The Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) runs a national competitive examination known as the Combined Defense Services (CDS) twice a year as CDS I and II. It is going to take place on 7 Feb 2021. Candidates aspiring to serve the country by joining the defence forces can begin to apply for a CDS test. Your selection will be formed on a written test followed by an intelligence and personality test interview. The candidates will be nominated at the corresponding academies on the basis of choice and merit.  Let’s discuss the details of the CDS exam pattern.

CDS Exam Pattern for Writing Test

The CDS exam pattern for the written test for enrollment to the Indian Naval Academy, the Indian Military Academy, and the Air Force Academy will cover three subjects, mainly elementary mathematics, general knowledge, and English. That being said, only two subjects will be accepted to the Officer’s Training Academy, both English and General Knowledge. Elementary mathematics isn’t included in the OTA CDS exam pattern.

UPSC CDS 2 is done in offline mode, which means that candidates are required to fill in the OMR sheet given using a black ball pen. The questions are of an objective sort, which means that each question will come with options and the applicants will have to choose the correct one.

Since there are 3 subjects which are worth  100 marks each. You are given a total of 6 hours to complete all the three sections. There is one mark for each question and there is also a negative marking of ⅓ for every wrong answer. The CDA exam pattern for OTA is slightly different with one exception which is there are only two subjects and the rest remains the same.

Also Read: UPSC Study Plan for 2021

CDS Exam Pattern for Service Selection Board Interview

The shortlisted candidates who qualify for the CDS 2020 Written Exam will be called for the next step of the selection process which is the SSB Interview also known as the Intelligence and Personality Test. In order to obtain a call for SSB Interview applicants, they must register on the recruitment directorate’s website.

The SSB interview is worth 300 points whereas, for OTA, it is  200 marks. The interview has two phases. Let us discuss them one by one.

SSB Interview Stage 1

Officer Intelligence Rating (OIR) is performed on the date of the SSB Interview. This will include a Picture Perception and Description Test (PP & DT) in which candidates would be shown an image for 30 seconds. After 30 seconds, the candidates will have four minutes to write about the photo. Then a number of groups of 15 members will be assembled to discuss and come to a conclusion on the photo. Based on the conversation and analysis, the officer will assess your intellectual abilities. Those who get selected in this round move to Stage 2.

SSB Interview Stage 2

This phase is a long one that continues for 4 days. It will consist of more interviews, conferences, tasks, psychological tests given by group testing officers. Some examples of tasks are a command task, self-description test, situation reaction test, etc.

The final selection of candidates will be made on the basis of their results in the second stage of the SSB Interview. These numerous IO, GTO, and Psychology assessments are explicitly designed to assess the existence or absence of Officer Skills and adaptability in the contender.

Now that you have a better idea of the UPSC CDS, let’s focus on the syllabus now.

CDS Exam Syllabus

Maths English  General Knowledge
  • Arithmetic -Percentage, logarithms, factorization
  • Algebra-Quadratic equations, linear equations, Polynomials
  • Geometry- Triangles, lines, angles
  • Statistics- data, charts
  • Trigonometry- Trig tables, formulas
  • Mensuration- Area of figures
  • Spotting Errors

  • Sentence Arrangement

  • Synonyms and Antonyms

  • Selecting Words

  • Ordering of Sentences

  • Comprehension

  • Ordering of Words in a Sentence

  • Fill in the blanks

  1. History

  2. Geography

  3. Politics

  4. Economics

  5. Sociology

  6. Physics, Chemistry, Biology

  7. Environment

  8. Sports

  9. Awards

  10. Books & Authors

  11. Culture and Traditions


Now that you have a good understanding of the CDS Exam Pattern and syllabus Focus on CDS preparation. Go through the CDS Syllabus extensively and tackle as many CDS practice problems as possible. Take a lot of CDS mock tests to improve your results. Evaluate your performance with mock tests and see where you’re losing the marks and focus on your weakest areas.

Read Also: Best Android Apps for Government Exams 

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UPSC CDS Exam Pattern: A Step-by-Step Guide to Qualify for CDS 2021
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UPSC CDS Exam Pattern: A Step-by-Step Guide to Qualify for CDS 2021
CDS Exam structure and syllabus available. Read this guide to see if you have all that it takes to join CDS. How are you scored in all the subjects? Is the syllabus hard? Check to find it all.
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