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

Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) has determined the syllabus and exam pattern of Combined Defence Services Examination (CDSE) 2021. Candidates appearing for the entrance exam must go through the CDS exam pattern and syllabus 2021 to prepare strategically. The CDS syllabus 2021 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 Elementary Mathematics exam. 

Candidates can have a detailed analysis of the CDS syllabus and CDS exam pattern 2021 in this article.

CDS Exam Syllabus and Exam Pattern 2021 – Important Highlights

  1. The entrance exam for CDS 2 will be held on 14th November 2021.
  2. Candidates appearing for Indian Military Academy (IMA), Indian Naval Academy (INA), Air Force Academy (AFA) entry have to attempt all three papers while Officers’ Training Academy (OTA) candidates have to appear for only English and General Knowledge.
  3. The entrance test will include objective-type questions.
  4. As per CDS exam pattern, two hours will be given to solve each paper.
  5. Examinees shall be awarded 1 mark for each correct answer.
  6. In case of incorrect responses, one-third of the marks will be deducted.

CDS Exam Syllabus and Exam Pattern 2021 – Section-wise Topics

A complete know-how of the entrance test syllabus will help the candidates in qualifying the CDS 2 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 2021 – 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 Exam Syllabus 2021 – 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 2021 – 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 2021, 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 2021, 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 2021 – 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 2021 – 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. 

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.
  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.

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 2021 – 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 2021 has already been conducted on 7th February 2021 whereas CDS II 2021 exam is scheduled to be held on 14th November 2021.

✔️ Will UPSC conduct CDS II in online mode?

Yes. This year, CDS will be conducted in online mode .

✔️ What is the duration of CDS 2021?

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 as per CDS syllabus and exam pattern 2021?

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 CDS exam pattern 2021, 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 decides the CDS exam syllabus and exam pattern 2021 and have 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 2021 and other competitive exams. 

Team Buddy4Study

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