UPSC Mains General Studies Paper-IV Strategy, Syllabus & Structure

UPSC Mains General Studies Paper IV (GS-IV) is about Ethics, Integrity, and Aptitude. UPSC GS-IV paper is one of the nine papers of Mains Examination of the IAS Exam.  This article gives details on the strategy, structure and syllabus of General Studies Paper IV of the UPSC Civil Service Mains Examination.

Candidates can refer to strategy, syllabus, and structure of GS-I, GS-II, and GS-III from the links mentioned below:

UPSC Mains GS-I Strategy, Structure & Syllabus
UPSC Mains GS-II Strategy, Structure & Syllabus
UPSC Mains GS-III Strategy, Structure & Syllabus
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Table of Contents:

IAS Mains General Studies-IV

The General Studies Paper IV covers the following main areas:

  1. Ethics
  2. Integrity
  3. 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.

If candidates are targeting UPSC 2024, they may check the linked article.

How to prepare ethics for UPSC Mains?

Ethics Strategy – Recommended Video
Focus Areas in GS 4 Paper

Focus Areas in GS IV Ethics Paper

S.No Ethics Topics
1. Ethics and Human Interface
2.  Human Values
3.  Attitude
4.  Aptitude
5.  Emotional Intelligence
6.  Contributions of moral thinkers and philosophers from India and the world
7.  Public or Civil Service Values and Ethics in Public Administration
8.  Ethical issues in international relations and funding corporate governance
9. Probity in Governance: Concept of public service; Philosophical basis of governance and probity; information
10.  Codes of ethics &  Citizen’s Charters
How to Approach GS 4 Paper
The following table mentions the tips on how to prepare ethics for UPSC mains, topic-wise:


Tips to Prepare

Ethics and Human Interface Aspirants should learn:

  • How you inculcate it 
  • How you deal with society
  • How do you see whether the action is ethical or not and 
  • What are the principles that you follow to ensure that the action is ethical or not?

Note: Questions may be asked in the part I section

Human Values Aspirants should focus on:

  • How do people acquire values and majority of people acquire values when they read about the personality of importance like freedom fighters
  • Consider a few books about 5-6 of great thinkers whom you admire, like or follow


  • UPSC may give some statement of any great personalities and would ask to discuss it by applying it to the present context.
  • UPSC does not want thinkers’ point of view but what it looks for is how much the candidate has analyzed, utilized and applied it to the current context.
Attitude Candidates should focus on Attitude: 

  • Content, structure, function, its influence and relation with thought and behaviour for Part 2 of the question paper i.e. Case Study
  • The moral and political attitudes; social influence and persuasion would be for Part 1 of the Ethics Question Paper i.e. theory.

Note: Question may be asked either in Part 1 or Part 2 i.e. either in theory or case study

Aptitude Important list of words that a candidate should embed in their answer in order to enhance their answer and score high:

Integrity: not compromising on anything if someone offers your bribe will you compromise

●  Impartiality: Don’t show nepotism either for political parties or common man

●  Nonpartisanship: no biases for different political parties

●  Objectivity: be neutral

●  Dedication to public service

●  Empathy

●  Tolerance

●  Compassion towards weaker section

Note: Candidates can refer to the ‘Ethics in Governance’ to cover this area as it gives a clear definition of the last five words or concepts including Nolan Committee Recommendations.

Emotional Intelligence Here as an administrator, one has to follow the three procedures of Emotional Intelligence and they are:

●  Understand your emotions and control them

●  Understand others emotion and control them

●  Then, act according to solve the issue genuinely and effectively

Note: Questions may be asked in both Part 1 and Part 2

Ethical issues in international relations 
  • Candidates can take the example of Nepal Earthquake video how funding aided or any current similar such scenarios

Note: Questions may be asked Part 2 i.e. case study

Sharing and transparency in government, Right to information, codes of ethics, codes of conduct Candidates can refer to CCS, 1964 – The Central Civil Services (Conduct) Rules, 1964, which is of 300-400 pages
Citizen’s Charters, Work Culture, Quality of Service delivery, utilization of public funds, challenges of corruption
  • UPSC may ask direct questions on Citizen’s Charter
  • Candidates should be aware of how to frame a Citizen’s Charter and the rules and regulations that should be followed before framing a citizen charter
  • Questions in Case Study may also be expected

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 keywords 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.

Questions from each of the above-mentioned topics are asked in general studies 4 paper. To get the topic wise GS 4 questions in UPSC Mains, you can check the linked article. These questions can help aspirants devise a strategy to prepare for each of the GS-II topics.

Ethics Books for UPSC

The table below mentions the important Ethics Books for UPSC:


Ethics Books for UPSC

1. Ethics, Integrity & Aptitude – G Subba Rao & P N Roy Chowdhury
2. Lexicon for Ethics, Integrity & Aptitude for IAS General Studies Paper IV – Niraj Kumar
3. Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude – Santosh Ajmera & Nanda Kishore Reddy
4. Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude – M Karthikeyan
5. Ethics in Governance: Innovations, Issues and Instrumentalities – Ramesh K Arora
6. ARC Reports

GS 4 Structure

The following are the important features of the UPSC Mains General Studies Paper-IV – Structure/ 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 the last few year’s patterns as well.

UPSC Mains General Studies Paper-IV Ethics Syllabus

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

Topics Subtopics
Ethics and Human Interface
  • The 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

Candidates can get the Ethics Questions for UPSC Mains GS 4 in the linked article.

  • 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

Candidates can get the Attitude Questions for UPSC Mains GS 4 in the linked article.

  • 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

Candidates can get the Aptitude Questions for UPSC Mains GS 4 in the linked article.

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

Candidates can get the Emotional Intelligence Questions for UPSC Mains GS 4 in the linked article.

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

Candidates can get the Thinkers and Reformers Questions for UPSC Mains GS 4 in the linked article.

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

Candidates can get the Public Organisations Questions for UPSC Mains GS 4 in the linked article.

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

Candidates can get the Probity in Governance Questions for UPSC Mains GS 4 in the linked article.

After knowing the GS-IV syllabus for the civil services examination, candidates must also know the UPSC GS-IV Strategy which they may check in the linked article.

Mains GS IV Trend Analysis

Here, we are giving the GS 4 trend analysis for the year 2018, 2019 and 2020. UPSC candidates can read the detailed trend analysis of UPSC Mains GS Paper 4 from 2013 to 2016 in the linked article.

The following table gives the total marks asked in each broad category in GS 2 in 2018-2020:

Category 2018 2019 2020
Basics and thinkers 60 40 60
Family and society 10 40 60
Work and office 20 0 0
Public organisation 30 50 10
Private organisation 19 0 0
Case Studies 120 120 120

Now, we analyze each broad category by classifying them into subtopics:

Ethics Basics and Thinkers Analysis

The following graph indicates the worth of the total mark of questions asked from each subtopic in 2020:

Ethics & Thinkers Analysis 2020

The following graph indicates the worth of the total mark of questions asked from each subtopic in 2018 and 2019:

UPSC Ethics - GS IV Ethics Trend Analysis

Family & Society Analysis

The following graph indicates the worth of the total mark of questions asked from each subtopic in 2020:

Family & Society Trend Analysis 2020

The following graph indicates the worth of the total mark of questions asked from each subtopic in 2018 and 2019:

UPSC Ethics - GS IV Family Trend Analysis

Work & Office Trend Analysis

There were no specific questions from this section in CSE 2020. The following graph indicates the worth of the total mark of questions asked from each subtopic in 2018 and 2019:

UPSC Ethics - GS IV Work Analysis

Public Organisations Trend Analysis

Apart from case studies that included analysis of public servant in public offices, the CSE 2020 has only one question related to the Funding/International Relations topic. The remaining were case studies.

UPSC Ethics - GS IV Public Organisation Trend Analysis

IAS aspirants can check the UPSC Prelims Subject-Wise Weightage 2011-2019 in the linked article.

Must-Read Important Topics in GS-IV for UPSC

Candidates can read about the topic, ‘Attitude’ (Part-Wise) related to GS 4 – Ethics, from the links mentioned in the table below:


GS-4 – Attitude- Part 1

GS-4 – Attitude Part 2

GS-4 – Attitude Part 3

GS-4 – Attitude Part 4

GS-4 – Attitude Part 5

GS-4 – Attitude – Part 6

GS-4 – Attitude Part 7

GS-4 – Attitude Part 8

GS-4 – Attitude Part 9

GS-4 – Attitude Part 10

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

IAS Exam Pattern


Pattern of IAS Exam

Preliminary Examination
  • General Studies
  • Aptitude Test
Mains Examination
  • Qualifying
    • Paper-A (One of the 22 Indian Languages)
    • Paper-B (English)
  • Papers to be counted for merit
    • Paper-I (Essay)
    • Paper-II (GS-I)
    • Paper-III (GS-II)
    • Paper-IV (GS-III)
    • Paper-V (GS-IV)
    • Paper-VI (Optional Paper-I)
    • Paper-VI (Optional Paper-II)
Personality Test

Candidates can understand the complete UPSC Exam Pattern from the linked article.

Apart from the exam patter, one can find all other important recruitment details in the UPSC CSE Notification PDF given in the linked article.

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.

This paper relies heavily on case studies which are the most scoring parts of the paper. The candidates should be able to analyze 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.

UPSC Preparation:

IAS Salary IAS Eligibility
UPSC Books Static GK
Civil Service Exam UPSC Syllabus
IAS Questions & Answers for UPSC Gist of Yojana
Best Optional Subjects for UPSC 10 Must-Read Books for IAS Aspirants


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