CDS Vs NDA - Fundamental Difference Between NDA and CDS

By Dhruv Kumar|Updated : January 5th, 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.

Table of Content

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.

CriteriaNDA ExamCDS Exam
Age Criteria16.5 years and 19.5 yearsIMA: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.

CriteriaNDA ExamCDS 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 respective academies. In the following table, we share the difference in the training period of NDA and CDS.

DetailsNDACDS
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 & CDS degrees after completion of training in the respective academies.

DetailsNDACDS
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.

DetailsNDACDS

Total Number of Papers

  1. General Ability Test (GAT)
  2. Mathematics
  1. IMA, AFA, and INA: English, General Knowledge and Elementary Mathematics
  2. 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.

RankLevelGrade Pay
LieutenantLevel 10₹56,100 – 1,77,500
CaptainLevel 10 B₹6,13,00 - 1,93,900
MajorLevel 11₹6,94,00 – 2,07,200
Lieutenant ColonelLevel 12A₹1,21,200 – 2,12400
ColonelLevel 13₹1,30,600 - 2,15,900
BrigadierLevel 13A₹1,39,600 - 2,17,600
Major GeneralLevel 14₹1,44,200 - 2,18,200
Lieutenant General HAG ScaleLevel 15₹1,82, 200 - 2,24,100
HAG + ScaleLevel 16₹2,05,400 – 2,24,400
VCOAS/Army CDR/ Lieutenant General (NFSG)Level 17₹2,25,000/- (fixed)
COASLevel 18₹2,50,000/- (fixed)

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FAQs on Difference Between NDA and CDS

  • NDA & CDS are the best entries to join defence forces. Following are the difference between NDA and CDS entries:

    • Age: To apply for the NDA exam, a student must be 16.5-19.5 years old & for the CDS exam age limit is 19-25 years.
    • Students appearing in class 12th or passed class 12th can apply for NDA. For CDS, students must appear or complete graduation.
  • 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.

  • Through both entries, aspirants get the same rank of Lieutenant. There is a difference in the training period of both entries where NDA comprises a total training of 4 to 4,5 years, and CDS training seems to last 18 months.

  • The CDS exam is much more challenging than the NDA exam. While the NDA exam is administered at the school level, the CDS exam is administered at your graduate level. Additionally, the CDS exam is administered by UPSC. Hence it is commonly recognized that it is always more complicated.

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