Combined Defence Services Examination
Combined Defence Services Examination

CDS Exam Pattern 2024: Check CDS Exam Pattern for IMA, INA, AFA & OTA

CDS Exam Pattern is the structure of the exam and the marking scheme. The CDS exam pattern is the same for Indian Military Academy, Indian Naval Academy, & Air Force Academy, while it is slightly different for Officers’ Training Academy.
UPSC CDS Exam Pattern 2024

UPSC CDS Exam Pattern 2024

CDS Exam Pattern 2024: The Combined Defence Services (CDS) examination is conducted twice a year by UPSC. Candidates wishing to appear for the CDS exam must know the complete CDS exam pattern. This allows candidates to strategize their CDS preparation according to the exam structure.

The CDS exam 2024 is conducted for admission to Indian Military Academy, Indian Naval Academy, Indian Air Force Academy, and Officers’ Training Academy. The exam is conducted in pen and paper mode and includes two stages: a written exam and SSB Interview. 

Also Read: CDS Syllabus 2024

CDS Exam Pattern 2024

The CDS exam pattern for IMA, INA, and AFA is similar, while the CDS exam pattern for OTA differs slightly. For candidates seeking admission to IMA, INA, and AFA, the CDS written exam consists of three papers: English, General Knowledge, and Elementary Mathematics. The written exam for candidates seeking admission to OTA, on the other hand, consists of only two papers: English and General Knowledge. Also Read: CDS Books 2024

CDS Exam Pattern 2024: Highlights



Exam Name

Central Defence Services (CDS)

Exam Duration

IMA, INA and AFA - 6 hours

OTA - 4 Hours

Exam Mode


Type of Questions


Maximum Marks

IMA, INA and AFA - 300

OTA - 200


Both Hindi & English 

CDS Exam Pattern 2024: IMA, INA, & AFA

As per the official exam pattern released by UPSC for the CDS exam 2024, the written exam for IMA, INA, and AFA consists of three papers: General Knowledge, English Language, and Elementary Mathematics. Each paper is two hours long, for a total of six hours. Each of the three papers is worth 100 marks. The Mathematics paper contains matriculation-level questions.




No. of Questions

Maximum Marks



2 hrs



General Knowledge


2 hrs



Elementary Mathematics


2 hrs



CDS Exam Pattern 2024: OTA

The CDS exam pattern for admission to the Officers’ Training Academy (OTA) consists of two papers: General Knowledge & English Language. Both papers are two hours long and have a maximum score of 100.




No. of Questions

Maximum Marks



2 hrs



General Knowledge


2 hrs



CDS Marking Scheme 2024

According to the CDS marking scheme, candidates are liable to a deduction of one-third of marks for every incorrect answer. Thus,

  • For every correct answer in the English Language & General Knowledge paper, 0.83 marks will be awarded.
  • For every incorrect answer in English Language & General Knowledge paper, 0.27 marks will be deducted.
  • For every correct answer in the Elementary Mathematics paper, 1 mark will be awarded.
  • For every incorrect answer in the Elementary Mathematics paper, 0.33 marks will be deducted.
  • There will be no deduction or award of marks for unattempted questions.
  • The CDS SSB Interview consists of 300 marks for IMA, INA & AFA and 200 marks for OTA.

CDS Exam Pattern 2024: SSB Interview

The CDS SSB interview process is divided into two stages: I and II. Only applicants who pass stage I are eligible to move on to stage II. The interview process takes about five to six days, with Stage I taking up the first day.

Day I - Screening Test (Stage I)

Candidates will be subpoenaed the following day for the Stage I round, which is the Screening Test after they have reported to the SSB Interview Centre. On the day of the screening, candidates will take the Officer Intelligence Rating (OIR) Test, which includes verbal and nonverbal tests. After the OIR test, candidates will take the Picture Perception & Description Test (PP&DT).

Day II - Psychology Test

Thematic Apperception Test (TAT)

  • The Picture Story Writing Test is another name for the Thematic Apperception Test.
  • The participants are shown clear images that they must view for 30 seconds before writing a four-minute description of.
  • There are 12 slides displayed in total, 11 of which will be shown one after the other.
  • The twelfth slide will be an empty slide on which a candidate can write any storyline.

Word Association Test (WAT)

  • The WAT is the second psychological test administered as part of the SSB selection process.
  • Participants in this test are shown a word on a screen for 15 seconds.
  • During this time, candidates must write the first thing that comes to mind after seeing/reading that word.
  • 60 words will be displayed one after the other, with a 15-second interval between each word.
  • This exam will not assess a candidate's command of the English language; the words displayed will be common-use vocabulary.

Situation Reaction Test (SRT)

  • Candidates will be given 60 instances one by one on a piece of paper and asked to write their responses in a subjective format.
  • The time limit for this is one hour, so applicants must think carefully before writing their response.

Self Description Test (SD)

  • In the Self Description Test, candidates will be asked to write about themselves from the perspectives of their parents, teachers, friends, and themselves.
  • Candidates are also asked to write about who they want to be and how they would like to improve themselves.

Day III & Day IV: Group Testing Officer Test

On Day 3 & Day 4, the Group Testing Officer conducts the following tests:

  • Group discussion (GD)
  • Group Planning Exercise/Military Planning Exercise (GPE/MPE)
  • Progressive Group Tasks (PGT)
  • Half Group Tasks (HGT)
  • Individual Obstacles (IOT)
  • Group Obstacles Race/Snake Race
  • Command Task
  • Lecturette
  • Final Group Task (FGT)

Day V: Conference

Day 5 is the conference day, which concludes the SSB Interview round. Assessors and candidates meet on this day for a lengthy discussion to determine whether the candidate is qualified to join the Combined Defence Services.

Important Points to Remember:

  • The personality of a candidate is evaluated by three different assessors: the Interviewing Officer (IO), the Group Testing Officer (GTO), and the Psychologist.
  • Each test is not given a specific weightage. Adjudicators only award marks after taking into account the candidate's overall performance across all tests.
  • Furthermore, Conference marks are assigned based on the Candidate's initial performance in the three approaches and the Board's discretion. All of these are equally weighted.

CDS Exam Paper Instructions

There are certain CDS exam paper instructions which every candidate must follow who are taking the exam:

  • The papers in all subjects will only contain objective-type questions. General Knowledge and Elementary Mathematics question papers (Test Booklets) will be set bilingually in Hindi and English.
  • Wherever possible, questions involving the metric system of Weights and Measures will be set in the question papers.
  • Candidates must write their papers by hand. They will not be permitted to use a scribe to write their answers for them under any circumstances.
  • The Commission has the authority to set qualifying marks in any or all of the examination subjects.
  • Candidates are not permitted to use calculators when answering objective-type questions. The Exam Hall, therefore, does not allow them to bring it in.

CDS Exam Day Instructions

On the CDS official notification, there are clear instructions for the CDS exam day. Candidates taking the exam must adhere to all of the instructions provided, or they will be denied access to the exam. The CDS exam day instructions are as follows:

  • Candidates may bring a clipboard or hardboard (with nothing written on it) and a good quality black ball pen to mark responses on the Answer Sheet.
  • The invigilator will provide the answer sheet and rough work sheet.
  • In the examination hall, no books, notes, loose sheets, electronic or other type calculators, mathematical and drawing instruments, Log Tables, stencils of maps, slide rules, Test Booklets, or rough sheets are permitted.
  • Candidates are advised not to bring any of the prohibited items such as mobile phones/Bluetooth/pagers to the venue of the examination, because safekeeping arrangements cannot be guaranteed.

How to fill in the Answer Sheet for objective-type tests in the Examination Hall?

Candidates must carefully follow the instructions for filling out the answer sheet. Aspirants should be aware that because the answer sheets will be evaluated by machine, any breach of these guidelines may lead to a score reduction for which they will be solely responsible. The instructions are as follows:

  • The name of the Centre and the subject should be written in black ballpoint pen in English or Hindi.
  • Test Booklet Series is indicated by the letters A, B, C, or D in the top right corner.
  • In the boxes provided, write your Roll Numbers exactly as they appear on your e-Admission Certificate in a Black ball pen. Do not leave out any possible zero(s).
  • The next step is to look up the correct subject code in the Time Table.
  • Encode the Test Booklet Series, Subject Code, and Roll Number in the appropriate circles. Encode with a black ball pen.
  • Upon receiving Test Booklets and confirming Booklet Series, Test Booklet Series are written and encoded.


Every candidate who wants to join the Indian Armed Forces must be aware of the CDS Exam Pattern. For the past few years, the CDS exam pattern has remained consistent. Any changes to the exam pattern will be announced by UPSC in an official notification.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the CDS OTA exam pattern?

There are only two papers according to the CDS OTA exam pattern: English Language and General Knowledge. Candidates are given two hours to complete each paper. Each paper contains 100 questions.

What is the CDS SSB Interview Process?

The CDS SSB Interview process includes two stages: 

Stage I: Picture Perception & Description Test

Stage II: Psychology Test, Group Testing Officer Task, Conference Day

What is the marking scheme for the CDS 2024 exam?

There are 120 questions on the English Language & General Knowledge paper. Both papers are worth a total of 100 marks. As a result, each question is worth approximately 0.83 marks. The Elementary Mathematics paper consists of 100 one-mark questions.

How many marks do CDS SSB Interview Process carry?

According to the CDS exam pattern, the CDS SSB Interview process is worth 300 marks for the positions of IMA, AFA, and INA. The CDS SSB Interview process carries 200 marks for OTA.

When will the CDS 1 exam 2024 take place?

The CDS 1 Exam 2024 will take place on April 21, 2024. The exam will be conducted in pen and paper mode.

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