What is CDS Exam?

CDS Exam, also known as the Combined Defence Services Examination, is a competitive examination conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) of India. The exam is held twice a year with the aim of recruiting officers into the Indian Military Academy (IMA), Indian Naval Academy (INA), Air Force Academy (AFA), and Officers Training Academy (OTA).

The CDS exam consists of a written examination followed by an interview conducted by the Services Selection Board (SSB). The written examination includes questions on English, General Knowledge, and Elementary Mathematics. Candidates who clear the written examination are called for the SSB interview, which comprises of various tests such as group discussions, psychological tests, and personal interviews.

Successful candidates are then inducted into the respective academies after undergoing rigorous training. The CDS exam is a highly competitive exam, and candidates need to prepare thoroughly to clear the various stages of the examination.

Exam Name Combined Defence Services (CDS) Examination
Conducting Body
Union Public Service Commission (UPSC)
Exam Level
National Level
Exam Frequency
Twice a year (February and November)
Mode of Exam
Offline (Pen and Paper-based)
Total Questions
2 hours for English and 2 hours for General Knowledge (GK)
Language of Exam
Total Marks
English and General Knowledge (GK)
Negative Marking
Yes (1/3rd marks deducted for each wrong answer)
Unmarried male and female graduates or those appearing in final year of graduation
Age Limit
Varies for different academies and services (generally 19 to 25 years)
Selection Process
Written Exam, SSB Interview, and Medical Examination
Application Mode
Application Fee
Rs. 200/- for general and OBC candidates; No fee for SC/ST candidates and daughters of serving/ex-servicemen
Exam Centers
All major cities in India

CDS Exam Pattern

SubjectDurationMaximum Marks
English2 hours100
General Knowledge2 hours100
Elementary Mathematics2 hours100

CDS Exam Syllabus

Subject Topics
English Reading Comprehension, Jumbled Sentences, Error Correction, Synonyms & Antonyms, Idioms & Phrases, Fill in the Blanks, One Word Substitution, etc.
General Knowledge Current Affairs, History, Geography, Economics, Indian Polity, Environment, Defence & Security, etc.
Elementary Mathematics Arithmetic, Algebra, Trigonometry, Geometry, Mensuration, Statistics, etc.

CDS SSB Interview Details

Stage I5 days
  • Officer Intelligence Rating (OIR) Test
  • Picture Perception and Description Test (PP&DT)
Stage II4 days
  • Psychological Testing
  • Group Testing
  • Personal Interview
  • Conference

CDS Medical Examination Details

CDS Medical Examination Details
Height and Weight MeasurementsMinimum height for men is 157.5 cm with correlated weight; for women, it is 152 cm with 42 kg weight.
Eye SightThe minimum acceptable visual acuity are 6/6 in one eye and 6/18 in the other, correctable to 6/6 only for hypermetropia.
Physical FitnessCandidates should be physically fit and should be able to perform physical activities such as running, sit-ups, push-ups, etc.

Selection Process for CDS Exam

Selection Stage Details
Writtern Exam
- Consists of two papers: English and General Knowledge (GK)
- Both papers are objective type and of 2 hours duration each
- Candidates must secure minimum qualifying marks to be called for SSB Interview
SSB Interview
- Consists of two stages: Stage I (Officer Intelligence Rating test, Picture Perception and Description Test) and Stage II (Interview, Group Testing Officer Tasks, Psychology Tests and Conference)
- Candidates are evaluated on various personality traits, leadership qualities and communication skills
- Candidates who clear the SSB interview are eligible for the medical examination
Medical Examination
- Conducted by a Board of Service Medical Officers to assess the medical fitness of the candidates
- Candidates are examined for various medical conditions, including height and weight, visual and hearing abilities, and overall physical and mental fitness
- Candidates who pass the medical examination are recommended for admission to the Indian Military Academy, Indian Naval Academy, Air Force Academy, and Officers’ Training Academy