CDS Exam 2021

CDS Exam

Counted amongst one of the toughest UPSC exams, CDS Exam is a gateway for those who want to join the coveted IMA, INA, and Airforce Academy. Conducted across the nation twice a year, it is an ideal route for entering the defence forces after completing graduation. In this blog, we will shed light on the key details pertaining to this exam which you should be aware of for the year 2021!


Examination Name Combined Defence Services Examination (CDS)
Examination conducting body (UPSC) Union Public Service Commission 
Mode of filling the application  Offline and Online
Total number of Vacancies  345 (CDS 1)
344 (CDS 2)
Application Fees  200 INR
Frequency  Two times in a year
Process of Selection  Written as well as Interview
Mode of Admit Card Online

What is CDS Exam?

CDS, also known as Combined Defence Services, is an examination conducted by India’s apex body, Union Public Service Commission (UPSC). The sole purpose of the CDS exam is to recruit candidates for the Indian Military Academy, Officers Training Academy, Indian Naval Academy as well as Indian Force Academy. The examination is conducted biannually by UPSC in the month of February as well as November. Candidates will be selected on the basis of a brilliant performance in written tests, personal interview along with a personality test. 

Also read:  How to Join Indian Navy?

CDS Exam Dates 2021

As this examination is conducted twice a year, it is important to be aware of the dates if you are really keen on applying for the coveted exam. Tabulated below are the CDS exam 2021 dates which you should know about:  

CDS Exam: 1

Events Important Dates
CDS 1 2021 Notification Release Date 28th October 2020
CDS 1 2021 Apply Online Begins 28th October 2020
Last date to Apply online 17th November 2020 
CDS 1 2021 Exam Date 07th February 2021
CDS Admit Card 2021 07th January 2021

CDS Exam: 2

Events  Dates
Release of notification 04-Aug-2021 
Starting of the application process 04-Aug-2021 to 17-Nov-2020 
Exam date 14-Nov-2021

CDS Exam: Eligibility Criteria

Be it SSC exams or any other government exams after 12th Science, understanding prerequisites should be taken into utmost consideration. For the CDS exam, in particular, the eligibility criteria has been divided into four sections namely, physical, nationality, age criteria and educational qualification. These parameters have been given a rundown below:  


Academies Age Gender Marital Status
Indian Military Academy (IMA) 19-24 Only Men Unmarried
Air Force Academy 19-23 Only Men Either less than 25 years of age[Unmarried] 
Greater than 25 years of age [Both married and unmarried]
OTA – SSC Course for Men 19-25 Male Unmarried
OTA – SSC Women Non-Technical Course 19-25 Female Unmarried/widows who have not remarried/ Divorcees* who have not remarried
*in possession of divorce documents
Indian Naval Academy (INA) 19-22 Only Men Unmarried

Physical Standards

  • As far as physical criteria for the CDS exam is concerned,  a candidate has to be physically fit and mentally sound. 
  • Candidates who have previously resigned or eliminated on any disciplinary actions are not eligible for applying this examination. 
  • Candidates with Tattoos made on any body parts are not allowed to appear in the examination. 
  • Height and weight should meet all the criteria requirements with the commission.


As far as the Nationality of a candidate for CDS exam is concerned, either he should be a Citizen of India or a subject of Nepal or a subject of Bhutan, or a Tibetan refugee who came over to India before January 1, 1962, with the sole purpose and intention of permanently settling in India, or a person of Indian origin who has migrated from Pakistan, Burma, Sri Lanka or East African Countries of Kenya, Uganda, the United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi, Zaire, and Ethiopia or from Vietnam with the intention of permanently settling in India.

Academic Qualifications

  • Qualification wise, for IMA and Officers’ Training Academy, CDS exam candidates should hold a graduation degree from a recognised University. 
  • For Naval Academy, the candidate must hold a BTech/BE degree from a recognised university. 
  • For Air force Academy, applicants must have studied MPC subjects in 10+2 or must hold a Bachelor of Engineering degree. 

How to Apply for CDS Exam?

Here are some simple steps following which you can successfully apply for the CDS exam- 

  • Visit the official website and click on application for various examinations of UPSC
  • On the next page click on the column mention for CDS examination 
  • Under the part 1 section, carefully read all the instruction and click on the yes button
  • Now you will see the application form 
  • Fill in all your personal and contact details carefully in it 
  • Select your parameters for academic as per age and qualification 
  • A new registration ID would be generated in the next step and then you will have to move to Part 2 of the application form
  • You have to deposit Rs. 200 as the application fee
  • Once the payment is done, you can select your examination centre
  • Upload all the necessary documents along with the form 
  • Finally, click on submit 

CDS Exam Pattern

The exam pattern for IMA, INA, IAF is similar whereas for the OTA it differs. Here are both the exam patterns for the CDS exam for the year 2021-


Subjects Marks Duration
English 100 2 hours
General Knowledge 100 2 hours
Elementary Mathematics 100 2 hours


Subjects Marks Duration
English 100 2 hours
General Knowledge 100 2 hours

CDS Exam Syllabus 

Befre you start gearing up for the CDS EXam, it is important to be familiar with the syllabus of it. Being aware of what will be a part of the question paper will help you scoring well in the exam. Here are some quick insights related to the syllabus-

General Knowledge History, Physics, Biology, Geography, Political Science, Current affairs of the last 4-5 months from the examination date.
English Basic Grammar, Synonyms, Antonyms, Comprehension Solving, Error Spotting, Para Jumbles
Elementary Math Natural numbers, Integers, Percentages, Rational and Real numbers, Time & Work, Time & Distance, Profit & Loss, Ratio & proportion, Prime and composite numbers

Note: The above mentioned syllabus is for indicative purposes. Candidates are advised to check the entire syllabus on the official website.

Selection Process 

The selection process for IAF, IMA, INA and OTA is similar in nature. Majorly recruitment is done by following the process of-

  • Written Exam
  • SSB Interview/ Personality Test
  • Document Verification 
  • Medical Examination 

Once the candidates have gone to the above-mentioned steps and stages, a merit list is prepared for the selected candidates who managed to secure good marks overall. Candidates must note that the final parameter of selection is a medical examination. 

CDS Vacancies for 2021

Once you crack the CDS exam, you can join some of the most lucrative posts. All it needs your passion and hardworking skills which can help you crack the examination with flying colours. Go through various posts for the upcoming UPSC exam: 

Academies Vacancies for CDS(1) Vacancies for CDS(2)
Indian Military Academy, Dehradun 100  100
Indian Naval Academy, Ezhimala 26 26
Air Force Academy, Hyderabad 32  32
Officers’ Training Academy, Chennai  170 169
Officers Training Academy, Chennai 17 17
Total 345 344

Exam Centres

As per their feasibility, candidates are free to opt for their desirable exam centre. Below we have tabulated the main cities with exam centres-

Sr. No. State Examination Centre
1 Tripura Agartala
2 Gujarat Ahmedabad
3 Mizoram Aizawl
4 Uttar Pradesh Allahabad
5 Karnataka Bengaluru
6 Uttar Pradesh Bareilly
7 Madhya Pradesh Bhopal
8 Punjab Chandigarh
9 Tamil Nadu Chennai
10 Tamil Nadu Cuttack
11 Uttarakhand Dehradun
12 Delhi Delhi
13 Karnataka Dharwad
14 Assam Dispur
15 Sikkim Gangtok
16 Andhra Pradesh Hyderabad
17 Manipur Imphal
18 Arunachal Pradesh Itanagar
19 Rajasthan Jaipur
20 Jammu and Kashmir Jammu
21 Assam Jorhat
22 Kerala Kochi
23 Nagaland Kohima
24 West Bengal Kolkata
25 Uttar Pradesh Lucknow
26 Tamil Nadu Madurai
27 Maharashtra Mumbai
28 Maharashtra Nagpur
29 Goa Panaji
30 Bihar Patna
31 Andaman and Nicobar Port Blair
32 Chhattisgarh Raipur
33 Jharkhand Ranchi
34 Odisha Sambalpur
35 Meghalaya Shillong
36 Himachal Pradesh Shimla
37 Jammu and Kashmir Srinagar
38 Kerala Thiruvananthapuram
39 Arunachal Pradesh Tirupati
40 Rajasthan Udaipur
41 Arunachal Pradesh Visakhapatnam


Who are eligible for CDS exam?

Candidates must have a bachelor’s degree. although the specific requirements related to bachelors degree differ for all three defence forces. 
IMA: Any Graduation Degree 
INA: BTech or BE Degree 
IAF: BE Degree with MPC Subjects in 10+2

What is CDS qualification?

The UPSC has set that candidates must have a bachelor’s degree from a government recognised University as a basic qualification for the CDS exam. 

Is CDS a tough exam?

CDS exam is considered to be a moderately difficult exam. Once you have prepared well for the exam and are familiar with the entire syllabus you can score well in it. 

We cannot ignore the fact that India’s defence sector has not only witnessed tremendous growth but also offers a plethora of career prospects. So, clearing the CDS exam is a step towards building a vibrant career in this field! If you are unsure of what path to take after 12th then take the assistance from experts at Leverage Edu who will identify your skills and strengths and will recommend a suitable course accordingly! 

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