What Is The CDS Exam [Fully Explained]


Here, we will start with the full form of CDS, which stands for Combined Defence Services. As most of the things are clear from the name, this exam is responsible for the recruitment of candidates into the Indian Military Academy(Army), Officers Training Academy(Army), Indian Naval Academy(Navy), and Indian Air Force Academy(Air Force).

Though this exam is somehow equivalent to the NDA exam, the difference comes in the fact that NDA is conducted before graduation, and CDS is for after graduation students. It is also a very prestigious exam. Below we will be discussing it in some more details.

Form filling

This is a national level exam conducted twice a year. Generally, the form filling happens approximately in May and November from the UPSC official website as UPSC itself conducts the paper. Though also, the form filling is painless and does not require very complicated procedures. Approximately UPSC receives 10-12 Lakh applications every year, a significantly less number of students can qualify for the written examination. The students with age between approx 19-24 Years are applicable for Permanent Commission eligibility, whereas students having age between 19-25 years are applicable for the Short Service Commission. The essential education qualification here varies for the different profiles of armed forces like For IMA, and Officers Training Academy candidates must be a graduate, For Indian Naval Academy candidates must have a degree in Engineering, For Air Force Academy, a degree or Bachelor of Engineering is necessary. If we look into the whole country, there are approximately 41 places allotted for the CDS exam.

Written Exam

After the filling of the form is finished, then the written paper is conducted for the CDS. Talking about the written paper, the exam is being conducted in 3 phases, or you can say in 3 parts of English, General Knowledge, and Elementary Mathematics. Though the same papers are undertaken for the Permanent commission and short service commission, the paper of elementary mathematics is not applicable for the Short Service Commission. The CDS exam is conducted in the pen and paper form and has multiple-choice questions. Although the time duration for all the paper is the same, they also have negative marking in them for the wrong answers.

I am firstly talking about the English exam. The English paper’s total duration is 2 hours, which comprises a total of 100 questions. Each question is of 1 mark only, making the total weightage of the paper 100 marks. Talking about the syllabus, the paper mostly covers the topic synonyms, antonyms, jumbled sentences, spot the error, etc. Some questions in the paper are easy, moderate while some are hard. So, overall it is a mixture of all types of questions. This paper is a bit easy to score good marks and clear the minimum cut off.

After that, if we will talk about the General Knowledge paper. The paper’s total duration is 2 hours, which comprises a total of 100 questions. Each question is of 1 mark, making the total weightage of the paper to be 100 marks. Here, the paper’s question is a mixture of History, Science, Geography, Ecology, Polity, and some questions from the Armed Forces. Normally for the preparation of this paper, candidates need to mug up things. This paper is also a good source for gaining good marks, but it becomes a bit hard for candidates to score in this as the syllabus is very vast.

Talking about the third paper that is of Elementary Mathematics. Again its duration is 2 hours with 100 questions having a weightage of 1 marks each. The syllabus of Mathematics is a combination of School level 9-12 class mathematics and competitive mathematics. The topics covered are Mensuration, Algebra, Speed & Distance, Number System, Percentage, and many more. In this paper, the questions are from different categories like easy, moderate, and hard.

Talking about the negative marking, it is same for all the three papers, which is one-third of the marks given for each correct answer. Like, in this case, it will be one-third of 1 mark.

Service Selection Board(SSB) interview

After the result of the Written exam is declared, within some weeks, the dates of SSB of candidates are announced. The SSB dates do come online, but they also send a post where all the SSB Interview instructions will also be mentioned. SSB is a 5–6 days evaluation process.

Services Selection Board (SSB) is an organization responsible for assessing the candidates for becoming officers in the Indian Armed Forces. The board evaluates the candidate’s suitability for becoming an officer using some standardized evaluation system protocols that constitute personality, intelligence tests, and interviews. The tests are of both types, i.e., written and practical task-based. An SSB comprises the panel of assessors, officers in the Indian Armed Forces, and their specialization as Psychologist, GTO (Group Task Officer), and Interviewing Officer. There are thirteen Service Selection Boards across India, out of which four boards are for the Indian Army, four boards are for Indian Air Force, and five boards for the Indian Navy.

The SSB procedure is divided into two stages, where Stage-1 is conducted on the 1st day of reporting, and the candidates who have cleared it are allowed to stay for the next for next Stage-2 of SSB. The accommodations and the foods are being arranged by the boards themselves during the procedure. In stage-2, it is further sub-divided into three main test psychology, GTO, and the personal interview test. On the last day before the result is declared, a short conference is also conducted to assess candidates for the last and very short time. After the conference, the results are declared.

Though the main qualities which the officers keep on finding or judging in the candidates roam around the Officer Like Qualities, which are defined as:

  • Effective Intelligence
  • Reasoning Ability
  • Organizing ability
  • Power of Expression
  • Social Adaptability
  • Co-operation
  • Sense of Responsibility
  • Initiative
  • Self Confidence
  • Quickness of Decision
  • Ability to influence
  • Liveliness
  • Determination
  • Courage
  • Stamina

Though if we compare the SSB level of NDA entry and CDS entry, the more expectations are kept from the CDS candidate as they are expected to be more mature and sincere.

Medicals and Merit List

After the candidates get recommend, they are further processed for a medical examination. Most of the time, medical examinations are done in the same places where candidates get recommend, but sometimes, for boards like Varanasi, Candidates need to choose their place for medical examination.

Again, it is a little time taking process, which may take up to 5-10 days based upon doctors’ availability in the Military Hospitals. In the medical examination, the doctors’ basic duty is not just to focus on the present time diseases in the body but also to check the body for future consequences. They do a thorough check-up of the whole body from small ears to big X-Rays. The CDS has also provided a whole curriculum where they have provided the rules and regulations related to medical examinations.

After the Medicals, the result is announced. It is very good news for the one who gets medically fit in the first attempt; otherwise, candidates who get medically unfit get another chance to appeal for a second check-up within the limit of 42 days. The chance of appeal is given with the thought of considering the human or machine error.

After the whole medical process is completed, the last and the final step is the merit list declaration. Approximately after one month of the declaration of the medical result, a merit list is launched.


Finally, the candidates are called to various academies based on their choice of preference and rank in the merit list. They will be doing future training for approximately 1-1.5 years. Generally, we can see that it takes approximately one year from the time of filling the form to going into the academy for training. So, being a very long process, surely it gives very good experiences. Though if someone could not make it either in the lasts stages, they should not become sad. Instead, they need to stand once again by being more strong and learn from the failures.

Bashu Tiwari

    Intern at SSBCrackExams. Recommended from 4 AFSB Varanasi and 19 SSB Allahabad NDA AIR-49. Secured all india rank 26,137 in JEE Mains and 18,000 in JEE advance.

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