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Lot of times, students studying in our campus have asked us which stream of the Indian Armed Forces is better in terms of duty, training, degrees, rank, salary and opportunities. There are two exams through which one can get inducted into Indian Armed forces – NDA (National Defence Academy) and CDS (Combined Defence Services) exam. Both these exams are conducted twice in a year by Union Public Service Commission (UPSC). There are many similarities and differences in the recruitment process of NDA and CDS exam. Here, we will differentiate and analyse the factors present in recruitment of both the exams and will conclude that which of these two is better to join.
For beginners, let’s go through the basic difference and similarities between the two –
|Age||16.5-19.5 Years||19-25 Years|
|Eligibility||Only Men can Apply||Men & Women both can Apply|
|Educational Qualification||Candidate should have a 10+2 Certificate||Candidate should be Graduate|
|Scheme of Examination||Written exam + SSB interview||Written exam + SSB interview|
|Frequency of the Exam||Conducted Twice a Year||Conducted Twice a Year|
|Training Centres||National Defence Academy, Khadakwasla, Pune|
Indian Military Academy, Dehradun
Indian Naval Academy, Ezhimala
Indian Air Force Academy, Hyderabad
|Indian Military Academy (IMA), Dehradun for Army Cadets|
Indian Naval Academy, Ezhimala for Navy Cadets
Indian Air Force Academy, Hyderabad for Air Force Officers
Officers Training Academy (OTA), Chennai
|Degrees awarded||Army Cadets – B.Sc./ B.Sc. (Computer)/BA / B.Tech degree|
Naval Cadets – B.Tech degree
Air Force Cadets – B.Tech degree
|Army Cadets in IMA – PG Diploma in ‘Military and Defence Management|
OTA Chennai – Post Graduate Diploma in Defence Management and Strategic Studies
|Rank assigned after the training completes||Lieutenant|
Also, we’ve been told when we asked our students that why they opted for NDA and not CDS and vice versa, most of them told us about the major difference in their training period which is somewhat reasonable.
NDA training time period is approx. 36 months. In CDS, training time is between 12 months to 18 months, which means NDA training is tougher and longer as comparison to CDS.
The aspirants who completes their graduation and applies for CDS and join IMA undergoes 1½ year training at IMA which is 6 months of basic training and then after 6 months, the cadets from NDA joins the CDS candidates for a year and collectively, they all gets commissioned into the Indian Army as Lieutenant.
On getting through the NDA exam, candidates are required to go through the following training programs:
On getting through the CDS exam, candidates are required to go through the following training programs:
In both cases, cadets are offered a stipend of ₹21,000 per month during training.
The eventual growth from Lieutenant to a Captain, Major, Lieutenant Colonel and Colonel (both selection-based and time-based) is based on the years in commissioned service for officers selected through either exams. However, for the senior ranks of a Brigadier, Major General, Lieutenant General and General, CDS exams offer a time-bound promotion while NDA candidates have to depend on the selection process laid out from time to time.
NDA Officer Pay vs. CDS Officer Pay
|NDA Officer Pay (in Rupees)||CDS Officer (Total Pay in Rupees)|
56,100 – 1,77,50
|15,600—39,100/-||6,600/-||6,94,00 – 2,07,200|
1,21,200 – 2,12400
|Lieutenant General HAG Scale||67,000/–79,000/-||–|
1, 82, 200-2,24,100
HAG + Scale
|75,500/- 80,000/-||–||2,05,400 – 2,24,400|
|VCOAS/Army Cdr/ Lieutenant General (NFSG)||80,000/-||–|
In addition to the above mentioned pay, the officers in the rank starting from Lieutenant up to Brigadier are eligible for the Military Service Pay (MSP). While a fixed sum of Rs. 6,000/- per month in lieu of MSP for NDA Officers, the CDS Officers get Rs. 15,500 per month.
Besides the Pay and the MSP, the officers are eligible for various allowances. Surprisingly, the allowances offered by the Army, Navy and Air Force to the officers are considered as the major differences for most of the CDS & NDA Exam aspirants.
Comparison between allowances offered to Army officers selected through NDA & CDS and equivalent ranks in Air Force and Navy are as given below.
NDA Officer Allowance vs. CDS Officer Allowance
|NDA Officer (in Rupees pm)||CDS Officer (in Rupees pm)|
|Equal to Civilian Gazetted Officers||Equal to Civilian Gazetted Officers|
|Kit Maintenance Allowance||400/-|
Subsumed into DA
High Altitude Allowance
|1,060/-||3,400 – 25,000/-|
|Siachen Allowance||Not Applicable|
|14,000/- (initial) and 3,000/- (every 3 years)||Subsumed into proposed DA|
|1,600 – 3,200 /- + DA||3,600 – 7,200 /- + DA|
|Children Education Allowance||Not Applicable|
Rs. 2,250/per month/per child for two children from Nursery – XII
The aspirants should note that for the CDS Officers, the newly proposed Daily Allowance (DA) is Rs. 20,000 per month.
This is similar for both NDA and CDS officers –
Flying Allowance: NDA Officer vs. CDS Officer
|NDA Officers (in Rupees/pm)||CDS Officers (in Rupees/pm)|
Major to Colonel
|Brigadier & above|
Which is better to join?
Training period is tougher in NDA which eventually shapes an aspirant into a well moulded army brat rather than joining the army after graduating in some other course and finally making up the mind to join the Indian Army using the CDS examination. But the pay scale and officer allowance in CDS is better than NDA. That being said, Both NDA and CDS are better in their own way. All that matters in the end is following your passion and living the life you wanted and dreamt since childhood. Being an army men, wearing that uniform (irrespective of the course you joined for), and above of all, getting hugely respected from everyone that is around you.
Here is the notification for the NDA 01/19 written examination.
Also, Visit our Current Affair Articles and latest exam blogs to get daily updates of the defence world. We also provide books made from our own publication. These books are instilled with the latest trend analysis and comprehensive concepts from the whole syllabus of NDA, CDS, AFCAT and various other courses that are taught in our institution.
UPSC has categorised the NDA selection process in two stages: written exam and SSB interview.
It is important for the candidates to pass the written exam to be eligible for the interview. The written exam for NDA is again conducted for 2 categories, i.e., Mathematics and General Ability. Refer to the table below for a better understanding of the exam pattern.
NDA Exam 2021
Union Public Service Commission
NDA Exam Papers
General Ability (Paper-II)
Total number of questions
2 hours 50 minutes
Type of Questions
Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs)
Medium of Examination
English & Hindi
NDA examination mainly covers questions from 10+2 level. Hence, candidates must know the basic concepts of all the subjects. According to the NDA Marking Scheme 2021, there is a negative marking for every wrong attempted question. Therefore, candidates are advised to choose their answers wisely.
Marking pattern for Mathematics category: 0.83 marks are deducted for each wrong answer and 2.5 marks are added for each correct answer. There is no negative marking for unattempted answers.
NDA General Ability paper is conducted for 600 marks including 150 questions. 1.33 marks are deducted for each wrong answer and 4 marks are added for each correctly attempted answer. There is no negative marking for unattempted answers. The General Ability Test (GAT) comprises two parts: English (Part A) and General Awareness (Part B)
Given Below Are the 6 Subjects Included Under NDA General Awareness Paper:
The table below gives a subject-wise mark distribution of the NDA General Ability exam.
General Ability Test (GAT)
The syllabus for National Defence Academy Examination is prescribed by the Union Public Service Commission. It is released every year on their official website along with the exam notification.
The General Ability syllabus is broadly divided into two categories: English and General Awareness.
Candidates need to prepare well especially for the General Awareness section as it is a vast section which includes physics, chemistry, general science, history, geography and current events.
Given below is the detailed subject-wise syllabus for NDA Paper-II Exam 2021.
Syllabus for English
Adjective Degree Of Comparison Rules
List of Synonyms and Antonyms
List of One Word Substitutions
List of Homophones/Homonyms
Candidates are advised to be very thorough with their grammar and vocabulary to score well in this section. They can find the important questions for NDA 2021 Exam on the official website of Vedantu. Solving these questions on a regular basis will help the aspirants to gain a clearer concept of each subject.
Candidates often find it difficult to prepare for the General Awareness category due to its vast syllabus. Therefore, it is very important for them to segregate the entire syllabus before starting with the preparation. By doing so, they will be familiar with their weaknesses and focus more on those areas.
Given below are the syllabus for each subject included under General Awareness section.
Syllabus for Physics
Chemistry Topics for NDA Exam 2021
Physical and Chemical Changes
Acids, bases and salts
Preparation and Properties of Hydrogen, Oxygen, Nitrogen and Carbon Dioxide, Oxidation and Reduction
Elementary ideas about the structure of Atom
Symbols, Formulae and simple Chemical Equations
Atomic Equivalent and Molecular Weights
Mixtures and Compounds
Law of Chemical Combination (excluding problems)
Properties of Air and Water
Material used in the preparation of substances like Soap, Glass, Ink, Paper, Cement, Paints, Safety Matches and Gunpowder
Fertilizers—Natural and Artificial
Syllabus for History
Syllabus for Geography
Topics Included Under Geography
The general science syllabus for NDA General Awareness section includes the following topics:
The questions in the General Science section mostly cover the Class 9 to Class 12 levels. It mainly test the basic concepts of the candidates regarding the subject. Therefore, regular revision of the NCERT textbooks will help them score higher marks.
For the current events category, students must be aware of the latest happenings in the world. These may include sports, economics, politics, national and international events. Reading the daily newspapers, listening to current affairs and news channels will help you know the latest updates of the world.
NDA Mathematics paper mainly includes questions from 10+2 level and tests the basic concepts of the candidates. Therefore, it is very important for the candidates to prepare each topic thoroughly.
Although, the subject Mathematics is considered tough by many aspirants but a proper analysis of the syllabus will help them understand the exam pattern.
The table below gives a detailed list of topics included in NDA Mathematics syllabus.
Matrices and Determinants
Integral Calculus and Differential Equations
Analytical Geometry of Two and Three Dimension
Statistics and Probability
After clearing the NDA Written Examination, candidates are eligible to sit for the SSB Interview. This is the final selection test to get selected into the National Defence Academy and hence, it includes two stages- Stage 1 and Stage 2.
Stage 1 is a screening test which examine the verbal and non-verbal skills of the candidates. While, Stage 2 includes Psychological test and Group Testing Officers Test.
After clearing both the stages, candidates are selected for a round of personal interview. Based on the interview performance, he/she will be selected for the eligible post in the Defence Academy.
Books are always considered to be helpful in understanding any subject more precisely. But many times, candidates face difficulty in selection of correct reference material. Therefore, we have provided below a list of books for Mathematics and General Ability which can be handy for kickstarting their preparation.
Booklist for Mathematics
Name of the books
Pathfinder NDA & NA
Mathematics for NDA and NA
Solved Subject-wise Papers for NDA and ND
10 Practice Sets for NDA Exam
Booklist for General Ability
Name of the books
Objective General English for Competitive Exams
Success Series General Knowledge
Sachchida Nand Jha
History Of Modern India
Science and Technology in India
Apart from the above given list, candidates must also follow the NCERT Class 9-12 Textbooks of all the subjects. Most of the questions asked in the NDA Written Exam are upto 10+12 level.
For General Awareness, it is important for the aspirants to read the daily newspaper regularly to stay updated with the latest national and international events.
The exam pattern of CDS 2021 is divided into two sections:
The exam pattern of CDS examination is different for Officer Training Academy and Indian Naval Academy/Indian Military Academy/Indian Air Force.
CDS Exam Pattern for Navy/Army/Air Force:
CDS Exam Pattern for Officer Training Academy (OTA):
1. General Knowledge
3. Elementary Math
Current affairs of the last 4-5 months from the examination date
Simple and Compound Interest
Ratio and Proportion
Prime and compound numbers
Time and distance
Rational and Real numbers
Time and work
Selection Process: Candidate will be selected based n SSB (Stage I and III). Officer Intelligence Rating (OIR) tests are Picture Perception, Description Test (PP&DT) (Stage Interview, Group Testing Officer Tasks, Psychology Tests and the Conference (Stage III).
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