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UPSC CDS 2020: Shortcut techniques to crack math section

Cracking the SSC CDS Maths paper demands understanding of unconventional tricks to solve questions within a minute.

Questions in the exam are asked from English, General Knowledge, and Mathematics.

The Combined Defense Services (CDS) is an extremely popular exam among the young graduates who dream of serving in the Indian defense forces. It is a selection test conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC). Applicants who qualify the exam are considered for admission into one of the various officer training academies that prepare cadets for employment into the defense wings of our nation. Subsequently, after the completion of the training period, cadets are appointed as Commissioned Officers of the Indian army, navy, and the air force.

The CDS recruitment exam is one of the most competitive and toughest exams in India. To take the exam, candidates have to first register for CDS and then appear for a written exam, followed by SSB. CDS 1 2020 has ended, however, candidates can apply for CDS 2 from August 5, 2020.

To qualify the written exam, the candidates need a good CDS preparation strategy and perseverance. Questions in the exam are asked from English, general knowledge, and mathematics. Compared to the other two subjects, questions on mathematics are set as per the matriculation level. This means that although topics such as calculus and probability are not included, the candidates must cover critical topics such as trigonometry and statistics.

In total, candidates have to solve 100 MCQs in the mathematics paper and that too within a fixed duration of 120 minutes. One cannot just memorise answers for this paper and more often than not, it becomes a tedious task to balance the available time for calculations and answering questions within the limited time. Hence, the best resource to prepare for the exam is to solve CDS previous year question papers.

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Around 8 to 10 questions cover the topic of number systems and decimal fraction based questions are asked every year. However, these are not basic level questions and may often include figures that have values up to three to four decimal places. In such cases, calculating manually takes up a lot of time and a common shortcut is to convert decimals to fractions. Conversion of decimals to common fractions ease up calculations.

For this extensive practice is recommended before one can master this technique to calculate answers quickly.

The same concept of reducing bigger digits to smaller figures can be extended to solve the multiplication of three or four digit numbers by applying algebraic formulae. For example, 1397×1397 can be easily solved by writing it as (1397) 2 and then breaking it down as (1400-3) 2. Now the simple formula of (a-b) 2 = (a 2 +b 2 +2ab) can be used to calculate the answer in less than a minute. Thus, it is important that candidates preparing for the CDS 2020 exam include the task of memorizing and practicing the implementation of algebraic formulae.


Referring to the CDS syllabus of the Mathematics paper, one can note that it also consists of simplification based questions which can be confusing at times. The MCQ type questions can often include confusing answers. It is recommended that candidates learn to implement the BODMAS rule to avoid errors. The BODMAS rule establishes the order of solving mathematical operators in a simplification question. Implementation of this rule ensures that candidates can get the simplification right in the first attempt.

A significant proportion of questions are asked from Trigonometry which includes the implementation of trigonometric identities to solve height and distances based problems. It is essential that one can spontaneously recall trigonometric identities and values to solve such questions in less than a minute. It is recommended that candidates refer to previous year question papers to observe the specific trigonometric identities based on which questions are commonly repeated over the years and therefore enhance the prospects of securing higher marks.

First published on: 10-06-2020 at 03:24:20 pm
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