UPSC CDS Syllabus- Overview, Exam Pattern, Interview/Personality Test

UPSC has invited applications for various Combined Defence Services (CDS) posts and declared 339 vacancies for the UPSC CDS II Recruitment. The aspirants can fill their application forms between 4th August 2021 and 24th August 2021. The board has scheduled the exam date for 14th November 2021. This exam is a golden opportunity for those looking for a respected and lucrative career and serving their country. Through this exam, the board fills vacancies in the Indian Military Academy (IMA), Indian Naval Academy (INA), Indian Air Force Academy (IAFA), and Officer’s Training Academy (OTA). Thousands of aspirants apply for this exam every year and compete for various posts in CDS academies. As this is a tough exam to crack, the aspirants must prepare hard according to the UPSC CDS Syllabus 2021Read further to learn about the detailed UPSC CDS Syllabus 2021, exam pattern, and more.

UPSC CDS Syllabus 2021: Overview

The detailed overview of the UPSC CDS Syllabus 2021 will help the aspirants plan their preparation strategy. We have provided below the detailed exam pattern and syllabus to help students in the quality preparation.

UPSC CDS Exam Pattern 2021

UPSC has established the CDS Exam pattern and declared it in its official notification. The Exam comprises two stages; Written Exam and Interview.

For Stage I, CDS Exam Pattern includes three sections for the Indian Military Academy (IMA), the Indian Naval Academy (INA), and Air Force Academy (AFA), and two sections for Officers’ Training Academy (OTA). We have included detailed information regarding each section in the following table and advise all aspirants to go through it to get an insight into the exam pattern and syllabus.

UPSC CDS Written Exam Pattern 2021

Mode of examOffline
Number of sectionsIndian Military Academy (IMA), Indian Naval Academy (INA) and Air Force Academy (AFA)-ThreeOfficers’ Training Academy (OTA)-Two
Total marks of the testIMA, INA and AFA-300OTA-200
Nature of questionsObjective type
Language of question paperHindi and English
Duration of the testTwo hours for each section of the test

Structure of question paper

The structure of the CDS question paper for IMA, INA, AFA, and OTA is as follows: 


SubjectDuration (In hours)Maximum marks
General Knowledge100
Elementary Mathematics100


SubjectDuration (In hours)Maximum marks
General Knowledge100

CDS Marking Scheme

  • For the incorrect answer, 1/3 marks are deducted
  • Candidates marking more than one option is treated as incorrect 
  • If a question is left unanswered there will be no negative marking 

The section-wise marking scheme of the CDS exam is given below: 

Specifications English GK Mathematics 
Maximum marks100100100
Marks for the correct answer+1 mark for each correct option+1 mark for each correct option+1 mark 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


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CDS Interview/Personality Test 2021

The aspirants who clear the CDS written exam will become eligible for Stage II, which is the Interview or Personality Test. It also comprises two stages:

  • Picture Perception & Description Test
  • 4 Days Physical & Mental Assessment

UPSC CDS Syllabus 2021

Read further to know the detailed UPSC CDS Syllabus 2021 of each section.

UPSC CDS Syllabus 2021: English

This section will test the English language and vocabulary skills of the aspirants. It will comprise 120 MCQs covering the following topics:

  • Spotting Errors Questions
  • Substitution of Words
  • Basic Grammar
  • Reading Comprehension Questions
  • Vocabulary (Synonyms, Antonyms, and Phrases)
  • Sentence Rearrangement Questions 
  • Comprehension Questions
  • Ordering of Words in a Sentence
  • Fill in the Blanks 
  • Idioms and Phrases
  • Para Jumbles

UPSC CDS Syllabus 2021: General Knowledge

This section will check the current affairs’ knowledge of the aspirants. It will also test the understanding of the aspirants in general topics like science, politics, foreign affairs, etc. It will also comprise 120 MCQs and cover topics, such as

  • Economics (Five-year plan, Budget, foreign trade, etc.)
  • Defence-related News (Army Day, Navy Day, Awards, recent developments, etc.)
  • Current Affairs (National and International, Environment, Sport, Cultural, Books, Statements, etc.)
  • Politics (Important facts related to Indian Constitution, Indian Judiciary, etc.)
  • Physics (optics, force, temperature, units, motion, heat, electricity, etc.)
  • Chemistry (physical, organic, inorganic, and general chemistry)
  • Biology (zoology, botany, and human biology)
  • Geography (important facts of Indian and world geography)
  • History (Ancient, Medieval and Modern India)
  • Sociology

UPSC CDS Syllabus 2021: Elementary Mathematics

The mathematics section will have arithmetic, Trigonometry, Algebra, Mensuration, Geometry, and Statistics questions. The following table includes the section-wise topics that need to be practised for acing this exam.

ArithmeticFundamental operations (subtraction, addition, division, multiplication), Number System (natural, rational, integers, and real numbers), Unitary method, Time & Work, Percentages, Simple & Compound Interest, Time & Distance, Profit & Loss, Ratio & proportion, Elementary number theory, Composite & prime numbers, Theorem of factorization, Divisibility tests, Factors & Multiples, Euclidean algorithm, laws of algorithm & algorithmic tables, H.C.F. and L.C.M.
TrigonometrySine a, Cos a, Tan a when 0° < a < 90°, also values of Sin, Cos and Tan of 0°, 30°, 45°, 60°, and 90°Heights and distance, Simple trigonometric identities, Trigonometric tables
AlgebraBasic operations, Remainder theorem, Polynomial theories, Linear equations in 2 variables, Quadratic equations (relation between roots & its coefficients), Set language and set notation, Conditional identities, Laws of indices, Rational Expressions
MensurationAreas of Circles, Rectangles, Triangles, Squares, Parallelograms, The surface area of cuboids, Cylinders, Cones, Spheres, Volume
GeometryLines and angles, Plane & plane figures, Important theorems (like angle property based), Parallel lines, Medians & Altitudes, Congruency of triangles, Similar triangles, Circles, Parallelogram, Square, Rectangle
StatisticsTabulation of statistical data, Bar graphs, Graphical representation of frequency polygons, Pie charts, Histograms, Measures of central tendency


A good understanding of the UPSC CDS Syllabus 2021 is crucial for all the aspirants who want a job in OTA, IMA, INA, and AFA fields. The latest exam pattern and syllabus help them understand each section’s weightage and design their preparation strategy. We have included the detailed syllabus and exam pattern in this guide and advise all aspirants to follow this strictly if they want to score good marks in UPSC CDS Exam 2021. 


Is Maths compulsory for the UPSC CDS Exam?

Maths is compulsory for IMA, INA, and AFA exams. It is not compulsory if you are applying for the OTA exam.

How many stages does UPSC CDS Exam have?

UPSC CDS Exam comprises two stages; Offline Written Exam and Personal Interview.

What is the level of UPSC CDS Syllabus 2021?

The UPSC CDS Syllabus 2021 comprises three sections, out of which Elementary Mathematics is of 10th level, but General Knowledge and English are of graduation levels.

Is there any negative marking system in UPSC CDS Exam?

Yes, UPSC follows a negative marking system in CDS Written Exam. It deducts 1/3rd mark for each wrong answer.

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