. You need to devote enough time and prepare consistently to get a good hold of vocabulary. 

  • Read newspapers regularly. They are one of the best means to enhance your vocabulary. 
  • Look up the meanings as well as synonyms/antonyms of the different new words you come across. You can also maintain a separate notebook for the same; it will come in handy for revision at a later stage. 
  • Try to use these words in your day-to-day practice, for instance, while conversing with others. 
  • You can also work on your vocabulary by writing. Write short passages/ essays, etc., on current topics or any other topic you feel comfortable with. 
  • You can also take the help of Word Power made Easy by Norman Lewis to work on your vocabulary. 
  • As far as Idioms and Phrases are concerned, look up the previous year’s CDS English questions and you’ll come across a number of repeated questions. Prepare such idioms thoroughly. 
  • We’ll also start a series of Idioms and Phrases for the CDS English exam shortly, to help you prepare for this topic in an efficient manner.

7. Reported Speech – Look up the rules of conversion from Direct to Indirect speech and vice versa. Attempting questions on this topic is comparatively easy if you are well-versed with the rules and have sufficient practice. 

  • Take due care of the tense of reporting verb. (The reporting verb is the verb of the first sentence, before what is quoted by the speaker). 
    For instance:
    She says, I am studying for exam.
    She said that she was studying for exam. 
  • Take care of the change in ime, if mentioned in the direct speech. 
    For instance:
    He said, I’m going to the shop today.
    He said that he was going to the shop that day.

8. Active/ Passive Voice – First and foremost, familiarize yourself with the CDS English Grammar rules for conversion of active to passive voice and vice-versa thoroughly. 

  • Remember, during conversion, the subject and object change their places. 
    For instance:
    She played table tennis.
    Table tennis was played by her. 
  • The general rule of conversion from active to passive voice is:
    object + be/is/are/am/was/were/been/being/etc. + past participle by verb + by + subject. 
    The second term varies as per the verb of the sentence. 

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