What is CDS?

The Combined Defence Services (CDS) Exam is conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) twice a year to recruit candidates into the defence forces. The exam is taken by candidates who wish to join the Indian Military Academy, Officers Training Academy, Indian Naval Academy and Indian Air Force Academy as officers. The CDS exam tests candidates on subjects like English, General Knowledge, Elementary Maths and other topics. Shortlisted candidates then appear for the SSB Interview round followed by medical tests and document verification before final selection. The CDS exam is considered highly competitive and requires thorough preparation and guidance to crack.

Criteria to join CDS

Aspiring candidates must fulfill the precise eligibility conditions to appear for the prestigious Combined Defence Services (CDS) examination led by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC). The CDS exam is a pathway for Indians wanting to join the Indian Army, Navy or Air Force as officers. The main CDS eligibility criteria are as follow.

01  Nationality

  • Applicants must be Indian citizens or subjects of Nepal/Bhutan.
  • Tibetan refugee settlers in India before 1962 and Indian-origin migrants from Pakistan/East Africa can also apply.

02  Age Limits

  • For admission to IMA 19-24 years.
  • For admission to OTA 19-25 years.
  • For admission to Naval Academy 19-22 years.
  • For admission to Air Force Academy 20-23 years.

03  Education

  • For IMA and Officers Training Academy (OTA)-Degree of a recognised University or equivalent.
  • For Indian Naval Academy (INA)-Degree in Engineering from a recognised University/Institution.
  • For Air Force Academy (AFA)-Degree of a recognised University (with Physics and Mathematics at 10+2 level) or Bachelor Degree in Engineering.

04  Other Status

  • Candidates must meet specific physical standards in terms of height, weight, and vision. These standards may vary depending on the specific academy and branch of service.
  • For IMA, AFA and OTA candidates must be unmarried.
  • For INA candidates can be unmarried or married.
  • CDS is open to male candidates for all academies.
    Female candidates are eligible for OTA (Officer’s Training Academy) only
  • Good physical and mental health is compulsory as per official guidelines.
  • Candidates must also pass a written examination, interview (SSB), and medical examination to qualify for CDS.
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Combined Defence Services Training

The CDS provides training in the following fields.


Cadets opting for the Indian Army receive intensive training at the Indian Military Academy center. The training focuses on diverse domains like infantry, artillery, armored corps, logistics, intelligence as per the cadet’s preferred corps. It covers military subjects, law, accounts, leadership skills, technology use and battle inoculation. The aim is to groom IMA cadets into military leaders.


Indian Naval Academy impart professional naval training to cadets in sailing, navigation, oceanography, boat work, armaments, leadership, and other critical marine operations. The naval training grooms cadets into astute commanders ready for active sea duty.

Air Force Academy (India)


Cadets who qualify for the Air Force Academy get training in aeronautics, aviation, navigation, sciences, air combat and ground duties. The Air Force training transforms cadets into commanding officers equipped in diverse air operations including flying, air traffic control, logistics, administration and other air force domains.

Officer's Training Academy, Chennai


At the Officers Training Academy, cadets undergo a 49 week training program preparing them for Short Service Commission roles in the armed forces. The OTA training covers military subjects, drills, physical fitness, weapons training, leadership, administration – empowering cadets to excel as military officers.

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CDS Exam Pattern

CDS Stage I Exam Pattern
CDS Stage II Exam Pattern


PAPER-I-ENGLISH (Maximum Marks-100)

The question paper will be designed to test the candidates’ understanding of English and workmanlike use of words. The syllabus covers various aspects like: Grammar and usage, vocabulary, comprehension and cohesion in extended text to test the candidate’s proficiency in English.

Topic (English)
Number of previous year questions in CDS, Reading Comprehension, Sentence Improvement, Spot the Error, Cloze Test, Para-Jumble, Synonyms, Antonyms, Sentence-Jumble, One Word Substitution.


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 a nature which candidate should be able to answer without special study.

Topic (General Knowledge)
History,Science,Geography,Environment,Polity, Economy,Defence Miscellaneous.


Topic (Elementary
Mensuration, Algebra, Mean-Median-Mode, Time Speed and Distance, Number System, Simple /Compound Interest, Percentage, Profit/Loss, Mixture, Time and WorkTrigonometry, Set Theory and Clock, Geometry.


(a)Stage I: comprises of Officer Intelligence Rating (OIR) tests are Picture Perception Description Test (PP&DT). The candidates will be shortlisted based on 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 joinindianarmy.nic.in.

The personality of a candidate is assessed by three different assessors viz. The Interviewing Officer (10), 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.

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