There is no doubt that the job of defence personnel is one of the most respected in India. But to be selected in the world of defence, one must appear in either of the two most coveted examinations held by the UPSC: the NDA exam (National Defense Academy) and the CDS exam (Combined Defense Services Examination).

What is NDA?

NDA stands for National Defense Academy. The UPSC conducts it in order to provide candidates admission to either one of the three fields of defence, which are, the Army, the Navy, and the Airforce.

NDA exams are held twice a year. The 12th grade must be passed by a recognized board in order to apply for this examination. The candidates should be unmarried.

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What is CDS?

CDS stands for Combined Defense Services Examinations. Just like the NDA examination, the CDS examination is conducted twice a year by the UPSC. It recruits candidates to IMA (Indian Military Academy), OTA (Officer’s Training Academy), AFA (Airforce Academy), and INA (Indian Naval Academy).

Like every year, the CDS 2022 examination will also be held twice. The eligibility criteria for the CDS 2022 exam is that a candidate must graduate from a known and recognized university and be unmarried.

How to Choose Between NDA and CDS?

Candidates must read about all the details like eligibility, scheme of examination, exam duration, training, etc to be able to make the right decision as to which is the better option between NDA and CDS.

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NDA and CDS Eligibility

The age of the appearing candidate in the NDA exam ranges from 16.5 years to 19.5 years. Only men are allowed to appear for this examination.

The ages of the appearing candidate in the CDS examination range from 19 years to 25 years. This examination is open to bother men and women.

Scheme of Examination

The National Defense Academy and Combined Defense Services examinations conduct their respective exams with a similar pattern/ scheme. Both the examinations go through a written test followed by the SSB.

Duration of Training

The training period in the NDA ranges between 4 years and 4.5 years.

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The training period involves three years in NDA and one year at IMA.


the training period involves three years at NDA and one year at INA.


the training period involves three years at NDA and one to one and a half years at AFA.

The training period in the CDS varies for different candidates. For Army candidates, the training period is about 18 months in IMA. For Naval candidates, the training period is about 37 to 40 months at the Naval Academy. Airforce candidates’ training period is about 74 months in the AFA.

Duration of Examination

The National Defence Academy examination is held for 5 hours (2.5 hours of General Ability Test and 2.5 hours of Mathematics).

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The Combined Services Academy examination is held for a time period of 120 minutes (2 hours).

NDA and CDS Exam Pattern

The question paper in an NDA examination consists of a total of 900 questions. These questions are divided into two sections Mathematics and General Ability Test.

In a CDS examination, the number of questions is different for different fields. The question paper of the Indian Military Academy, The Naval Academy, and the Airforce Academy has a total of 300 questions, whereas the question paper of The Officer’s Training Academy has 200 questions.

Which Exam is Better: NDA and CDS?

Both examinations are equally respected and equally prestigious. They both belong to the same tree and serve as gateways into the military. But it is often noticed that NDA is far better than CDS. The experience at the National Defense Academy is much better and more detailed than the experience at the CDS.

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The NDA converts a champion into a scholar warrior, while on the other hand, the Combined Services Academy converts a scholar into a warrior. Life at NDA is preferred more than life at CDS. You can get more details on BYJU’S Exam Prep.

It is often observed that candidates who don’t get selected in the National Defense Academy go and appear for the CDS. A defence aspirant must first appear for the NDA exam, and later if not selected, he/she must appear for the CDS examination.


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