10 Topics For IAS Mains GS-4 Exam Every UPSC Aspirant Should Read

Ever since the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) introduced the GS IV paper in IAS Mains exam in 2013, the ‘Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude’ paper continues to be an enigma. On paper, the GS IV exam has the least number of questions among all GS papers. However, IAS Exam aspirants have found to their chagrin that GS IV is often the lengthiest paper (in terms of total words written). Also, the fact that this paper is held after three lengthy GS papers adds to the overall effort.

Prior to UPSC 2018 exam, the Ethics paper in Mains comprised 14 questions divided into direct theoretical questions and case studies for a total of 250 marks. Now, the number of questions has been reduced to 12. An IAS aspirant’s ability to provide concise, pragmatic and sustainable solutions to diverse societal issues is still tested.

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The following links will further help their candidates in their exam preparation:

UPSC 2019: Latest GS 4 Exam Structure

  • Total of 12 questions for 250 marks
  • The questions can be divided into two parts
    • Part 1 – 125 marks – Direct questions on concepts, theories which test candidates’ understanding of terms and keywords related to Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude
    • Part 2 – 125 marks – Case studies which test the candidate’s ability to apply the ethical concepts to real-life dilemmas
  • Most questions in part 1 have subparts
  • All questions are compulsory

GS Paper IV – Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude

This paper includes questions to check the candidates’ attitude and approach to issues relating to integrity, probity in public life and his/her problem-solving approach to various issues and conflicts faced by him/her while dealing with society. Questions may utilise the case study approach to determine these aspects and covers area as mentioned in syllabus given below.

Syllabus of GS 4 – Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude

# Topics Subtopics
1. Ethics and Human Interface
  • The essence of Ethics, Determinants and Consequences of Ethics in Human Interaction
  • Dimensions of Ethics
  • Ethics in private and public relationships
  • Human Values – lessons from the lives and teachings of great leaders, reformers and administrators
  • Role of family, society and educational institutions in inculcating moral and ethical values
2. Attitude
  • Content, structure and function of attitude
  • Influence of attitude in thought and behaviour
  • Relation of attitude to thought and behaviour
  • Moral and Political attitudes
  • Social influence and persuasion
3. Aptitude
  • Aptitude and foundational values of Civil Service
  • Integrity
  • Impartiality and non-partisanship
  • Objectivity
  • Dedication to public service
  • Empathy, tolerance and compassion towards the weaker sections of the society
4. Emotional Intelligence
  • Concepts of emotional intelligence
  • Utility and application of emotional intelligence in administration and governance
5. Contributions of Thinkers and Philosophers
  • Contributions of moral thinkers and philosophers from India and the world to the concepts of morality
6. Public/Civil Service Values and Ethics in Public Administration
  • Status and associated problems
  • Ethical concerns and dilemmas in government and private institutions
  • Laws, rules, regulations and conscience as sources of ethical guidance
  • Accountability and ethical governance
  • Strengthening of ethical and moral values in governance
  • Ethical Issues in international relations and funding
  • Corporate governance
7. Probity in Governance
  • Concept of public service
  • The philosophical basis of governance and probity
  • Information sharing and transparency in government
  • Right to Information
  • Codes of ethics
  • Codes of Conduct
  • Citizen’s Charters
  • Work culture
  • Quality of service delivery
  • Utilization of public funds
  • Challenges of corruption

10 must-read topics for GS 4 Ethics

  1. Human Values – lessons from the lives and teachings of great leaders, reformers and administrators
  2. Relation of attitude to thought and behaviour
  3. Foundational values of civil services (objectivity, impartiality, non-partisanship, etc.)
  4. Empathy, tolerance and compassion towards the weaker sections of the society
  5. Utility and application of emotional intelligence in administration and governance
  6. Ethical concerns and dilemmas in government and private institutions
  7. Laws, rules, regulations and conscience as sources of ethical guidance
  8. Challenges of corruption
  9. Right to Information
  10. Information sharing and transparency in government

Unlike other GS papers, the Ethics paper in UPSC Mains needs to be approached in a holistic manner. Topic-wise rote learning has a limited effect because, in case of study questions, a candidate needs to analyse the big picture and then break it down to concepts, ethical and legal questions and present an approach to deal with the situation in a humane yet professional way.

How to prepare for GS IV Ethics in UPSC

  • Start early. Most of the content is static. Anyway, not much rote learning is needed
  • Prepare a list of keywords (objectivity, values, moral turpitude, etc.) with succinct definitions
  • The keyword list is the foundation of preparation. Link the keywords to quotes or quotable instances (instances can be from both personal life or from the lives of great leaders/thinkers)
  • Go through the must-read topics mentioned above
  • Refer to the past UPSC question papers and solve the case study questions
  • Read 2nd ARC Reports (make notes of all the recommendations)

The preparation for Ethics paper in IAS mains involves a candidate’s ability to reflect on his/her own life and identifying instances which bring out simple human examples of day-to-day ethical behaviour. While the instances can be somewhat oblique or personalised, an IAS aspirant should not plan to present a completely different version of himself/herself in the exam. The reason being that in the pressure cooker atmosphere of the exam hall, the fabricated answers will lead to inconsistencies which will be glaringly visible to the examiner.

Writing the GS 4 Ethics paper in IAS mains

  • Attempt all questions
  • Don’t spend an inordinate amount of time on case studies.
  • As far as possible, include a definition, along with an example to bring out the concept being asked
  • In the case of studies, identify and write the ethical v/s legal dilemma
  • Make simple flowcharts to illustrate the course of action
  • Ideally, answers for direct questions should have the structure – definition/introduction, theory, example, and conclusion
  • Real-life examples add a lot of value to answers

Candidates can check out the relevant links given below to prepare for the UPSC exam-

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The GS IV Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude paper in UPSC mains aims to gauge a candidate’s capacity and suitability for life in administration. Candidates either take it too lightly or take too much stress. The preparation approach should be holistic and answers in the exam should involve some personalised narratives or instances to make your answer sheet stand out. The paper itself is never ‘too difficult’ as the things being asked are what we deal with in our day-to-day lives, on at least some level. The answers don’t need to be philosophical, or fantastic solutions to all societal problems. All that needs to be done is to present a reasonable, rational approach in a clear manner while keeping in mind the laws, regulations and the code of conduct.

For more UPSC related preparation materials visit the links given in the table below:

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