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

If you are preparing to take the UPSC civil services you would be well aware of the papers you have to cover. The UPSC main exam consists of 9 papers out of which one is the General Studies Paper IV (Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude). This is considered an easy paper and students generally give least focus to it. But you must remember it is easy and scoring only if you follow a strategy and apply some techniques while writing answers. This article talks about how to prepare for the ethics paper, the study material to use, books to refer, and most importantly, how to link concepts in the UPSC syllabus to the case studies asked in the question paper.

You can score good marks in this paper if you follow certain strategies while preparing for it.

GS Paper IV – total marks: 250

Theory part – 125

Case studies – 125

Things to remember:

  • Ethics is different from morals. UPSC does not ask about your personal morality but it wants to know about your ethicality as a public administrator.
  • In a case, look at things from a layman’s point of view, i.e., from an outsider’s viewpoint. Your action may be morally and legally correct from a personal point of view, but what is the image that the common man outside get? As a public administrator, how does your action affect the image of the institution you serve and represent? These are the questions you have to answer in this paper.
  • It is true that ethicality varies from one person to the next. It is a very subjective thing. But remember, you are expected to follow ethicality for a public administrator, not for a common man, for an NGO, etc.
  • As a public servant, you ought to maintain neutrality and objectivity. There is a Code of Conduct for civil servants which you must adhere to.
  • The UPSC will also question your attitude towards women, migrants and other weaker sections.
  • The case studies are not like the ones you see in MBA programs.
  • You must aim for at least 120 marks in this paper, which you can easily get if you follow the strategy we are discussing.

Let us take a look at the GS Paper IV syllabus:

This paper includes questions to check the candidate’s’ 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:

Ethics and Human Interface– Essence, determinants and consequences of Ethics in human actions; 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 values

Attitude– content, structure, function; its influence and relation with thought and behaviour; moral and political attitudes; social influence and persuasion

Aptitude and foundational values for Civil Service, integrity, impartiality and non-partisanship, objectivity, dedication to public service, empathy, tolerance and compassion towards the weaker-sections

Emotional intelligence-concepts, and their utilities and application in administration and governance

Contributions of moral thinkers and philosophers from India and world

Public/Civil service values and Ethics in Public administration– Status and 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

Probity in Governance– Concept of public service; 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

Case Studies on above issues

Now let us see how to go about dealing with some of the topics in the syllabus:

Ethics and human interface – this deals with ethics and how you relate it to society. How do you judge if an action is ethical or not. You mostly get theoretical questions from this section until ‘dimensions of ethics’.

Human values – this topic deals with statements or sayings from eminent people from the past and applying it to the present context. Eg. Gandhi, Ambedkar, Socrates, Plato, etc. Just take 5 – 6 thinkers and analyse their quotes.

Attitude – This is an important concept as far as UPSC is concerned. You can expect questions from both theory and case studies from this section.

Aptitude and foundational values – Here, notice the key words used like integrity, impartiality, etc. It is essential that you use these words in your answers. UPSC may not ask questions directly. They can present a case scenario and you are expected to relate it to these words and elaborate.

Contributions of moral thinkers and philosophers from India and world – This section can be merged with ‘Human values.’

Detailed information on strategy for this paper is discussed in the video lecture.

Get the GS Paper IV 2016 question paper here.

Let us see in a nutshell how to go about preparing for the Ethics paper:

  • Get conceptual clarity of topics in the syllabus.
  • See Code of Conduct, citizen’s charter, RTI, Probity in governance reports.
  • Read Ethics in Governance reports and book by Ramesh K Arora (Ethics in Governance)
  • Go through previous year question papers.
  • Try to solve the CSAT decision-making questions.
  • Identify the key words in the syllabus and apply it in your writing.
  • Don’t forget thinkers’ quotes and apply them to the prevailing situation.
  • Read a single book many times rather than many books.

In the exam hall:

Attempt the case studies first. They need more time.

All the best!

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