Clearning CDSE- A comprehensive strategy
Col. Surinder Chhabra, 09 May 2014
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If you are young, courageous and patriotic and wish to dedicate your services to defending the nation and its people then Combined Defence Service (CDS) is the path for you. The CDS exam can help you join the nation's defence forces. Union Public Services Commission (UPSC) conducts CDSE twice a year, in May and September to recruit officer cadre to the Army, Navy and Air Force. The written test is followed by an interview by the Services Selection Board (SSB). The final selection will factor in the candidate& 's choice, preferences of cadre and merit. Successful candidates are trained at the Indian Military Academy (IMA), Dehradun, Air Force Acadamey (AFA), Begumpet, Hyderabad, Naval Academy (NA), Goa and Officers Training Academy (OTA), Chennai.




The CDSE challenge
Preparation for the CDSE exam calls for concentrated practice and prolonged preparation. There are instances when people start preparing for the exam right from the school days. For the NDA, choice of subjects starts after the 10th grade. The choice of subjects opted for +2 is crucial as maths and science students would have an edge in the CDS written exam. Application forms and other details are published by the UPSC in leading newspapers and Employment News in the month of May-June and November-December each year. One can also download the details from http://mod.nic.in The filled in forms should be submitted by the month of April, on completion of 2nd year of graduation and in August for the February exam. Candidates between 19-24 years of age at the time of examination can apply. The candidate & 's English language ability, general knowledge, science and mathematics are tested for admission to the IMA, AFA and Naval Academy. Those seeking admission to the OTA need to appear for English and General Knowledge papers alone. Each paper carries 100 marks and is of 2 hours duration. The weightage of marks is determined by the UPSC and vary from subject to subject. The candidates qualifying the UPSC written exam are interviewed by the SSB to grade their place in the final list of successful candidates. Though English is the preferred language in which the written examination and interviews are conducted success trends don& 't suggest that English speaking urban candidates are at any advantage over their rural counterparts. What you speak is more important than how you speak, and that carries you through. The how & ' is what the academy undertakes to groom you for. Another constituent of the CDSE is the personality test. This comprises:

Situation Reaction Test (SRT) Sixty situation questions will be provided and the candidate is required to solve them within 30 minutes.

Thematic Appreciation Test (TAT) A set of 12 pictures will be shown and the candidate will have to write a story in 36 minutes.

Word Association Test (WAT) Sixty words will be given and the candidate will have to make a sentence in 15 seconds for each word.

Group Test This is conducted among 8-10 candidates. The test consists of group planning, group discussion, outdoor group tasks and debates.

Physical Standards Medical officers of the SSB will hold a medical test to determine physical fitness.A candidate who has stated Air Force as his first choice but fails to qualify the interview will be tested for other choices and recommended accordingly.

Eligibility Criteria
  • IMA/OTA: A degree from a recognized university or equivalent
  • Naval Academy: BSc with Physics, Mathematics or Bachelor of Engineering Degree
  • Air Force Academy: BSc from a recognized University or its equivalent with Physics, Mathematics as subjects or Bachelor of Engineering Degree

IMA and OTA
Candidates appearing for IMA have to appear in written exam for Mathematics, English and General Studies, whereas for OTA only English and General Studies are applicable. IMA candidates undergo 18 months and OTA candidates 11 months of training. At the end of the training both are given the rank of Lieutenant in the Army. IMA candidates get permanent commission whereas OTA candidates get Short Service Commission (SSC) for 10 years. After completing 10 years of service SSC officers can either leave the service, ask for extension of four more years or ask for Permanent Commission (PC). Those seeking extension or PC are screened by a board of officers and granted extension/PC, if found suitable.

Interview Rounds
  • PABT (Pilot Aptitude Battery Test)
  • WAT (Word Association Test)
  • TAT (Thematic Appreciation Test)
  • General Aptitude Tests.
  • Group Discussions
  • Group Tasking and Group Events
  • Interview (grouped, face-to-face and pressure)

5 Tips to crack CDSE
The UPSC exam is held in one day i.e. starting from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. You must get used to sitting on a chair all day through and concentrate as well. Therefore, train to enforce self discipline and be physically and psychologically fit to take on the exam. Select a suitable coaching centre which has 6-7 hours of teaching, if necessary.

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Be thorough with the layout of the exam. Multiple-choice questions with negative marking is the current trend. Candidate should attempt those questions first which he is sure of and thereafter start with those where some doubts exist about the correct choice. Where not sure, it is better to leave the question unanswered. The candidates will get about a minute to answer each question. It would be advisable to practise old question papers to pick up speed and correctness. The first paper is on General Knowledge, comprising 120 questions on History, Geography, Indian Polity, Current Affairs and General Science etc. The syllabus is very vast and candidates get confused about what and from where to study. Cull out relevant information from newspapers and magazines to sharpen general awareness.

English is the second paper where your knowledge of basic English grammar is tested. You will do well to revise your English grammar.

The Maths paper is set at the 9th or 10th level with 100 questions. A number of students who did not have maths at +2 level are wary of this paper and generally opt out. So work hard now if you intend to party harder later.

The author is Director, Cavalier Academy, New Delhi

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