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What’s The Difference Between Joining The Army Through NDA and Joining Through CDS?

Difference Between Joining The Army Through NDA and Joining Through CDS

If you also dream to live a life less ordinary then you  should be definitely  aware of the two most coveted exams ,conducted by the UPSC. Yes, here we are talking about NDA and CDS , these two entrance exams serve as gateways to get inducted into defence sector as officers but here we will try to explain you the difference between these two, let’s have a detailed discussion about them.

Eligibility Criteria

NDA is a higher secondary level examination whereas CDS is a graduate level exam ,so for writing NDA you can appear after 10th but for writing CDS exam you must be a graduate or appearing in the final year of graduation.

The NDA exam requires candidate’s age between 16 to 19 year whereas in CDS age limit is from 19 to 25 years.

  • Earlier women were not allowed to sit for NDA examination but now the rules are changed ,females can appear for both NDA and CDS.

Exam Pattern and Level

NDA exam is designed according to higher secondary level, there are two papers GAT(general ability test) and mathematics, two and a half hour’s time is allotted for both the exams and the written test is of 900 marks followed by SSB interview which is of 900 marks.

CDS is a graduate level exam, here you need to give three papers if you wish to get into IMA,IAF and INA ,the three papers are math English and general knowledge ,if you are aspiring for OTA then the math paper is excluded.

You are given 2 hours for each examination, which have a composite score of 300 (200 for OTA), the SSB interview has the same weight-age as of the written examination.

  • Speaking of the level most of the people find NDA exam harder then CDS as the math asked in CDS is of elementary level whereas in NDA they ask 10+2 level math, also the candidates appearing for NDA are younger but everyone has different opinions in this regard.
  • The following table may help you in a fair comparison between the two exams.
NDA 2(2021) CDS 2 (2021)
Vacancy  total 400 total 339
Previous year cuttoff (written) 355 out of 900
  • IMA – 130 out of 300
  • INA – 118 out of 300
  • AFA- 143 out of 300
  • OTA (men)- 93 out of  200
  • OTA(women)- 93 out of 200
Previous year Cuttoff (final)

  • the data given is based on marks of recommended cadets
719 out of 1800
  • IMA – 250 out of 600
  • INA – 242 out of 600
  • AFA- 274 out of 600
  • OTA (men)- 173 out of 400
  • OTA(women)- 177 out of 400
 Approx no of applicants (previous year) 5.3 lakh 2,343,43
Approx no of candidates appeared (previous year)  2.4 lakh 1,182,50
Difficulty level
  • Mathematics- moderate to difficult
  • GAT – moderate
  • GA- easy to  moderate
  • English- easy to moderate
  • Mathematics – difficult


What's The Difference Between Joining The Army Through NDA and Joining Through CDS?_40.1

Training After Recommendation

Once you get recommended by the SSB interview panel and made it to the final merit list ,you undergo a rigorous training program.

  • NDA –  If you get recruited through NDA , you will first get admitted to  National Defence Academy, Khadakwasla, it is a three year program and after that you will be trained at different academies based on your cadre.
    Army IMA Dehradun
    Navy INA, Ezhimala
    Air force AFA, Hyderabad.
  • CDS- If you get selected by CDS exam you will be  directly trained at the respective defence academies you have applied for, such as IMA Dehradun for Army, INA Ezhimala for navy, AFA, Hyderabad  for Airforce and OTA Chennai.

Time Period of Training

NDA 3 years training at NDA and 12 to 18 month training in specified academies
18 months for Army cadets.
37-40 months for Navy cadets .
74 months for Air Force cadets 


Degrees Awarded After Training

The NDA cadets are provided the following degrees.

On completion of training the candidates are awarded the following degrees in NDA.
  • Army cadets: BSc, BTech, BA, Bsc Computer science
  • Navy cadets: BTech
  • Air force cadets: B Tech
 The CDS cadets are awarded Post graduate diplomas in military and defence management if you opt for army and  PG Diploma in Defence management and Strategic studies if you are opting for OTA.

Job Profile

  • After successfully completing your training you are given the rank of Lieutenant. be it through  NDA or CDS.
  • The cadets through NDA get Permanent service commission while through CDS both short and permanent commission is granted depending on the post.
  • The career and promotion path is similar for both however cadets selected through NDA reach higher designations as they start the journey from a young age .

Salary and Allowances

Though both the services induct you as an officer but there are slight differences in the salaries,the chart given below will help you in understanding better.  Apart from that there are several other allowances officers are eligible for, the government takes well care of the Military Officers so there is no dearth of financial aids.

Rank                   NDA Officer Pay (in Rupees) CDS Officer (Total Pay in Rupees)
Rank Pay Grade Pay
Lieutenant 15,600—39,100/- 5,400/- 56,100 – 1,77,500
Captain 15,600—39,100/- 6,100/- 6,13,00-1,93,900
Major 15,600—39,100/- 6,600/- 6,94,00 – 2,07,200
Lieutenant Colonel 37,400—67,000/- 8,000/- 1,21,200 – 2,12400
Colonel 37,400—67,000/- 8,700/- 1,30,600-2, 15,900
Brigadier 37,400—67,000/- 8,900/- 1,39,600-2,17,600
Major General 37,400—67,000/- 10,000/- 1,44,200-2,18,200
Lieutenant General HAG Scale 67,000/–79,000/-   – 1, 82, 200-2,24,100
HAG+Scale 75,500/- 80,000/- 2,05,400 – 2,24,400
VCOAS/Army Cdr/ Lieutenant General (NFSG) 80,000/- 2,25,000/-(fixed)
COAS 90,000/- (fixed) 2,25,000/-(fixed)

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