How To Prepare For NDA Written Exam And Physical Test

Clearing the NDA exam to join the armed forces is a dream of many young Indians. Here are tips to prepare for NDA written exam, SSB test and interview, and physical test.

By Aruna Raghuram

How To Prepare For NDA Written Exam And Physical Test

The defence services has always been an exciting career option for youngsters. And, nowadays, the number of young men and women seeking to enter the Indian Army, Navy and Air Force by qualifying for the National Defence Academy (NDA) exam is only increasing.

It is the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) which conducts the NDA exam. The exam is conducted twice a year in two stages.

  • In the first stage, the candidates must pass the written exam.
  • Those who pass the written exam qualify for stage two. Here, the candidates face an intelligence and personality test conducted by the Service Selection Board (SSB).

Those who clear stage two undergo a medical test. Only candidates who clear the medical test are admitted to the NDA.

Our article tells all you should know about how to crack the NDA exam in the first attempt. We also tell you everything about the NDA syllabus, the NDA exam pattern, and NDA physical test requirements, and give you some valuable NDA exam tips. If your child wants to join the armed forces, then, you should pass on the tips in this article to your child.

Is the NDA exam tough?

CEO of iQue ideas, an Ahmedabad-based coaching institute, Mohit Mangal, says, “If I look at 2019, there were around 8,000 applicants against 400 declared vacancies. The declared vacancies vary from year to year depending upon the requirements sent to UPSC by the branches of the defence services. The difficulty level can be gauged by looking at the ratio of selection, which is 1:20.
Overall, the NDA written exam is not that difficult to crack. What is more rigorous is the SSB test and the interview, followed by the medical examination of the candidate.”

How many seats will be filled through NDA exam 2020?

For NDA recruitment for 2020, the UPSC has announced that 370 seats are available (208 for Army, 42 for Navy and 120 for Air Force, including 28 for ground duties).

Also, there are 48 vacancies to be filled in the Naval Academy. So, the total number of seats available are 418.

However, the number of vacancies in the NDA is not fixed and changes every year.

Women in the Army, Navy and Air force

Says Mohit Mangal, “While women cannot be admitted to the NDA, there are other routes for them to enter the defence services. They can join the forces after graduation through multiple entry schemes like Combined Defence Services (CDS), University Entry Scheme (UES), Air Force Common Admission Test (AFCAT) and others. The chances of women getting selected in the forces is very high due to two reasons: i) At present, there are very few women who apply for and wish to join the forces ii) Higher roles are now being offered to women thereby attracting many of them to this career.”

What is the NDA 2020 exam date?

The NDA exam is held twice every year. In 2020, the NDA 1 exam will be held on 19 April and the NDA 2 exam on 6 September.

The NDA written exam will be conducted in two shifts – morning and afternoon – in 41 cities across the country.

How to get the NDA exam admit card

Candidates can download the NDA exam admit card from the official UPSC website a few days before the entrance exam.

The admit card has details like the student’s name, roll number, exam centre, exam date and timing. If an error is found in the admit card, the candidates should contact the officials immediately.

Along with the admit card, the candidates must also carry with them a valid photo ID to show at the examination centre (PAN card, Passport, Aadhar card, Voter ID, Driving licence, and School photo ID are accepted).

What is the NDA 2020 exam pattern?

The written exam is conducted in the offline mode. It consists of two papers – each of two-and-a-half hours duration.

Multiple choice questions (MCQ) are asked. The answers have to be marked in an OMR sheet using a pen. The question paper is available in English and Hindi. There is negative marking for a wrong answer — 0.33 marks is deducted for each wrong answer.

The question paper consists of 2 sections:

 Mathematics (120 questions, 300 marks)

II  General Ability (150 questions, 600 marks). This paper is split into two sections — English (50 questions, 200 marks) and General Knowledge (100 questions, 400 marks). The distribution of marks in the General knowledge section is as follows: Physics (100), Chemistry (60), General science (40), History and freedom movement (80), Geography (80) and Current events (40).

What is the NDA exam syllabus?

The syllabus of the NDA exam is based on the CBSE 10+2 syllabus.

  • Mathematics: The syllabus for mathematics covers integral and differential calculus, differential equations, trigonometry, algebra and vector algebra, matrices and determinants, analytical geometry (of two and three dimensions), statistics and probability. The questions involve the metric system of weights and measures only.
  • English: This exam tests the candidate’s vocabulary, grammar and usage, and comprehension to gauge her proficiency in the language. The syllabus includes antonyms and synonyms, comprehension passages, spotting errors, jumbled sentences, ordering of sentences, improving the sentence and filling in the blanks with appropriate words.
  • General knowledge: The syllabus includes general knowledge as well as current affairs, both national and international. The test comprises six sections: General science, Indian history, Physics, Chemistry, Geography and Current events.

Click here for further details of subject-wise syllabus.

How to prepare for the NDA written exam?

It is important to have a study plan in place for the written exam. In addition, an NDA aspirant must stay physically and mentally fit, and develop his personality to ace the SSB interview and clear the medical test.

While preparing for the written exam, follow these general suggestions:

  • Understand the exam pattern: Get to know the NDA exam pattern and syllabus thoroughly. A large part of the exam consists of questions that test the memory. These include questions on Indian history, geography, current affairs and vocabulary.
  • Make a smart study plan: Focus on all the subjects to get a good overall score. However, NDA aspirants should pay more attention to areas in which they are strong and make notes for each subject to help with revision.
  • Prepare sheets for formulae and dates: In maths, physics and chemistry, prepare sheets for formulae to go through at the last minute. Similarly, in history, have a sheet with important dates to revise at a glance.
  • Understand the basics: Along with recommended books, also refer to textbooks of class VII and VIII to get a sound understanding of the basics.
  • Give mock tests: Spend half the study time in revising the subjects and the other half in solving the question papers of previous years and the practice papers. Put the timer on while solving the papers.
  • Maintain your health: Fitness and personality have a big role to play in selection. Eat nutritious meals and exercise regularly to build stamina and immunity. Practise yoga and meditation to manage stress and think positively.
  • Keep cool and stay motivated: Stay calm during the preparation time and while writing the exam. Also, stay motivated by visualising yourself in the armed forces.
  • Seek coaching: Enrol in a good coaching centre or for an online course if you feel the need.

How to prepare for NDA Maths paper

  • While high marks can be scored in the maths paper, it requires a lot of practise.
  • Practise solving problems daily to gain speed and accuracy. Remember, there are 120 questions to solve in 150 minutes.
  • Hone mental maths skills as this can help solve the sums quickly. Calculator or log tables are not allowed in the examination hall.
  • Understand the concepts well – the questions test the basic understanding of the subject.
  • Learn shortcuts to cut down the calculation time.

How to prepare for NDA English paper

  • To prepare English well, focus on reading comprehension, and basic grammar and vocabulary.
  • Read a lot – novels, newspapers, blogs and so on – and listen to English programmes on TV like news or debates to improve spoken English.
  • Learn a few new words every day.
  • Practise answering questions from a good high school grammar book like Wren and Martin.
  • In the exam, attempt antonyms and synonyms, and fill in the blanks first as they are easier and take less time to complete.

How to prepare for NDA General knowledge paper

  • Get concepts in physics, chemistry and biology clear by reading science books.
  • Know about Indian history (ancient, medieval and modern), geography of India (physical features like mountains and rivers) and the economic (planning and budget) and political scenario in the country. Brush up the knowledge of civics too, especially about the Indian constitution and various government schemes.
  • Be abreast of current events, those that have taken place in the past five years at least.
  • Follow the news regularly by reading newspapers, listening to news channels on television or reading online. Prepare notes on different topics.
  • Listen to videos or podcasts of the interviews of well-known people.
  • Be aware of the latest developments and famous personalities in the fields of sports, arts, literature and science.
  • Keep track of all the awards and prizes given by national and international organisations.
  • Follow science and technology news, including inventions and discoveries.
  • Learn about the currencies of different nations, books and authors, abbreviations, important days, and various national and international organisations of significance.

Which are the best books to prepare for NDA 2020 exam?

  1. Mathematics for NDA and NA – R.S. Aggarwal
  2. Quantitative Aptitude for Competitive Examinations – R.S. Aggarwal
  3. Study Package Mathematics NDA & NA Entrance Exam – by Manjul Tyagi and Amit Rastogi
  4. NDA Mathematics (Hindi) – RPH Editorial Board
  5. History of Modern India – Bipin Chandra
  6. Developments In Science and Technology – Spectrum Books Pvt. Ltd.
  7. Oxford School Atlas
  8. Social Problems in India – Ram Ahuja
  9. Objective General English – S.P. Bakshi
  10. Latest Manorama Yearbook
  11. Objective General Knowledge & Current Affairs (Level 1& 2) – Disha Experts
  12. NDA INA Solved and Practice Papers: Conducted by UPSC (English) – Sachchida Nand Jha

In addition to reference books, the candidates should also study from class 11 and 12 NCERT books.  

What will be the NDA 2020 exam cut-off marks?

Going by the past trends, the cut-off for NDA 1 written exam is likely to be 342. The overall cut-off is expected to be 708.

When will the results of NDA exam 2020 be declared?

The result of NDA 1 2020 written examination will be released in June 2020 and that of NDA 2 in November 2020.

The result can be viewed on the website where the list of shortlisted candidates for SSB Interview will be displayed.

What should one expect from the SSB tests and interview?

This is the second stage of the NDA exam. It goes on for around 4–5 days. Only those candidates who have cleared the written exam will be allowed to appear for the SSB tests and interview. A total of 900 marks are allotted for this stage.

This test evaluates the intelligence, personality, mental aptitude and attitude of the candidate. They are also used to assess the candidate for officer-like qualities such as sense of responsibility, reaction to situations, social adaptability and teamwork.

Filling Personal Information Questionnaire (PIQ): On the first day (reporting day), a candidate’s original documents and photocopies are checked. After this, candidates have to fill the PIQ. In this form, they must give their personal details, including educational profile and family background. This form is vital as the questions in the personal interview are based on the information filled in. The PIQ responses are analysed by the board’s psychologist.

Stage 1: This consists of the interview round which includes the Officer Intelligence Rating (OIR) tests as well as the Picture Perception and Description Test (PPDT). These tests gauge a candidate’s general aptitude, intelligence and reasoning abilities. The OIR also tests general aptitude, and verbal and non-verbal ability. The PPDT consists of story writing and writing a description based on a picture. The next round consists of group discussion.

Stage 2: After clearing stage 1, candidates can appear for the second stage. Here they are given Ground Tasks Obstacles (GTO) and psychology tests, and must face a conference round and personal interview.

The GTO tasks help gauge team spirit and collaborative abilities. Candidates are required to support the group as best as they can rather than compete with others.

The psychology tests given to gauge whether a candidate can become an officer include a Word Association Test, Thematic Appreciation Test (involves interpreting a picture), Situation Reaction Test, and Personal Description (based on the opinions of parents, family members and peers). This part includes the qualities a candidate wants to develop.

In all, the personality of a candidate is assessed by three different assessors – the Interviewing Officer (IO), Group Testing Officer (GTO) and the psychologist. Candidates who are interested in joining the Air Force are required to go through an additional test – the Pilot Aptitude Battery Test (PABT).

The personal interview is a vital step in the selection process. In addition, candidates must go through the Conference Round where they face all the SSB members who ask a few general questions.

How to prepare for the SSB tests and interview

Grooming is important – long hair, earrings, and tattoos are frowned upon in the Armed Forces. Be well-shaven and neatly dressed.

“There is considerable psychometric assessment at this stage where the candidate is gauged for decision-making capabilities, handling difficult situations, keeping his cool in the time of crisis, along with assessing the passion of the candidate to get into the forces and serve the nation with dignity and honesty,” says Mohit Mangal.

To prepare for the psychology tests, the aspirants should attempt psychology tests for practice. This will also enable them to get to know themselves better.

Moreover, NDA aspirants should focus on developing their personality and start thinking and behaving like officers.

After the SSB interview, around 550 candidates go through to the next round. However, only 380 to 400 candidates clear the medical test and are finally selected. The rest are eliminated because they do not meet the required physical or medical standards.

What happens in the NDA medical test?

Candidates recommended by the SSB interview panel undergo a medical test at the Military Hospital. This is to ensure that they are in good physical and mental health, and do not have any disease or disability that will interfere with discharging their duties.

  • Height and weight: A candidate must neither be underweight nor overweight – specific standards are set. The minimum height requirement is 157cm (162.5cm for the Air Force). Concessions are made for Gorkhas and certain other communities.
  • Vision: There are standards for vision too, with limits for myopia, hypermetropia and astigmatism. The candidate should not be colour blind or suffer from night blindness. Candidates who wear glasses are not eligible for the Air Force.
  • Overall health: A candidate should have a well-developed chest of not less than 81cm. The bones and joints should be in healthy condition. A chest x-ray is taken to ensure a candidate is not suffering from any respiratory ailments. Blood pressure should be normal and there should be no evidence of heart disease. Urine examination, dental examination and ultrasound of the abdomen is done. A candidate should not have any history of mental breakdown or fits. Hearing and speech should be normal.

Permanent body tattoos are accepted only on the inner face of a forearm. There are exceptions for tribal communities.

Click here for further details on the medical standards.

It is better to get a medical examination done before applying for the NDA exam. This way, minor health issues can be identified and attended to.

Document verification for NDA recruitment

After the final selection, candidates must get their documents verified. These include:

  • Original class 12 pass certificate
  • Eligibility certificate for reserved categories
  • Identity proof (such as PAN Card, Aadhar Card, voter ID, and Driving licence)
  • Birth certificate
  • Category or caste certificate for SC, ST, OBC categories
  • Passport size photographs
  • Proof of residence

Candidates admitted to the NDA go through a three-year graduation course in arts and science or a four-year course in engineering. The degrees are granted by IGNOU. The engineering disciplines available are mechanical, computer science and IT, applied electronics, and communication engineering.

After this, the army cadets are sent for training to the Indian Military Academy (Dehradun), the Air Force cadets are sent to the Air Force Academy (Hyderabad), and the Navy cadets go to the Indian Naval Academy (Ezhimala, Kerala). After successful completion of training, the candidates are inducted as officers.

About the author:

Written by Aruna Raghuram on 10 March 2020

Aruna Raghuram is a journalist and has worked with various newspapers, writing and editing, for two decades. She has also worked for six years with a consumer rights NGO. At the time of writing this article, she was a freelancer with ParentCircle.

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