NDA Exam Pattern 2021

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NDA Entrance Exam Pattern 2021

NDA Exam Pattern is set by the UPSC. There is a written exam that the candidates need to pass. Then the qualified candidates have to pass the SSB interview. Candidates who qualify both the written test and the interview will be eligible to enrol themselves into the National Defence Academy. The written exam has two papers carrying a total mark of 900. In this article, we will discuss the NDA exam pattern in detail, the duration of the exam, question topics, etc. At the end of the article, we shall reveal some tips that will help you crack the exam. So, read on to know more about the NDA exam pattern.

NDA Exam Pattern - A Summary 

NDA exam will have two parts- written exam and interview. The written exam will consist of two papers - Mathematics and General Ability Test (GAT). The Mathematics paper is for 300 marks. The GAT paper will carry 600 marks. So, the written exam will carry a total of 900 marks. The Mathematics question will be up to the 12th standard. The GAT paper will include questions pertaining to English, General Knowledge and General Science. 

The SSB interview will also have two stages. The first stage will have OIR and PP&DT tests, while the second stage will have psychology tests and the conference. The interview will also carry a maximum of 900 marks The details of every part of the exam are discussed in the following sections.

NDA Exam Pattern at a Glance 

Sections of The Exam 

Written And Interview

No. of Papers in the Written Exam 

2 (Maths And GA )

No. of Stages in the Interview


Duration of the Maths Paper

2 Hours 30 Minutes (2 PM to 4.30 PM)

Duration of the GAT Paper

2 Hours 30 Minutes (10 AM to 12.30 PM)

Total Marks of the Written Exam 

900 (300 for Maths, 600 for GAT)

Total Marks of the SSB Interview Session 


Type of Questions in the Written Exam 

Objective Type or MCQs

Mode of the Exam 

Pen & Paper ( Offline)

So as indicated by the chart, the total duration of the written exam is 5 hours - two and a half hours for Maths and the same for GAT. The written exam is conducted in a single day. The questions will be in Hindi and English. More details of the NDA exam pattern are discussed below.

Syllabus for the Maths Paper of NDA Exam 

Following are the broad topics from the NDA exam maths syllabus:

  • Algebra

  • Vector Algebra

  • Operations on Matrices

  • Determinants

  • Trigonometry

  • Analytic Geometry In Two Or Three Dimensions

  • Differential Calculus

  • Integral Calculus

  • Differential Equations

  • Operations On Statistics

  • Probability

Syllabus for the GAT Paper 

The topics for the GAT paper are as follows:

  • English Grammar, Vocabulary, Comprehension and Cohesion

  • Physics (Class 12 standard)

  • Chemistry (Class 12 standard)

  • General Science

  • Indian and International History

  • Geography

  • Current Affairs

NDA Written Exam Pattern

Mathematics: In the written test, the Maths paper will have 120 questions. The mark for the correct answer to each of these questions is 2.5. The total marks of this section are 300. There will be negative marking. The negative marking for each of the incorrect answers is ⅓ of 2.5 - that is 0.83. 

General Ability Test: The GAT paper will consist of 150 questions. Each of these questions carries a total of 4 marks, and thus the total marks for this section are 600. There will be negative marking too. The negative marking for each of the incorrect answers is ⅓ of 4 -  that is- 1.33. This is where the NDA exam pattern differs a bit from other exams. 

The various sections in the NDA GAT Written Test and the marks distribution for each of the section is provided below: 

NDA GAT Written Test Marks Distribution




Part A



Part B





Current Affairs


General Science






If you leave the question without answering, thankfully no marks will be deducted.

Marking Scheme of NDA Written Test 



Total Number of Maths Questions


Each Question Carries

2.5 Marks

Negative Marking For Each Incorrect Maths Answer


Total Number of GAT Questions 


Each Question Carries

4 Marks 

Negative Marking For Each Incorrect GAT Answer


Unattempted Question Will Result In 

0 Marks (No Negative Marking)

One thing that should be noted is that you need to attain the pass marks for both the papers. Suppose you do not get the pass marks for Maths paper, then as per the NDA exam pattern, your GAT answer sheet will have no value.

The Interview: The Vital Part of the NDA Exam

Once you pass the written test, you will be called for the interview. The interview process is also as rigorous as the written test. This is one of the important aspects of the NDA exam pattern.

The NDA interview is known as the SSB interview as it is conducted by the Service Selection Board. The NDA SSB Interview is conducted in two stages - Stage 1 & 2. Those qualifying the 1st stage of the interview will be called for the second stage. 

Stage 1

Within Stage 1 of the NDA Interview, there will be a screening test and a PPDT test. The screening test will consist of verbal and non-verbal tests which are not that hard. The questions in the screening test will include - make sentences, correct the spelling, which of the following words comes last in the dictionary etc. 

In the PPDT test , you will be shown a picture for 30 seconds and then you will be asked to write about that picture within 3 minutes. Later, you will find that the candidates are divided into groups. You have to talk and discuss the picture and your story along with others.

The PPDT test will be followed by a Psychological Test in Stage 1.  The psychological tests will be divided into several stages - 

  • Thematic Apperception Test - This is similar to the picture test described above - only harder and intense.

  • Word Association Test - This is similar to a picture test, but the pictures are replaced by words.

  • Situation Reaction Test - In this test, you will be presented with some situations and then you have to write about your responses to these situations.

  • Self Description Test - In this test, you have to talk about yourself, your personal life etc.

Stage 2

Based on the screening test, candidates will be selected for Stage 2 of the interview process and some will have to bid goodbye.

In Stage 2, there will be a Group Testing Officers Test or the GTO test. The GTO test also has multiple steps

  • Group Discussion

  • Group Planning

  • Progressive Group Task

  • Half Group Task

  • Individual Obstacles Task

  • Command Task

  • Snake Race

  • Individual Lecture

  • Final Group Task

Personal Interview and Conference

Then there will be a vital personal interview following the GTO in Stage 2. You will be facing an IO or Interviewing officer and you have to maintain a strict code of conduct and answer questions tactically, logically and intelligently. From personal questions to political discussions, from psychological questions to general intelligence questions - nothing will be spared. Honesty, agility and sincerity are the keywords here.

The personal interview round will finally be followed by a conference round.

SSB Interview at a Glance

Stage 1 

Stage 2

Screening Test


Group Discussion, Group Planning


Progressive Group Task

Picture Perception

Half Group Task 

Description Test

Individual Obstacles Task 


Command Task 


Thematic Apperception Test

Snake Race

Word Association Test

Lecture and Final Group Task

Situation Reaction Test

Personal Interview

Self Description Test


Tips to Ace the NDA Exam

For Written Test 

  • NCERT books are your best bet. The NDA exam includes questions up to the standard of Class 12.

  • The syllabus is extensive. They ask questions from here and there. So, instead of reading too many books, focus on the basics, theories and fundamentals. Only then, you will be able to answer the tricky questions.

  • For Current Affairs, buy the latest version of the Manorama Yearbook.

  • For GK, you can buy any good book like that of Lucent.

  • You need to revise your History and Geography lessons as per 10th, 11th and 12th standard.

  • The important topics for Mathematics include - Mensuration, Arithmetic, Trigonometry, Algebra, Statistics, Geometry, etc.

For Interview Session 

  • Start practising the picture tests at your home. Quick-thinkers will have an edge over others. 

  • Increase your observation power with the help of meditation.

  • Stay calm and focussed. 

  • Sincerity and honesty are the keywords in the interview session. 

It is great to see that you are interested in the NDA exam to join the Indian Army or Navy/Airforce. With rising tensions at the border and an increase in natural disasters, India needs people like you more than ever. All the best for the exam. 

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. Whom should I contact if I want more information about the NDA exam?

NDA exam is conducted by the UPSC. You must contact the UPSC officials only. Under any circumstances, do not contact the NDA officials. For further updates, you can also check Vedantu.com.

2. How many parts are there in the NDA exam?

Two. Written and Interview.

3. How many papers are there in the written exam?

Two. The Maths paper and the GAT paper.

4. What is the duration of the exam?

Five hours in total. 2 hours 30 minutes for the Maths Paper and 2 hours 30 Minutes for the GAT paper.

5. What standard will the questions be of?

The maths questions will be of 12th standard, while the science questions can be of 12th standard. The history and geography questions are usually of 6th - 10th standard.

6. How many stages does the SSB interview have?

Two. If you do not pass stage 1,  then you won’t be called for stage 2.

7. How tough is the NDA exam?

NDA exam is as tough as the other UPSC exams but not tougher than them. You need to know the fundamentals of each of the maths topics. You must be aware of national and international current affairs. The interview is usually a bit tough. Keep your cool, think fast, be honest, and you will be able to crack it comfortably.