Ethics - Aptitude Previous Year Questions for UPSC Mains

Aptitude is an important topic of General Studies 4 of the Civil Services Examination (CSE.) This article will provide you with a set of Aptitude previous year questions that have been asked in the Mains GS IV of the IAS Exam, from the year 2013-2020. 

Candidates can get other subject-wise/topic-wise GS 4 questions from the links provided in the table below:

Attitude Questions for UPSC Mains GS 4 Ethics Questions for UPSC Mains GS 4
Emotional Intelligence Questions for UPSC Mains GS 4 Thinkers & Reformers Questions for UPSC Mains GS 4
Public Organisations Questions for UPSC Mains GS 4 Probity in Governance Questions for UPSC Mains GS 4

For details of UPSC Mains, check the linked article.

GS 4 Aptitude Questions (Year-Wise)

We have segregated the aptitude previous year questions from 2013-2020. There are two sets: 

  • Theoretical Questions
  • Case Studies. 

Candidates can find both the sets under each year one after another. Number of questions are asked from this topic and for complete trend analysis of general studies 4, you can check our GS Paper 4 Strategy, Structure and Syllabus page. 

Aptitude Questions (Year-Wise)

2020 – Aptitude Questions Case Study
  1. “The will to power exists, but it can be tamed and be guided by rationality and principles of moral duty.’ Examine this statement in the context of international relations.
2019 – Aptitude Questions Case Study
  1. You are heading the rescue operations in an area affected by severe natural calamity. Thousands of people are rendered homeless and deprived of food, drinking water and other basic amenities. Rescue work has been disrupted by heavy rainfall and damage to supply routes. The local people are seething with anger against the delayed limited rescue operations. When your team reaches the affected area, the people there heckle and even assault some of the team members . One of your team members is even severely injured. Faced with this crisis, some team members plead with you to call off the operations fearing threats to their life. In such trying circumstances, what will be your response? Examine the qualities of a public servant which will be required to manage the situation.
2018 – Aptitude Questions Theory-Based
  1. State the three basic values, universal in nature, in the context of civil services and bring out their importance.
2017 – Aptitude Questions Theory-Based
  1. Increased national wealth did not result in equitable distribution of its benefits. It has created only some “enclaves of modernity and prosperity for a small minority at the cost of the majority.” Justify. 
2017 – Aptitude Questions Case Study

1. You are an honest and responsible civil servant. You often observe the following:

a. There is a general perception that adhering to ethical conduct one may face difficulties to oneself and cause problems for the family, whereas unfair practices may help to reach the career goals.

b. When the number of people adopting unfair means is large, a small minority having a penchant towards ethical means makes no difference.

c. Sticking to ethical means is detrimental to the larger developmental goals

d. While one may not involve oneself in large unethical practices, but giving and accepting small gifts makes the system more efficient. 

Examine the above statements with their merits and demerits.

2. You are the head of the Human Resources department of an organisation. One day one of the workers died on duty. His family was demanding compensation. However, the company denied compensation because it was revealed in investigation that he was drunk at the time of the accident. The workers of the company went to strike demanding compensation for the family of the deceased. The Chairman of the management board has asked for your recommendation.

What recommendation would you provide the management?

Discuss the merits and demerits of each of the recommendations. 

2016 – Aptitude Questions Theory-Based
  1. Why should impartiality and non-partisanship be considered as foundational values in public services, especially in the present day socio-political context? Illustrate your answer with examples.
2015 – Aptitude Questions Theory-Based
  1. “A mere compliance with law is not enough, the public servant also have to have a well developed sensibility to ethical issues for effective discharge of duties” Do you agree? Explain with the help of two examples where (i) an act is ethically right, but not legally and (ii) an act is legally right, but not ethical
2015 – Aptitude Questions Case Study
  1. A private company is known for its efficiency, transparency and employee welfare. The company though owned by a private individual has a cooperative character where employees feel a sense of ownership. The company employs nearly 700 personnel and they have voluntarily decided not to form a union. One day suddenly in the morning, about 40 men belonging to a political party gate crashed into the factory demanding jobs in the factory. They threatened the management and employees and also used foul language. The employees feel demoralized. It was clear that those people who gate-crashed wanted to be on the payroll of the company as well as continue as the volunteers/members of the party. The company maintains high standards in integrity and does not extend favours to civil administration that also includes law enforcement agencies. Such incidents occur in the public sector also.
    • Assume you are the CEO of the company. What would you do to diffuse the volatile situation on the date of gate-crashing with the violent mob sitting inside the company premises?
    • What can be the long term solution to the issue discussed in the case?
    • Every solution/action that you suggest will have a negative and positive impact on you as (CEO), the employees and the performance of the employees. Analyse the consequences of each of your suggested actions.

2. You are the Sarpanch of a Panchayat. There is a primary school run by the government in your area. Midday meals are provided to children attending the school. The headmaster has now appointed a new cook in the school to prepare the meals. However, when it is found that cook is from the Dalit community, almost half of the children belonging to higher castes are not allowed to take meals by their parents. Consequently, attendance in schools falls sharply. This could result in the possibility of discontinuation of the midday meal scheme, thereafter of teaching staff and subsequent closing down of the school.

a. Discuss some feasible strategies to overcome the conflict and to create the right ambiance.

b. What should be the responsibilities of different social segments and agencies to create a positive social ambiance for accepting such changes?

3. You are heading a district administration in a particular department. Your senior officer calls you from the State Headquarters and tells you that a plot in Rampur village is to have a building constructed on it for a school. A visit is scheduled during which he will visit the site along with the chief engineer and the senior architect. He wants you to check out all the papers relating to it and ensure that the visit is properly arranged. You examine the file which relates to the period before you joined the department. The land was acquired for the local panchayat at a nominal cost and the papers showed that clearance certificates are available for the two of the three authorities who have to certify the site’s suitability. There is no certification by the architect available on file. You decide to visit Rampur to ensure that all is in the order as stated on file. When you visit Rampur, you find that the plot under reference is a part of Thakurgarh fort and that the walls, ramparts, etc., are running across it. The fort is well away from the main village, therefore a school here will be a serious inconvenience for the children. However, the area near the village has the potential to expand into a larger residential area. The development charges on the existing plot, at the fort, will be very high and the question of heritage sites has not been addressed. Moreover, the Sarpanch, at the time of acquisition of the land, was a relative of your predecessor. The whole transaction appears to have been done with some vested interest.

a. List the likely vested interest of the concerned parties.

b. Some of the options for action available to you are listed below. Discuss the merits and demerits of each of the options:

(i) You can await the visit of the superior officer and let him take a decision.

(ii) You can seek his advice in writing or on phone.

(iii) You can consult your predecessor/ colleagues, etc, and then decide what to do.

(iv) You can find out if any alternate plot can be got in exchange and then send a comprehensive written report.

Can you suggest any other option with proper justification?

2014 – Aptitude Questions Theory-Based
  1. In the context of defence services, ‘patriotism’ demands readiness to even lay down one’s life in protecting the nation. According to you, what does patriotism imply in everyday civil life? Explain with illustrations and justify your answer.
  2. What do you understand by ‘probity’ in public life? What are the difficulties in practicing it in the present times? How can these difficulties be overcome?
  3. “Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, but knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful.” What do you understand by this statement? Explain your stand with illustrations from modern-day context.
  4.  “Human beings should always be treated as ‘ends’ in themselves and never as ‘means’.” Explain the meaning and significance of this statement, giving its implications in the modern techno-economic society.
2014 – Aptitude Questions Case Study
  1. You are a no-nonsense, honest officer. You have been transferred to a remote district to head a department that is notorious for its inefficiency and callousness. You find that the main cause of the poor state of affairs is the indiscipline of a section of employees. They do not work themselves and also disrupt the workings of others. You first warned the troublemakers to mend their ways or else face disciplinary action. When the warning had little effect, you issued a show-cause notice to the ringleaders. As a retaliatory measure, these troublemakers instigated a woman employee amongst them to file a complaint of sexual harassment against you with the Women’s Commission. The Commission promptly seeks your explanation. The matter is also publicized in the media to embarrass you further. Some of the options to handle this situation could be as follows:
    • Give your explanation to the Commission and go soft on the disciplinary action.
    • Ignore the Commission and proceed firmly with the disciplinary action.
    • Brief your higher-ups, seek directions from them and act accordingly.
    • Suggest any other possible option(s). Evaluate all of them and suggest the best course of action, giving your reasons for it.
2013 – Aptitude Questions Theory-Based
  1.  What do you understand by the following terms in the context of public service? 
    • Integrity
    • Perseverance
    • Spirit of service
    • Commitment
    • Courage of conviction

Indicate two more attributes that you consider important for public service. Justify your answer.

Candidates can get UPSC Previous Year Question Papers from the linked article.

Aptitude Questions for UPSC Mains GS 4:- Download PDF Here

To get the topic-wise GS 4 questions for UPSC Mains in one place, check the linked article.

GS 4 Related Links:

Difference between Democracy & Dictatorship Difference Between Ethics & Morality-
Difference Between Democracy and Monarchy Difference Between Communism, Capitalism and Socialism


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