CDS Syllabus & Exam Pattern

CDS Syllabus & Exam Pattern

Combined Defence Services (CDS) exam is conducted by UPSC twice every year. Graduates or the candidates in the final year of graduation can apply for the CDS exam, provided they fulfill the requisite eligibility details, as specified in the official notification. Women candidates can apply for OTA only. Through the CDS exam, aspirants can join the Indian Armed Forces either on Permanent Commission (IMA, INA, and IAFA) or Short Service Commission (OTA). The CDS exam is also conducted in 2 phases: Written exam and SSB Interview.

CDS Exam Pattern:

CDS examination conducts in two phases, namely:

  • Phase I– Written Examination
  • Phase II– SSB Interview

CDS Exam Pattern For Written Exam

CDS exam pattern for the Written Examination for admission to Indian Naval Academy, Indian Military Academy and Air Force Academy will include three subjects, namely, Elementary Mathematics, English and General Knowledge. However, admission to Officer’s Training Academy will only have two subjects namely English and General Knowledge. Elementary Mathematics is not included in the CDS exam pattern of OTA.

Mode of Examination: CDS is conducted in the offline mode, which means the candidates must fill the provided OMR sheet using black ball pen.

Type of Questions: The questions are of objective type, which means each question will come with choices and candidates will have to select the right one.

Total Marks: Each section contains 100 marks and since IMA, INA and AFA has three subjects the totals marks for them is 300. OTA contains only 2 sections, so the maximum marks for Officer’s Training Academy are 200.

Time duration: The total time duration for each section is 2 hours.

Negative Marking: Each question in the CDS Written Exam carries 1 mark. There is negative marking of 1/3 for every wrong answer.

CDS exam pattern for INA, IMA, AFA is tabulated below:

Subjects Number of Questions Maximum Marks Time Duration
English 120 100 2 hours
Elementary Mathematics 100 100 2 hours
General Knowledge 120 100 2 hours
Total 340 300 6 hours

CDS exam pattern for OTA is tabulated below:

Subjects Number of Questions Maximum Marks Time Duration
English 120 100 2 hours
General Knowledge 120 100 2 hours
Total 240 200 4 hours

CDS SSB Interview Test:

Shortlisted candidates who qualify in the CDS Written Exam will be called for the next phase of the selection process – SSB Interview (Intelligence and Personality Test). In order to receive a call up for the SSB Interview candidates must register themselves on the recruiting directorate website at This phase will be conducted by the Service Selection Board (SSB). The SSB Interview for INA, IMA, and AFA will be conducted for 300 marks whereas, for OTA, the total marks is 200. The SSB Interview will most likely be conducted in allocated SSB centres (will be mentioned in SSB Interview call letter) for over a period of 5 days. Candidates will have to appear in any one of the centres for the SSB Interview.

CDS Exam Pattern For SSB Interview Stage 1:

Officer Intelligence Rating (OIR) will be conducted on the day of the SSB Interview. This will involve a Picture Perception and Description Test (PP & DT) wherein candidates will be shown a picture for 30 seconds. Post 30 seconds, candidates will be given 4 minutes to write about the picture. Then several groups of 15 members will be formed to discuss and arrive at a conclusion regarding the picture. Based on the discussion and conclusion, the officer will rate your intelligence skills. Only those who clear this round will be eligible to appear for Stage 2.

CDS Exam Pattern For SSB Interview Stage 2:

This stage will be organized for four days followed by stage-1 selection. Stage II Comprises of Interview, Group Testing Officer Tasks, Psychology Tests and the Conference. A variety of tests and activities are conducted in this round through which the personality of the candidates is judged. Three different officials namely Interviewing Officer (IO), a Group Testing Officer (GTO) and a Psychologist will be rating you based on your performance in the tests held. Additionally, marks for Conference are allotted based on the candidate’s initial performance in the three techniques and decision of the Board.

The Psychological Test will include the following:

  1. Word Association Test
  2. Thematic Appreciation Test
  3. Situation Reaction Test
  4. Self Description Test

The various Group Activities include:

  1. Group Discussion
  2. Group Planning Exercise
  3. Progressive Group Task
  4. Half Group Task
  5. Group Obstacle Race
  6. Lecturette
  7. Individual Obstacles
  8. Command Task
  9. Final Group Task

Final selection of candidates will be made based on their performance in Stage 2 of SSB Interview. These various tests of IO, GTO, and Psychology are specifically designed to analyze the presence or absence of Officer Qualities and trainability in the candidate. Based on these tests, the candidates will be recommended by the officers of SSB.

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