Strategy for Mains: GS Paper IV (Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude)

Prelims exam is over and the biggest challenge; Mains Exam is around the corner. UPSC Mains exam consists of total 9 papers, out of which one is General studies paper IV, i.e., Ethics, Integrity, and Aptitude. Looking at the general trend, aspirants pay the least attention and focus on this paper, which is in truth one of the biggest mistakes aspirants makes. The paper is comparatively easy but only when aspirants follow a right strategy to prepare for it. So the article will talk all about the right strategy on how to prepare for ethics papers, right study material to refer, the importance of writing practice, significance of solving case studies, and the questions pattern UPSC follows for ethics paper.

GS Paper 4 consists of total 250 marks out of which 125 marks are given to theory part and 125 marks are given to case studies.

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Things to note:

  • First of all, do not get confused between the ethics and morals. UPSC does not intend to check your personal morality, rather with the questions and case studies, it aims to know about your ethicality as a leader and public administrator.
  • You need to stop thinking as an individual and begin looking at the perspective of an outsider and society as a whole. How other people will look and understand from your action or the viewpoint. As a public administrator, you need to think about how your action will affect the image of the country or the institution you represent or serve. So, these are the kind of questions UPSC asks in this paper.
  • As a public servant, you cannot be biased. You need to maintain rationalism and impartiality. There is a code of conduct set for Civil Servants and it must be seen in your personality while writing you answer that will adhere to the code of conduct.
  • UPSC will also ask questions to check your attitude towards people from weaker sections, towards you gender rationality, women, and migrants.
  • The case studies are entirely different than the ones you see in the MBA programs. It intends to check your overall personality, your thoughts process, and your aptitude.

Syllabus of GS Paper IV

The paper intends to check the candidate’s attitude and approach towards the issues relating to various conflicts faced by the society and what actions according to him can be taken in order to solve those problems. Questions may come up in the form of case studies to cover these areas and determine these aspects.

Ethics & Human Interface – Ethics in private and public relations, various dimensions of ethics, consequences, and determinants of ethics in human actions and ethics in private and public relations.

You might be given a situation in which your judgment skills will be checked; how will you be able to judge if an action is ethical or not. Mostly the question on this comes in theory part.

Human Values – Role of family, society and education from the candidates’ viewpoint, lessons learned from the teaching of great leaders and from one’s own life, lessons learned from administrators

Attitude – Moral and political attitude, behavior towards the society, content, structure-function; and its relations with personal viewpoints and attitude, social influence. Aspirants can expect a question on this from both theories as well as case study section.

Aptitude and core values set for Civil Servants – Integrity, honesty, non-partiality, dedication towards the service and the society, love for the nation and its people, compassion towards the people from weaker sections, gender equality

Emotional Intelligence – Various concepts and its applications as an administrator

How to begin the preparation for Ethics paper

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  • First of all, get conceptual clarity on topics in the syllabus
  • Then, see the code of conducts which you will need to adhere as a civil services officer
  • Read RTI, Citizen’s charter, probity in governance reports
  • Read ethics in governance reports
  • Solve case studies
  • Read previous years question papers
  • Solve CSAT paper (Decision-making question section)
  • Practice writing
  • Stick to a single book and read it until you get the clarity rather making a library

All the best!


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