CDS exam and its process
The Union Public Service Commission conducts the Combined Defence Services (CDS) examination twice a year for the recruitment of candidates to the Indian Military Academy (IMA), Indian Naval Academy (INA), Officers Training Academy (OTA) and Air Force Academy (AFA).
The CDS exam is held twice a year in the months of February and November for which the notifications are released in the months of October and June respectively.
Officers to the Indian Army, Navy and Air Force are recruited by the UPSC through the CDS examination. Only candidates who are unmarried are eligible to take up this examination. Those who clear the examination are interviewed by the Services Selection Board (SSB) and admitted to their respective academies.
This is a national level examination and lakhs of candidates apply for the CDS. Those candidates who clear the written examination and the intelligence and personality interview test conducted by the SSB are recruited for the Indian Army, Navy and Air Force.
Understand the CDS examination pattern
Before diving into the preparation for the CDS exam, let us understand the examination pattern. The examination pattern for CDS examination as we all know is conducted in two stages: the written examination which is followed by the personal interview round and a medical examination.
The written examination is conducted to test the candidates’ knowledge of English, General Knowledge and Mathematics. The interview is conducted as the intelligence and personality test, also a medical examination is performed to ensure the physical and mental wellness of the candidate.
What happens in the CDS written examination?
The CDS written examination is written for 3 subjects: General Knowledge, English and Elementary Mathematics. The duration of the exam is 2 hours and each subject is for 100 marks. Candidates aspiring to join the IMA (Indian Military Academy), INA (Indian Naval Academy) or AFA (Air Force Academy) have to attend all the 3 papers while candidates who wish to join the OTA (Officers Training Academy) will have to face only English and General Knowledge papers.
Candidates who qualify the written examination are shortlisted for the intelligence and personality test (interview) round conducted by the SSB (services selection board) where the candidates undergo evaluation for their fitness to be recruited to the Indian Armed Forces.
The interview round by the SSB lasts for a week during which the candidates undergo various physical and psychological tests to ascertain if they are suitable to be officers in the Indian Armed Forces.
Candidates of the Air Force Academy who have applied for the flying brand will also be tested for PABT (Pilot Aptitude Battery Test) which is conducted to test the candidates’ aptitude to be as a trained pilot.
After all, the above-mentioned tests candidates will also undergo a detailed medical examination before obtaining admissions into these cadres.
The selection done by the SSB is a strict process to ensure that appropriate candidate appointed to the force. This selection process is built keeping mind the pre-determined and specific leadership traits.
The present selection system takes four to five days based on objective assessment of the candidates for qualities like physical fitness, endurance, courage, cooperation, alertness, judgement, initiative, group activities, knowledge, etc. In addition to these, the candidate is also judged for his/her psychological and mental stability which is a crucial requirement for the candidates of the Armed Forces.
CDS exam preparation guide and tips
Any competitive exam requires a solid preparation process, it is not easy to crack, when there are lakhs of candidates appearing for the examination. The very few intake numbers and the higher number of candidates fighting for the limited number of seats have increased the level of competition of these exams exponentially.
Understand your syllabus:
The key to planning your study strategy is to understand what is it you have to study. The UPSC has listed out in detail the syllabus for CDS exam. Go through the syllabus and list down the topics into two parts easy/difficult. You can use this list while making your study timetable.
Prepare a time-table and stick to it:
Once you have had a grasp over the syllabus, allot time as per the difficulty level of the topics which you have sorted earlier. Stick to the time-table, do not stray. Making a time-table or a study plan is important but following the whole plan is as crucial.
Make notes of everything:
Reading and repeating the entire syllabus from scratch is not the wisest of choices. While studying through the syllabus, make short notes of everything. These notes will help you a lot during your revision period and for the last minute preparations.
Keep ample time for revision:
Do not take the whole time for just one-time preparation. Revision is more important for competitive exams than you care to realise. Revise as many times possible. Do not give up until and unless you have revised the entire syllabus thrice.
Refer to previous CDS exam question papers:
Many candidates refer to previous question papers as a preparation method. Practising previous years question papers by timing yourself is a very good practice method. Practice as many question papers as possible. You will be able to gauge your preparation levels, you will find out which topics need more focus and which you are done.
Use different sources for preparation:
Instead of relying on a single source, consider various study materials like e-books, online prep test, logs, articles, books and more. You will always discover new things and it might be useful.
Develop the right attitude and personality:
Develop a personality, character and the attitude befitting that of an officer. Learn to make the right judgement calls, learn, listen and try to be a fair person. Your skills along with the right attitude will play a major role during your interview process and selection to the defence services.
At the end what is going matter is for you to stay confident. It can sometimes be stressful to prepare for the examination all you have to do is keep a positive attitude throughout to attain your goal.
UPSC CDS Physical and Medical Exam
Being physically fit is an indispensable part of the defence services. Clearing the physical and medical exam is as important as clearing the written exam.
- Candidate should not have a history of mental breakdown or physical deformity caused by an accident or otherwise.
- A regular exercise is a must.
- The height and weight of the candidate are predetermined by the selection committee and anything different from this will not be considered.
- Candidates are advised to take up a full body examination before they take up the examination to make sure they have no any health issues.
- Though the candidate clears the written exam, he/she will not be considered in case he/she presents with any sort of illness mentally or physically.
Tips to face the personal interview:
The personal interview round is conducted to check the intelligence and personality of any candidate who has cleared the written exam by the SSB. This round determines the ranks the candidate will hold as an officer in the defence forces.
The personal interview includes intelligence tests, outdoor activities, physical fitness, group discussion, psychological test, opinions, etc. This round can be difficult but do keep in mind the following tricks which will help you clear the interview:
- Be confident. Being anxious is normal but you must be able to- express your thoughts sound and serene.
- Keep yourself updated with the latest and interesting happenings around the world.
- You are there to be an officer, so act like one. Be respectful and humble.
Last minute preparation tips for CDS exam:
After a hard preparation for a couple months now, you would have studied all the topics, revised, answered previous years and mock question papers, the CDS will be somewhere just around the corner. Here are a few quick steps for you to just get along the last few days successfully and ace the exam.
- I am sure that you have revised the short notes you have made during your preparation time, now, just jot down the formulae and the concepts in a handy little piece of paper. Make these points carefully and in a way that you can save valuable time during the last minute.
- Do not start reading the textbooks all over again. Once you have studied, prepared short notes and revised them again. It is done. All you have to do now is just refer to the important formulae you made a note and revise.
- If you haven’t worked on your time management skills, now is the time. If you get stuck in a particular question during the exam, leave it and move to the next. Attempt all the easier questions first and come back to start working on the tough questions. Do not waste your time on the questions which takes too much time in the beginning.
- Keep in mind this paper has negative marking. So be clever about the things you answer and those you don’t.
- Take up as many as mock tests as possible. There are many such tests available online.