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

  • 20Sep,2018

    There is a popular saying that “when one door closes, another opens”. So, instead of regretting for 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 that how to make a career in defence after graduation and what is the creamy side of this career. 

    The "Combined Defence Services" (CDS) Examination is conducted by the Union Public Service Commission.  To recruit the students into the Indian Military Academy, Indian Naval Academy, Indian Air Force Academy Officers Training Academy the exam is conducted twice in a year. The exam notification usually released in the months of October and June, and the examinations are conducted in February and November respectively.  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 ascertain whether or not he is fit for the defence services. 

    Those who are planning to join tri-services of the Indian Armed Forces, they should know these basic differences and similarities in 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)


    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.


    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.


    Educational Qualifications:
    (i) For I.M.A. and Officers’ Training Academy-Degree of a recognized University or equivalent.
    (ii) For Indian Naval Academy—Degree in Engineering from a recognized University/Institution.
    (iii) For Air Force Academy-Degree of a recognized University (with Physics and Mathematics at 10+2 level) or Bachelor of Engineering.
    Age Limits, Sex and Marital Status (For CDS 2018):
    (i) For IMA-Unmarried male candidates born not earlier than 2nd July 1995 and not later than 1st July 2000 only are eligible.
    (ii) For Indian Naval Academy-Unmarried male candidates born not earlier than 2nd July 1995 and not later than 1st July 2000 only are eligible.
    (iii) For Air Force Academy—20 to 24 years as on 1st July 2019 i.e. born not earlier than 2nd July 1995 and not later than 1st July 1999 (Upper age limit for candidates holding valid and current Commercial Pilot Licence issued by DGCA (India) is relaxable up to 26 yrs. i.e. born not earlier than 2nd July 1993 and not later than 1st July 1999) only are eligible.
    Note: Candidate below 25 years of age must be unmarried. Marriage is not permitted during training. Married candidates above 25 years of age are eligible to apply but during training period they will neither be provided married accommodation nor can they live with family out of the premises.
    (iv) For Officers' Training Academy—(SSC Course for men) unmarried male candidates born not earlier than 2nd July 1994 and not later than 1st July 2000 only are eligible.
    (v) For Officers' Training Academy—(SSC Women Non-Technical Course) Unmarried women, issueless widows who have not remarried and issueless divorcees (in possession of divorce documents) who have not remarried are eligible. They should have been born not earlier than 2nd July 1994 and not later than 1st July 2000. 

    NOTE: Male divorcee/widower candidates cannot be treated as an unmarried male for the purpose of their admission in IMA/INA/AFA courses and accordingly they are not eligible for these courses.
     A candidate must be unmarried and must either be:
     (i) A Citizen of India, or
     (ii) A subject of Bhutan, or
    (iii) A subject of Nepal, or
    (iv) A Tibetan refugee who came over to India before the 1st January 1962 with the intention of permanently settling in India, or
    (v) a person of Indian origin who has migrated from Pakistan, Burma, Sri Lanka and East African Countries of Kenya, Uganda, the United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi, Zaire, and Ethiopia or Vietnam with the intention of permanently settling in India.
    Provided that a candidate belonging to categories (ii), (iii), (iv) and (v) above shall be a person in whose favor a certificate of eligibility has been issued by the Government of India. Certificate of eligibility will, however, not be necessary in the case of candidates who are Gorkha subjects of Nepal. A candidate in whose case a certificate of eligibility is necessary may be admitted to the examination provisionally subject to the necessary certificate being given to him/her by the Govt. before the declaration of result by UPSC.

    CDS Exam Pattern:

    For the exam of Indian Military Academy, Air Force Academy, and Naval Academy
    Paper Subject Name Marks Duration
    1 English 100 2 hours
    2 General Knowledge 100 2 hours
    3 Elementary Mathematics 100 2 hours
      Total 300  
    For the Exam for Officers’ Training Academy
    English – 100 Marks
    General Knowledge – 100 Marks
    So there is no mathematics.


    The standard of the papers in Elementary Mathematics will be of Matriculation level. The standard of papers in other subjects will approximately be such as may be expected of a graduate of an Indian University.

    The question paper will be designed to test the candidates’ understanding of
    English and workmanlike use of words.

    General Knowledge including knowledge of current events and of such matters of everyday observation and experience in their scientific aspects as may be expected of an educated person who has not made a special study of any scientific subject. The paper will also include questions on History of India and Geography of nature which candidate should be able to answer without special study.

    Number System—Natural numbers, Integers, Rational and Real numbers.
    Fundamental operations, addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, Square roots, Decimal fractions. Unitary method, time and distance, time and work, percentages, applications to simple and compound interest, profit and loss, ratio and proportion, variation.
    Elementary Number Theory—Division algorithm. Prime and composite numbers. Tests of divisibility by 2, 3, 4, 5, 9 and 11. Multiples and factors. factorization theorem. H.C.F. and L.C.M. Euclidean algorithm. Logarithms to base 10, laws of logarithms, use of logarithmic tables.

    Basic Operations, simple factors, Remainder Theorem, H.C.F., L.C.M., Theory of polynomials, solutions of quadratic equations, 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. 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.

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

    Lines and angles, Plane and plane figures, Theorems on (i) Properties of angles at a point, (ii) Parallel lines, (iii) Sides and angles of a triangle, (iv) Congruency of triangles, (v) Similar triangles, (vi) Concurrence of medians and altitudes, (vii) Properties of angles, sides and diagonals of a parallelogram, rectangle and square, (viii) Circles and its properties including tangents and normals, (ix) Loci.

    Areas of squares, rectangles, parallelograms, triangle, and circle. Areas of figures which can be split up into these figures (Field Book), Surface area and volume of cuboids, lateral surface and volume of right circular cones and cylinders, surface area and volume of spheres.

    Collection and tabulation of statistical data, Graphical representation frequency polygons, histograms, bar charts, pie charts etc. Measures of central tendency.
    The SSB procedure consists of a two-stage Selection process - stage I and stage II. Only those candidates who clear the stage I are permitted to appear for stage II. The details are:-
    (a) Stage I comprises of Officer Intelligence Rating (OIR) tests are Picture Perception*
    Description Test (PP&DT). The candidates will be shortlisted based on a combination of performance in OIR Test and PP&DT.
    (b) Stage II Comprises of Interview, Group Testing Officer Tasks, Psychology Tests and the Conference. These tests are conducted over 4 days. The details of these tests are given on the website
     The personality of a candidate is assessed by three different assessors viz.
    The Interviewing Officer (IO), Group Testing Officer (GTO) and the Psychologist.
    There are no separate weightage for each test. The marks are allotted by assessors only after taking into consideration the performance of the candidate holistically in all the test. In addition, marks for Conference are also allotted based on the initial performance of the Candidate in the three techniques and decision of the Board. All these have equal weightage. The various tests of IO, GTO and Psych are designed to bring out the presence/absence of Officer Like Qualities and their trainability in a candidate. Accordingly, candidates are Recommended or Not Recommended at the SSB.
    Read here: Tips to Crack CDS Exam

    Also read: 11 Preparation Tips: How to Crack CDS Exam 
    Also read: NDA Vs CDS: Dream Towards Honour to Serve the Nation

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