CDS Vs NDA – Fundamental Difference Between NDA and CDS

By BYJU'S Exam Prep

Updated on: September 11th, 2023

The comparisons and differences discussed here will aid in developing a clearer picture of the NDA Vs CDS. Both these exams are the best entries to join Defence Forces in India. Through these entries, male and Female candidates can join the Indian Army, Indian Navy, and Indian Air Force. It is advised for aspirants to read this article to understand the differences between NDA and CDS.

This article has provided an insightful explanation of the frequently asked question, “Which is Better NDA or CDS?” Both exams are held twice a year, and there are numerous parallels and differences in recruiting, training, salary, incentives, promotion, eligibility, and so on.

Difference Between NDA and CDS

The two exams and the chances they offer have many points in common and many points in difference. To make an informed decision, Defence applicants should know all the similarities and differences between the CDS exam and NDA Exam. Here, we have covered every aspect of NDA Vs CDS in various circumstances.

  • The Indian Armed Forces’ National Defence Academy (NDA) is a joint services academy. The Army, Navy, and Air Force cadets train together before proceeding to their separate service schools for additional pre-commissioning training.
  • The Combined Defence Services (CDS) test is used to select candidates for the Indian Military Academy, Officers Training Academy, Indian Naval Academy, and Indian Air Force Academy.

Note: Female candidates can only apply for OTA through CDS entry

Which is Better NDA or CDS?

The written CDS exam is more straightforward than the NDA exam. However, the recommendation of candidates for SSB is more stringent in CDS than in NDA. Every candidate studying for the Defence examination has one question in mind: Which one is better, CDS or NDA? The answer to this question is not straightforward as it depends on several factors in the article below.

NDA Vs CDS: Age Criteria

Knowing the age criteria is crucial before applying for the NDA or CDS Exam. The following table shows the difference in eligibility criteria for NDA and CDS exams.

Criteria NDA Exam CDS Exam
Age Criteria 16.5 years and 19.5 years IMA:19 to 25 Years
AFA: 19-23 Years
INA: 19-22 Years 

OTA: 19-25 Years

Who can Apply? Both Male & Female Candidates can apply. Both Male & Female Candidates can apply.

CDS Vs NDA: Education Qualification

Candidates who have passed or will appear in class 12 are eligible to participate in the NDA. On the other hand, CDS is held for applicants who have completed or are about to graduate. The NDA exam is now open to female candidates. The following table shows differences in educational qualifications for NDA and CDS exams.

Criteria NDA Exam CDS Exam
Education Qualification

For Army Wing: 

12th Class pass of the 10+2 pattern of School Education

IMA and OTA: Bachelor’s Degree From a recognized university

For Air Force and Naval Wings: 

12th Class pass of the 10+2 pattern of School Education or equivalent with Physics, Chemistry, and Mathematics

INA: Bachelors in Engineering from a recognized University
Air Force Academy (AFA): Graduation (with Physics and Mathematics at Class 12) or Bachelor of Engineering

NDA Vs CDS: Training Period & Centers

NDA and CDS seem to have the same selection process: a written exam followed by an SSB interview. After completion of selection, candidates are sent for training at their respective academies. In the following table, we share the difference in the training period of NDA and CDS.

Details NDA CDS
Training Period

Approximately four to four and a half yrs

NDA for three years and IMA for one yr (For Army cadets)

Three years just at Naval Academy and one year at the Naval Defense Academy (For Naval cadets)

NDA for three yrs and AFA Hyderabad for one and a half years (For AF cadets)

CDS training seems to last 18 months, while IMA Cadets train for 18 months.

Officers in the Navy can expect to be on the job for 37 to 40 months.

Officers in the Air Force go through 74 weeks of training.

Training Centres

National Defence Academy, Khadakwasla, Pune

Indian Military Academy, Dehradun

Indian Naval Academy, Ezhimala 

Hyderabad’s Indian Air Force Academy

Indian Military Academy (IMA) in Dehradun for Army cadets

Indian Naval Academy in Ezhimala for Navy cadets,

Officers Training Academy (OTA) in Chennai,

Indian Air Force Academy in Hyderabad for Air Force Officers.

CDS Vs NDA: Degree After Training

After the candidates complete the course, they are awarded a degree. In the following table, we share the NDA and CDS degrees after completion of training in the respective academies.

Details NDA CDS
Degree after Training

Army Cadets: Bachelor of Science/Bachelor of Science (Computer)/Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science (Computer)/Bachelor of Science (Computer)/Bachelor of Science (Com

Naval Cadets: Bachelor of Technology

Bachelor of Technology degree for Air Force Cadets

IMA Army Cadets: PG Diploma in Military and Defense Management.

Post Graduate Diploma in Defence Management and Strategic Studies, OTA Chennai.

NDA Vs CDS: Exam Pattern

Before applying for any Defence exam, candidates should know about the exam pattern. The following table shows the differences in NDA and CDS Exam Pattern.

Details NDA CDS

Total Number of Papers

General Ability Test (GAT)


IMA, AFA, and INA: English, General Knowledge and Elementary Mathematics

OTA: English and General Knowledge
General Knowledge

Exam duration

2.5 hours each paper

2 hours for each paper.

Number of Questions

GAT: 150

Mathematics: 120

Math: 100

English: 120

General Knowledge: 120

Total Marks

Written Exam: 900

SSB Interview: 900

For IMA, INA, and AFA:- 300

OTA: 200

The SSB Interview for IMA, INA, and AFA is for 300 marks each while for OTA it is 200

CDS Vs NDA: Rank & Salary

Candidates will receive the rank of Lieutenant upon commissioning through NDA and CDS entry. In the following table, we share the rank and salary of officers through NDA and CDS entry.

Rank Level Grade Pay
Lieutenant Level 10 ₹56,100 – 1,77,500
Captain Level 10 B ₹6,13,00 – 1,93,900
Major Level 11 ₹6,94,00 – 2,07,200
Lieutenant Colonel Level 12A ₹1,21,200 – 2,12400
Colonel Level 13 ₹1,30,600 – 2,15,900
Brigadier Level 13A ₹1,39,600 – 2,17,600
Major General Level 14 ₹1,44,200 – 2,18,200
Lieutenant General HAG Scale Level 15 ₹1,82, 200 – 2,24,100
HAG + Scale Level 16 ₹2,05,400 – 2,24,400
VCOAS/Army CDR/ Lieutenant General (NFSG) Level 17 ₹2,25,000/- (fixed)
COAS Level 18 ₹2,50,000/- (fixed)

BYJU’S Exam Prep NDA Online Coaching 2023 supports your exam preparation from every aspect. The online course contains unlimited live classes taught by expert teachers, NDA Mock Tests, and revision notes. 

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