How to Prepare for NDA after the 12th?

The National Defence Academy (NDA) provides the most meaningful undergraduate program after 12th. If you aspire to become an officer in the Indian Armed Forces at a young age, then the NDA is the right place to achieve your dream. Now coming straight to the question of how to prepare for NDA after the 12th, a comprehensive preparation approach under the right mentorship helps a lot. This article by Centurion Defence Academy discusses the key preparation tips that you should follow for the best NDA preparation after the 12th. Read on to learn more about how you can prepare for NDA after completing your 12th class exam.

Understand the NDA syllabus and exam pattern:

To enhance your preparation, familiarize yourself with the NDA syllabus and exam pattern. In addition to this, you should also be aware of the marking scheme followed in the NDA exam. It consists of two papers: Mathematics and General Ability Test (GAT). Understanding the topics covered in each paper and the weightage of each section will help you make a systematic study plan. Check the below table to learn more about the NDA exam pattern and marking scheme.


Details of Papers 


Paper 1 (Mathematics)

Paper 2 (GAT)

No. of Questions


150 (English – 50)

Maximum Marks



Time Duration

2 ½ Hours 

2 ½ Hours

Positive Marking 

2.5 Marks

4 Marks

Negative Marking

0.83 Marks

1.33 Marks

  • The NDA written exam is conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC). This national-level entrance exam for admission to the prestigious National Defence Academy (NDA) is conducted two times a year; first in April and second in September.
  • The UPSC conducts the NDA written exam in two shifts in a single day. The first shift has a math paper and the second shift has a General Ability Test (GAT) paper. Both papers contain only multiple-choice-based questions.
  • Additionally, the time duration in both NDA papers is the same; 150 minutes. To learn more about the number of questions, maximum marks, and applicability of negative marking in each of the two papers, please refer to the above table.

Create an effective study plan:

  • The first step starts with creating an effective study plan to cover the NDA syllabus. Before that, you need to understand the NDA syllabus and exam pattern in detail.
  • Once you know what to study, you will be able to make strategic plans based on your strong and weak areas. The NDA syllabus covers math, English, general science, general knowledge, and current affairs.
  • To assess your strength in a specific subject, you should explore the NDA syllabus and also attempt some previous years’ papers. By doing so, you can decide which subject needs more attention and which subjects need only revision.

Effective time management is a must:

In addition to creating a systematic study plan based on the NDA syllabus, you should also allocate specific hours each day for physical fitness activities, taking on responsibilities, and developing hobbies and interests. Remember, you are preparing to become an officer in the armed forces, so strive to live that lifestyle and adapt accordingly.

Focus on combined performance:

Do not focus solely on academic knowledge, as the NDA assesses both your academic abilities and your personality profile. Therefore, it is crucial to maintain a balance between academic excellence and physical fitness. Your combined performance in both of these spheres plays a decisive role in your selection for the National Defence Academy.

Develop your personality:

Furthermore, do not assume that you can prepare for the SSB Interview in a short time after passing the NDA written exam. The SSB evaluates your overall personality traits, including officer-like qualities, interpersonal skills, communication abilities, team spirit, group cohesiveness, and leadership. All these attributes require time to develop. Therefore, you should focus on cultivating these qualities in your personality from the very start of your NDA preparation.

Strengthen your competency in mathematics:

Since one can apply for the NDA exam along with appearing for the 12th board, many candidates start NDA preparation along with their 12th board exam. While some candidates prefer after the completion of the board exam. Mathematics is a significant part of the NDA exam, focusing on building a strong foundation in the subject can help you maximize your marks. If you had opted for math in your 11th and 12th classes, you can easily develop your conceptual understanding through revision, practice, and solving previous years’ papers. In addition to this, you should also attempt time-bound mock tests to assess your performance.

Focus on improving your general knowledge:

The General Ability Test (GAT) paper in the NDA written exam covers a wide range of topics, including Physics, Chemistry, Biology, History, Geography, Political Science, Economics, and Current Events. You should do enough practice for an outstanding performance in both papers; math and GAT. To enhance your NDA preparation, you can make notes of important topics, revise them as per your schedule, and go through the GAT PYQs to understand the types of questions asked in this paper. Also, read newspapers daily, refer to NCERT textbooks for basic concepts, and stay updated with the events happening around the world for current affairs.

Besides the NDA written cut-off marks, there is a concept of sectional cut-off, which applies to each of the two papers: math and GAT. To better understand the sectional cut-off marks and the overall marking scheme in the NDA written exam, you may refer to the below article.

Understand the NDA Marking Scheme with Examples

Enhance your English skills:

English is a crucial component of the GAT. There is a separate English section in the GAT paper. Out of a total of 150 questions in the GAT paper, the English section alone includes 50 questions. Each question in the English section carries 4 marks, and as part of negative marking, 1.33 marks are deducted for every wrong option. Further, spotting errors, vocabulary, synonyms, antonyms, idioms and phrases, sentence improvement,  para jumbles, and reading comprehension are the most asked topics in this part. Therefore, you should work on improving your vocabulary, grammar, and reading comprehension to score well in the English section.

Read More: How to Score 170+ Marks in the NDA English Section

Stay motivated and positive:

Preparing for the NDA exam can be challenging, therefore, you should maintain a positive attitude and not get demotivated by small failures. Always keep solving previous years’ papers on priority. This approach along with taking mock tests will help you understand the exam pattern, identify your weak areas, and improve your time management skills. Physical fitness is highly important when preparing for the NDA exam. Start working on your physical fitness by jogging, running, doing push-ups, and other exercises to build your stamina.

Also Read: Tips to Stay Motivated during NDA Preparation

Join the Best NDA Coaching for Holistic Guidance:

If you want holistic guidance for NDA preparation after the 12th, you can join Centurion Defence Academy, the best NDA coaching institute in India. With the highest selection rate in NDA, Centurion Defence Academy is the top NDA coaching in India for both NDA written and SSB preparation. To prepare for the NDA exam under the right mentorship and quality guidance, you can contact Team Centurion anytime. Feel free to connect with us at +91 9795977776.

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