How to Prepare for NDA Exams


Name of the exam: National Defence Academy (NDA)
Age requirement: Minimum 16.5 years, maximum -19 years as on first day of the month the course is due to begin
Educational qualification: 12th pass for Army and 12th pass with Physics and Mathematics for Navy and Air Force. You can even choose to apply while you are appearing for your 12th exam. That will save you a year.
Marital status: Unmarried
Exam held in the month of: The exam is conducted twice a year - every six months usually in April and August
Preparation time: Start off after your class X (preferred)
Mode of examination: Written test followed by an extensive Intelligence and Personality test
Negative marking: Yes
Classes begin in: July and January

Before we get into the details about how to prepare for NDA, let us first understand a little bit about NDA and what a career in NDA means.


The NDA is the joint services academy of the Indian Armed Forces. Here, the cadets of the Army, the Navy and the Air Force get trained together before they embark on a pre-commissioning training in respective academies. The first tri-service academy of the world, the NDA is located in Pune, Maharashtra and is ranked among the best academies in the world.


Once a cadet successfully completes the NDA programme, he moves onto the academy he has chosen for the training programme, before he is granted commission. Army cadets moves to Indian Military Academy (IMA), Dehradun, Air Force cadets move to Air Force Association (AFA) at Dundigal, Hyderabad, and Naval cadets to Indian Naval Academy (INA), Ezhimala, Kerala. Once they complete the programme, they are ready to begin an illustrious career with the Indian Armed Forces.

A little bit about NDA exam

The NDA applicants are chosen through a Written exam conducted by the Union Public Services Commission (UPSC), followed by an Intelligence and Personality test conducted by Services Selection Board (SSB), which includes general aptitude, team skills, physical skills, and the like. The UPSC conducts this exam twice a year in about 41 centers across the county.

NDA Written exam by UPSC

The Written exam consists of two sections: Mathematics for 300 marks and General Ability for 600 marks. Each paper is for 2 to 2.30 hours. All the questions will be objective in nature and will be available in Hindi and English.

Intelligence and Personality Test

This test evaluates the personality, intelligence and mental aptitude of the candidate. The test includes group discussions, team work, psychological testing, followed by a medical test.

Preparing for the NDA exam

NDA Written test

As mentioned, the written test comprises two papers Mathematics and General Ability.

Preparing for Paper 1: Mathematics

This test will cover topics like Integral Calculus, Differential Equations, Trigonometry, Algebra, Vector Algebra, Matrices and Determinants, Analytical Geometry, Statistics & Probability.

To prepare for this section, the first and foremost requirement is to have clarity in concepts. The questions will test your basic understanding of the concepts. Go back to the basics if concepts are not clear and try to solve as many sums as possible. Do try to solve mock questions too to a great extent.

For this paper, you will also have to learn effective time management, wherein you solve all the questions within the stipulated time. Ideally, there would be 200 questions to be solved within 120 minutes, so you will have to practice to come up with the answers in less than a minute. Here, emphasizing on mental mathematics may be a good idea where you learn to solve the questions mentally most of the time.

Preparing for Paper 2: General Ability

General Ability is further divided into:

Part A: English

The English test is for 200 marks and covers topics like vocabulary, grammar and usage and comprehension. This test evaluates the basic command a person has on the language. To prepare for this test, read English newspaper daily, learn new words, go back to basic grammar and learn the rules thoroughly. Try to solve as many English tests as possible. There are many English tests available online as well. Try to attempt them as much as possible.

Part B: General Knowledge (GK)

The GK test is for 400 marks and will check a candidates general understanding and his insight into the Current Affairs within the country and outside. The test will comprise six sections: General Science, Indian history, Physics, Geography, Chemistry and Current Events. To prepare for this test, follow the news updates regularly, be aware of the latest happenings in the field of sports, arts, literature, and the like. Read about the current economic scenario in the country, the recent and past policy changes and such other topics that are directly related to India and its neighbouring countries.

Preparing for Intelligence and Personality test

For this test, concentrate on developing your personality. The test usually assesses the candidates for officer-like qualities, which includes sense of responsibility, reacting to situations, social adaptability, team work, etc. To prepare for this test, you can start practicing psychological tests that enable you to know yourself. The better you know yourself, the better you will be able to control your reactions and groom yourself to develop officer-like qualities.

Generic tips on how to prepare for NDA exam
  • Fix your goal and start preparing early, as early as after your Class X exam. This will give you an edge over other students.
  • Understand the syllabus thoroughly and make a firm routine so that you cover all the subjects
  • Go back to your basics, even if that means referring to your Class VI, VII, VIII, books for certain subjects.
  • Improve your English. Start reading a newspaper daily and make it a regular habit to watch news on TV. Also brush up your Grammar skills.
  • Refer to the past years question papers so that you have a fair idea of what to expect.
  • Solve as many mock question papers and past question papers as possible.
  • Identify your weak subjects and start working on them so that you gain a stronghold.
  • Prepare yourself to be calm in the examination hall and answer the questions within the stipulated time.
  • As there would be negative marking, try to prepare yourself in such a manner that you do not have to make any guesses in the examination hall. It is best to answer only if you are very sure of the answer. Guesses are not going to pay here.
  • Spend time on understanding yourself, your weak areas and try to strengthen them.
  • Last but not the least, start thinking and behaving like an officer.
Best of luck.

Useful links

NDA Official website :

Useful books to prepare for NDA
  • Path Finder for NDA & NA
  • Lucents General Science
  • Arihants Pathfinder NDA & NA

Last Updated on : January 19, 2016

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