The Structure and Syllabus of General Studies Paper IV


The UPSC conducts the Civil Services Exam in three stages every year. The first stage is the Preliminary Examination consisting of two papers, the second is the Mains Examination which consists of nine papers, followed by a Personality Test Interview.

Out of nine papers in the Mains, four are General Studies Papers covering a wide variety of subjects.

In this series of articles, we are discussing the structure and syllabus of the General Studies Papers for the Mains Examination. This article focuses on the structure of the General Studies Paper IV and the Subjects that it covers.

The General Studies Paper IV covers the following subjects:

  • Ethics
  • Integrity
  • Aptitude

This paper tests the candidate’s approach to the issues of integrity and probity while dealing with public life. It also tests the candidate’s approach to problem-solving and conflict resolution.

This paper may have a slight overlap of topics with Governance and Social Justice Subjects from General Studies II in the Civil Service Examination mains papers but is largely independent of the syllabus of other GS papers.

Structure of UPSC Mains General Studies Paper IV

The following are the important features of the General Studies IV paper:

  1. The paper consists of twelve questions with these divided into two sections. Before 2018, there were fourteen questions, though now the complexity has been increased and the number of questions has been reduced.
  2. All the questions are compulsory
  3. The questions are of 10 marks and 20 marks depending on the length of the answer required. The 10 marks questions need answers within 150 words while the 20 marks questions need answers within 250 words.
  4. The total marks allotted to this paper are 250 marks.
  5. The questions are of two types:
    • Direct concept related questions which test the candidate’s understanding of ethical issues and concepts related to integrity and aptitude(125 marks)
    • Case studies which test the candidate’s application of those concepts to situations involving the candidate and other stakeholders such as politicians, pressure groups, the public and other people(125 marks)
  6. This paper is the most variable of the four General Studies Papers and the nature of questions differ widely from year to year. Candidates should familiarise themselves with the syllabus, and last few year’s patterns as well.

The key takeaway from this paper is that it tests the candidate’s honesty and integrity along with their problem solving and conflict resolution skills.

Syllabus of UPSC Mains General Studies Paper IV

The following is the Detailed Syllabus for General Studies IV Paper in the UPSC Mains Examination:



Ethics and Human Interface

  • 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


  • 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


  • 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

Emotional Intelligence

  • Concepts of emotional intelligence
  • Utility and application of emotional intelligence in administration and governance

Contributions of Thinkers and Philosophers

  • Contributions of moral thinkers and philosophers from India and the world to the concepts of morality

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

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

This paper relies heavily on case studies which are the most scoring parts of the paper. The candidates should be able to analyse their own reactions to various situations and apply concepts dealt with in this paper on their actions and reactions to various situations while dealing with their social circle. Reading on philosophers and thinkers as well as administrators who are considered role models is a must for being successful in this paper. Also, remembering that the paper is about you and your moral compass is important, you always have to look at each issue from the angle of every stakeholder and choose the most ethical and least selfish option for yourself.

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