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
|1.||Ethics and Human Interface||
|5.||Contributions of Thinkers and Philosophers||
|6.||Public/Civil Service Values and Ethics in Public Administration||
|7.||Probity in Governance||
10 must-read topics for GS 4 Ethics
- Human Values – lessons from the lives and teachings of great leaders, reformers and administrators
- Relation of attitude to thought and behaviour
- Foundational values of civil services (objectivity, impartiality, non-partisanship, etc.)
- Empathy, tolerance and compassion towards the weaker sections of the society
- Utility and application of emotional intelligence in administration and governance
- Ethical concerns and dilemmas in government and private institutions
- Laws, rules, regulations and conscience as sources of ethical guidance
- Challenges of corruption
- Right to Information
- 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
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: