Isn’t it a proud moment for an Indian to serve the country as a Defence personal? Surely there’s no doubt about it. One of the prestigious exams for entering the Indian defence force as an officer is Combined Defence Services Exam (shortly CDS).

About the UPSC CDS Exam

The UPSC CDS Exam, Or, The Combined Defence Services examination is conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) for recruitment into the following:

  • Indian Military Academy,
  • Officers’ Training Academy,
  • Indian Naval Academy, and
  • Indian Air Force Academy.

The Exam is conducted twice in a year- one in February and another one in November. The notification for the exam is released in the month of October-November and June-July respectively.

After passing the Exam, the successful candidates have to go through interviews conducted by the Services Selection Board for admission into the Academy.

SSB interviews last approximately for a week, during which candidates undergo various physical and psychological tests to check the officer material in them.

The process of selection is based on the ‘Trait Theory’ of leadership which assumes that every leader must have some specific and pre-determined leadership traits.

UPSC CDS 2019-20 Exam Dates

UPSC CDS exam is conducted twice a year. One (CDS-I) on the month of January and Second (CDS-II) in the month of September.

Exam Dates for CDS I 2020

Events Dates
Date of Notification 30 Oct. 2020
Last Date of Application 19 Nov. 2020
Exam Date 02 Feb. 2020

Exam Dates for CDS II 2019

Events Dates
Date of Notification 12 June 2019
Last Date of Application 08 July 2019
Exam Date 08 Sept. 2019

Eligibility for UPSC CDS Exam

Candidates who are interested in appearing in the Combined Defence Services (CDS) Exam must be eligible on multiple yardsticks.

A candidate should be any one of the following:

  1. The Citizen of India, or
  2. The subject of Nepal/Bhutan, or
  3. Tibetan refugee who had been migrated to India before January 01, 1962 with the intention of Permanent Settle, or
  4. An individual of Indian Origin migrated from Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Burma, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Malawi, Zambia, Zaire & Vietnam for permanent settle purpose in India.

In addition to nationality, candidates should fulfill these criteria too.

Institute/Organization Age Gender Marital Status Education
Indian Military Academy (IMA) 19-24 years Male Unmarried Graduate from recognized University
Indian Naval Academy (INA) 19-24 years Male Unmarried Engineering degree from recognized University
Indian Air Force Academy (IAFA) 20-24 years Male Unmarried Engineering degree (Physics & Maths at 10+2) or B.Tech from recognized University
Officer’s Training Academy (OTA) 19-24 years Male Unmarried Graduate from recognized University
Officer’s Training Academy (OTA)- (SSC Women Non-technical  course) 19-24 years Female Unmarried Graduate from recognized University

UPSC CDS Exam Pattern

Both CDS I and CDS II exam has the same module and exam pattern. There are two parts of the exam. The written exam and the intelligence & personality test.

1. The written Exam

(a) For admissions to Indian Military Academy, Indian Naval Academy and Indian Air Force Academy

Subject Duration Marks
English 2 hrs. 100
General Knowledge 2 hrs. 100
Elementary Mathematics (Class 10th level) 2 hrs. 100
Total 300

(b) For Admission to the Officers’ Training Academy

Subject Duration Marks
English 2 hrs. 100
General Knowledge 2 hrs. 100
Total 200

The written exams are of objective type questions only. The question papers of General Knowledge and Elementary Mathematics are set in English and Hindi language.

The English question paper is designed to test the candidates’ understanding of English and workmanlike use of words.

While General Knowledge question paper includes knowledge of current affairs and of such matters of everyday observation along with Indian History and geography.

Elementary Mathematics includes topics like Arithmetic, Algebra, Trigonometry, Geometry, Mensuration and Statistics.

NOTE: There is a negative marking for wrong answers. For each wrong answer one-third of the marks assigned to that question are deducted as penalty.

2. Intelligence & Personality Test

This part of the exam is conducted by SSB and consists of a two-stage selection process.

Stage 1 comprises of Officers’ Intelligence Rating (OIR) tests and Picture Perception & Description Test (PP&DT).

On successful completion of Stage 1, candidates are sent to Stage 2 of the test. It includes Interview, Group Testing Officer Task, Psychology Test and Conference.

Syllabus for UPSC CDS 2020

Following is a comprehensive list of topics that are included in the syllabus of UPSC CDS exam:

UPSC CDS English Syllabus

  • Synonyms
  • Antonyms
  • Spotting Errors
  • Sentence Improvement
  • Word Substitution
  • Selecting Words
  • Comprehension
  • Ordering of Sentences
  • Ordering of Words in a Sentence

UPSC CDS General Knowledge Syllabus

  • Indian Economy
  • Politics
  • Geography
  • History
  • Biology
  • Physics
  • Chemistry
  • Defence Related
  • Environment
  • Art & Culture
  • Current Awareness
  • Sociology
  • Award
  • Sports
  • Books

UPSC CDS Mathematics Syllabus

  • Number System
  • HCF&LCM of Numbers
  • Decimal fractions
  • Square roots & Cube roots
  • Time and Distance
  • Time and Work
  • Percentage
  • Simple Interest
  • Compound Interest
  • Ratio and Proportions
  • Average
  • Profit and Loss
  • Logarithms
  • Basic Operation & Factorization
  • HCF&LCM of Polynomials
  • Linear Equation in two Variables
  • Quadratic Equation and Inequalities
  • Set Theory
  • Measurement of Angles and Trigonometric measurement
  • Height and Distance
  • Ratio Expressions
  • Locus
  • Area
  • Surface area and Volume of Solids
  • Lines and Angles
  • Triangles
  • Quadrilateral and Polygon
  • Circle
  • Statistical Data

CDS Salary & Allowances

Pay Scale and Allowances of Officers in Indian Army and Equivalent Ranks in Indian Air Force and Navy after 7th Pay Commission:

Pay Scale for Various Ranks:

Rank Pay Scale
Lieutenant ₹ 56,100 – 1,77,500
Captain ₹ 61,300 – 1,93,900
Major ₹ 69,400 – 2,07,200
Lieutenant Colonel ₹ 1,21,200 – 2,12,400
Colonel ₹ 1,30,600 – 2,15,900
Brigadier ₹ 1,39,600 – 2,17,600
Major General ₹ 1,44,200 – 2,18,200
Lieutenant General HAG Scale ₹ 1,82,200 – 2,24,100
HAG Scale ₹ 2,05,400 – 2,24,400
VCOAS/Army Cdr/Lieutenant General (NFSG) ₹ 2,25,000 (Fixed)
COAS ₹ 2,50,000 (Fixed)

Various Allowances:

  • Military Service Pay: Officers from Lieutenant to Brigadier are entitled for a Military Service Pay of ₹15,000/- per month.
  • Cadet Training Stipend: Gentlemen and Lady cadets are entitled to a stipend of ₹56,100/- per month during their training period in the service academy.

UPSC CDS Exam Application Process

Candidates have to apply online through UPSC portal. Detailed instructions for filling up the application form are available on the mentioned website.

The eligible candidates shall be issued an e-admit card weeks before the commencement of examination.

A candidate is required to specify clearly in the respective column of the Online Application the Services for which he/she wishes to be considered in the order of his/her preference. Candidates who desire to join Air Force Academy must indicate AFA as the first choice.

Candidates are advised to keep ready the following documents in original along with their self-attested copies soon after the declaration of the result of the written part of the examination for submission at defence establishments.

  1. Matriculation/Secondary School Examination Certificate or its equivalent showing date of birth.
  2. Degree/Provisional Degree Certificate/Marks sheet showing clearly having passed degree examination and eligible for the award of a degree.


If a male candidate is competing for Short Service Commission (Army) only, he should indicate OTA as the one and only choice. However, a male candidate competing for Short Service Commission Course at OTA as well as Permanent Commission course at IMA, Indian Naval Academy and Air Force Academy should indicate OTA as his last preference; otherwise, OTA will be deemed to be the last choice even if it is given a higher preference by the candidate.

This is one of the most reputative jobs, where you live to serve your nation and will be called a national hero for the rest of your life. All the best.

Go to the Career Updates” section for more updates on UPSC CDS Exam and; ALLOW us to send “web-notifications” to stay updated.

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