How to Prepare English for CDS Exam, Best Preparation Tips!

By Akanksha Jigyasu|Updated : January 13th, 2022

Out of the 3 sections of the CDS exam, English plays a vital role and so, here are some important tips to prepare English section of the CDS 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 CDS Exam.

The Combined defence services exam or the CDS, as it is known, consists of 3 subjects, namely General Knowledge, Elementary Mathematics and English. Each subject is for 100 marks, and the duration of the paper is 2 hours. One needs to clear all the three papers to qualify for IMA, INA, OTA or IAFA posts under CDS Exam.  

UPSC introduced 2 new topics in the English paper of CDS exam this year. These are: Reported Speech and Active/ Passive Voice. We have also covered preparation tips for these topics in this article. 


How to Prepare English Section of the CDS Exam?

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 English paper is 2 hours. That leaves the students with less than one minute per question. Hence, it is essential to be well- versed with all the topics of English section. Broadly speaking, the most common areas one must be thorough with are, “Vocabulary”, “Reading passages” and “Grammar”.

Commonly asked questions of the English section based on the above-mentioned topics are:
(i) Sentence arrangement
(ii) Error Correction
(iii) Sentence ordering questions
(iv) Cloze tests
(v) Fill in the blanks
(vi) Word substitution
(vii) Synonyms and Antonyms
(viii) Idioms & Phrases
(ix) Reported Speech
(x) Active/ Passive Voice

Tips on Vocabulary, Reading passages, and Grammar for the CDS Exam

The time now left for the preparation of this exam is a crucial factor that one must take into consideration. The more time one has at hand, the more extensive the preparation can be. If there is less time left for the examination, a more focused preparation will yield better results. Now, the exam of CDS-I 2019 will take place on 3rd February, which gives you almost a month's for the preparation of this exam. Let’s see how you must utilise this time to make the most of it and in turn prepare English section efficiently.

1. Grammar

Grammar is a topic of English that most of us have studied from 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 as “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 questions based on all that you read so that you completely comprehend the topic and can tackle the different varieties of questions asked from them. Practice will take you a long way.

2. Vocabulary

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

  • While practising, 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.

3. Reading passages

There are certain easy steps that can be followed while attempting a reading passage.

  • First, find the central idea in the passage and the logical structure that it follows.
  • Secondly, summarise 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 key to scoring optimally in a reading comprehension passage.
  • Improve your speed, by practising more, of course.
  • Accuracy can be improved by working on specific areas, like, vocabulary, understanding and identifying tones, contextual summarising etc.
  • Practice regularly and try to finish a medium level reading passage within 8-10 minutes.

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

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, preposition, verbs, articles and conjunctions etc.
  • Hence, it is essential to understand 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 backwards 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 which may be asked on any topic.
  • Questions can be on grammar, 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 its most coherent form as one single passage.
  • To solve these questions, the trick is:
    (i) To look for the connecting words. Sentences beginning with “if” or “but” will not be the first sentence.
    (ii) Sentences that have some sort of introductory explanation or definition can be zeroed in as the first sentence.
    (iii) Concluding sentences usually use the words “therefore”, “hence” and its likes. That is an indicator of a conclusion. Even if the such words are not used, concluding sentences usually have a reasoning to the issue discussed. That too, can be an indicator.

5. Word substitution

  • Word substitution can be quite a tricky area to score.
  • To attempt these questions, you must have an intimate understanding of the sentence and the its meaning, as well as the meaning of the word that needs to be substituted.
  • Eliminating from the options is the best way to get more marks in this topic.

6. Vocabulary based questions: Idioms/ Phrases and Synonyms/ Antonyms

  • Vocabulary isn't something which you can excel with a day's preparation. 
  • You need to devote enough time and prepare consistently to get a good hold over 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 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 English papers of CDS exam 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 CDS exam shortly, to help you prepare 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 of 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. (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 "time", 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, familiarise yourself with the 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. 
  • 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. 

Well, that’s all, folks! Practice hard and keep preparing for the CDS Exam!

More from us:

Important Study Notes for Defence Exams

Defence Specific Notes

Weekly Current Affairs

Current Affairs Quiz

SSB Interview Tips


Download the BYJU’S Exam Prep App Now

The Most Comprehensive Exam Prep App



write a comment

CDS & Defence Exams

CDSCAPFAFCATTA ExamACC ExamOther ExamsPracticePreparation
tags :CDS & Defence ExamsEnglishCDS OverviewCDS Apply OnlineCDS VacancyCDS Eligibility CriteriaCDS Selection Process

Follow us for latest updates