NDA Exam Pattern 2020

NDA Entrance Exam Pattern 2020

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. Only then, the candidates are able 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 of 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 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 GAT )

No. Of Stages In The Interview


Duration of The Maths Paper

2 Hours 30 Minutes

Duration of The GAT Paper

2 Hours 30 Minutes

Total Marks of The Written Exam 

900 ( 300 for Maths, 600 for GAT)

Total Marks of The Interview Session 


Type of Questions In The Written Exam 

Objective Type or MCQ

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

In the written test, the Maths paper will have 120 questions. The mark for the correct answer of each of these questions is 2.5. There will be negative marking. The negative marking for each of the incorrect answers is ⅓ of 2.5 - that is 0.83. 

The GAT paper will consist of 150 questions. Each of these questions carries a total of 4 marks. 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.

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

Marking Scheme of The 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. At first, there will be a screening 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. 

The screening test will also include a PPDT test. In this 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. 

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

In stage 2, there will be psychological tests. 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.

Then there will be a Group Test known as 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

Then there will be a vital personal interview. 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.

SSB Interview at a Glance

Stage 1 

Stage 2

Screening Test

Thematic Apperception Test


Word Association Test


Situation Reaction Test

Picture Perception

Self Description Test

Description Test

Group Discussion, Group Planning

Progressive Group Task

Half Group Task 

Individual Obstacles Task 

Command Task 

Snake Race

Lecture and Final Group Task

Personal Interview


Tips to Ace the NDA 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 that you left after 10th. 

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 in 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. 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.