UPSC Mains: General Guidelines for Ethics Case Studies

Ethics is an important paper in the UPSC Mains exam. It consists of two different sections, for a combined total of 250 marks. Tackling case study section may not be easy although it may appear simple. This article gives some important tips that could be implemented while answering Ethics paper in the UPSC Mains examination.

Aspirants would find this article very helpful while preparing for the IAS Exam.

How to Solve Ethics Case Studies?

The General Studies Paper 4, more commonly known as the Ethics Paper can be tricky for many candidates in the UPSC civil service mains exam. In this paper, there are theoretical questions as well as case studies, both for almost the same marks. While the theory portions can be straightforward for candidates to answer, the case studies might prove to be their undoing in the exam. Since candidates have to choose between various courses of action based on ethical and legal considerations and ramifications, they often falter in this decision-making exercise. This article gives you a few general guidelines to follow while solving case studies in the ethics paper in the IAS mains exam.

Using Appropriate Terminologies

Even though the Ethics paper might seem like a generalist paper, it is still based on a syllabus. (Check the UPSC Syllabus for GS Paper 4 here). To make your answers and solutions more akin to the paper, you should use apt terminologies – specific terms which will show your subject knowledge. Your paper should not look like a general essay or a paper on public administration. Some examples of ethics terminologies are professional integrity, ethical competencies, conscience, ethical reasoning, empathy, tolerance, dignity of the individual, attitude, compassion, diligence, bureaucratic inertia, red tape, intellectual integrity, fidelity, moral turpitude, probity, esprit de corps, morality, hedonism, grey areas, equanimity, etc.

Empathise and Place Yourself in Another’s Shoes

The ethics case studies, all portray an issue with a person as the central character and the ethical dilemma faces by him/her. In such cases, you should know how to empathise with this fictional person. Put yourself in his/her shoes and think about the issue at hand. This will be easier if you practice solving case studies.

Ethics vs Legal

While answering questions on ethics, you should also be aware of the difference between ethicality and legality. Being ethical does not mean you need to break the law, but sometimes, the legal course of action is not necessarily ethically correct. The solution here is to think out of the box and strike a fine balance between legality and ethicality. So when making decisions, you must know the difference between ethical decisions and legal decisions.

Raise Questions

Once you start solving case studies, you should raise questions on the issue. What is the core issue? What are the aspects of work/organisation that are affected by it? Who all are affected? What are the possible courses of action? What are the dangers/hazards involved? What are the pros and cons of each course, etc.?

Follow these general guidelines while attempting the case studies in the UPSC Mains GS paper IV. Case studies need not be a confusing and difficult affair. You only need to follow a basic methodology while dealing with them. Once you have a framework to follow, you can easily work out the solutions.

The above details would help candidates prepare for UPSC 2020.

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