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CDS 2020 General Knowledge: Exam Pattern, Syllabus, Preparation Tips, Recommended Books.

Updated On -

May 13, 2020

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Sudeshna Bhar

Exams Prepmaster

Combined Defence Services exam conducted by UPSC is held twice a year. The mode of Application of CDS is Online but the mode of exam is offline. In CDS II 2020, the number of Vacancies is 417 (tentative). Almost 4+ lakh of candidates apply for CDS each time and approx 8000+ candidates get to qualify for SSB Interview.

Latest Updates

  • The results of CDS(I) 2020 have been announced on March 23, 2020 on the official website
  • CDS II 2020 Notification has not been released yet due to COVID- 19 outbreak.
  • The expected date of CDS II 2020 Exam is November 8, 2020.
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CDS II 2020 General Knowledge Highlights

  • General Knowledge paper is expected to be held on November 8, 2020, along with the other two papers of CDS Exam.
  • The total marks of this paper are 100 marks consisting of 120 questions.
  • Candidates will get 2 hours to complete this paper.
  • Each question carries 0.83 marks.
  • For each wrong answer, there will a deduction of - 0.27 marks.
  • Questions will be asked in both English and Hindi.

Know more CDS(II) 2020 Application Form and Procedure

CDS II 2020 General Knowledge: Syllabus

This paper has been divided into 12 sections to understand the complications of the General Knowledge syllabus.

Economics Physics Current Affairs
Chemistry Sociology History and Culture
Geography Environment and Biodiversity Polity and Governance
Biology Miscellaneous Defence-related

CDS II 2020: General Knowledge: Expected Number of Questions

Overall General Knowledge Paper of CDS is moderate to difficult in the difficulty level. On the basis of the analysis of the previous years’ questions, here is a table that will give an idea about the difficulty level of the topics and the probable number of questions from each topic.

Topics Number of Questions Difficulty Level
History 23 - 18 Moderate
Geography  15 - 17 Moderate to Difficult
Polity 13 - 17 Moderate
Economy 12 - 14 Moderate
Current Affairs 20 - 23 Easy to Moderate
Physics 8 - 10 Moderate to Difficult
Chemistry 8 - 10  Moderate
Biology 9 - 10 Moderate
Defence News 9 - 11 Moderate
Miscellaneous GK 15 - 17 Easy to Moderate

Check Here CDS 2020 Eligibility Criteria in detail

How to Prepare for the CDS General Knowledge Section?

CDS II 2020 is expected to be held in November 2020. So, there are still more than 6 months to prepare for CDS General Knowledge Paper. If you are completely dedicated to CDS and manage to devote 3 - 5 hours a day to study General Knowledge, you can keep the aim of gaining 55+ marks. Here are the most beneficial tips to crack the GK paper of CDS:

Sectional Division

The first thing is to divide General knowledge paper into subsections so that you can prepare section-wise and be able to complete all the sections incorporated by UPSC.

Current Affairs

One of the most important sections, Current Affairs occupies almost 20% of CDS General Knowledge Paper. There are no direct shortcuts to be fully prepared but there are some Frontlineways that can help you prepare well. Newspapers like The Hindu, The Indian Express, Business Standards, Dainik Jagran, etc. and Magazines like Pratiyagita Darpan, Economic and Political Weekly, Science Reporter, etc are the best sources to increase the knowledge of current affairs. Television, Online Sources, and apps also can be useful. But the most important part is to make notes of the most effective movements and incidents. It will help you to revise quickly before the exam.

To know other sections, Check CDS 2020 syllabus and Exam Pattern

History and Culture

The questions from this section usually cover almost 15% of CDS GK paper. The history section can be divided into 3 subsections: Ancient India, Medieval India, and Modern India. Ancient History begins the initial period to the mid-8th Century AD focusing on Stone Age, Palaeolithic Age, Mesolithic Age, Neolithic Age, and Chalcolithic Age. The second phase i.e. Medieval India dates back from the mid-8th Century to the beginning of 18th Century AD and is formed of the Mughal, Vijayanagar Empire, Sultanate rulers along with rise and fall of all rulers mentioned.

The historical period of Modern India is the phase from the emergence of a foreign power to Partition. This is the most important section of these three sub-sections of History. In this period, not only the movements and freedom struggles are important but also the role of press and Indian literature with the personalities should be focused upon. Indian Culture is about the forms of Art originated and practised in India like architecture, dance forms, literature, paintings, music, etc.

Name of Books  Author / Publisher
India’s Ancient Past R. S. Sharma
History of Medieval India  Satish Chandra
History of Modern India Bipan Chandra
India’s Struggle For Independence  Bipan Chandra
Indian Art and Culture Nitin Singhania
From Plassey to Partition: A History of Modern India Sekhar Bandyopadhyay 

Check CDS 2020 Preparation Tips


On average, 16 questions come every year from this section in GK paper. The syllabus of geography has not been specifically mentioned by UPSC, but from the previous years’ questions analysis, this section can be divided into Indian and World geography. Basic important topics like Drainage System, Soils, Census, Mineral resources distribution, Location of mountains, boundaries of States, passes, Atmosphere, Oceans, Landforms, Important tribal groups, especially those living in hilly areas, etc. should be candidates’ basic priority while preparing for geography.

Few questions are also asked every year on Geography related GK like tallest mountains in each continent, longest rivers in the world, railways zones, important ports in India, key waterways, airports, etc.

For this, the Class XI and Class XII Physical, Human and Economic Geography books of the NCERT are suitable to start your preparation.


Science occupies the major part of CDS General Knowledge. It covers almost 25% of all questions in this paper. Physics, Chemistry, and Biology are the three subsections of science. In Physics section, the most important topics like Magnet, Electricity, Light, Sound, Work and Energy, Gravitation, Force and Laws Of Motion, Motion, Electric Current, Sound, Friction, Force and Pressure, Motion and Time, Heat, etc should be your main focus.

From Chemistry almost 8 - 10 questions can be expected in CDS II 2020 General Knowledge Paper. The major topics such as Acids, Bases and Salts, Physical and Chemical Changes, Synthetic Fibres and Plastics, Materials- Metals and Non-Metals, Coal and petroleum, Combustion and Flame, Matter In Our Surroundings, Atoms and Molecules, Chemical Reactions and Equations, Metals and Non-metals, Carbon and its Compounds, and Periodic Classification of Elements, etc are the main topics and also covers 90% of the syllabus.

From Biology, more than 7 questions averagely are asked. Primary topics like Nutrition, Organisms, Transportation, Reproduction, Microorganisms, Cell Structure and Functions, Fundamental Unit Of life, Tissues, Life Processes, Control and Coordination, Biotechnology, etc almost give an overview of Biology and agriculture. To prepare for all topics and subsections of Science, Standard IX, X, XI, and XII of NCERT for Physics, Chemistry and Physics are most preferable.

Check Complete UPSC CDS 2020 Exam Dates


The number of questions from the Polity section ranges from 18 to 21. The questions are not very tricky in comparison to other sections. First, divide the section into subsections like Preamble, Schedules, Constitution of India, Citizenship, Fundamental Rights, Fundamental Duties, Directive Principles of State Policy, Union, Parliament, Judiciary, State Government, State Legislature, Administration of UT, Administration of Special Areas, Emergency Provisions, Panchayati raj and municipalities, Central and Interstate relations, Constitutional Bodies, Non-Constitutional Bodies, and Tribunals, etc.

Secondly, find out the major topic from which question has come almost every year. Candidates usually try to understand this section all at once. But at the beginning of preparation, read it like a casual novel and then go in depth. It will help to cover and understand all the topics very minutely. With the below-mentioned books, do follow newspapers on a daily basis for Polity and Governance related to current changes and updates. A list of books is mentioned below for Polity preparation:

  • India Polity by Laxmikant
  • Indian Constitution - NCERT Standard XI
  • Democratic Politics - NCERT Standard IX


From this section 8 - 10 questions can be expected in this exam. The difficulty level of the economics part is moderate to difficult.
For this section of CDS exam preparation, topics such as RBI Monetary Policy, FDI, anti-poverty and employment generation programs like JNNURM, PMGSY, etc, and terms such as GNP, NNP, GDP are important. Moreover, leading products of India like Pulses, Bananas, etc., and Green, White and Blue Revolution, important industries of India, Banking System of India, Currency and Inflation, working of international organizations like IMF, IDA, WTO, etc, census of India, etc. should be in your preparation list. Depreciation, Type of taxes: Wealth tax, Income tax, Service tax, etc also occupy a major part of the Economic section.

Check CDS 2020 English: Syllabus, Exam Pattern, Preparation Tips, and Recommended Books

Miscellaneous General Knowledge:

Awards, Sports, books and authors, Abbreviations, Defence, Environmental Studies, etc fall under the section of Miscellaneous General Knowledge. This section has a weightage of 17 to 20 marks. The difficulty level of this section is easy to moderate. The only way to answer this section is to keep yourself updated with Current Affairs. Other than the above-mentioned resources, books also can be followed:

  • General Knowledge 2020 - R.K Saxena
  • General Knowledge 2020 – Arihant Publications

Previous Years’ Question Papers of CDS General Knowledge:

To prepare for any section one needs to go through previous years’ questions from the very beginning of the preparation. Below are the CDS General Knowledge Papers of previous years.

Year Downloading Link
CDS I 2020 Download
CDS II 2019 Download
CDS I 2019 Download
CDS II 2018 Download
CDS I 2018 Download
CDS II 2017 Download
CDS I 2017 Download
CDS II 2016 Download
CDS I 2016 Download
CDS II 2015 Download
CDS I 2015 Download
CDS II 2014 Download
CDS I 2014 Download
  • Time table:

    • For General Knowledge Paper, last 4 - 6 months before the exam is enough. Create a daily routine of daily activities and practice including 3 papers.
    • Dedicate at least 2 - 4 hours for this paper according to your educational background.
    • Do not hop on every topic all at once. Take two topics at a time: one from your safe havens and another one out of your comfort zone.
    • For the uneasy topics, start with Basic NCERT books to have clear concepts.

Check Here CDS 2020 Selection Process

  • Practice and Management Strategy:

    • Try to follow sample papers and previous years’ questions and take mock tests as regular as possible. Do keep a track of timing.
    • One has to answer 120 questions in 2 hours. So according to the statistical analysis one will not get more than 45 - 50 seconds for each question because the exam mode is offline.
    • So one has to save 12- 15 minutes to bubble the OMR Sheets. Try to follow that strategy at home so that at the exam hall, no questions will be missed.
    • At home try to answer each question within 1 minute with confidence so that in the CDS Exam, you will be able to answer the questions with accuracy.
    • Keep the scratch papers of your practice and mock tests also so that later on you might be able to analyze your improvements.
    • There are few online portals for the latest updates. Use those websites with notifications turned on so that you will be informed about all the current updates as soon as possible.


Ques. Which newspapers are most beneficial?

Ans. Newspapers are the most affordable and best source for studying current events. Everyone has their own preference for medium and type. But for UPSC, there are references:

  • The Hindu
  • Indian Express

Ques. Are NCERT books enough for CDS?

Ans. No, they are not enough. They are really good for giving you the basic idea of the whole syllabus and trigger your preparation for CDS. But for in-depth knowledge, you have to follow separate books for CDS English Language, General Knowledge and Elementary Mathematics.

Ques. How many days of preparation are required for CDS?

Ans. For CDS II 2020 Exam, there are more than 6 months to prepare. Make a chart of 6 months preparations for CDS Exam. if your are dedicated to each section equally, General Studies takes the last 4 - 3 months, for the English Language 3 months depending on your depth in English and for Mathematics, 5 - 6 months is really sufficient based on your educational background and logical analysis.

Ques. Does 12th class marks matter in CDS?

Ans. There is no minimum percentage of Standard 12 and Graduation required for CDS II 2020 Application. A candidate has to be passed in both Standard 12 and Graduation and possess a valid certificate of both degrees from a recognized Board or university by the State or central government of India.

Ques. Can students in their final year of college who still have not graduated apply for this exam?

Ans. CDS Aspirants who are in their final year or semester of eligible degree course can apply for CDS II 2020 Exam. But each candidate needs to submit proof of passing the Degree by the prescribed date. This passing degree will be needed at the time of SSB interview

*The article might have information for the previous academic years, please refer the official website of the exam.