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CDS Exam Syllabus

CDS Exam Syllabus and Exam Pattern – Sections, Topics, Tips & Books

by Team Buddy4Study

Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) has determined the syllabus and exam pattern of Combined Defence Services Examination (CDSE) 2020. Candidates appearing for the entrance exam must go through the CDS exam pattern and syllabus 2020 to prepare strategically. The CDS syllabus 2020 encompasses the topics and sub-topics strictly based on the paper pattern. 

CDS conducts separate exams for English, General Knowledge and Elementary Mathematics. According to the exam pattern of CDS, the question papers of English and General Knowledge have 120 questions each while test-takers have to answer 100 questions in the Mathematics exam. 

Candidates can have a detailed analysis of the syllabus and exam pattern of CDS 2020 in this article.

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CDS Exam Syllabus and Exam Pattern – Important Highlights 

  1. The entrance exam for CDS II will be held in pen-paper based mode for all the courses on November 8. 
  2. The CDS exam syllabus and exam pattern for Indian Military Academy (IMA), Indian Naval Academy (INA), Air Force Academy (AFA) is same whereas for Officers’ Training Academy (OTA), it varies.   
  3. The syllabus and exam pattern of CDS for Indian Military Academy (IMA), Indian Naval Academy (INA), Air Force Academy (AFA) will have three sections whereas, for Officers’ Training Academy (OTA), there will be two sections. 
  4. The entrance test will include objective-type questions.
  5. As per CDS exam pattern, two hours are given to solve each paper.
  6. Examinees shall be awarded 1 mark for each correct answer. 
  7. In case of wrong responses, one-third of the marks will be deducted. 

CDS Exam Syllabus and Exam Pattern – Section-wise Topics 

A complete know-how of the entrance test syllabus will help the candidates in qualifying the CDS II with flying colours. Aspiring candidates can check the topic-wise syllabus for (Indian Military Academy (IMA), Indian Naval Academy (INA), Air Force Academy (AFA) and Officers’ Training Academy (OTA) below.

CDS Exam Syllabus – English 

The CDS English section assesses the candidates’ understanding of English comprehension and usages of words. The questions in this section are asked from the following topics: 

  1. Reading Comprehension
  2. Synonyms and Antonyms
  3. Spot the Error
  4. One Word Substitution
  5. Cloze Test
  6. Fill in the Blanks
  7. Sentence Correction
  8. Sentence improvement
  9. Ordering of words in a sentence
  10. Idioms and Phrases

CDS 2020 Exam Syllabus – General Knowledge 

The CDS syllabus for General Knowledge is extensive in nature and questions related to different subjects will be asked. The sub-topics included in this section are: 

  1. Geography
  2. History of India 
  3. Polity
  4. Economy 
  5. Current Affairs 
  6. Sociology
  7. Award
  8. Sports
  9. Physics
  10. Chemistry 
  11. Biology
  12. Defence
  13. Environment 
  14. Questions about famous personalities

CDS Exam Syllabus – Elementary Mathematics 

Candidates who apply for Indian Military Academy (IMA), Indian Naval Academy (INA), or Air Force Academy (AFA) need to qualify the CDS mathematics exam. Check out the major topics mentioned below to develop an understanding about CDS mathematics syllabus. 



Simple Factors

Basic Operations


Set Language and Set Notation

Solutions of Quadratic Equations

Simultaneous Linear Equations in two unknown-analytical and Graphical Solutions


Trigonometry  Use of Trigonometric Tables

Simple Trigonometric Identities

Simple Cases of Heights and Distances

Geometry  Triangles

Parallel Lines

Lines and Angles


Properties of Angles

Similar Triangles

Number System Decimal

Rational and Real Numbers

Ratio and Proportion

Square Roots

Time and Distance



Mensuration  Rectangles

Area and Volume of Spheres

Volume of Right Circular Cones, Cylinders and Surface

Surface area and Volume of Cuboids


Statistics  Bar Charts

Graphical Representation Frequency Polygons


CDS Exam Syllabus and Exam Pattern – Paper Pattern 

As per CDS exam pattern 2020, there will be a total of three sections for Indian Military Academy (IMA), Indian Naval Academy (INA), and Air Force Academy (AFA) and candidates will be given two hours for each paper. By going through the CDS paper pattern 2020, candidates will learn about the marks distribution,  type of questions asked, etc. 

Candidates qualifying in the written test will further be eligible to go for Service Selection Board (SSB) Interview. Check below the written as well SSB pattern of CDS II. 

Paper Pattern of CDS – IMA, INA, and AFA

Section Number of Questions Marks Allotted Duration
English 120 100 Two Hours
General Knowledge 120 100 Two Hours
Elementary Mathematics 100 100 Two Hours

CDS Exam Pattern 2020 – OTA

Section Number of Questions Marks Allotted Duration
English 120 100 Two Hours
General Knowledge 120 100 Two Hours

CDS Exam Syllabus and Exam Pattern – Marking Scheme 

As per the CDS exam pattern, one-third (0.33) of the marks will be deducted for an incorrect response and 1 mark will be awarded for each correct answer. If candidates mark two options for one answer, it will be considered as a wrong answer. If candidates do not attempt a question, then no marks will be given or deducted. 

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CDS Exam Pattern – Preparation Tips for Written Exam

All the candidates appearing for the CDS exam must follow the below-mentioned preparation tips:

  1. Go through the CDS exam pattern and exam syllabus to understand the structure and formation of the question paper. This point is often underestimated but is the most important to follow.
  2. Candidates should prepare a timetable and must ensure that they follow the same with discipline.
  3. Try to get some recommended books for CDS preparation.
  4. Candidates must solve the CDS question papers of previous years to get a hang of the kind of questions and difficulty level they can expect and manage their time accordingly.
  5. Apart from solving the sample question papers, candidates should also take as many CDS mock tests as they can.
  6. They must also prepare short notes for revising conveniently after preparing each topic. 
  7. Candidates must have the basic understanding of every topic and subtopics of CDS syllabus.   
  8. Lastly, stay hydrated, sleep soundly and eat healthy.

CDS Exam Pattern – Service Selection Board (SSB) Interview 

SSB is conducted to assess the qualities and characteristics of a candidate to become an officer in defence services.  Examinees, who qualify the CDS written exam, are shortlisted for the SSB interview. As per the pattern, there are two stages of the SSB interview. Only those candidates who qualify the Stage I will be eligible to appear for Stage II of SSB interview. Check the detailed information below:  

SSB Interview (Stage I)

  • In this stage, there will be a screening test consisting of Officer Intelligence Rating (OIR) and Picture Perception & Description Test (PPDT). The candidates will be selected on the basis of their combined performance in the OIR Test and PPDT. 

SSB Interview (Stage II)

  • In Stage II, candidates will have to appear for an Interview, Group Testing Officer Tasks, Psychology Tests and the Conference. The second stage will be held for four to five days. 
  • The marks are allotted based on the performance of the candidate in all the tests.
  • The personality of a candidate is assessed by three different examiners – Interviewing Officer (IO), Group Testing Officer (GTO) and Psychologist.  

CDS 2020 – Tips for SSB Interview 

To qualify the CDS SSB interview, a strategic approach and understanding of selection parameters are prime requirements. Candidates can consider the tips below to clear the SSB interview: 

  1. Candidates are suggested to develop story-telling as well as drafting skills.
  2. Practice of verbal and non-verbal reasoning questions will enhance a candidate’s performance.
  3. Also, avoid shouting during the group discussion. Have a calm approach, listen to discussion by other group members attentively, and speak in a firm but polite voice to add an extra edge to your performance.
  4. Increase writing speed so that you can write your answers within the given timeframe.
  5. Also, for the personal interview, prepare yourself well. You must have knowledge of the current national and international events. 
  6. While going for PI, sit confidently, admit your mistakes gracefully, and have a positive attitude. 
  7. Candidates must be physically fit and alert to respond promptly. 

CDS Exam Syllabus and Exam Pattern – Important Books 

The entrance exam preparation tips will aid the candidates to draw a clear cut plan and register success in the CDS exam. Certain tricks of the trade, if followed, (like referring to the important books for each subject) can help the candidates sail through the competitive exam with ease.  Check some of the most recommended books for CDS preparation below:

CDS English Preparation Books

  • Objective General English by SP Bakshi
  • Grammar Basics, High School English Grammar and Composition Edition by Wren and Martin
  • Word Power Made Easy by Norman Lewis

CDS General Knowledge Preparation Books 

  • Geography and History: NCERT (Std 6th to 12th)
  • Manorama Yearbook
  • General Awareness by Manohar Panday
  • Pratiyogita Darpan Magazine
  • Competition Success Review (CSR) and Yojana
  • Also, read the newspapers (The Hindu, The Indian Express) 

CDS Elementary Mathematics Preparation Books 

  • Pathfinder for CDS by Arihant Publications
  • Quantitative Aptitude for Competitive Examinations by RS Aggarwal
  • Mathematics for CDS by RS Aggarwal 

Note: Candidates are also advised to go through the previous years’ CDS question papers as it will help them get an edge in the CDS exam. 

CDS Exam Syllabus and Exam Pattern – FAQs

✔️ Is Combined Defence Services Examination (CDSE) conducted twice in a year?

Yes, CDS is held twice every year for all the interested candidates. CDS I 2020 has already been conducted in February 2020 whereas CDS II 2020 exam is scheduled to be held on November 8.

✔️ Will UPSC conduct CDS II in online mode?

No. CDS is conducted in offline mode every year, which is a pen-paper based method. Candidates need to mark their answers in an OMR sheet carefully.

✔️ What is the duration of CDS 2020?

Candidates will be given two hours for each paper in the CDS entrance exam. It is advised to the test-takers to work on their time management skills as it would enable them to answer maximum questions within the stipulated time frame.

✔️ Is there any negative marking in CDS II?

Yes. One-third of the marks will be deducted in case of an incorrect answer. Candidates will be awarded 1 mark for each correct answer.

✔️ How many marks are allotted for Elementary Mathematics in CDS?

As per the exam pattern of CDS 2020, Elementary Mathematics will carry a maximum of 100 marks. Hence, examinees are recommended to prepare well for Mathematics.

✔️ Who decides the CDS exam syllabus and exam pattern?

Union Public Service Commission has decided the CDS exam syllabus and exam pattern 2020 and released it along with the notification. Candidates should always prepare in accordance with the CDS syllabus to increase their chances of witnessing success in the CDS exam.

✔️ Will the CDS syllabus change?

No. Till now, the CDS exam syllabus has not changed. In case of any further changes, the information will be duly provided on this page as well as on the official website.

Keep visiting Buddy4Study to gain knowledge about CDS Exam 2020 and other competitive exams. 

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