CDS (Combined Defence Service): Know the Exam Details and Syllabus

By Sarada Rath

There is a popular saying that “when one door closes, another opens”. So, instead of regretting the closed doors, one should search for new opportunities. This is applicable to our career as well as in our life. Combined Defence Service (CDS) is such an opportunity for the aspirant who wanted to join defence but could not make it in NDA after 12th. If you are very passionate to join defence and want to serve our nation then CDS is the right choice for you. This article is here for you to tell you how to make a career in defence after graduation and what is the creamy side of this career. 

Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) conducts The "Combined Defence Services" (CDS) Examination. CDS is conducted two times a year to recruit candidates into the Indian Military Academy, Indian Air Force Academy, Indian Naval Academy, and Officers Training Academy. The exam is usually conducted in February and November. The qualified candidates are invited for the interview conducted by the Services Selection Board (SSB) and the successful candidates are admitted into the respective Academies. During the process of the interview, candidates have to undergo various physical, psychological and medical tests to determine whether or not he is fit for the defence services. 

Similarities and Differences Between NDA and CDS:

Parameter NDA CDS
Age 16.5-19.5 Years 19-25 Years
Eligibility Men only Men & Women
Educational Qualification 10+2 Degree
Scheme of Examination Written + SSB Written + SSB
Frequency of the Exam Twice/Year Twice/Year
Duration of Training

a. 4-4.5 Years

b. 3 Yrs at NDA and 1 Yr at IMA (For Army cadets)

c. 3 Yrs at NDA and 1 Yr at Naval Academy(For Naval cadets)

d. 3 Yrs at NDA and 1 & 1/2 Yrs at AFA 

a. 18 months for IMA Cadets

b. 37-40 months for Navy Officers

c. 74 months for Air Force Officers

Training Centres

1. National Defence Academy, Khadakwasla, Pune

2. Indian Military Academy, Dehradun

3. Indian Naval Academy, Ezhimala

4. Indian Air ForceAcademy, Hyderabad

1. Indian Military Academy (IMA), Dehradun for Army Cadets

2. Indian Naval Academy, Ezhimala for Navy Cadets

3. Indian Air Force Academy, Hyderabad for Air Force Officers

4. Officers Training Academy (OTA), Chennai

Degrees awarded

1. Army Cadets - B.Sc./B.Sc. (Computer)/BA /B.Tech degree

2. Naval Cadets - B.Tech degree

3. Air Force Cadets - B.Tech degree

1. Army Cadets - B.Sc./B.Sc. (Computer)/BA /B.Tech degree

2. Naval Cadets - B.Tech degreeAir Force Cadets - B.Tech degree

Rank assigned after training Lieutenant Lieutenant
Stipend during training Rs. 21,000/- p.m. (fixed) Rs. 21,000/- p.m. (fixed)

Why Defence is One of the Best Career Option?

1. Selection Procedure:

In every exam, academic excellence is given more importance whereas for CDS candidates are selected on basis of intelligence, courage, confidence and physical fitness. 

2. Job Security:

Once you qualify all the rounds of the exam and join CDS training you secure a respectable job for you. You don’t have to search for jobs after passing from CDS. 

3. Monetary Benefit:

 CDS cadets are paid a good amount of salary along with this all facilities are provided by the government so what they earn that almost remains as saving. Apart from this they also get good stipend during the training period.

4. No Reservation Category:

For CDS there is no reservation category like other examinations. The candidates get selected only on the basis of knowledge, fitness and passion to serve the nation.

5. Opportunity to Serve the Nation with High Dignity:

Every honest and sincere citizen serves the country through his work. But by joining CDS you can serve your country and protect it from harmful forces as a hero. Because the Indian army is considered among the best armies in the world.   On the other hand, when a soldier martyrs, his body is covered with our national flag and utmost respect is given to him with a gun salute which is hardly given to the persons of other professions.

Why is it Tough to be in Defence?

  • Defence guys work in very hard and painful conditions.
  • They also have tough physical training.
  • They have to stay away from their families for long.
  • There is heavy punishment for mistakes and undisciplined behaviour. So, they have to lead a very disciplined life.
  • They always have life risk.

Eligibility For CDS Exam:

Educational Qualifications:

  1. Indian Military Academy (IMA): Candidate must have a graduate degree or its equivalent from a recognized university.
  2. Indian Naval Academy: Candidate must have an engineering degree or its equivalent from a recognized university.
  3. Air Force Academy: Candidate must have a graduate or engineering degree (Math and Physics compulsory in 10 +2).
  4. For Officers' Training Academy (Men/Women): Candidate must have a graduate degree or its equivalent from a recognized university.

Note: Candidates who are still in their final year/semester of the qualifying degree are also eligible provided that they must pass the course and present the proof of passing during the beginning of the course

Age Limit and Marital Status:

1. Indian Military Academy (IMA):

Age Limit: 17 - 22 years

  • The candidate should not be born before 2nd January 1997
  • The candidate should not be born after 1st January 2002

Marital Status: Unmarried

2. Indian Naval Academy:

Age Limit: 17 - 22 years

  • The candidate should not be born before 2nd January 1997
  • The candidate should not be born after 1st January 2002

Marital Status: Unmarried

3. Air Force Academy:

Age Limit: 20 - 24 years

  • The candidate should not be born before 2nd January 1997
  • The candidate should not be born after 1st January 2001

Marital Status: Unmarried

Note: For candidate having Commercial Pilot Licence issued by DGCA (India), the age limit is relaxed up to 26 years.

4. Officers' Training Academy (SSC Men):

Age Limit: 17 - 23 years

  • The candidate should not be born before 2nd January 1996
  • The candidate should not be born after 1st January 2002

Marital Status: Unmarried (male divorcee/widower candidates are not treated as unmarried)

5. Officers' Training Academy (Women non-technical course):

Age Limit: 17 - 23 years

  • The candidate should not be born before 2nd January 1996
  • The candidate should not be born after 1st January 2002

Marital Status: Unmarried, Divorcee, Widow


  • The candidate must be one of the following:
  • Indian citizen
  • Bhutan citizen
  • Nepal citizen
  • Tibetan Refugee (Must have come to India before 1st January 1962 with the intention to permanently settle in India)
  • Indian Origin candidate who migrated from Pakistan, Burma, Sri Lanka, Malawi, Zaire and Ethiopia, Vietnam East African Countries of Kenya, Uganda, the United Republic of Tanzania, or Zambia (with the intention to permanently settle in India).

CDS Exam Pattern:

For the exam of Indian Military Academy, Air Force Academy, and Naval Academy: 

Sl. No. Subject Name Marks Duration
1 English 100 2 hours
2 General Knowledge 100 2 hours
3 Elementary Mathematics 100 2 hours
Total - 300 6 hours

For Officers’ Training Academy:

Sl. No. Subject name Marks Duration
1 English 100 2 hours
2 General Knowledge 100 2 hours
Total - 200 4 hours

CDS Exam Syllabus

All the questions that will be asked in Elementry Mathematics will be up to matriculation level. All other subject questions will be such as that is expected from a graduate of any university in India. The subjects from which the questions will be asked are:

  • Elementary Mathematics
  • English
  • General Knowledge


The questions asked in this section are to test the candidate's knowledge of English, Grammar, Vocabulary, etc. Usually, the following type of questions are asked:

  • Antonyms
  • Synonyms
  • Reading Comprehension
  • Word substitution
  • Sentence Arrangement
  • Fill in the blanks
  • Idioms and Phrases

General Knowledge:

This section will test the candidate's knowledge of current events, their everyday observation and knowledge in all scientific and non-scientific aspect that is expected from an educated person. Topics that are usually asked in this section are:

  • Current Affairs
  • Economics
  • History
  • Defence
  • Geography
  • Physics
  • Sociology
  • Politics
  • Sports
  • Environment
  • Biology
  • Cultural
  • Books
  • Statements True or False

Elementary Mathematics:

All the questions asked n this section is till matriculation level. The topics that are basically asked in this section are:


  • Number System: Natural numbers, Integers, Rational and Real numbers.
  • Fundamental operations: addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, Square roots, Decimal fractions
  • Unitary method
  • Time and distance
  • Prime and composite numbers
  • Tests of divisibility by 2, 3, 4, 5, 9 and 11
  • Multiples and factors. Factorisation Theorem
  • H.C.F. and L.C.M.
  • Euclidean algorithm
  • Logarithms to base 10
  • Laws of logarithms
  • Use of logarithmic tables
  • Time and work
  • Percentages
  • Applications to simple and compound interest
  • Profit and loss
  • Ratio and proportion
  • Variation
  • Elementary Number Theory: Division algorithm


  • Basic Operations
  • simple factors
  • Remainder Theorem
  • H.C.F.
  • L.C.M.
  • Theory of polynomials
  • Solutions of quadratic equations
  • Practical problems leading to two simultaneous linear equations or inequations in two variables or quadratic equations in one variable & their solutions
  • Set language and set notation
  • Rational expressions and conditional identities
  • Laws of indices
  • The relation between its roots and coefficients (Only real roots to be considered)
  • Simultaneous linear equations in two unknowns—analytical and graphical solutions
  • Simultaneous linear inequations in two variables and their solutions


  • Sine ×, cosine ×, Tangent × when 0° < × < 90° Values of sin ×, cos ×, and tan ×, for ×= 0°, 30°, 45°, 60° and 90°
  • Use of trigonometric tables
  • Simple trigonometric identities
  • Simple cases of heights and distances


  • Lines and angles
  • Plane and plane figures
  • Theorems on Properties of angles at a point
  • Parallel lines
  • Properties of angles
  • Sides and diagonals of a Parallelogram
  • Rectangle and square
  • Circles and its properties including tangents and normals
  • Loci
  • Sides and angles of a triangle
  • Congruency of triangles
  • Similar triangles
  • The concurrence of medians and altitudes


  • Areas of squares
  • Rectangles
  • Parallelograms
  • Surface area and volume of cuboids
  • Lateral surface and volume of right circular cones and cylinders
  • Surface area and volume of spheres
  • Triangle and circle
  • Areas of figures which can be split up into these figures (Field Book)


  • Collection and tabulation of statistical data
  • Graphical representation frequency polygons
  • Pie charts
  • Histograms
  • Bar charts
  • Measures of central tendency

Read Also: 

Tips to Crack the CDS Exam

11 Preparation Tips: How to Crack the CDS Exam 

NDA Vs CDS: Dream Towards Honour to Serve the Nation


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