CDS Syllabus

CDS Syllabus

If you are a person with military discipline and have a unique way of going about things, and you volunteer to take lead in tasks, then a career in defence is all you need. The determination, hard work and patience it requires makes it one of the adventurous career options suitable for those who are willing to take huge responsibilities and are ready to accept challenges. Whether it is Army, Naval or Airforce services, students find the career in defence highly fascinating. In India, armed forces are lauded as the protectors of the land and the job comes with pride and fame attached to it. In this blog, we will talk about the most popular competitive exam “Combined Defence Services” and explore the CDS syllabus.

Let us first understand the exam in general.

What is CDS?

The CDS exam is conducted twice a year for the recruitment into the Officers Training Academy (OTA), Indian Naval Academy (INA), Indian Military Academy (IMA) and Indian Air Force (IAF) Academy. The exam is administered by the UPSC (Union of Public Service Commission). For INA, IMA and IFA, you need to study three subjects while CDS syllabus for OTA requires you to study only two. The questions asked in the exams are of graduation level while for Mathematics, the questions would include basic mathematics taught in high school. Around 2 lakh students appear for CDS exam yearly out of which 7-8 thousand students are selected to study in the training academies where they are trained to be a part of one of the largest militaries in the world. 

Latest CDS Syllabus 

The CDS syllabus includes a written test followed by an SSB interview. The written test carries 300 marks in 3 subjects for IMA, INA, AFA and for OTA, the total number of marks is 200 and it has only 2 subjects.

Hereinafter is the breakdown of the different aspects of the Combined Defence Services examination:

General Knowledge

This forms the essential component of the CDS syllabus and it is common for all the exams in CDS. To be able to ace this section, you need to have a stronghold on current affairs and in GK. The candidates are tested on their knowledge in various subjects like History, Social Sciences, Biology, Geography, etc. Reading newspapers on a daily basis would help you a great deal in accumulating general knowledge without working much for it. 


Forming an essential part of all the major competitive exams and for those who have good command over the language, the English section is an opportunity to get good scores. This section tests your comprehension skills and various topics include Antonyms, Sentence Improvement, Comprehension, Synonyms, Word substitution, Ordering of Sentences and Spotting Errors. To study for this segment, you must consider that the questions asked are of graduate level. 


Mathematics is a vital component for CDS syllabus if you are applying for any of the services except for OTA. The syllabus for Mathematics section includes Arithmetic, Algebra, Mensuration, Geometry, Trigonometry and Statistics. Unlike other sections, to prepare for this section, you only need to study elementary level mathematics.

Arithmetic Fundamental Operations: Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication, Division, Square Roots;  Elementary Number Theory; Time and work; Simple and compound Interest; Time and Distance
Algebra Quadratic Equations; Simultaneous linear equations in two unknowns—analytical and graphical solutions; Remainder Theorem; Basic Operations; Set language and set notation
Trigonometry Simple trigonometric identities; Simple cases of heights and distances; Sine ×, cosine ×, Tangent × when 0° < × < 90°
Geometry Sides and angles of a triangle, Congruence of triangles, Lines and angles, Plane and plane figures
Mensuration Lateral surface and volume of right circular cones and cylinders, Parallelograms, Areas of squares, Triangle and Circle
Statistics Graphical representation frequency polygons, Pie charts, Histograms, Measures of central tendency

CDS Exam Pattern 2021

The CDS has three subjects in the written exam. Below is the tabular representation of exam pattern for IMA, IFA, INA:

Subjects Maximum Marks Time Duration
Elementary Maths 100 2 Hours
English 100 2 Hours
General knowledge (GK) 100 2 Hours
Total 300 6 Hours

The exam pattern for OTA slightly varies from its counterparts as the exam does not include Mathematics and a total number of marks is 200 only. Below given is the OTA exam pattern.

Syllabus Maximum marks Time Duration
English 100 2 Hours
General knowledge (GK) 100 2 Hours
Total 200 4 Hours

Exam Eligibility 

Before going for CDS syllabus, it is imperative to check if you are meeting the required standards for the exam. Follow the table below, to know everything about the eligibility conditions associated with different services:

Name of the Posts Educational Qualification Age Limit Marital Status
Indian Military Academy/ Graduation or equivalent 19 to 23 Unmarried
Indian Naval Academy Bachelor of Engineering 19 to 23 Unmarried
Air Force Academy Graduation with PCM in 10+2 or Bachelor of Engineering 20 to 24 Unmarried
Officers Training Academy Graduation or equivalent 19 to 24 Unmarried, Married, Widow & Divorcee

CDS Exam Marking Scheme 

To understand the CDS syllabus as well as CDS exam pattern in detail, one must understand the marking scheme that will be followed while evaluating the answer sheets. 

  • Since negative marking is followed in the exam, 0.33 marks will be deducted for each wrong attempt 
  • One mark will be allotted for each correct answer
  • Questions that are left an answer will not be covered under negative marking 
  • If two answers are selected for one question, the answer will be considered as wrong it will be taken under negative marking

Getting into defence services is a dream of many iron-willed aspirants but only a few are selected through a very intensive process. This blog should give you an overview of the exam and inform you about CDS syllabus. Using Leverage Edu’s comprehensive services, many students have found their dream careers. If you need assistance with choosing a career for you, our experts are there to help you. Book a free 30 minutes session with our professional counsellors and be more confident about your decision.  

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