CDS Exam Pattern, Marking Scheme, Syllabus, Previous Year Papers

Combined Defence Services is an exam conducted by UPSC (Union Public Service Commission, i.e., a Central’s recruiting and examination agency that employs candidates for All India Services, including IAS, IRS, IDAS, IFS, IPS, SCRA, NDA, IAAS, CDS, etc. But here for CDS, UPSC conducts examination twice every year: February & November. The test is held mainly to recruit into Air Force, Navy, and Indian Army and Officers Training Academy. Unmarried Candidates, divorcees are allowed to appear for the exam.

The chosen candidates will be selected in the interested Armed Forces through Interviews held by SSB (State Service Board which conducts personality and Intelligence test along with Interview to find the suitable candidate for the Armed Forces through group activities, screening tests, psychological tests and more. The Minimum Qualification is 10+2 from a recognized University with Physics + Mathematics or Degree in Engineering for Navy & Air force. Still, for Army & Officers Training Academy, one must have a degree from a recognized college. The Age limit is 19, and the upper age limit is 25 years. There is a total of 414 vacancies for CDS candidates. The starting Salary will be 15000 + Allowances with the other benefits like House and Car. The exam will be held in 41 centers across India. The vacancies have not been announced yet. To Prepare well, candidates are advised to attempt CDS Exam previous year question papers.

 Eligibility  |  Syllabus  |  Exam Pattern  |  Tips and Tricks |  Take Free Mock Test

Key Highlight
of CDS
CDS registration period:
Starts: Oct 28, 2020 Ends: Nov 17, 2020
CDS Age Limit:
19 - 24 Years of age
CDS 2021 Exam Date:
February 07, 2021
CDS 2021 Result:
March 2021
CDS Application Fees:
General/OBC Male Applicants: Rs. 200 SC/ST/ Female Applicants: Rs. 0 (Exempted)

UPSC CDS Selection Process:

CDS (Combined Defence Services) invites the aspirant's admission to the Indian Military Academy, Indian Naval Academy, Air Force Academy, Officer's Training Academy to serve India. UPSC (Union Public Service Commission) holds the responsibility of conducting the recruitment examination for CDS. The notification for the 2020-2021 vacancies has been released. The selection procedure for the UPSC Combined Defence Services includes two stages:

  1. Written Examination and

  2. Interview for intelligence and Personality Test 

As the CDS exam is twice a year, the 1st term of the exam will be conducted in February for 2021 recruitment on the 7th of the month. The CDS registrations have been available from October 28 and will last till November 17, 2020. The exam will be conducted for the following Defence Services:

Defence Services

Number of Vacancies

Indian Military Academy, Dehradun


Indian Naval Academy, Ezhimala


Air Force Academy, Hyderabad


Officers’ Training Academy, Chennai


Officers’ Training Academy, Chennai



A total of 345 vacancies have been available for the aspirants to choose the preference for the examination. The number of vacancies is subject to change according to the Services Head Quarters. Let's have a close look at the exam pattern of UPSC CDS first stage written examination.

Admit Card:

The admit card of UPSC CDS will be made available online after you have filled your application form.

What is the Exam Pattern of CDS Written Examination?

As there are two different exams for the various Defence services, the exam pattern differs. The CDS(1) Exam for admission to Indian Military Academy, Indian Naval Academy, and Air Force Academy will have three subjects, a time duration of 2 hours each. The total marks for the recruitment exam are 100 marks for each of the papers. The detailed exam pattern is explained with the help of a table to make you understand better:

UPSC CDS Recruitment Exam Pattern:

Exam Name

UPSC CDS (1), Combined Defence Services Recruitment Exam

Exam conducting Authority

UPSC, Union Public Service Commission

CDS Selection Process

1. Written Exam

2. Interview

CDS Exam Mode

Bilingual, English and Hindi

CDS Exam Type

Written Test

Question Type

Objective Type

CDS Duration

2 Hours for Each Exam

CDS Maximum Marks

100 Marks for Each Exam


Key Points of the UPSC CDS Exam Pattern:

  1. The examination is for the different academy; for the admission to Officer’s Academy, the exam will have two subjects. Therefore, the recruitment examination is for 4 hours in total and 200 Marks.

  2. The applicants will find the questions in Bilingual mode, English and Hindi except for the English Language questions.

  3. The question paper will only have objective type questions.

  4. The examination will be in the written test format.

CDS Interview and Personality Test:​

After clearing the CDS Written examination, the next phase is the SSB Selection Procedure, which has two stages: stage I and stage II. The two SSB Stages are:

  1. Stage I: Officer Intelligence Rating (OIR) Test and Picture Perception Description Test (PP&DT). The performance in the OIR test and PP&DT will shortlist the applicants for the next stage.

  2. Stage II: This stage is the final selection, which is comprised of about the following tests:

    1. Interview

    2. Group Testing Officer Tasks

    3. Psychology Tests

    4. Conference

This stage will be as long as it will last for over four days. The Interviewing Officer (IO), Group Testing Officer (GTO), and the Psychologist will assess the applicants to withdraw the complete personality. The marks will be purely based on the performance of the applicant comprehensively in all exams. 

For the Conference, Board will see the performance of the applicants in the earlier three tests and will carry forward with the process as all tests have similar weightage.


​UPSC CDS Exam Marking Scheme:


The applicants have to suffer a loss of marks if they attempt the wrong questions; the answers marked are wrong. There is negative marking for the CDS Written Examination, where each problem with four options has 0.33 negative marks for the wrong answer. We have done the complete maths for the CDS Written Examination Marking; here, we have set you for better clarity for the examination. Have a closer look at UPSC CDS Recruitment Exam Marking Scheme:



Admission for Academy

Number of Sections

Subjects Involved

Time Duration for Exam

Marks Allotted


Indian Naval Academy, Indian Military Academy, Air Force Academy



120 Minutes

1 mark for the correct answer

-0.33 Marks for wrong Answers

General Knowledge

120 Minutes

1 mark for correct answer

-0.33 Marks for wrong Answers

Elementary mathematics

120 Minutes

1 mark for correct answer

-0.33 Marks for wrong Answers



6 Hours (360 Minutes)

300 Marks

300 MCQs


Officer’s Training Academy



120 Minutes

1 mark for correct answer

-0.33 Marks for wrong Answers

General Knowledge

120 Minutes

1 mark for correct answer

-0.33 Marks for wrong Answers



4 Hours (240 Minutes)

200 Marks

200 MCQs


  • If unknowingly mark two options in the OMR Sheet, the applicants will be treated as the wrong attempt, and marks will get deducted according to the negative marking. Though one of the options marked in the OMR Sheet is correct, then also the question will be treated as wrongly marked, and the applicants will suffer the loss. 

  • If any question is left behind unmarked in the OMR Sheet, the applicant's Score will not be deducted for any mark.

  • As negative marking plays a pivotal role in the qualifying marks, the applicant should be highly cautious while filling the OMR sheet. If the applicant has answered more wrong answers than the correct answer, the marks will come from that candidate who will leave the questions unmarked.

  • If an applicant marks three questions wrong, it will cost the marks of a correct answer. Let's make it simpler for you; take a hypothetical situation:

    • ​The applicant has attempted 80 questions in the GK Exam; it appears that about 20 answers marked are incorrect. The applicant will get 53.4 marks in the exam; let's calculate it.

​The maximum marks for each examination are 100; you have attempted 80 in which 20 came out to be incorrect.

Now you have answered 60 right questions of 1 mark, the part of negative marking is 1/3 then 1*1/3=0.33, so for 60 right questions, your score will be 60*1= 60, and for 20 wrong answers, the negative score is 20*0.33= 6.6 marks.

The final marks you will obtain out of 100 marks are 60-6.6= 53.4 marks.

UPSC CDS Syllabus:

Let's have a basic understanding of the CDS Written Examination that what all will included in the examination. The two subjects being common for two examinations for different Academy is English and General Knowledge. The Elementary Mathematics subject will be asked in the Recruitment Exam for Indian Naval Academy, Indian Military Academy, and Air Force Academy. Dive into the topics from each subject in the form of Mock Tests to enhance your knowledge base and preparations for the exam.

1. English:

The English Language examination will test the applicant's English language and the usage of the words.

Idioms And Phrases

Antonyms And Synonyms



Reading Comprehension

Jumbled Sentence

Sentence Correction

Fill In The Blanks


2. General Knowledge:

The applicant must be aware of the surrounding news and current affairs; the aspects of the various fields such as History, Geography, and Science should be covered thoroughly for this section. We have got you some of the essential topics for the Subject in the mock test series.

Current Events (National And International)

Indian Polity And Constitution

Indian Culture And Heritage

Books And Authors

Indian Economy

General Science

Monuments Of India

Indian Geography

Indian History


3. Elementary Mathematics:









What are the topics that are included in the Algebra Section for CDS Exam?

  • Basic Operations of Mathematics simple factors, Remainder Theorem, H.C.F., L.C.M., Polynomials Theory, Quadratic equations, the relation between its roots and coefficients,
  • Simultaneous linear equations in two unknowns—analytical and graphical solutions.
  • Simultaneous linear inequations in two variables and their solutions.
  • Practical problems leading to two simultaneous linear equations or inequations in two variables or quadratic equations in one 21 variable & their solutions.
  • Set language, Set notation
  • Rational expressions and conditional identities
  • Laws of indices

​What are the topics for the Geometry section for UPSC CDS Exam?

  • Plane and Plane figures
  • Lines and Angles,
  • Theorems on (i) Properties of angles at a point, (ii) Parallel lines, (iii) Sides and angles of a triangle, (iv) Congruency of triangles, (v) Similar triangles, (vi) Concurrence of medians and altitudes, (vii) Properties of angles, sides, and diagonals of a parallelogram, rectangle, and square, (viii) Circles and its properties including tangents and normals, (ix) Loci.

What are the Arithmetic problems that are included in the UPSC CDS Exam?

  • The problems of Number System such as Natural numbers, Integers, Rational and Real numbers
  • Fundamental Operations such as Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication, Division, Square roots, Decimal fractions
  • Unitary method
  • Time and Distance, Time and Work
  • Simple and Compound interest
  • Profit and Loss
  • Ratio and Proportion, Variation
  • The problems on Elementary  Number Theory- Division algorithm.
  • Prime and composite numbers.
  • Tests of divisibility by 2, 3, 4, 5, 9, and 11.
  • Multiples and factors, Factorisation Theorem.
  • H.C.F. and L.C.M.
  • Euclidean algorithm.
  • Logarithms to base 10, Laws of logarithms, use of logarithmic tables.

Tips and Tricks: CDS Exam

With people applying for UPSC CDS in lakhs, it became tough to crack, but all you need to do is follow these tricks and tips to succeed:

·         Take Mock tests online to know your Strengths and Weakness.
·         Must know English, consult books like Ren and Martin & NCERT.
·         Must know Mathematics, consult books like NCERT, RD SHARMA, and ARIHANT SERIES.
·         Should know what’s happening in the country, i.e., Current Affairs.
·         The exam revision is to revise what you read in your graduation.
·         Since both the papers are of the Objective type, properly distribute time.
·         Since the exam will be held offline: You need to pay attention and prepare well.
·         Solve previous year’s question papers to know what to expect, and it will test your speed and accuracy.
·         Prepare yourself with the exam's timing so that you will able to finish well on time.
·         Don’t be anxious, and before going to the examination hall, eat properly, have a proper sleep, and relax.

Youth4work Prep Tests

Online practice tests for competitive exams – are very unique and popular among aspirants. Aspirants can take self-designed mock-tests as well as practice for sections and topics separately. Youth4work’s unique and proprietary technology is helping lakhs of aspirants to reveal personal details on what are the strength areas of aspirants for any exam and also suggest how they can improve the performance.

Take CDS Mock Test
Take Mock Test
36085 Attempts
Practice Mock Test
in the Prep Guru application