CDS 2021 Exam Pattern, Marking Scheme (for Written & SSB Interview) & Paper Analysis

Updated On -

May 1, 2021

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Sudeshna Bhar

Exams Prepmaster

CDS (I) Exam will be conducted on February 07, 2021, and the CDS (II) is expected to be scheduled for the month of October 2021. The CDS Exam Pattern for Indian Military, Indian Navy and Air Force Academy Exam is divided into 3 sections, whereas Officers’ Training Academy Exam is divided into 2 sections

  • Each section in both the exams comprises of 100 questions.
  • Each question carries one mark. 
  • There is a negative marking. One-third mark will be deducted for each wrong answer.
  • The time allotted for the examination is 2 hours. 
  • To understand the exam pattern in-depth, study the previous years’ papers of the CDS Exam minutely. 

Highlights of CDS Exam Pattern 2021

Mode of Exam Offline only 
Number of Questions asked 300 MCQ Type
Number of questions in OTA 200 MCQ Type
Maximum Marks 300 ( Indian Military, Navy and Air Force) and 200 (OTA)
Duration of Exam 2 hours (120 minutes) for each paper
Medium Hindi or English
Negative marking One-third marks deducted for every incorrect response

The competitive exam of CDS I 2021 comprises of two stages viz: Written Exam and Interview for intelligence and personality test

Check CDS Exam Syllabus

Written Test

CDS Exam Pattern 2021 - Written Test

The written test for IMA, INA, and AFA consists of 3 sections – English, General Knowledge, and Elementary Mathematics. Whereas the written paper for OTA consists of 2 sections – English and General Knowledge. The structure of the question paper is shown in the table below-

Mode of Exam: Offline i.e. candidates will be allocated an OMR sheet wherein they must color the appropriate response. 

Type of Questions: Objective Type i.e. each question will have four options. A candidate must choose the most appropriate response.

The medium of Exam: Bilingual in Hindi as well as English

CDS Exam Pattern for For IMA, INA, AFA

Subject Duration Maximum Marks
English  2 hrs 100
General Knowledge 2 hrs 100
Elementary Mathematics 2 hrs 100

CDS Exam Pattern for OTA

Subject Duration Maximum Marks
English 2 hrs 100
General Knowledge 2 hrs 100

Standard of Questions

Given below is the expected standard of each section in the CDS Exam:

  • The standard of the papers in Elementary Mathematics will be of Matriculation level. The standard of papers in other subjects will approximately be such as may be expected of a graduate of an Indian University.
  • English: The question paper will be designed to test the candidates’ understanding of English and workmanlike use of words.
  • General Knowledge: General Knowledge including knowledge of current events and of such matters of everyday observation and experience in their scientific aspects as may be expected of an educated person who has not made a special study of any scientific subject. The paper will also include questions on History of India and Geography of a nature which candidate should be able to answer without special study.
Interview Details

CDS Exam Pattern 2021 - Interview

The selection of the candidates is on the basis of marks scored in the interviews. Total marks for the interview for Indian Military Academy, Naval Academy, and Air Force Academy is 300 marks, whereas 200 marks are allotted for interview of OTA.

SSB Interview will contain two stages i.e. Stage 1 and Stage 2. Candidates who qualify the stage 1 exam will be called for stage 2.

Stage 1: It is an OIR (Officer Intelligence Rating) Test which contains Picture Perception and Description Test (PP & DT). Candidates will be shortlisted as per their performance in the OIR Test and PP and DT.

Stage 2: Candidates passing stage 1 will be called for this stageThis part consists of Group Testing Officer Tasks, Interview, Conference, and Psychology Test. These tests are organized in four days.

Marking Scheme

CDS Marking Scheme 2021

Negative marking is applicable for every wrong marked answer. In CDS paper, each question carries 4 options and out of which only 1 option is correct. For each incorrect answer, 1/3 of the marks will be deducted. More than one option marked is treated as incorrect. However, if a question is left unanswered there will be no negative marking.

The following table explains the detailed marking scheme of the exam.

CDS Marking Scheme for IMA, INA, AFA

CDS Paper English GK Mathematics
Maximum Marks 100 100 100
Marks for Correct answer +1 marks for each correct option +1 marks for each correct option +1 marks for each correct option
Negative marking -0.33 marks for each wrong answer -0.33 marks for each wrong answer -0.33 marks for each wrong answer

Check CDS II Preparation Tips

CDS Marking Scheme for OTA

The following table shows Marking scheme for 2021 OTA (Officers’ Training Academy):

CDS Paper English GK
Maximum Marks 100 100
Marks for Correct answer +1 marks for each correct option +1 marks for each correct option
Negative marking -0.33 marks for each wrong answer -0.33 marks for each wrong answer

Paper Analysis

1. English 

The English question paper will be designed to test the candidates' understanding of the English language. As per the previous year's analysis, the following are the important topics asked in English paper.

Topic Number of Questions Level of Difficulty
Sentence Improvement 20 Easy
Reading Comprehension 23 (5 passages) Easy to Moderate
Synonyms 8 Moderate
Antonyms 7 Easy
One Word Substitution 5 Moderate
Para-Jumble 10 Easy to Moderate
Sentence-Jumble 7 Moderate
Spot the Error 20 Easy
Cloze Test 20


2. General Knowledge

As per previous year analysis following are the important topics for GK paper:

Topic Number of Questions Level of Difficulty
History 19 Difficult
Science 27 Easy (Concept-based questions)
Geography 22 Moderate (Analytical based questions)
Ecology 06 Moderate (Fact-based questions)
Polity 20 Easy to Moderate
Economy/Trade 11 Moderate (Fact-based questions)
Miscellaneous /Armed Forces 15 Moderate (Fact-based questions)

3. Elementary Mathematics  

In the following table, the previous year's paper analysis of mathematics paper is mentioned.

Topic Number of Questions Level of Difficulty
Mensuration 14 Easy
Algebra 7 Easy to Moderate
Mean-Median-Mode (Frequency Distribution Table) 4 Easy
Time speed and Distance 6 Easy
Number System 20 Easy to Moderate
Simple interest/Compound interest 5 Easy
Percentage 2 Easy
Profit/Loss 1 Easy
Mixture 1 Easy
Time and Work 3 Easy
Trigonometry 14 Moderate to Difficult
Set Theory 1 Easy
Clock 2 Easy
Geometry 20 Easy to Moderate
Filling Answer Sheet

Instructions to Fill CDS Answer Sheet

Candidates are advised to follow the instructions to fill the OMR sheet very carefully as the answer sheets are to be evaluated on the machine and any violation of these instructions may result in the reduction of scores. Before marking responses on the Answer Sheet, aspirants have to fill in various particulars in it.
After receiving CDS 2019 Answer Sheet, candidates have to check that it is numbered at the bottom. If it is un-numbered, it has to be replaced by a numbered one. The top of the answer sheet will have the particulars shown in the figure below.


The following points should be kept in mind while filling CDS answer sheet:

  • Write with black ball pen only.
  • The test Booklet Series will be indicated by Alphabets A, B, C or D at the top right-hand corner of the Booklet.
  • Find out the appropriate subject code from the test booklet. Thereafter, encode the test booklet series, subject code and the roll number by using black pen.
  • Write and encode test booklet series after receiving the Test Booklet. For example, for English paper of ‘A’ Test Booklet Series you have to encode the subject code, which is 01 as shown below:
  • In the next step, you have to encode the Roll No. An example to encode the Roll Number is shown below.
  • Candidates have to make sure that they have carefully encoded their subject Test Booklet series and Roll Number.

CDS 2021 Exam Pattern FAQs

Ques.  Can I use a pencil in the exam for omitting the answer?

Ans. You can use only black ballpoint pen for omitting the circles as well as for writing the details like center, subject code, roll no., etc

Ques. Whats is the marking scheme for CDS 2021?

Ans. For Indian Naval, Indian Military, and Air force academy, the paper has three sections each consisting of 100 questions. 1 mark will be awarded for each correct answer and for the wrong answer one-third of the mark will be deducted.
For OTA there are two sections each consisting of 100 questions. Again 1 mark will be awarded for each correct answer and for wrong answer one-third of the mark will be deducted.

Ques. By mistake, I have marked two options in the answer. Will I be awarded any marks for that question?

Ans. No marks will be given for that particular question. Only one option has to be marked as the correct answer.

Ques. What are the sections in the CDS 2021 written test?

Ans.  For Indian Naval, Indian Military and Air force academy, there are 3 sections – English, General Knowledge, Elementary Mathematics.

For OTA, there are 2 sections – English, General Knowledge.​​

Ques. What is CDS SSB Interview Process?

Ans. After clearing the written test, the candidates have to go through a series of personality tests. This interview commonly known as SSB has different types of tests to judge a person's personality-

  • Picture Perception and Description Test
  • Group Testing Officer Tasks, Interview, Conference and Psychology Test
3 Months Crash Course

*The article might have information for the previous academic years, please refer the official website of the exam.


rohan bharti
How do I know that my application is registered? I don’t know about the process?
jaya garg

Hi. For the online application to be successful, it need to complete both parts of the application correctly. After completing the part-I of the application the system will generates an automatic unique number known as the Registration ID (RID). More details regarding the CDS exam here.

sunny pandey
Can you tell me CDS Previous Year Paper analysis of English section?
jaya garg

Hi. A lot of 20 questions were asked from Sentence Improvement, Reading Comprehension has 23 questions, while a total of 8 questions were asked from Synonyms section. More details related to CDS Previous Year Paper analysis are here.

ammar zaheer ahmed
What type of Questions come in CDS exam?
jaya garg

Hi. Objective Type questions are asked in the exam and each question will have four options. A candidate must choose the most appropriate response. The mode of exam is bilingual, means the questions can be answered either in Hindi or English.

ananya pandey
When CDS (II) exam will be conducted, I am preparing for the same?
jaya garg

Hi. CDS (I) Exam is scheduled to be held in month of October 2021. The CDS Exam Pattern for Indian Military, Indian Navy and Air Force Academy Exam is divided into 3 sections, whereas Officers’ Training Academy Exam is divided into 2 section.

pushkaraj sadegaonkar
For English and General studies, 120 questions are there for 100 marks. Then how many marks does each question carry? 0.83 or 1? (As 100/120 = 0.83)
gurpreet singh

HI Pushkaraj

You will be rewarded with +1 for each correct answer. Visit on our website of CDS Exam Pattern to know all the details about the exam and the marking scheme.

ananya pandey
what is the syllabus for cds entrance exam?
jaya garg

Hi Ananya. The CDS Syllabus for the Written Exam is based on 3 subjects including English, General Knowledge and Elementary Mathematics. Candidates must get a good score in CDS Written Exam to become eligible to appear for the SSB Interview. Other details are present here. 

avinash sahu
how to fill preference in cds exam?
jaya garg

Hi Avinash. The preferences are to be given using numbers 0/1/2/3/4 and you are supposed to enter at least one preference. Preference can be selected at the time of applying only. Indicate your preferred position amongst IAF, IMA, INA and OTA. Other details are here.

avinash sahu
how to prepare for cds written exam?
jaya garg

Hi Avinash. Candidates must start at least 3 to 6 months before the examination. Prepare a time table and devote 7-8 hours especially for preparations. Other preparation tips are mentioned here.

astha chaudhary
Can a apply for CDS(OTA) if I am graduated with less than 55 percentage?
gurpreet singh

Hi Astha

There is no minimum percentage required to apply for the UPSC CDS. You need to be a graduate from any recognized university. You can visit on our official website of UPSC CDS Eligibility for more details about the exam.

trisha pravin dive
Mam can i apply for CDS or OTA after 12 ???
gurpreet singh

HI Trisha

You need to be minimum 19years old and you need to have a graduation degreee to apply for this exam. For more information about the eligibility criteria visit on our official wesbite of UPSC CDS Eligibility.

mansi parmar
Mam, can PCB students apply for CDS (OTA)
aniket ranjan

Hii Mansi. Yes, You can appear for CDS OTA exam as minimum eligibility criteria is candidates should have a degree of a university or equivalent degree from institutions that have been recognized by Central/State Government. For more details Click Here

tushar shinde
maam in this covid pandamic last year student will not get the degree certificate to show them so will the they give us time for that?
swati srivastava

Hi Tushar, there is no notification regarding the concern. please contact the authorities regarding the same. For details visit: CDS EXAM

Mam, is there is a system of 0.85 Mark's for each correct question and 0.27 for each wrong answer ... As there are 100 maximum Mark's for 120 questions
diya suresh

Hi Chandrakanta, For CDS, each section will have 100 questions carrying 1 mark each. 1/3rd mark is deducted for wrong answer. For more details on CDS exam pattern click here.

manjeet saini
Kavit mam, what should be the good no of questions to attempt in ota as an obc candidate?
aditi arun

Hello Manjeet,

You’ll have to score at least 20% in each of the papers and the cut off based on past year’s trend can go up to 80-85. Each question carries 1 mark and there is negative marking of 0.33 marks for each wrong answer. Attempt the maximum number of questions you can and only attempt the questions you’re sure of or else your marks will be deducted. Since there is no reservation for any category candidate, you’ll have to perform at par with the general candidate.

mukul shivram vaidya
If a candidate has cleared the written exam and ssb. And if he has cracked the merit list as well and awaiting training academey's call. Then my question is, is it necessary that the degree course he is persuing should be completed before going to the training? Or the candidate will be given time to complete the degree course?
aniket ranjan

Hii Mukul. No, no time will be given to complete degree course. You need to submit proof of passing the Degree by the prescribed date and no request for extending this date will be considered on any other ground whatsoever. For more details Click Here

abhishek sharma
It's my 3rd year as a BCom student, I'm really interested in going into defence can I get into Indian Navy or IMA. If yes, is cds the only option to do so
aniket ranjan

Hii Abhishek. Yes, you can apply For I.M.A. and OTA through CDS. The eligibility criteria is a degree of a university or equivalent degree from institutions that have been recognized by Central/State Government. For more details Click Here

karan rathod
Which paper should a mechanical engineer take, the CDS paper 1 or 2?
jaya garg

HI Karan. Yes mechanical engineers can give the CDS exam based on their eligibility criteria. The syllabus for both the exams is the same and the question paper will be common for all. For more details, refer here

tanishka shah
Is it a good decision or not at the age of 22 to prepare for the CDSE exam?
jaya garg

Hi Tanishka. Yes, since you meet the minimum eligibility criteria, so you can prepare for the exam. Check out the detailed eligibility criteria here.

mizna harmain
How can I prepare for the CDS exam (especially in English and GK)?
jaya garg

Hi mizna. The candidates preparing for the CDS exam need to check the exam pattern first before moving ahead with the preparation strategy. Also, make a proper time table and study accordingly for the exam.

For more details, refer here.

How do I prepare to get into the Territorial Army in India? How difficult is it as compared to CDS?
jaya garg

HI Samerr. First of all know the exam pattern. Understand the detailed syllabus. Do more last year’s question papers. Prepare a time table. Study regularly.

All these tips will help you get a good score