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CDS 2021 Preparation Tips

Updated On -

Jan 19, 2021

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Nikkil Visha

Exams Prep Master

Every year a huge number of aspirants appear for CDS to become part of Indian Armed Forces. Moreover, the level of completion is also increasing with time. Students who are well prepared can easily clear the exam but this can only be possible with a good preparation plan. 

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

The candidates planning to appear for the exam suggested to check the exam pattern first and then move to the syllabus. By knowing the latest exam pattern and syllabus, you can create a good preparation plan for yourself. Make yourself familiar with the type of questions asked in the paper, weightage given to topics, marking scheme, etc. Check  CDS 2020 Exam Pattern

CDS Exam is conducted by UPSC to select eligible candidates for Indian Military Academy (IMA), Indian Naval Academy (INA), Air Force Academy (AFA), and Officers Training Academy (OTA). CDS I 2020 was conducted successfully on Feb 2, 2020 and as per the initial reaction of candidates, the paper was difficult. CDS II 2020 is scheduled to be held on Nov 8, 2020 that gives ample amount of time to build a good preparation strategy. The article provides you some of the useful tips and tricks to attempt each section and ace CDS with a decent score. 

Also Check CDS 2020 Expected Cut Off

CDS Exam Pattern

CDS 2020 Exam Pattern

CDS examination consists of 3 subjects: General Knowledge, English, and Elementary Mathematics. Each subject has a paper of 100 marks with a time duration of 2 hours. Candidates who wish to be selected for IMA, INA, or AFA have to give and clear all the 3 papers. However, the candidates who wish to be selected for OTA have to face only English and General Knowledge papers. Given below are the total marks and time duration for CDS. Check CDS 2020 Exam Pattern

For IMA, INA, and AFA

Paper Marks Duration
English 100 2 hours
General Knowledge 100 2 hours
Mathematics 100 2 hours
Total 300 6 hours


Paper Marks Duration
English 100 2 hours
General Knowledge 100 2 hours
Total 200 4 hours

Knowledge of Syllabus

Knowledge of Syllabus

Any candidate who wishes to clear the CDS exam must be thorough and familiar with the CDS 2020 Syllabus of the exam. Given below are the subject wise important syllabus topics for CDS:


Spotting Errors Questions Sentence Arrangement
Synonyms & Antonyms Selecting Words
Ordering of Sentence Comprehension Questions
Vocabulary Preparation Fill in the blanks questions

General Knowledge

Latest Current Affairs Indian Constitution
Indian History Indian Economy
Indian Geography Indian Politics
Indian Navy & Military Religions
Universities Banking Sector
Books & Authors Sports
Taxation Awards


Arithmetic Algebra
Trigonometry Geometry
Mensuration Statistic

Time Management

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

Time Management

  • Candidates must know how to effectively manage their time so that they can complete the paper within the allotted time only. 
  • Candidates appearing for CDS are advised to start at least 3 to 6 months before the examination. 
  • Follow a regular study routine so that the entire syllabus can be completed
  • Make a time table and devote 6 – 8 hours especially for preparations. 
  • Take time to manage your for the daily revisions as well
  • Take short breaks in between. 
  • Boost up your confidence level by getting updated with all the current affairs.

Solving Previous Year Paper

Solving Previous Years Sample Papers

  • Try solving the question papers of previous yeas.
  • This will help you in getting an idea about the exam pattern, type of questions, weightage given to topics.
  • Helps you in managing the time.
  • Gives the feel of real paper.
  • Take mocks tests by setting up the timers in your watch.

Download CDS Practice Papers

Important Points

Important Points to Remember

To prepare for CDS exam, a candidate must be willing to work hard physically as well as mentally. Candidates must own a proper UPSC study material, like previous years’ papers, preparation books, topic-wise notes, etc. After acquiring the relevant study material, the candidates can follow the following tips to improve their chances of getting selected:

  • Develop a reading habit. Reading different sorts of media, like magazines, newspapers, blogs, notes, etc. helps to enhance the vocabulary as well as the understanding of practical English.
  • Make a list of all the new words and their meanings. Try and use the words in the list in different scenarios and sentences.
  • Take online mock tests to improve the answering ability.
  • Read newspapers, news blogs, watch the news, etc. on a daily basis to be in touch with the latest happenings in all sectors of the world. Try to keep the material vast.
  • Make notes of every important date, name, or event you come across.
  • There are many mock tests that can help a candidate with GK preparations.
  • Make a list of all the important formulas, theorems, identities, etc. and revise them daily.
  • Try to solve questions with variety to learn the proper use of theorems and identities.
  • Enroll in an online mock test series.

UPSC CDS Physical and Medical Exam

The Defense sector requires candidates who are not only strong mentally, but also physically. Apart from the written exam, the candidates have to clear a physical and medical exam as well. No candidate should have a history of mental breakdown. The physical exam is one of the crucial parts of the CDS selection. The candidates can follow these tips for the physical exam:

  • The weight and height of the candidate must be on a standard scale.
  • Regular and proper exercise and training is important.
  • Candidate must get a full body checkup before appearing for the exam to make sure they do not have any type of illness or disease.

Personal Interview

After clearing the CDS test, the candidates have to face the personal interview conducted by SSB. This interview tests the candidate’s intelligence, personality, and ability to hold ranks with the Officers in the Defense Forces. There are several components of the interview, like Psychological Tests, Group Discussion, Intelligence Tests, Outdoor activities, Opinion on issues, Physical Fitness, etc. Here are some tips to clear the interview:

  • Stay confident. It is natural to be nervous or anxious, but a candidate must be able to express his/her thoughts as beautifully as possible.
  • A well-honed communication skill is crucial, as the thoughts can be expressed in better and more suitable words.
  • Be updated and in touch with the latest and interesting happenings around the globe.
  • Think before you speak and act like you are already an Officer.
  • It is imperative to be respectful and humble.

Know More CDS Selection Process

Last Minute Tips

What to do in the Last Weeks

The few weeks before the exam are crucial as that is the time to revise all that you have studied, without cramming up all the knowledge. The following steps may help candidates to plan and prepare in that time:

  • Make small and useful notes. The notes should be to the point and should act as a summary of what has been studied.
  • Although the last weeks can be a chaotic time, a calm and planned approach is all that is needed.
  • Time management is crucial. The CDS exam is a time-based exam which gives candidates about a minute to attempt each question. Not only the knowledge, but swiftness in using that knowledge is important.
  • The exam has negative marking for each incorrect answer. So, guesswork should be avoided.
  • Taking an online mock test is helpful.

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


reshma rathore
Maximum height and weight for girls for clear physical test

Hello Reshma,

There is no upper limit for Height and the candidate should not be overweight with respect to her height. The minimum height required is, however, 152 cm. To check the required Height- Weight Ratio, kindly visit – CDS Eligibility

chanchal vinod patil
Is there any physical test for ladies in OTA?
common admission test

Hii Chanchal. Yes, For OTA everyone requires physical Test. There are very specific BMI, height, weight, waist-hip proportion, eyesight, hearing standards, and list of undesirable medical conditions for both female and male candidates in CDS. For more details Click Here

mukund shende
Is interview is hard to clear.?
arvind kumar

Hi Mukund, yoou can clear the interview with proper startegy and preparation. For more details visit: CDS preparation tips.

vakil ahmad
Cds ke liye gs kitne time me prepare ho jayegi Or kese preparation krni h gs ki
arvind kumar

Hi Vakil, For preparation strategy and tips please visit: CDS preparation tips.

Is Pathfinder enough for the CDS?
kavita rani

Hi Pradeepraj. Honestly, there is no single best book that can be considered the best for CDS exam. Candidates must refer to different sources while preparing for different subjects. While using CDS Pathfinder book, no doubt majority of the syllabus will be covered from this book, but you must refer to other sources as well that help you clear the exam. You can refer to the NCERT books and other reference books while studying for CDS exam.

ammar zaheer ahmed
What is the best book for the preparation of the UPSC CDS?
arvind kumar

Hi Ammar, for details regarding books and preparation please visit: CDS preparation 

riyaz sen
How do I prepare for CDS 2020,and which books are required?
kavita rani

Hi Riyaz. Candidates preparing for CDS 2020 must purchase the right kind of CDS books. Some of the books that help in your CDS 2020 preparation include: For English

Objective General English by S. P. Bakshi

High School English Grammar & Composition by Wren and Martin’s

Word Power Made Easy by Norman Lewis

For General Knowledge

Geography & History- NCERT (Std 6th-12th)

Pathfinder for CDS- Arihant Experts

For General Knowledge

Read newspapers daily like The Hindu, Indian Express For Mathematics

Quantitative Aptitude for Competitive Examinations by R. S. Aggarwal

Pathfinder for CDS by Arihant Experts

Mathematics for CDS Examination by R. S. Aggarwal

margaret atwood
Is the book Pathfinder by Arihant Publications enough to clear the CDS exam?
kavita rani

Hi Marhgaret. If we consider the latest exam pattern, cutoff analysis, and higher competition level, then relying only on CDS Pathfinder is not sufficient. Candidates must be smart enough to understand the latest trends and for the same, it is vital to refer to other resources as well. It is advisable to refer to other books for Maths and English, also, pay detailed attention on the latest current affairs as they are important and hold significant weightage in the exam.

pratim ray
Has anyone ever cleared the CDS exam with one month preparation just by going through Arihant Pathfinder and with maths and GK very bad?
kavita rani

Hi Pratim. Honestly it is not possible for anyone to get good score in CDS exam with the mentioned parameters. CDS syllabus is not just about bookish knowledge rather this exam is taken to test candidate’s in depth knowledge of a subject. Since a huge portion asked in the exam is related to the latest affairs, so in case you have not prepared well, it would be difficult for you to crack the exam. Scoring good marks in ENG and GK paper and not in maths might help you to clear OTA exam.

pratim ray
What are the best books to prepare for the CDS exam?
kavita rani

Hi Pratim. Few of the books that can be refered to prepare for CDS exam include

CDS books for English Language • High School English Grammar & Composition Edition written by Wren and Martin • Objective General English by SP Bakshi • Word Power Made Easy by Norman Lewis

CDS books for GK • General Awareness by Manohar Panday • Manorama Yearbook • Magazines such as Pratiyogita Darpan, Competition Success Review (CSR), and Yojana • Newspapers

CDS books for Elementary Mathematics • Mathematics for CDS by RS Aggarwal • Quantitative Aptitude for Competitive Examinations by RS Aggarwal • Pathfinder for CDS by Arihant Publications

akshay shinde
I have a tatto on my wrist will it be an issue?
arvind kumar

Hi Akshay, Tattoos are not accepted in CDS exam.

nihal rai
Hello Sir, my DOB is 17/01/1995, 25 years of age and I hope to sit for CDS exam. Will you please clear my one and only doubt i.e if I am eligible or not to sit for the exam. I'd also like to tell you that I am a graduate. Thank you in advance.
arvind kumar

Hi Nihal, yes you are eligible for CDS exam. For more details visit: CDS eligibility

Hello sir , I'm prasad . I'm second year final semester and due to covid-19 my academic year is not yet completed. I will be in 3rd year if exams are I eligible to apply for cds
arvind kumar

Hi prasad, you must have completed graduation in order to give CDS exam. For more details visit: CDS eligibility.

paridhi sharma
Mam,I'm a 19 year old and I'm in 3rd year. can I give the exam?
arvind kumar

Hi Paridhi, you can give the exam once you complete your graduation. For more details visit: CDS eligibility

vikrant singh
am I eligible for ima dob 7/9/97
arvind kumar

Hi Vikrant, yes you are eligible if you have completed your graduation. For more details click here.

vamshi krishna rao eppa
Sir my D.O.B is March 15 1996,am i eligible for OTA
shobhna chaturvedi
Hi Vamshi, yes, you are eligible to apply.
rahul dwivedi
Your advice is very helpful for every student thank you
Hi sir, As per my DOB 07-06-1996. Am I eligible for CDS 2 exam 2020.
arvind kumar

Hi Vasanth, yes you are eligible for CDS exam. For more details visit: CDS eligibilty

surendersingh bhati
Sir I have completed bsc in aircraft maintenance engineering ...can I apply for CDS exam and now I have applied for b tech in aircraft maintenance engineering
arvind kumar

Hi Surender, you can apply for CDS exam. For more details visit: CDS eligibility

karishma purohit
Sir/mam i am in b com 2nd year. Am i also eligible for cds 2 2020 ?
arvind kumar

Hi Karishma, sorry but you are not eligible. For more details visit: CDS eligibility