Combined Defence Services Exam – Eligibility, Syllabus, Application, Selection, Admit Card and Results

Combined Defence Services (CDS) exam is conducted by Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) for recruitment of commissioned officers in the Indian Army, Navy and Air Force. The exam is conducted twice a year in February and September. Across India, lakhs of students apply for this exam to get recruited in our prestigious forces. 

Due to the coronavirus outbreak, SSB interviews have been cancelled and notification of the same will be announced at a later date. Students who have qualified the written test have to wait for the SSB interview dates to be released.

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CDS Exam – Latest updates

  • 23 March 2020 – CDS 1 result 2020 was announced by UPSC on March 23. A total of 7,018 candidates cleared the written exam.
  • 18 March 2020 – All the Service Selection Boards (SSB) interviews conducted by the Indian Army have been cancelled following the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19)
  • 7 February 2020 – UPSC has released CDS 1 marks 2019 of finally recommended candidates on the official website.
  • 2 February 2020 – CDS I 2020 Exam Date
  • 9 January 2020 – Issue of CDS 1 Exam Admit Card 2020 for February intake
  • 26 November – 3 December 2019 – CDS 1 Exam 2020 Application Withdrawal window
  • 19 November 2019 – Last day to fill CDS 1 Application Form 2020
  1. UPSC scheduled the last date of registration as 19 November 2019
  • 30 October 2019 – Release of UPSC CDS Notification
  1. CDS 1 Exam was scheduled on October 30, 2019 for Feb intake of 2020.

CDS Exam – Eligibility, Key Dates & Application Process

The eligibility criteria depends on the posts applied for. Follow the key criteria mentioned below:

  • In IMA – unmarried candidates born not earlier than January 2, 1997, and not later than January 1, 2002
  • In INA –  unmarried male candidates born not earlier than January 2, 1997, and not later than January 1, 2002
  • Candidates who are applying for Air Force Academy should be of age between 20 to 24 years as on January 1, 2021
  • For SSC course, unmarried male candidates born not earlier than January 2, 1996, and not later than January 1, 2002
  • For SSC non-technical courses, candidates should be unmarried (female) and born not earlier than January 2, 1996, and not later than January 1, 2002
  • To get recruited in IMA and Officers’ Training Academy, candidates must be a graduate.  
  • For admission into the Indian Naval Academy, candidates must have a degree in Engineering from a recognised university
  • To get recruited for Air Force Academy, a graduation course with Physics and Mathematics at 10+2 level) or Bachelor of Engineering degree is necessary
  • Candidates must be physically fit to be eligible for the CDS exam.

Below, we have tabulated the key features of the CDS exam.

CDS Exam Features

Exam Combined Defence Services 
Conducting body Union Public Service Commission (UPSC)
Level of examination National
No. of times exam held Twice a year
Mode of exam Offline
Duration of exam 2 hours
Language of question paper English and Hindi
Examination fees Rs. 200

Key Exam Dates

August 2020 Notification & Registration of CDS 2 exam
2 Feb 2020 CDS 1 exam 2020
30 Oct 2019 CDS 1 notification 2020
30 Oct ’19 – 19 Nov ’19 CDS 1 registration

Application Process

Generally the application process consists of two stages – registration and payment of fees. Candidates are required to fill the basic information in the registration stage. In the second stage, candidates need to pay the application fees, select an exam centre, upload photographs, sign, upload photo identity card document and declare the application.

Stage 1 steps:

  • Click the application link to register for the CDS exam.
  • Enter personal details, address and educational qualification.
  • Choose your  preferred branch and verify the details before submitting the registration form.
  • On successful registration, the registration ID will be generated.

Stage 2 steps:

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  • Candidates are required to login to the application dashboard with the login information generated in stage 1.
  • Pay the examination fee through cash/credit card/debit card or net banking.
  • Candidates can choose one exam centre only. The exam centres are allotted on a first-apply basis.
  • Images uploaded should adhere to the following guidelines: should not exceed 300 kb and must not be less than 20 kb.

Application withdrawal facility

The withdrawal facility is available for applicants who do not want to sit for the exam. They are advised to provide the registration ID generated after submitting an complete application and there are no provisions for withdrawing incomplete applications.

To make a request for a withdrawal, candidates must ensure that they have access to the mobile number and email ID which were provided by them at the time of filling the application form. OTPs will be sent to the candidate’s registered mobile number and email ID. The requests for withdrawal will only be processed after you have validated the OTPs. After that the online withdrawal of application is accepted and candidates must print the authenticated receipt. 

Fee payment information  

If you want to pay the fee in cash, you should take a printout of challan generated online after completion of registration. Then visit the nearest SBI branch for depositing the fee after 24 hours of generation of challan.

CDS Exam – Exam Pattern, Syllabus

UPSC has prescribed a certain exam format for CDS. Applicants should become familiar with the syllabus and pattern before starting their exam preparation. The exam is divided into a written test and SSB interview.

Sections 3 sections in Indian Military Academy (IMA), Indian Naval Academy (INA) and Air Force Academy (AFA). 2 in Officers Training Academy (OTA).
Total marks IMA, INA and AFA – 300

OTA – 200

Type of questions Objective type
Language  Hindi and English
Duration  2 hours for each section

English, General Knowledge and Elementary Mathematics are the sections in the written exam of IMA, INA and AFA. OTA paper comprises the two sections – English and General Knowledge. The exam duration is for 6 hours (each section is for 2 hours) while it is 4 hours (with every section within 2 hours) for OTA. The total marks of the test are 300 while it is 200 for OTA. The test paper contains objective type questions only. 

Every question in the exam has 4 options, out of which only 1 option will be correct and for every incorrect answer, 1/3 marks are deducted. If you mark for than one option then it will be treated as incorrect. If a question is left unanswered there will be no negative marking. 

Once you qualify the written test, you will be called for an SBB interview. The SSB Interview for IMA, INA, AFA carries 300 marks each while for OTA it is 200. 

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CDS Exam – Selection Process

The total marks of the written test are 200 and you need to pass the exam with a good cut off. Candidates who qualify the written exam with the required cut off are called for SSB Interview for an intelligence and personality test. The ones who qualify both the stages of the admission test get selected based on performance in the written exam and SSB Interview.

The written exam is conducted in several cities across India. The details about the exam centres are mentioned on the admit card. Applicants are required to select the exam centres while filling the application form.

CDS Exam – Admit Card, Results, Answer Key

Admit card

UPSC released the admit card for CDS 1 exam on 9 Jan 2020 and candidates who registered for the exam could download the admit card by logging into the website. The admit card contains the candidate’s personal details and they should carry this with one passport size photograph to the examination centre. 

Steps to download the admit card:

  • Applicants first need to visit the official website of UPSC
  • Click the admit card link on the home page
  • Download by entering registration number or roll number
  • CDS admit card appears on the screen and you can download the admit card and take its printout


In the final results of the CDS 1 exam (declared on 23rd March 2020), a total of 7,018 candidates qualified the exam. The final merit list is prepared based on the total marks secured in the written exam and SSB Interview.

Generally, to print out the results pdf, candidates are required to visit the UPSC website and go to the CDS results page. If you qualify the exam, you will find your exam roll number in the result page.

CDS Exam – FAQs

Q. Can girl candidates apply for the CDS exam?

Yes, girl candidates can apply for the CDS exam and they are eligible for OTA. They are allotted SSC in non-technical courses.

Q. When is it possible to appear for the CDS exam?

You need to complete graduation studies to become eligible for the CDS exam.

Q. How to prepare for the CDS exam?

The students should first check out the exam pattern and syllabus and then thoroughly prepare for the exam. Get previous sample papers or take coaching to prepare for the exam.

Q. How many times can you appear for the CDS exam?

There is no time limit to the number of attempts for the CDS exam.

Q. What are the minimum qualifying marks for the written test of CDS and which exam is easier NDA or CDS?

CDS is thought to be much easier than NDA and you need to obtain just 20% of the total marks for passing the written exam.

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