CDS Preparation 2023: Subject Wise Tips for Written Exam and Interview

By BYJU'S Exam Prep

Updated on: September 25th, 2023

CDS Preparation 2023 requires a lot of strategic hard work and devotion as it is one of the top competitive government exams. The Combined Defence Service exam is conducted by the UPSC twice a year to find suitable commissioned officers for the IMA, OTA, INA, and IAF. With the release date of the exam date, it is now time for candidates to start their CDS preparation.

As the syllabus for the exam is quite vast, the candidates must do the CDS exam preparation strategically. We have provided information on the best subject-wise CDS preparation tips for the English, General Knowledge, and Mathematics sections.

CDS Preparation 2023

With more than 3 lakh people applying for the CDS Exam every year, only a few of them make it to the final merit list. The selection of the candidates depends on their performance in the written exam and interview, and only the candidates with the best CDS preparation make it to the final selection rounds. Effective preparation for the exam would involve strategies that help them use their time in an optimized manner and tips that help them study more meaningfully.

We have provided some of the most thoughtful CDS preparation tips below to help aspirants to score well by optimizing their time, and reading the best books and content, for the exam. Check out the subject-wise CDS preparation tips given below.

CDS Exam Pattern

The CDS Exam Pattern has been meticulously crafted by the Central Defence Services to evaluate candidates’ cognitive capabilities and assess their performance in the selection assessments. Prior to embarking on your preparation journey, acquaint yourself with the comprehensive CDS exam pattern outlined below. The CDS paper pattern for IMA, INA, and AFA delineates three core subjects: English, General Knowledge, and Elementary Mathematics. Delve into the tabulated summary provided below for deeper insights into the CDS Exam:


CDS Exam Pattern Details


Central Defence Services




IMA, INA, and AFA – 6 hours
OTA – 4 Hours


Offline, using pen and paper

Maximum Marks

IMA, INA, and AFA – 300
OTA – 200

Standard of Papers

Maths – Matriculation level
Other subjects – Graduation level


General Knowledge and Elementary Maths will be bilingual (Hindi and English)

Type of Questions


The CDS Exam Pattern for 2023 is your guide to understanding the evaluation framework. Immerse yourself in this layout as you prepare to conquer the challenge ahead.

CDS Exam Pattern for IMA, INA, AFA & OTA

The UPSC CDS exam pattern for the Indian Naval Academy (INA), Indian Military Academy (IMA), and Air Force Academy (AFA) encompasses three core subjects: English Language, General Knowledge, and Elementary Mathematics. The question standards for the English language will be at the graduation level, while the Mathematics section will adhere to matriculation standards. According to the CDS exam pattern, the total duration allocated is 6 hours, and the overall marks achievable amount to 300. Refer to the table below to grasp the comprehensive CDS exam pattern details:

Subject Name

Total Duration

Number of Questions

CDS Total Marks


2 hours



General Knowledge

2 hours



Elementary Mathematics

2 hours



CDS OTA Exam Pattern

For the Officers Training Academy (OTA), the CDS exam pattern for 2023 includes questions from the English language and General Knowledge. Candidates are allotted 4 hours to tackle the questions, and the total marks for the OTA segment are 200. Below is a comprehensive breakdown of the CDS OTA exam pattern:

English: The exam comprises a total of 120 questions carrying 100 marks.

General Knowledge: Candidates are required to answer 120 questions, also carrying 100 marks.

CDS Preparation for English

If you put the right effort into CDS preparation for English, you can improve your chances of scoring really well in the exam. English is one of those subjects where you just need to be thorough with fundamental concepts to score well. Here are some of the tips that will help you with the CDS English preparation:

  • The most underrated tip is to revise grammar rules and concepts regularly. When you have got your fundamentals right, there would be less room for errors.
  • Go through the entire CDS Syllabus for English – Cover all topics that are important from an exam point of view. The syllabus includes Vocabulary, One Word Substitution, Sentence Improvement, Spotting Errors, Idioms, Phrases, and English Comprehension.
  • Make reading a habit – Read newspapers, magazines, or books every day. Reading will also improve your general comprehension and vocabulary.

CDS Preparation for General Knowledge

The exam will test the candidate’s knowledge of general topics, concepts, and current affairs. For this paper, you must study Ancient, Medieval, and Modern History, Economics, General Science, Civics, and Geography. The CDS preparation tips for General Knowledge are as follows:

  • Make sure you follow the latest domestic and international news to stay updated with current affairs.
  • Read extensively on the syllabus – use sources like the internet, including Wikipedia pages, YouTube videos, etc., to polish your knowledge.
  • Go through the CDS Previous Year Paper to get an idea of the questions most frequently asked.

CDS Preparation for Mathematics

The Mathematics paper consists of topics like Profit and Loss, Percentage, Time Speed and Distance, Ratios, Algebra, and Average. The main purpose of this subject is to check the candidate’s numerical ability. CDS preparation for Maths can be enhanced by following the given tips:

  • Practice is the key to perfecting your preparation for Maths. So, ensure you’re solving an adequate number of questions daily.
  • It is not necessary to attempt all the questions, but it is important to attempt them correctly.
  • Time management is the key to this subject. Candidates should allot their time in such a way that they understand all the questions clearly and answer them correctly.
  • Solve previous year’s papers and CDS Mock Tests as it will help strengthen your CDS exam preparation for Maths.
  • Write down all the formulae and shortcuts and revise them every day.

General Tips for CDS Preparation

Now that you have gone through the subject-wise CDS preparation tips, you must also consider some general tips for exam preparation. The pointers given below will help you understand some effective strategies that can help you prepare for the exam:

  • Keep a Revision Notebook – Maintain a separate notebook with all the formulae and important points you need to memorize and read it every day.
  • Mock Tests and Previous Papers – Make it a habit to solve mock tests and previous year papers as it will help you get acquainted with the exam structure and frequently asked questions.
  • Try the Pomodoro Technique – If you struggle with being consistent in your study routine, try the Pomodoro technique, in which you study for 25 minutes, take a 3-5 minutes break, and continue the pattern.
  • The most underrated tip for CDS preparation is to read extensively so make reading newspapers, e-news, magazines, and books a habit.

Best Books for CDS Preparation

It is quite obvious that you would require good books for your study. So, we have curated the list of some of the best Books for CDS preparation here. The given table shows the subject-wise details of books you should be studying for your CDS preparation:

Best Books for CDS Preparation


Wren & Martin’s High School English Grammar & Composition by S. Chand,

Word Power Made Easy by Norman Lewis,

Objective General English by S.P. Bakshi

General Knowledge

General Knowledge by Manohar Pandey,

Manorama Yearbook by Malayala Manorama publishers,

Newspapers like The Hindu, Indian Express


Quantitative Aptitude for Competitive Examinations by R.S. Aggarwal,

Mathematics for CDS Examination by R.S. Aggarwal

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