CDS Examination 2023: Date, Syllabus, Tips, Previous Year Questions



14 August, 2023

CDS Examination 2023: Date, Syllabus, Tips, Previous Year Questions

What is the CDS Examination?

CDS stands for Combined Defence Services exam which is conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC). This national-level exam is conducted twice a year, around April and September (the dates may vary as per the UPSC’s guidelines). The selection process is a combination of a written exam and an SSB interview. The SSB interview is divided into two stages; only those candidates who pass stage 1 are called for stage 2.

  • Stage 1 comprises the Officer Intelligence Rating (OIR) test and the Picture Perception Description Test (PP&DT)
  • Stage 2 includes an interview, group testing officer tasks, a conference and psychology tests.

The starting salary or stipend during the training period is INR 56,100 monthly. CDS officers fall under the pay grade of level 10. CDS exam II 2023, the total number of vacancies is 349.

Purpose of the CDS Exam

The CDS exam is a qualifying test to recruit candidates for admission into Indian Military Academy (IMA), Indian Naval Academy (INA), Air Force Academy (AFA) and Officers Training Academy. This exam aims to assess the candidate’s (both male and female) aptitude, knowledge, and skills.

Highlights & Exam Pattern of the CDS Examination

Name of the Exam Combined Defence Service Exam II
Conducting Body Union Public Service Commission (UPSC)
Exam Frequency Twice a year
Mode of Exam Offline
Sections Written + Interview:
– English
– General Knowledge
– Elementary Mathematics: Arithmetic, Algebra, Trigonometry, Geometry, Mensuration, Statistics
Intelligence and Personality Test:
– For OTA, only English and general knowledge sections are there in the written test
Types of Questions Multiple choice questions
Marking Scheme 0.33 deducted for each wrong answer
Exam Duration Two hours for each subject
Number of Questions – IMA/INA/AFA : 300
– OTA : 200
Total Marks – IMA/INA/AFA : 300
– OTA : 200
Medium of Exam Both Hindi and English
Official Website

Eligibility Criteria

According to the official notification on the UPSC website, the candidates are informed that their admission at all stages of the exam is entirely a provisional subject to satisfy the underlining eligibility criteria.

1. Nationality:

The applicant must be unmarried and must be a citizen of India/ subject of Nepal/ or an individual of Indian origin who migrated from Pakistan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and East African Countries of Kenya, ZaireUganda, the United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi,  and Ethiopia or Vietnam with the intention of settling in India permanently. In the case of candidates who are not from India, they need to provide a certificate of eligibility given by the government of India, except for Gorkha subjects of Nepal.

2. Age limit, Sex and Marital Status:

Name of the course Marital Status Age Limit
IMA Unmarried male Born between 2nd July, 2000 and 1st July, 2005
Indian Naval Academy Unmarried male Born between 2nd July, 2000 and 1st July, 2004 (Upper age limit for current Commercial Pilot Licence holders – 2nd July, 1998)
Officers’ Training Academy (SSC Course for Men) Unmarried Born between 2nd July, 1999 and 1st July, 2005
Officers’ Training Academy (SSC Women Non-Technical Course) Unmarried/ issueless widower or divorcee (must have divorce documents) who has not remarried Born between 2nd July, 1999 and 1st July, 2005

3. Educational Qualifications:

  • For I.M.A. and Officers’ Training Academy, Chennai, a candidate must have a degree from a recognised university.
  • For the Indian Naval Academy, the candidate should have a degree in an engineering course from a recognised university.
  • For Air Force Academy candidates, a degree from a recognised university (with physics and mathematics subjects in 10 + 2 ) or a Bachelor of Engineering degree is required.
  • Candidates who are currently in the final year or semester of their degree can also apply, but they will have to submit their proof at the time of the commencement of the course.

4. Physical Metrics:

A candidate must be physically fit as per the standards enlisted by the UPSC for  CDS Examination (II), 2023.

CDS Examination II Date 2023

Date of Notification 17 May 2023
Date of Commencement of Examination 03 Sep 2023
Duration of Examination One Day
Registration Start Date 17 May 2023
Last Date for Registration 06 Jun 2023 – 6:00 pm
Release of Admit Card August 2023
CDS II Exam Date 03 Sep 2023
Download Notification Click here – CDS Exam Notification 

Registration Process for CDS Exam II 2023

Applications are to be submitted on the official UPSC website and register himself/herself first at OTR (One Time Registration) platform provided on UPSC’s website before filling up the application.

  1. Visit the official UPSC website, and select Examination on the menu bar.
  2. From the drop down menu, choose Active Examinations > Online Applications for UPSC CDS 2 Exam on the homepage.
  3. Select the Combined Defence Examination (II) 2023 link for part I of the application form.
  4. After reading the instructions carefully, press yes to continue, and then you will be transferred to a new page.
  5. Fill out all the required information and choose your choices before going ahead to part II of the application.
  6. Pay the necessary application fee online or offline.
  7. Choose the exam centre as per your convenience.
  8. Upload the required documents.
  9. Finally, verify all the filled information and press the submit button.

Application Fee for CDS Exam II

All candidates (except females/ SC/ST who are exempted from the fee) have to pay the application fee of Rs 200. Fee can be paid either online or offline by depositing the amount in any branch of SBI Bank. Please note the paid application fee will not be refunded or transferred to any other exam.

CDS Exam II 2023 Admit Card

The e-Admit cards will be made available to the eligible candidates three weeks prior to the exam. Applicants can download the same from UPSC website. No e-Admit card will be delivered by post.

Exam Centres

Agartala Cuttack Indore Mumbai Siliguri
Agra Dehradun Itanagar Mysore Srinagar
Ahmedabad Delhi Jabalpur Nagpur Srinagar
Aizawl Dharamshala Jaipur Navi Mumbai Thane
Ajmer Dharwad Jammu Panaji Thiruvananthapuram
Aligarh Dispur Jodhpur Patna Tiruchirapalli
Amora Faridabad Jorhat Port Blair Tirupati
Anantapur Gangtok Kochi Prayagraj Udaipur
Aurangabad Gautam Budh Nagar Kohima Puducherry Varanasi
Bareilly Gaya Kolkata Pune Vellore
Bengaluru Ghaziabad Kozhikode Raipur Vijayawada
Bhopal Gorakhpur Leh Rajkot Visakhapatnam
Bilaspur Gurgaon Lucknow Ranchi Warangal
Chandigarh Gwalior Ludhiana Sambalpur
Chennai Hyderabad Madurai Shillong
Coimbatore Imphal Mandi Shimla

CDS Exam II 2023: Exam Syllabus

This competitive exam consists of a written examination and an interview round for intelligence and personality tests. The detailed syllabus of the exam is updated every year on the UPSC’s official website, which broadly covers the areas of English, General Knowledge and Elementary Mathematics. Appendix – I of the official notification on the UPSC website contains the full syllabus. For mathematics, questions will be of matriculation level and for other subjects will, the standard will be of graduation level.

CDS Exam II 2023: Section-Wise Distribution

For selection in Indian Military Academy, Indian Naval Academy and Air Force Academy

Subject Code Duration Maximum Marks
English 11 2 hrs 100
General Knowledge 12 2 hrs 100
Elementary Mathematics 13 2 hrs 100

For admission to the Officers’ Training Academy

Subject Code Duration Maximum Marks
English 11 2 hrs 100
General Knowledge 12 2 hrs 100

The maximum marks for both the written exam and interview will be equal for each course.

CDS Exam II 2023: Expected Exam Cut off

To get selected, candidates must secure qualifying marks in each subject which is 20%, during written and personal interview rounds. All the candidates who secured the qualifying marks and are declared medically fit are placed in order of merit. Then based on the number of vacancies, qualified candidates are chosen from the merit list. The cut-off marks for CDS are released upon the completion of the entire examination process. Broadly, the factors that determine the CDS cut-off marks are as follows:

  • Number of Vacancies
  • Total number of appeared candidates
  • The difficulty level of the exam

Important Exam Guidelines

  • Carry the printout of your e-admit card, original photo identity card (mentioned in the e-admit card) and three passport-size photographs.
  • Entry at the exam centre closes 10 minutes before the exam, so you must enter at least 30 minutes prior to the exam.
  • Use only a black pen two to mark the answers on the sheet.
  • Do not carry any prohibited item listed in the official notification inside the examination hall. (prohibited items include – books, notes, electronic devices, calculators, log tables, maps, rough sheets, or any sort of communication device)

Preparation Tips for CDS Exam II 2023

  • First of all, thoroughly review the syllabus before you start studying to know where to begin and understand the exam’s content.
  • Schedule your time for studying new topics, revising the previous ones, practice questions and don’t forget to take occasional breaks to relieve your stress.
  • Attempt as many practice questions as possible to check your progress and increase speed.
  • While making notes, include a good number of flowcharts and tables. This will make revision easier at the later stage of preparation.
  • Do not leave too many questions for the end; try to attempt questions there and then on the exam day.
  • Take adequate rest one day before the exam.
  • Carefully read the instructions before attempting the paper.

Previous Year Question Papers

Click here to access previous CDS Exam papers


Q1. Can I give CDS 2 without CDS 1?

Yes, you can surely apply for CDS 2 without CDS 1 as provided you meet the eligibility criteria of the exam.

Q2. What are CDS 1 and CDS 2?

The CDS exam is conducted twice a year, so CDS 1 and CDS 2 are just the two cycles in which these exams are conducted. There is no difference between them.

Q3. What is the selection process for CDS 2?

The selection process has two stages, including a written exam and an SSB interview round, based on which the merit list is declared.

Q4. What is the age limit to apply for CDS 2?

Only unmarried candidates who fall between the age of 19 to 25 years are eligible to apply for the CDS exam.

Q5. Is there a negative marking in the CDS 2 exam?

Yes, 0.33 marks are deducted for every wrong answer in the CDS exam.

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