NDA Exam Preparation – Detailed Analysis, Tips by Toppers & Experts

“You have never lived until you’ve almost died. And for those who choose to fight, life has a special flavor. The protected ones will never know!“ – Captain R Subramanian (Kirti Chakra Awardee). 

If you’re one of those youngsters who are driven by such enthusiastic words spoken by the exceptional men of the Indian Armed Forces, the NDA exam is your first step. The National Defense Academy Examination is conducted by the Union Public Service Commission. Those who qualify the NDA exam and get recruited in the defense services get an opportunity to serve and protect their motherland and live a life of pride and discipline. Besides, the uniformed services (including the Army, Navy and Air Force) provide a life full of prestige, varied experiences and adventure, job security and economic stability, post retirement benefits, facilities for the entire family and endless opportunities to grow professionally.  

However, in order to crack the highly competitive NDA exam, the aspirants must have an effective NDA preparation strategy and a procrastination-proof study timetable. In the NDA 2019 exam, over 600,000 students appeared to compete for 300-350 vacancies across all the wings of Indian Army. Hence, aspirants planning to take the NDA exam 2020 must follow the footprints of previous toppers and their NDA exam preparation strategy.                

Usually, the NDA examination for admission to Air Force, Navy and Armed forces is conducted twice a year. However, the Union Public Service Commission has merged NDA (I) and NDA (II) this year due to the outbreak of COVID-19. The combined NDA 2020 exam shall be conducted on September 6. The NDA written exam will be followed by an SSB Interview round and a medical fitness test. Read this article to get expert NDA exam preparation tips along with other vital insights on the NDA exam structure. 

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NDA Exam Preparation – Detailed Analysis for Paper I & II

Being an exam of national importance, qualifying the NDA exam will not be easy. Candidates will require a solid NDA exam preparation strategy to ace this exam. The tips and tricks furnished below have been accumulated with the help of expert teachers, and interview bytes of the previous NDA toppers:    

NDA Exam Preparation – Preparation Tips for Mathematics Section

The NDA exam consists of two separate papers (Mathematics & General Ability Test) and holds the weightage of a total of 900 marks. The mathematics question paper has multiple choice questions (MCQs) of a maximum of 300 marks. Here are some pivotal preparation tips to qualify the mathematics section of the NDA examination.

  • Get a complete know-how of the NDA mathematics syllabus as prescribed by UPSC.
  • The topics in the NDA mathematics exam are derived from the NCERT syllabus of class 10th to class 12th. Thus, candidates can refer to their secondary and senior secondary school level NCERT textbooks.
  • Brush up your basic calculation skills by learning some smart tricks recommended by the experts. Consuming lesser time in calculations enables you to attempt more questions. 
  • Do not dig deep into concepts. Your major focus must be on the topics you have already studied in school.
  • Once you have completed the syllabus, proceed to solve the previous years’ question papers. It will help you develop a better understanding of the exam pattern and the important mathematics topics for NDA exam preparation.
  • Focus on both speed as well as accuracy. A good command over both these aspects will help you in performing up-to-the-mark in NDA mathematics exam.

Read More : NDA Syllabus – Topics in Maths & GAT, Exam Pattern, SSB Test/Interview

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NDA Exam Preparation – Test Structure for Mathematics Section

Candidates preparing for the NDA examination must be aware of the exam pattern for a channelized preparation. The exam pattern for NDA Mathematics paper is as follows:

Exam Pattern for NDA Paper I 

Particulars Details
Name of Paper  Paper I – Mathematics
Mode of Exam Pen and Paper test (Offline)
Type of Questions Objective type (Multiple Type Questions)
Number of Questions 120
Duration of Exam 2.5 hours (150 minutes)
Maximum Marks  300
Marking Scheme +2.5 marks for each correct response
-0.83 marks for each incorrect response
Medium of Exam English and Hindi

NDA Exam Preparation – Syllabus for Mathematics Section

The mathematics syllabus for NDA exam includes the topics from the following chapters.

  1. Algebra
  2. Matrices and Determinants
  3. Trigonometry 
  4. Analytical Geometry of two and three dimensions
  5. Differential Calculus
  6. Integral Calculus and Differential Equations
  7. Vector Algebra
  8. Statistics and Probability

The pie-chart below represents the importance of each chapter in NDA Paper I:

importance of each chapter in NDA Paper I

NDA Exam Preparation – Recommended Books for Mathematics

Only knowing the exam pattern and syllabus will do no good until the candidates source the best study material for NDA exam preparation. Although NCERT consists of the complete syllabus for NDA mathematics exam, candidates can use the books mentioned below for advanced preparation.

Books Recommended for NDA Mathematics Exam Preparation

Name of Book Author/ Publisher
NDA/NA 14 Years Mathematics Topic Wise Solved Papers Disha Experts
Mathematics for NDA/NA  R.S. Aggarwal 
Study Package Mathematics NDA and NA  Arihant Experts

NDA Exam Preparation – Preparation Tips for General Ability Test (GAT) 

The General Ability Test (Paper-II) consists of two parts, i.e. English and General Knowledge. Both the parts of GAT contribute to a total of 600 marks out of overall 900. Candidates must follow the below-stated preparation tips during NDA exam preparation for General Ability Test. 


  • UPSC designs the English paper to evaluate the command of the candidate over the English language. Reading authentic English newspapers like ‘The Hindu’ and ‘The Asian Age’ will help aspirants in enhancing their vocabulary as well as grammar.
  • Practise as many comprehensions as possible to solve this section with immense ease.
  • Prepare for even the basic grammar rules as you can’t afford to make any minor mistakes while writing the exam.
  • Practising the previous years’ question papers will help in enhancing the overall preparation of the English section of NDA exam.


  • The GK section is termed as the toughest section of the NDA examination as it is vast in nature and there is no defined NDA syllabus for the same.
  • Make it a habit to watch reliable news channels during your breaks to get acquainted with current national and international events.
  • Source the best knowledge about the arsenals of all the three wings of Indian Army.  
  • Schedule a study plan, mark your calendar accordingly and follow the NDA exam preparation plan religiously. 
  • Refer to the NCERT books of class 8th to class 12th to prepare all the topics under Physics, Chemistry, General Science, Social Science and Geography.
  • Subscribe to YouTube channels that are based on specialized NDA exam preparation to listen to the tips by experts.
  • While preparing, make short notes for quick and easy revision of all the topics.
  • Practice as many previous years’ question papers as possible. This will help you in analyzing the important topics that repeat from year to year. 

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NDA Exam Preparation – Test Structure for GAT

Candidates must attain a deep knowledge of the NDA exam pattern before starting the preparation. The exam pattern for NDA Paper II (GAT) exam is as follows:

Exam Pattern for NDA Paper II

Particulars Details
Name of Paper  Paper II – General Ability Test (GAT)
Mode of Exam Pen and Paper test (Offline)
Type of Questions Objective type (Multiple Type Questions)
Number of Questions Part A (English) – 50
Part B (General Knowledge) – 100
Division of Paper II Part A – English
Part B – General Knowledge
Duration of Exam 2.5 hours (150 minutes)
Maximum Marks  Part A – 200
Part B – 400
Marking Scheme +4 marks for each correct response
-1.33 marks for each incorrect response
Medium of Exam English and Hindi (Part A will only be designed in English medium)

Part B of the General Ability Test is designed to test the General Knowledge of the test takers. The general knowledge of the candidate is tested in six different subjects named as section A to F. The section-wise weightage for Part B of GAT is as follows.

Section Wise Weightage of GAT Part A (English)

Section Wise Weightage of GAT Part A (English)

Section Wise Weightage of GAT Part B (General Knowledge Section)

Section Wise Weightage of GAT Part B (General Knowledge Section)

NDA Exam Preparation – GAT Syllabus

The NDA question paper is designed on the basis of topics that were taught in class 11th and 12th. Topics from the following sections as per the syllabus of senior secondary must be thoroughly studied by candidates:

  1. English
    • Comprehension
    • Basic Grammar
  2. Physics
  3. Chemistry
  4. General Science
  5. History, Politics, Freedom Movement, etc
  6. Geography
  7. Current Events (Generally. current events within the period of 6 months)

NDA Exam Preparation – Recommended Books for GAT

Candidates who have thoroughly completed the syllabus from NCERT books can move forward to prepare from some additional books. Here are the section-wise top book recommendations for NDA GAT preparation.

Books for NDA Exam Preparation – General Ability Test

Name of Subject Name of Book Author/Publisher
Part A – English Objective General English for Competitive Exams S.P. Bakshi
Section A – Physics General Science & Technology Disha Experts
Section B – Chemistry General Science & Technology Disha Experts
Section C – General Science General Science & Technology Disha Experts
Section D – Social Studies History Of Modern India Bipan Chandra
Section E – Geography Oxford School Atlas Oxford
Section F – Current Events Manorama Yearbook 2020 Mammen Mathew

NDA Exam Preparation – Tips by Toppers

While preparing for the NDA exam, candidates must always seek the guidance from the right people. Here are some tips shared by the previous years’ toppers for cracking the NDA exam 2020.

  • Prepare your own strategy after analysing the weightage of different topics and your hold on the same” says the NDA 2018 AIR 1 Holder, Sparsh Kankane
  • Read English newspapers, magazines, watch English web series to prepare for Part A of GAT” quoted by NDA 2019 AIR 16 holder, Piyush Thorve
  • Rather than studying from multiple books for a single subject, go through one book multiple times during the NDA exam preparation” recommends Aditya Pandey (NDA 2016 topper)
  • Stick to the basics while preparing for the written exam”, states NDA 2016 topper – Aditya Kumar

How to Prepare for the SSB Interview Round

After qualifying the NDA exam, candidates are required to appear for an SSB interview. Along with the NDA exam preparation, candidates must prepare for the SSB interview as well. Some of the preparation tips for qualifying the SSB interview are mentioned below:

  • Dress formally for the interview. A well-dressed candidate looks more confident and makes a good impression on the interviewers
  • Sit straight and keep a smile on your face during the conversation
  • Be honest while answering the questions asked
  • Practise mock interviews with your friends and family to ensure a good preparation for SSB interview
  • Don’t sit in a cross-legged pose and always think before you speak as it curbs down the chances of a wrong or immature answer 

NDA Previous Years’ Question Papers 

Solving previous years’ papers is a common yet effective practice popular among the NDA aspirants. The table below comprises the NDA question papers of last three years:

Subjects 2019 2018 2017
General Ability Click Here Click Here Click Here Click Here Click Here Click Here
Maths Click Here Click Here Click Here Click Here Click Here Click Here

NDA Exam Preparation – Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

✔️ Can I prepare for the NDA exam without coaching?

Yes, enrolling for specialized NDA coaching is the choice to be made by the candidate. A good NDA exam preparation can be done without coaching as the topics included in the NDA syllabus are already taught in school. But joining a good NDA coaching institute like Major Kalshi or Aims & Achieve can help you with specific and channelized NDA exam preparation.

✔️ When should I start preparing for NDA?

Ideally, a candidate must start the NDA exam preparation from class 11th onwards. While being in class 12th, candidates must also revise the relevant topics they covered in class 10th and 11th. They should not worry about board exams as the study of NDA exam will help candidates in performing well in board exams too.

✔️ Is the NDA exam difficult?

Yes, considering the selection to applicant ratio, it can be evaluated that the NDA exam is tough. However, candidates having the general conceptual knowledge of all the topics as per the NDA syllabus would always have a better chance of cracking the NDA exam.

✔️ What is the best book to prepare for the NDA exam?

Candidates will find all the topics in the NCERT textbook itself. However, Pathfinder by Arihant experts is recommended by toppers for comprehensive NDA exam preparation.

✔️ Will I have to appear for NDA (I) and (II) separately?

Usually, NDA (I) and (II) exams are conducted separately. However, there will be a combined exam for both the sessions of NDA recruitment 2020-21. Union Public Service Commission had to cancel the NDA I owing to COVID-19 spread and later the authority merged NDA I and NDA II. The NDA exam 2020 shall be held on September 6.

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