Combined Defence Services (CDS) Exam

Updated: Nov 12, 2019

Combined Defence Services Examination (CDS) is conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) for recruitment into the Indian Military Academy, Officers Training Academy, Indian Naval Academy, and Indian Air Force Academy. Qualified candidates are admitted into the respective Academies by the Services Selection Board (SSB).

The CDS exam is conducted by the UPSC twice every year to induct officers to the defense forces of India.

Combined Defence Services (CDS) Exam

Combined Defence Services Examination (CDS) is conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) for recruitment into the Indian Military Academy, Officers Training Academy, Indian Naval Academy and Indian Air Force Academy. Qualified candidates are admitted into the respective Academies by the Services Selection Board (SSB). 


The CDS exam is conducted by the UPSC twice every year to induct officers to the defense forces of India.

CDS Eligibility Criteria

To be eligible for CDS exam, the candidate must either be a Citizen of India, or a subject of Bhutan or a subject of Nepal. Only unmarried graduates are eligible for the exam.

For Indian Military Academy

Age Limit: 19-24 years
Qualification: A Graduate Degree from a recognized University or equivalent.

For Indian Naval Academy

Age Limit: 19-22 years
Qualification: A Graduate Degree in Engineering from a recognized university or equivalent.

For Air Force Academy

Age Limit: 19-24 years
Qualification: Graduate Degree from a recognized University (with Physics and Mathematics at 10+2 level) or Bachelor of Engineering.

For Officers’ Training Academy (OTA)-(SSC Course for Men)

Male candidates (married or unmarried), born between 2nd January 1992 and 1st January 1998.

For Officers Training Academy (OTA)-(SSC Women Non-Technical Course)

Unmarried Women, issueless widows who have not remarried and issueless divorcees who have not remarried are eligible. The candidate should have a birth date of 2nd January 1992 and 1st January 1998.


Note: Male divorcee/widower candidates can’t be treated as unmarried male for their admission in IMA/INA/AFA courses, so they are not eligible for these courses.


The Candidate must be physically fit according to physical standards for admission to Combined Defence Services Examination.

CDS Exam Schedule

The Combined Defence Services Examination (CDS) is conducted twice every year. The Notification for the exam is usually released in the months of October and June and the exams are conducted in February and November respectively. The exam is held at various regional centers across the country.

CDS Exam Pattern

For Indian Military Academy / Air Force Academy / Naval Academy: The written CDS exam is an objective MCQs style paper that consists of 3 sections- English, General Knowledge, and Elementary Mathematics. Each subject exam is of 100 marks.

For Officers' Training Academy: The written CDS exam consists of 2 sections- English and General Knowledge. Both the paper are objective type and of 100 marks each.

After Exam: Candidates successful in the written exam are called for an interview by Services Selection Board (SSB) which evaluates a candidate's aptness for a career in the CDS. The SSB interview lasts for approximately a week, during which a candidate undergoes various physical and psychological tests to determine whether or not he is fit for the job. Air Force academy candidates are also tested for PABT. After the tests, the candidates undergo a medical exam before being finally admitted into the above-mentioned academies. After successful completion of training, they are introduced into the CDS.

CDS Exam Syllabus

The exam syllabus is based on knowledge of 3 main subjects - English, General Knowledge, and Mathematics. Subject wise details are available online.

CDS Future Prospects

CDS offers an exhilarating career to young men and women in diverse fields. The career in the forces is a journey in itself. The present system of selection, though a long one is based on an objective assessment of each candidate in which qualities like inventiveness, attentiveness, decision making, valor, fortitude, teamwork, awareness, etc. are evaluated. Additionally, an emotional and intellectual strength of the candidate as per the requirements of the Armed Forces is judged and finally a holistic appraisal of the personality of a candidate is prepared by way of exhaustive personal interviews. To be associated with the CDS is a matter of high pride, the authority and responsibility that comes with it are commendable. This field of career offers the maximum of benefits other than the fixed salaries.

CDS Official Website

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