CDS Exam 2020: The Combined Defence Services is popularly known as the CDS exam. As the name suggests, this national level exam is mainly to select commissioned officers and induct them into the Indian Army, Navy and the Air Force through a recruitment process carried out by the UPSC (Union Public Service Commission).
The commission holds the defence entrance exam two times in a year in almost 41 exam centers across the country. The exam is conducted for around 418 vacant seats and is most likely to be held in February and September/November.
The exam is carried out in two phases CDS – 1 and CDS -2. The official website for applying online to the exam is upsc.gov.in. In this article, we will provide full details about the CDS 2020 exam dates, various eligibility criteria, online application form, and the steps to apply for the same, the detailed exam pattern, complete syllabus, and the list of reference books that will help the candidates. We also present some handy tips for preparation, which students can strategize in the right way so that they can get very high scores in the exam.
UPSC CDS Exam 2020 – Highlights
|Official Name of the exam||Combined Defence Services Exam|
|Conducting body||Union Public Service Commission|
|Mode of Application||Online|
|Exam frequency||Twice a Year|
|Total Number of Vacancies||418|
|CDS Helpdesk||011-23098543 / 23385271 / 23381125 / 23098591|
CDS Exam Dates 2020
The notification for CDS 1 was released on 30th October 2019, and CDS 2 will be released on 5th August 2020. The registration for CDS 1 will begin from 30th October 2019 and will end on 19th November 2019. In the following section, we tabulate all the relevant details that candidates need to note down to apply for the exam:
The official dates with regard to CDS 1 are given below:
|Official gazette notification released by UPSC||30th October 2019|
|Commencement of online application submission||30th October 2019|
|Last date to submit completed application form||19th November 2019|
|Admit card available for download from||11th January 2019|
|CDS 1 exam date||02nd February 2020|
|Announcement of CDS 1 results||May 2020|
The official dates with regard to CDS 2 are given below:
|Official gazette notification released by UPSC||5th August 2020|
|Commencement of online application submission||5th August 2020|
|Last date to submit completed application form||25th August 2020|
|Admit card available for download from||October 2020 (Tentative)|
|CDS 2 exam date||08th November 2020|
|Announcement of CDS 2 results||December 2020 (Tentative)|
CDS 2020 Application Form – Apply Online
The process of application for CDS is completely online. Interested candidates need to apply using online methods only as there is no other mode to apply for the exam. The online application form is available to candidates on the official UPSC website. Since there are two stages in the examination CDS 1 and CDS 2, the application also has to be done in two stages, namely, registration part 1 and registration part 2.
Below, we explain the step by step process of application for part -1 registration:
- Log into the official UPSC website upsc.gov.in
- Traverse and locate the ‘Examination Tab.’
- Click on the option CDS – 1. In the first phase of the registration form, the registration part -1 form will be displayed.
- Fill the form with all relevant personal details like candidate name, date of birth, age, educational qualifications, category details, etc.
- The most important part of the application form is where the candidate needs to select his preferences for the division he is interested in. Candidates get to select between IMA (Indian Military Academy), INA (Indian Naval Academy), AFA (Air force academy), and OTA (Officers Training Academy). You will find a series of numbers from 1 to 4 that indicates priority for selection. Candidates have to suggest their priority from 1 to 4. 1 indicates the highest priority, and 4 suggest the least priority.
- Candidates also have the option to mention whether they have an NCC grade C certificate, which will be value addition in case of CDS exams.
- UPSC also asks candidates if they are already serving in any post in the Indian Army.
- Cross check the information that you have entered in the application form and submit the form.
- Save the reference ID that is displayed after form submission.
After completing part – 1, we move on to the next stage, registration part- 2 steps:
- Click on the tab ‘registration part-2’.
- The registration number that you obtained in the part-1 process will be used now. Enter relevant registration 1 and date of birth.
- Now the candidate has to pay the application fee. Fees can be paid both in offline and online modes.
- Keep scanned copies of your photos and signature ready to be uploaded now.
- Next, you have to select your preferences for the examination centre. Select the centre from the drop down box.
- After you are done with all the steps, a confirmation page displaying all details will be shown to you. Submit the page if all details are correct.
- It is very essential to save a pdf copy of the submitted application or take a print out of the same for all future references.
CDS 2020 Application Fees
In the below section, we explain details regarding application fees for CDS-1 and CDS-2 exams. Candidates can choose to make payments in online or offline modes. Online payment can be made via net banking/credit/ debit cards. For offline payment, visit a nearby SBI branch and pay the requisite fee to obtain a challan or pay-in-slip. The number displayed in the challan or pay-in-slip has to be entered in the application fee details area.
The fee details are listed below:
- The general application fee for the CDS exam 2020 is INR 200/-.
- Candidates belonging to SC/ST categories are exempt from fee payment.
- Female candidates are also exempt from fee payment.
CDS Eligibility Criteria
Candidates who are interested in applying for the CDS exam 2020, need to satisfy minimum eligibility conditions to qualify for the exam. Below, we explain the eligibility criteria in detail based on age limit, nationality, marital status, educational qualifications, and physical standards. The eligibility criteria for both CDS 1 and CDS 2 exams are common and applicable to both of them. Eligibility criteria only vary depending on the post applied for.
- Citizens of India are eligible to apply for the CDS exam.
- Candidates from foreign countries, namely Bhutan, Tibet, Nepal, Burma, Sri Lanka, and East African countries, are also eligible to apply, subject to certain statutory conditions. Such candidates have to provide an authorized certificate issued by the Government of India.
CDS Age Limit
- The general age criteria for applying to CDS are that candidates have to be more than 19 years of age to qualify.
- The age calculation is to be considered as on 01st of January 2020.
- Different divisions have different age specifications, and we list them here:
- For IMA – 19 to 24 years.
- For INA – 19 to 23 years.
- For AFA – 19 to 22 years.
- For OTA – 19 to 25 years.
The minimum educational qualifications for CDS 2020 exam are different for each category. A candidate who is likely to apply for a particular post of preference has to first check his eligibility for that post and only then proceed. Interested candidates who are in their final year of graduation/ finished final exams and awaiting results can also apply for the CDS exam subject to a provisional letter authorizing the same from their educational institution.
We list the different educational qualification requirements based on the post:
- For IMA – Bachelor’s degree or equivalent from a recognized university of India.
- For INA – Bachelor’s degree in Engineering/ Technology/ equivalent from a recognized university of India.
- For AFA – Bachelor’s degree in Engineering/ Technology/ equivalent with Physics and Mathematics as subjects, from the any recognized university of India.
- For OTA – Bachelor’s degree or equivalent from a recognized university of India.
- Only unmarried candidates can apply for IMA, INA, and AFA.
- Male candidates have an exception to apply for OTA even if they are married.
- Unmarried women, widows, and divorcees without any issues are also eligible to apply for OTA.
As per the guidelines formulated for CDS 2020 in the official gazette, only physically fit candidates are eligible to apply.
- As per standard specifications, minimum height acceptable for males is 157.5 cm for navy and 162.5 cm for the air force.
- For females, the minimum height requirement is 152 cms.
- For Gorkhas and candidates from the northeastern parts of India, the minimum height requirement is less than the standard specification by 5 cm.
- For Lakshadweep candidates, the minimum height requirement is less than the standard specification by 2 cm.
CDS Admit Card 2020
The candidates appearing for the CDS exam should carry the admit card with them at every stage of the examination. It is an important document that displays the personal details of the candidate together with an ID card and exam venue.
Kindly follow these steps to download admit card:
- Browse through the official website of UPSC.
- Select the Combined Defence Service Examination 2020 tab.
- Browse through to locate the link that would allow you to download the admit card.
- After downloading, take a hard copy of the same and check for the correctness of all details.
- For any discrepancies, immediately contact the CDS Help desk: 011-23098543 / 23385271 / 23381125 / 23098591.
CDS Exam Pattern
We present the detailed exam structure for both CDS 1 and CDS 2 in the following section. The exam pattern is common for both CDS 1 and CDS 2.
The CDS exam follows a three-tiered exam structure. The three stages of the exam are:
- First round – Written test
- Second round – SSB interview
- Third round – Medical examination
Let us understand each phase of the CDS examination in detail.
Negative marking applicable for wrong answers.
For selection into IMA, INA and AFA, the breakup of subjects are as follows:
|General English||2 Hours||100|
|General Knowledge And Current Affairs||2 Hours||100|
|Basic And Elementary Mathematics||2 Hours||100|
English and General knowledge papers have 120 questions totally. Math’s paper has 100 questions totally.
For selection into OTA, the breakup of subjects is as follows:
|General English||2 Hours||100|
|General Knowledge And Current Affairs||2 Hours||100|
English and general knowledge paper has 120 questions totally.
The SSB interview stage consists of two rounds – stage 1 and stage 2.
- Stage 1 – Candidates are tested for visual perception and picture grasping, descriptive and comprehension skills testing, IQ rating.
- Stage 2 – Candidates are tested based on personal interviews. They are also tested for group discussion skills, psychology perception skills, and conference/ meeting management skills.
Medical Examination Round
The medical examination round will be conducted by the team from the Board of service medical officers. Candidates can note the following points during conduct of medical exam:
- Female candidates will be tested by female medical examiners and gynecologists or specialists in the field.
- All medical reports will be maintained confidentially by the authorities.
- The president of the Medical Board will decide on the medical fitness of the candidate.
- Candidates must be physically and mentally fit according to medial standards. Those declared not so fit will be disqualified even if they have qualified in the other two rounds of examination. However, candidates can appeal for a review of the decision with the commission.
- Candidates also have to satisfy certain medical standards related to vision, teeth, and ear and nose conditions too. Height and weight parameters are also taken into account.
In this section, we present some of the most important topics under each subject that the aspirants cannot afford to miss out on. A preparation, according to the prescribed syllabus, is very essential to get higher marks in the examination.
- Synonyms and antonyms
- Sentence improvement patterns and word substitution questions.
- Ordering sentences in a sequence
- Spotting errors in paragraphs.
- Current awareness through newspapers and magazines.
- General science and social science subjects.
- Sports, important awards, and personalities.
- Defence related knowledge
- Cultural insights.
- Local, national, and international news.
- Environment awareness.
- Number systems
- Metrics of measurement
- Ratio and proportions
- Height and distance, time, and work problems.
Click here to download the complete CDS 2020 Syllabus PDF.
CDS Cut off
The cut off marks is prescribed for the written examination round of CDS 1. Aspiring candidates need to score more than the prescribed cut off the range in the written examination round to be eligible for the SSB interview round. The commission decides the cut off percentage based on a number of factors such as vacancies available, number of applications received competition and toughness level in the exam, etc.
Below, we list the approximate cut-off marks that can be expected in CDS 2020:
|Academy applied for||Approx. cut off marks|
|IMA||115 – 125|
|AFA||130 – 140|
|OTA – for males||75 – 85|
|OTA – for females||75 – 85|
CDS Results 2020
CDS results will be declared on the official website, and the steps to check the result and download the scorecard are mentioned below:
- Go to the homepage of the official UPSC website.
- Click on the examination tab and traverse the active examination section.
- Click on CDS exams.
- Click on the relevant exam result link.
- Download the result file that is presented in pdf format and locate your result with your corresponding roll number.
- Take a print out of the mark sheet for future references.
CDS 2020 Vacancy
The CDS 1 exam that is slated to be conducted on Feb 02nd, 2020, shall recruit candidates for around 418 vacancies. The notification for the same was available on the official notification from the time period October 30 till November 19, 2019. 418 vacant posts are expected to be filled up by the UPSC through this exam.
The detailed list of vacancies is listed below for reference:
|Academy Name||No. of vacant positions|
|Indian Military Academy||100|
|Indian Naval academy||45|
|Air force academy||32|
|Officers training academy (for men)||225|
|Officers training academy (for women)||15|
Points to note
- For Indian Military academy – 150th DE course shall commence from January 2021 for CDS 1. 151th DE course shall commence from July 2021 for CDS 1. This includes 13 vacant seats that are especially reserved for NCC ‘C’ certificate holders of the Army Wing.
- For Indian Naval Academy – Course shall commence from January 2021 for CDS 1 and July 2021 for CDS 2. This also includes 6 vacancies for NCC ‘C’ certificate holders of the naval wing through the special entry.
- For Air force academy – Pre- flying training course shall commence at Hyderabad from January 2021 for CDS 1 and July 2021 for CDS 2. Only 3 vacancies are reserved for NCC ‘C’ certificate holders via special entry.
- For officers training academy – 113th SSC men’s course shall commence in April 2021 for CDS1 and October 2021 for CDS 2 at Chennai. The breakdown of vacancies are:
- 170 vacancies to be filled up by UPSC
- 5 vacancies through Non-UPSC process
- 50 vacancies through NCC ‘C’ certificate special entry.
- For officers training academy – 27th SSC women’s course shall commence in April 2021 and October 2021 for CDS 2 at Chennai. This is a non-technical course.
CDS Selection Process
The UPSC is responsible for conducting the CDS exams through its various stages and induct commissioned officers into the INA, IMA, AFA, and OTA. Here are the detailed steps of selection explained below:
#1. Written test
- Exam consists of objective types of questions.
- Maximum marks applicable for each subject are 100.
- Exam time duration is 2 hours.
- For candidates applying to IMA, INA, and AFA – Written tests consist of General English, general knowledge, mathematics.
- For candidates applying to OTA – Written tests consist of General English and general knowledge only.
- Those candidates who are deemed successful in the written test shall be called in for personality test at the next level by the respective Selection service board members.
#2. Interview or Personality test round
- Successful candidates in the written test are called in for the interview round.
- The interview process consists of Stage 1 and stage 2.
- Those who clear stage 1 successfully shall move to stage 2.
- Stage 1 test is also called the Intelligence rating test or IR test. This test consists of activities like picture perception tests, description tests. The combined score in both these tests shall decide the merit ranking of Stage 1.
- Stage 2 test consists of actual interview and group testing tasks. Also included is the psychology test and conference skills test. Three different kinds of experts shall handle stage 2. They are the interviewing officers, group testing officers, and a psychologist. The combined score obtained in all these tests shall determine the score for stage 2 of the exam.
#3. Candidate document verification round
- Once the candidate clears the interview round, he shall be called in for document verification.
- Candidates are advised to carry originals plus attested copies of their documents to support their application.
- All details given by the candidate at the time of application shall be verified by a team of officers to establish their authenticity and validity.
#4. Medical examination
- This is the last round in the CDS selection process.
- Medical officers shall examine those candidates whose names are referred by the SSB after the document verification round.
- For women candidates, the medical officer’s team shall include male and female doctors/ specialists and gynecologists. A lady medical officer will oversee the medical board.
- Candidates who pass the medical fitness test shall be admitted to the academy after final discussions and merit list announcement.
CDS Exam Centres
The CDS exam is conducted twice every year at the following centers. Candidates have to list their exam center preference in the application form without fail. Later requests to change the center shall not be entertained whatsoever.
CDS Preparation Tips
Most candidates face an acute shortage of time when it comes to CDS preparation. Hence applying the right strategies and good time management is the best effective method to clear the exam with high scores:
- Have complete knowledge of the syllabus.
- Look for timely updates on the official website.
- Topics are not too extensive; most of them are of matriculation standards.
- Basic and elementary knowledge in all subjects is compulsory.
- Learn the short cut formulas and the best method to apply them.
- Practice well with previous year question papers and answer mock test series.
Best books for CDS Exam
The most important and standard books that candidates can refer to the exam are listed below:
- NCERT Books
- Objective General English by Arihant publications
- Objective General English by R S Agarwal
- Word Power made easy by Norman Lewis.
- Manorama yearbook
- Lucent’s general knowledge
- Quantum CAT by Sarvesh Sharma.
- Mathematics for CDS by R S Agarwal.
Role and Responsibilities of CDS Officers
CDS officers have very important roles and responsibilities that are of national interest. Some of the common ones are listed below in detail:
- They are responsible for maintaining the national security and integrity of the nation.
- Provide critical and important military advises on strategic issues regarding the defence of the country.
- Coordinate the planning and implementation of activities pertaining to the procurement and logistics of services.
- Take part in activities related to nuclear issues of the subcontinent.
- Exercise commands in services and authorities at the respective ranking order.
- Actively coordinate and co-operate as a member who is responsible for the efficient functioning of the three forces.
- Ensure optimal utilization of military resources.
- Procuring services as per existing rules and regulations of land/territory.
- Organising cyber activities and ensuring smooth operations, handling communications, repairs, and maintenance activities.
Starting from the entry-level pay scale and salary of CDS officers, the below section discusses the various perks and allowances that are provided to CDS officers. Please take a look:
|Ranking of the officer||Respective pay scale in INR|
|Lieutenant rank to Major rank||15,600 to 39,100|
|Lt. Col to Major General||37,400 to 67,000|
|Higher administrative grade officers||67,000 – 79,000|
|Vice Chief of Army Staff/ Army commander / Lt. General||75,000 – 80,000|
|Chief of Army staff||80,000 (fixed) / 90,000 (fixed)|
In additional to the basic pay listed above, officers also receive grade pay according to their ranking, and the same has been listed below:
|Ranking of officer||Grade Pay|
|Lt. rank||INR 5400|
|Capt rank||INR 6100|
|Major rank||INR 6600|
|Lt. Col rank||INR 8000|
|Col rank||INR 8700|
|Brig. Rank||INR 8900|
|Major. Gen rank||INR 10000|
- An additional allowance of INR 6000 shall be provided to all ranks from lieutenant till brigadier as Military service (MSP) allowance
- For training cadets inducted newly into CDS service, a fixed stipend of INR 21,000 shall be provided.
- Other officers who are in possession of additional prescribed qualifications also receive a grant of INR 6000, INR 9000, INR 12,000, and INR 15,000 as per their qualification.
Apart from basic and grade pay, CDS officers receive what is known as allowances that are permissible according to present rules and regulations. The detailed list of allowances is listed below:
- Dearness allowance [according to present rules]
- Maintenance allowance [INR 400 per month]
- Highly active field area allowance [INR 6780 to INR 8400 per month]
- High altitude allowance [for selected candidates living at high altitudes – INR 1060 to 11,200 per month]
- Uniform allowance [one time kit at INR 14000 and INR 3000 every 3 years once]
- Free ration facility
- Transport allowance [INR 3200 plus dearness allowance]
- Education allowance for children
- Other benefits are also applicable as per present government regulations
CDS Exam – Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is the full form of CDS?
CDS stands for combined defence services exam; it is an exam conducted by UPSC for recruitment into Indian military academy, officers training academy, Indian naval academy, and Indian air force academy.
2. What is the UPSC CDS Exam?
The UPSC CDS exam is conducted twice in a year. The UPSC conducts this exam to induct talented and eligible candidates as commissioned officers into various services like the Indian army, navy, air force, and the officers training academy. It is a national level exam.
3. What is OTA in CDS?
OTA or officers training academy is also a military academy that is similar to military establishments like IMA and NDA. It is a short commissioned service for 10 years and can further be extended by 4 years. Based on individual performance and vacancies, candidates can receive permanent positions also.
4. How to fill preference in CDS Application Form?
Candidates have to go through eligibility conditions in detail to know which services they are best suited for. Based on the information perceived, they have to indicate two preferences in the CDS application form:
- Applicants have to select their preferred positions amongst the IAF, IMA, INA, and OTA.
- Secondly, candidates also have to select their exam centers according to their preferences.
5. How to apply for CDS?
The application process for CDS can be completed in 4 simple steps:
- CDS Registration: Candidates have to enter basic information and register themselves for UPSC 2020. The official site is upsconline.nic.in
- Pay the requisite CDS application fee.
- Fill incomplete details in the CDS application form.
- Upload relevant documents like photo, signature, and Photo Id proof.
6. Can students studying in the final year of exams also apply for the CDS exam?
Yes. Such candidates shall provide proof of passing their graduation later to the Army headquarters, West Bloc 3, R K Puram, New Delhi – 110066
7. When can admit cards for the CDS exam be expected?
The e-admit cards for the CDS exam shall be made available three weeks before the commencement of the actual exam. Candidates can download the same from the official website.
8. What is the official exam date of CDS 2020?
02nd February 2020 is the official date of the exam for CDS 1.
9. What is the difference between NDA and CDS?
NDA recruits candidates into mainstream positions in the Indian army, navy, and air force.
CDS recruits candidates into positions available at IMA, INA, Air force academy, and Officers training institute.
10. What is the selection procedure for CDS?
Written tests, personality tests, and interviews are the main phases of the CDS exam selection procedure.
Based on merit and availability of vacancies, candidates shall be selected for further rounds like the medical exam, physical fitness test, etc. The final ranking list shall depend on these factors plus the merit factor of the candidate.
Also, Read Other UPSC Articles
|UPSC Eligibility||UPSC Admit Card||UPSC Application Form|
|UPSC Syllabus||UPSC Exam Pattern||NCERT Books in Hindi|
|IAS Preparation||Free UPSC Material||UPSC Toppers|
|NCERT Books||IAS Books||Essay for UPSC|
|IES Exam||NDA Exam|