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CDS 2020 Exam Pattern, Marking Scheme (for Written & SSB Interview) & Syllabus

Updated On -

Oct 21, 2020

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Aarushi Kalra

Exams Prep Master

CDS 2020 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.

Get FREE CDS 2021 Mock Tests, Sectional Quiz, Previous Years Papers. Click Here

The competitive exam of CDS I 2020 comprises of two stages viz: Written Exam and Interview for intelligence and personality test

Check CDS Exam Syllabus

Exam Pattern Highlights

Highlights of CDS Exam Pattern 2020

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

Check OTA Exam Pattern, Syllabus and Books

CDS Exam Pattern 2020 - 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

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

Subject Duration Maximum Marks
English 2 hrs 100
General Knowledge 2 hrs 100
Standard of Questions

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.

To uplift your General Knowledge Skill, click here

Interview Details

CDS Exam Pattern 2020 - 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.

Read and practice previous years sample papers, before CDS 2020 exam, free of cost. 

Prepare better with CDS I Practice Papers

CDS Marking Scheme 2020

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 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

The following table shows Marking scheme for 2020 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

CDS Previous year paper analysis – Subjectwise

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

Practice Previous Years Question Papers more to know about the exam pattern

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 2020 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 2020?

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 2020 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

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


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

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?
kavita rani

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)?
kavita rani

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?
kavita rani

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

mohammed najamuddin
How many questions are asked from Ancient History, Medieval History and Modern History respectively in CDS exams?
kavita rani

Hi Mohammed. Ancient History is an important and integral part in the CDS exams as each year, almost 5 – 6 questions are asked in the exam from this section. Many candidates sometimes ignore this section but honestly, 5 – 6 questions is indeed a lot in the larger scheme of things in the UPSC exam which in turn can help you to get a good score.

deepika rathore
Which are the best book of reasoning for CDs ota exam preparation?
arvind kumar

Hi Deepika, For CDS exam preparation details please visit: CDS exam preparation.

ashish singh
What is the procedure of becoming a pilot at the Indian Air Force after graduation?
kavita rani

Hi Ashish. To become a Pilot in IAF, the candidates must be Indian citizen also they must have passed or appearing in 12th with Physics and Mathematics. In case you are aged between 16-1/2 to 19 years, you are eligible to apply for the NDA exam, admission are granted based on the written exam and interview..

vishal sharma
Does repetitive questions comes in CDS exam?
kavita rani

Hi Vishal. Yes, many times same style of questions are asked in the CDS exam but the language of the questions gets changed. So you need to clear all the concepts.

karan rathod
What is the exam pattern and selection process of an IAF officer through the AFCAT? Is the officer rankings of IAF selected through CDSE and the AFCAT the same?Are the officer rankings of different branches of IAF like flying duty, ground duty, and technical branch the same?
kavita rani

Hi Karan. AFCAT is a national level exam taken by the Indian Air Force to appoint officers for all its branches, except for the medical and dental branches. The rankings and seniority of officers who got selected will remain the same once they are commissioned irrespective of the branches to which they are selected. The officer from the flying branch only are eligible to become the Chief of Air Staff. The exam pattern and selection process of an IAF officer is comprised of all the round including the Online AFCAT Exam, SSV Interview and Medical test.

avinash sahu
How do I prepare for GK for IIFT & CDS (different patterns)? I have exams for both with a 10-day gap. How do I maximize the score?
kavita rani

Hi Avinash. Since GK is an important subject in both these exams, so you need to study harder to get a good score. • Focus on the preparation strategy. • Refer to the last years' papers. Go through the last 5 years' CDS question papers. • Prepare an effective study plan. • Refer to the best books, read newspaper daily. Follow these tips to get a good score.