UPSC Vs NDA: Which Is Tougher?

By Ishika

22 February, 2024

Comparing the difficulty levels of the UPSC (Union Public Service Commission) exam and the NDA (National Defence Academy) exam involves considering various factors such as syllabus, selection process, and career aspirations. Both exams serve as gateways to prestigious careers in public service and defense, respectively.


Here are four points to consider when evaluating which exam is tougher:

The UPSC exam has a comprehensive syllabus covering subjects such as history, geography, polity, economy, science and technology, environment, and current affairs, along with optional subjects. It requires a broad understanding of various topics and concepts. On the other hand, the NDA exam syllabus primarily focuses on mathematics, general ability, and English for the written test, along with physical fitness and medical standards for the subsequent selection stages. The depth and breadth of the UPSC syllabus make it more extensive and challenging to cover compared to the NDA syllabus.

1. Syllabus and Coverage:

2. Selection Process and Competition:

The selection process for UPSC exams typically involves multiple stages, including Preliminary Examination (Prelims), Main Examination (Mains), and Interview, with a high level of competition due to the limited number of vacancies and the large number of aspirants from across the country. On the contrary, the NDA exam has a two-stage selection process comprising a written test followed by a Service Selection Board (SSB) interview. While the NDA exam is competitive, the number of vacancies and aspirants may vary based on the intake capacity of the National Defence Academy, leading to relatively lower competition compared to UPSC exams.

The UPSC exam opens doors to prestigious administrative services such as the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), Indian Police Service (IPS), and Indian Foreign Service (IFS), offering diverse career opportunities in civil services, governance, diplomacy, and policymaking. On the other hand, clearing the NDA exam leads to admission into the National Defence Academy, where candidates undergo training to join the Indian Army, Navy, or Air Force as officers. The career paths and job roles associated with UPSC and NDA exams differ significantly, catering to distinct professional aspirations and interests.

3. Career Aspirations and Job Roles:

4. Preparation Strategies and Focus Areas:

Aspirants preparing for the UPSC exam need to focus on building a strong foundation in a wide range of subjects, mastering analytical reasoning, and developing effective writing and communication skills for the Mains and Interview stages. In contrast, NDA exam aspirants primarily focus on mathematics, general ability, and English proficiency, along with physical fitness and leadership qualities essential for military service. The preparation strategies and study approaches for UPSC and NDA exams may vary based on the respective syllabi and selection criteria.

Both UPSC and NDA exams pose unique challenges and opportunities for aspirants seeking careers in public service and defense, respectively. While UPSC exams require a comprehensive understanding of diverse subjects and analytical skills for administrative roles, NDA exams emphasize mathematics, general ability, physical fitness, and leadership qualities for military service. The perceived difficulty of each exam may vary based on individual strengths, preferences, and career aspirations.