NDA and CDS are popular defense entrance examinations in the country. However, there are few differences between these two exams before discussing the exam pattern, eligibility, salary, ranks, etc. The National Defence Academy (NDA) and the Combined Defence Services (CDS) exams are conducted to select the best-fit candidates for the Indian Armed Forces.

The Union Public Service Commission conducts both the exams two times a year, but there are few similarities as well as differences on the following parameters:

  • Recruitment
  • Training
  • Salary
  • Perks
  • Promotion
  • Eligibility, etc.

In this article, the NDA and CDS exams are explained in detail. Read to the end to know the difference and make a better decision in the future

NDA Vs. CDS: Understand the Difference

National Defence Academy (NDA) is the joint services academy of the Indian Armed Forces. Here, the cadets of the three services – Army, Navy, and the Air Force train together before they are appointed to their respective services.

Combined Defence Services (CDS) is the examination for recruitment into Indian Military Academy, Officers Training Academy, Indian Naval Academy, and Indian Air Force Academy.

The basic difference between these two examinations is the eligibility and syllabus. For the NDA exam, one can appear after his class 12th and need to have Physics and Mathematics at 10+2 level. But for the CDS exam, one can appear only after Graduation.

NDA Vs. CDS: Compare the Eligibility Criteria

NDA examination is conducted for candidates after completing their Class 12. On the other hand, the CDS exam is for those candidates who need to complete graduation. Women are not eligible to appear for the NDA exam.

On the other hand both male and female candidates are eligible for the CDS exam. So female candidates must take note of it. The table below shows the difference in the eligibility criteria of both NDA and CDS exams.

Age16.5 to 19.5 Years19 years to 25 Years
EligibilityMen onlyMen and Women both
Educational QualificationClass 12th with Physics and MathematicsGraduation with 60% marks, must have Physics and Mathematics at class 10+2 Level for Technical Branch

NDA Vs CDS: Training, Degrees Awarded, Ranks and Stipend

The selection process of both NDA and CDS are similar i.e. written examination followed by SSB Interview. On commissioning, candidates are granted the rank of Lieutenant. During training, candidates are paid Rs. 21,000 per month.

Details of the training procedure, degrees offered and training centres of NDA and CDS examination are mentioned below in the table.

Training Duration●     4 to 4 and half years

●     3 years at NDA and 1 year at IMA (For Army cadets)

●     3 years at NDA and 1 Year at Naval Academy (For Naval cadets)

●     3 Years at NDA and One year and half years at AFA Hyderabad (For AF cadets)

●     18 months for IMA Cadets


●     37-40 months for Navy Officers

●     74 months for Air Force Officers

Training Centres in India●     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: BSc/BSc (Computer)/BA /BTech degree

●     Naval Cadets: BTech degree

●     Air Force Cadets: BTech degree

●     Army Cadets in IMA: PG Diploma in ‘Military and Defense Management’


●     OTA Chennai: Post Graduate Diploma in Defence Management and Strategic Studies

NDA Vs. CDS: Exam Pattern

The exam pattern of both examinations is slightly different. The differences in the exam pattern of NDA and CDS are given below.


  • Number of papers: Two (2).
  • Name of the subjects: General Ability Test (GAT) and Mathematics.
  • Duration of the examination: Each paper is for 2 ½.
  • Number of questions asked in the examination: GAT – 150, Mathematics: 120.
  • Total Marks: Written Exam – 900, SSB Interview: 900.
  • Negative Marking: GAT: 1.33, Mathematics: 0.83.
  • Type of syllabus: The standard of NDA syllabus is of Class 10, 11 and 12 level.


  • Number of papers in the examination: Three (3), For OTA (2).
  • Name of the subjects: English, GK, Maths, For OTA: Only English and Maths.
  • Duration of the examination: Each paper is held for 2 hours.
  • Number of questions asked in the examination: Mathematics: 100, English: 120, General Knowledge: 120.
  • Total Marks: For IMA, INA and AFA:300, for OTA: 200. The SSB Interview for IMA, INA, AFA is for 300 marks each while for OTA it is 200.
  • Negative Marking: 0.33
  • Type of Syllabus: The standard of the topics for Elementary Mathematics will be of Class 10 level. The standard of papers for other subjects will be of graduation level.

NDA Vs. CDS: Pay, Allowances, Promotional Avenues, etc.

There is a slight difference in the pay and allowances offered to the officers selected through the NDA and CDS examinations. The difference in the pay, allowances and promotional avenues are mentioned below in the table.

Promotional Avenues for NDA and CDS-

RankMinimum. Commissioned Service for Promotion
CDS OfficerNDA Officer
LieutenantOn CommissionOn Commission



Captain02 Years02 Years
Major06 years06 years
Lieutenant Colonel13 years13 years
Colonel (Selection)15 years15 years
Colonel (Time Scale)26 years26 years
Brigadier23 yearsOn Selection
Major General25 yearsOn Selection
Lieutenant General28 yearsOn Selection
GeneralNo restrictionsOn Selection

Salary according to Rank in both NDA and CDS-

RankNDA Officer Pay (in Rupees)CDS Officer Pay (in Rupees)
Lieutenant15,600 – 39,10056,100 – 1,77,500
Captain15,600 – 39,1006,13,00 – 1,93,900
Major15,600 – 39,1006,94,00 – 2,07,200
Lieutenant Colonel37,400 – 67,0001,21,200 – 2,12400
Colonel37,400 – 67,0001,30,600 – 2, 15,900
Brigadier37,400 – 67,0001,39,600 – 2,17,600
Major General37,400 – 67,0001,44,200 – 2,18,200

Other Allowances-

Besides pay, the officers in the rank starting from Lieutenant up to the rank of Brigadier are also eligible for the Military Service Pay (MSP). NDA Officers get a fixed sum of Rs. 6,000 per month as MSP while the CDS Officers get Rs. 15,500 per month.

Besides this, the officers are also eligible for various other allowances. The allowances for which the officers are eligible are mentioned in the table below-

TypeNDA Officer (in rupees per month)CDS Officer (in rupees per month)
Dearness AllowanceEqual to Civilian Gazetted OfficersEqual to Civilian Gazetted Officers
Kit Maintenance Allowance400Subsumed into DA
High Altitude Allowance1,0603,400 – 25,000
Siachen AllowanceNot Applicable42,500
Uniform allowance14,000 (initial) and 3,000 (every three years)Subsumed into proposed DA
Transport allowance1,600 – 3,200 and DA3,600 – 7,200 and DA
Children Education AllowanceNot Applicable2,250 per month per child for two children from nursery to class 12

Additionally, the Army Aviators (Pilots) who are serving in the Army Aviation Corps are also entitled to the flying allowance as mentioned below in the table below-

Rank/PositionNDA Officers (in Rs. per month)CDS Officers (in Rs. per month)
Lieutenant9,00025,000 (fixed)
Major to Colonel14,000
Brigadier & above10,500

The above information about NDA and CDS will help students to differentiate between the two. Both these exams are conducted to recruit for the Indian army. However, the eligibility, exam pattern, salaries and job roles differ. Now, it is up to the students to decide which to attempt. Stay tuned to our blogs for the latest information about various defense exams.

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