CDS Exam Pattern

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CDS Exam Pattern

One of the most competitive exams in India, the Combined Defence Services (CDS) exam is conducted by the UPSC which churns out the best candidates who are suitable for training and recruitment in all the three Defence forces of India, i.e., Indian Military Academy (IMA), Indian Naval Academy (INA), Indian Air Force (IAF) and Officers Training Academy (OTA). The exam is conducted twice a year, CDS (I) and CDS (II). All the candidates who are aspiring for recruitment in defence services are required to be well-versed with the exam pattern so as to have a clear idea of how to crack such competitive exams. In this article, we will give you insightful knowledge about the CDS exam pattern. 


Name of the ExamCombined Defence Service Examination (CDS)
Conducting BodyUnion Public Service Commission (UPSC)
Mode of ExamOffline
Number of PhasesTwo Phases – Written Exam and SSB Interview
Medium of ExamEnglish and Hindi
Number of SectionsIMA, INA  and AFA: 3
OTA: 2
Number of QuestionsIMA, INA  and AFA: 300
OTA: 200
Duration2 Hours
Type of QuestionsMCQs
Negative MarkingYes

CDS Exam Pattern: Written Examination

The entire CDS examination is divided into 2 stages – Written Examination and SSB Interview. The written test of the CDS exam consists of 3 sections namely – English, General Knowledge and Elementary Mathematics. For candidates who are planning to go for the Officers Training Academy, the written test comprises of English and General Knowledge. The examination is conducted online with MCQ questions, where candidates have to record their answers in an OMR sheet. 

Let us take a look at the CDS exam pattern in detail along with the marking scheme and duration:

For admission into Indian Military Academy, Indian Naval Academy and Air Force Academy

SubjectMaximum MarksDuration (in hours)
General Knowledge1002
Elementary Mathematics1002

For admission into Officers Training Academy

SubjectMaximum MarksDuration (in hours)
General Knowledge1002

CDS Exam Pattern: SSB Interview

Once you’ve cleared the written test, in the next step you have to get yourself registered for the SSB (Service Selection Board) interview that is also called the Intelligence and Personality Test on this website. The whole process is divided into two stages:

Stage 1 – This consists of Officer Intelligence Rating (OIR) test and Picture Perception and Description Test (PP&DT). And, the shortlisted candidates who clear both the tests are further eligible to move ahead in the final round of selection.

Stage 2 – The final stage involves interview, Group Testing Officer (GTO) tasks, psychology test and conference. This generally spans for a duration of 4 days.

Note: Other than the CDS exam pattern, you must know that the candidates are assessed by three different evaluators – Psychologist, Interviewing Officer and GTO. These tests are specially designed to know whether candidates have officer-like qualities in them. Having equal weightage for each of the tests, the marks that are allotted by each assessor is taken into consideration after the holistic performance of the candidate in all the three assessments.

How to Apply for CDS Exam 2021?

Now, that you are aware of the CDS exam pattern, we’ll take a look at the application process. This involves two parts – Part 1 is the basic registration and Part 2 includes form filling, fee payment and uploading scanned documents. Follow the 4 simple steps given below to start with your CDS application process:

Step 1 – CDS Exam Registration
  • Visit the official website of UPSC CDC 2021 and click on ‘Part 1’ registration to open the registration form.
  • Now enter your name, DOB, parent’s name, address, category, contact details, etc.
  • You will receive your registration number via SMS and email.
Step 2 – Pay CDS Application Fee
  • General/OBC/EWS have to submit the application fee of INR 200, while Female/SC/ST/PH are exempted from fee payment.
  • The application fee can be either paid online via Debit/Credit Card or SBI Netbanking or offline through depositing cash at any SBI Bank branch.

Note: For cash payment, candidates have to generate bank challan during the registration process.

Step 3 – Fill the CDS Application Form
  • Complete your application form and indicate your preferred position amongst IMA, IAF, INA and OTA. 
  • Then, select the CDS exam centre as per your preference.

Note: Carefully fill in the details as no correction will be allowed after the application process has been closed.

Step 4 – Upload CDS Photo, Signature and Photo ID Proof

You have to upload your scanned passport size photograph, signature and photo ID proof in .ipg format and of the size 20 – 300 Kbs each.

CDS Syllabus 

As you now have an idea about the CDS exam pattern, latest quickly you through some important topics of the CDS syllabus- 

Subjects Topics
General Knowledge General awareness, economics, politics, history, sociology, physics, etc
EnglishSynonyms and antonyms, idioms and phrases, comprehensions, etc
Elementary MathematicsAlgebra trigonometry mensuration arithmetic statistics geometry

Important Instructions

All the candidates who are exploring the details about the CDS exam pattern, it is important to note a few instructions. 

  • Students will be instructed to write only through a black ballpoint pen.
  • You may write your centre and subject code followed by the CDS 2021 booklet series along with the exam roll number in the provided answer sheet. 
  • In case you come across a serious test booklet that does not have a printed booklet number on it or an answer sheet that is un-numbered, then, candidates must contact the invigilator and ask for a new answer sheet or question booklet. 
  • Candidates are advised to not commit mistakes or discrepancies while feeling their details as well as answers on the OMR sheet as it may render their answer sheet liable for rejection. 
  • As soon as you receive your question booklet, do take a detailed look regarding missing sheets or torn pages. Get it replaced if any e e page or sheet is torn. 
  • Refrain from writing any other information that is asked for on the answer sheet. 
  • Do not damage your answer sheet as well as avoid writing anything on the reverse side of your answer sheet.

Hopefully, this blog has helped you become familiar with the CDS exam pattern. You can also talk to our experts at Leverage Edu and take help in choosing a career for you. Book a 30 minutes free career counselling now.

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