Combined Defense Services (CDS) Exam is conducted 2 times every year by Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) for selection into the Indian Air Force Academy, Indian Military Academy, Officers Training Academy and Indian Naval Academy.

Notification of CDS exam is released in March and August months, and the actual exam is in the month of February and November.

Only graduate students who are unmarried are eligible to apply for the CDS. Those who clear written exam are called for SSB interview and then selected candidates will be admitted into respective Academies.

Eligibility Criteria for CDS Exam:

Age Limit to apply for CDS Exam for various Academies is as follows:

Academies Age Limit
Military Academy 19 to 24 years
Air Force Academy 19 to 23 years
Naval Academy 19 to 22 years
Officers’ Training Academy 19 to 25 years

Women candidates are only eligible for admission into OTA (Officers’ Training Academy).

Educational Qualification for CDS Exam:

OTA and IMA: Graduate degree in any discipline and passed out from a recognized institute or university

INA: Candidates must hold an Engineering degree

Air Force Academy: Candidate must be 12th passed out with Mathematics and Physics subjects and must hold a degree from a recognized university. Or, candidates with Bachelor’s degree in Technology/Engineering are also eligible.

Nationality Eligibility for CDS Exam:

Candidate must be either Indian or Bhutan, Nepal or Tibetan refugee who has shifted to India for permanent stay before 1st of January, 1962. Candidates who have migrated from Burma, Sri Lanka, Pakistan or East African countries of Kenya, Vietnam, Ethiopia, Zambia, Zaire, Malawi, Uganda, United Republic of Tanzania who intends to permanently stay in India are also eligible.

CDS Exam Syllabus:

There are two different exams:

  • Exam for entry into Indian Naval Academy, Indian Military Academy and Air Force Academy:
Section Number of Questions Marks
English 120 100
General Knowledge 120 100
Mathematics 100 100

CDS Written Exam is Objective type and each question has 4 options. Negative marking of -0.33 will be applicable for every incorrect answer.

  • Exam for entry into Officers’ Training Academy:
Section Number of Questions Marks
English 120 100
General Knowledge 120 100
  • English Paper is to test basic Language skills of candidates. English Question paper is based on Synonyms, Antonyms, Jumbled Sentences, Fill in the blanks, Sentence correction, Reading comprehension.
  • General knowledge Question paper comprises of questions based on Current Affairs, History, Geography, Scientific inventions and other such important topics.
  • Mathematics section is to test your knowledge regarding main subjects taught up to Class X.

Cut-offs: CDS Exam

Following are the cut-off marks of previous years.

Course 2014 2015 2016
IMA 237 231 235
INA 231 231 229
AFA 266 266 272
OTA (Men) 158 158 160
OTA (Women) 159 160 158

With clear cut-off, you can expect an interview call from SSB.

SSB Interview:

Candidates who pass written CDS exam will be called by SSB for Intelligence and Personality Test. Moreover, candidates will also have to go through several group tasks and give lectures on brief topics. SSB Selection procedures last for about a week.

  • Candidates who want to get into INA and IAF (applied for flying branch) need to go through a Pilot Aptitude Test as well.

After successfully going through all these tests, candidates will be assessed accordingly:

  • OTA: Out of 200 marks
  • IMA, IAF and INA: Out of 300 marks

SSB Selection process has 2 stages:

Stage I:

Stage II:

  • Personal Interview
  • GTO Tasks
  • Psychology Tests
  • Conference

Aspirants who pass with minimum cut-off marks required for CDS Written test and SSB will be then recommended further and go through Document Verification and Medical examination procedures.

Candidates who are medically fit will be placed accordingly in above-mentioned academies for training based on their marks and vacancies.

After training, they will be admitted into Indian Armed Forces.