UPSC IAS Exam Strategy for Mains: GS Paper IV (Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude) By Yuvraj IAS

UPSC IAS Exam Strategy for Mains: GS Paper IV (Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude) By Yuvraj IAS

This article is all about how to attempt General Studies Paper IV Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude in the Civil Services Main Exam and score more marks.

Most of the candidates spend less time in their preparation for this paper and don’t give much importance, so for those here’s an advise it is the Ethics (GS Paper IV), the Essay Paper and Optional paper that can fetch you more marks apart from the other GS papers (I, II, and III).

Understanding the significance of GS Paper IV i.e. Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude, hence in this article IAS aspirant will come to know how to prepare for Ethics Paper and things to consider while preparing for this paper, like study material, books, practice test and etc.

Let’s begin with an example, Mr. A is the chairman of TRAI and his son who has graduated from IIM (Ahmedabad) got a well-paid job opportunity in Airtel solely based on his merits. In this case, should he take the job or should he wait for the government to permit him to take the job.

But in a common man’s point of view, it would seem like nepotism as he doesn’t know anything about his son and he will think since, he is the son of Mr. A and he would have been recommended by Mr. A to Airtel.

Ethics and Morals are different, hence the UPSC General Studies Paper IV is called Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude and not as Morals Integrity and Aptitude.

Morals at the end depends on you and morality is for oneself but ethics you action will be judged by others and in public administration if anything happens it is not Mr. A who will be judged but it is the reputation of TRAI that will be in question. TRAI body has been misused by Mr. A.

Living in a society where common man belief is that corruption is common in government institutions and in this kind of situation or scenarios it would be definitely considered as nepotism.

That is why when a case study is taken, UPSC will always mention in their questions as you as an Officer, it means that UPSC expects you to answer that question based on both morality and ethical. The action taken by you as mentioned in your answer should be morally correct to you and ethically to the others as well.

It also advised to candidates whenever they come across a question in the UPSC Mains Exam GS Paper IV which says Mr. A and Mr. B and in this case, their answer should be holistic i.e., they have to place themselves in the shoes of Mr. A and Mr. B as well as should view the situation in the third person point of view i.e. as a common man.

Now considering the above example where the son of Mr. A gets a job in Airtel based on his merits and now thinking here in the layman point of view it may seem like nepotism as they have a belief that the institution is corrupt. 

Also know more about IAS Exam and UPSC Syllabus


Ethics may be different for different people; and when it comes to ethics preparation as a candidate will not be studying ethics in NGO point of view or doctors’ point of view.

For e.g.: Let’s take a biotech company and an NGO that fights for the freedom or rights of the animals.

The biotech company comes up with a medicine and wants to test it on animals like rats or dogs before introducing to the human beings.

In this scenario according to the medical ethics says that before introducing it to human beings one should test it on the other organism and before manufacturing it in large scale it should be introduced to few people and if any improvement is seen among this few then based on its positive and negative effects it should be promoted in large scale.

On the other hand, the NGO says that not even a single living being should not be harmed even during a test and they question either it is tested on a rat or rabbit it should not be killed.

Here, this situation creates confusion about who is right and whose ethics is correct, and one should follow the medical ethics to protect a large number of people or should follow the NGO ethics which actually says to protect a life at any cost. In this case, if one takes the neutral stance then there will be no end in the argument between the two parties.

A candidate writes the UPSC Exam and the ethics paper is included in the exam because you will be a public administrator. So when it comes to a public administrator the ethics for her/him would be different from the ethics for a media person, NGO, civil society and common man. Because, as an administrator, you have the right to protest if something is wrong in the society and you can question the government as you form the administration and on the other hand it is the duty of the police and administrator to maintain law and order. So, as an administrator, you should ensure the law and order and as a common man, you would criticise an administrator for stopping such acts.

Hence, what UPSC looks for in a candidate is neutrality, objectivity, sensibility and one can follow the ethics.

The first example which is stated in the beginning is mentioned in the report on

●   Code of Conduct for Civil Services

●   Code of Conduct for Government Officers

Which, a candidate should go through thoroughly.

It is recommended to candidates to refer the above-mentioned code of conducts which most of the candidates tend to ignore but if you analyse the previous year question paper at least two questions are asked

For in detail on ethics Paper IV,

Now, let us look at UPSC Civil Services Main General Studies Paper IV Ethics Syllabus. 

UPSC GS IV (Ethics, Integrity, Aptitude) Paper Syllabus

This paper is to test the candidates’ attitude and approach to issues relating to integrity, probity in public life and his problem-solving approach to various issues and conflicts faced by him in dealing with society.

Candidates should always keep one thing in mind that ethics is not same as morals or what we read in moral science, but it is the ethics in the public administration, how does one treat, how does one solve the problems, your attitude towards women, refugee, migrants and etc. these are the qualities as public administrator a candidate should develop proactively and which UPSC tests in a candidate.

Hence, it is advised to candidates to have clarity about the ethics syllabus and not to get trapped in the wrong strategy for preparation and end up scoring fewer marks. Candidates should aim to score at least a minimum of 110 or 120 and try to score above this. 

Important areas in Ethics to focus

As mentioned above in the Ethics Syllabus, UPSC may ask questions on case study to determine the qualities in a candidate. When we talk about case study, it is not the case study as similar to the MBA case study as it covers more about, management, economy, issues and others. Whereas, here it is the administration one would be governing hence the UPSC case study is more related to rules and regulation and plays an important part. So, candidates should be very careful in differentiating these case studies.

Now let us take a look at the important areas to be concentrated on

Before that let us take UPSC Ethics question paper which is for 250 marks, where 125 marks questions will be on theory and the other 125 marks will be on case studies,

Hence keep it simple, here we are dividing the question paper into two parts as Part I and Part II where,

●   Part I – Theory

●   Part II – Case Studies

1. Ethics and Human Interface: Essence, determinants and consequences of Ethics in human actions; dimensions of ethics, ethics in private and public relationships

This section is all about the ethics how you inculcate it and how you deal with the 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.

Under ethics and human interface the questions maybe asked in the part I section based on the factors essence, determinants and consequences of ethics in human actions, dimensions of ethics, ethics in private and public relationships and these areas in focus will be covered under Part I.

2. Human Values: Lesson from the lives and teachings of great leaders, reformers and administrators; role of family, society and educational institutions in inculcating values

Under this area in focus will be lessons from the lives and teachings of great leaders, reformers and administrators under this a candidate should concentrate on points like how do people acquire values and majority of people acquire values when they read about the personality of importance like freedom fighters. 

Under this area, the UPSC may give some statement of any great personalities and would ask to discuss it by applying it to the present context.

For e.g. any of the Gandhi’s statement or saying would be given and asked to discuss with the context to the present environment. 

Here’s a glimpse how to answer these kinds of questions, the answer should be in 100 words.

●   Cover the first 25-30 words of your answer what the lines from the great personality means or stands for not literally but philosophically

●   Next, in 70-80 try to write about an incident relating to the saying which would have occurred in the society recently

For an e.g. if the question is about Gandhi’s saying on industrialization then a candidate approach should be towards the recent Make in India and should discuss more on cottage industries correlating the saying to the present context.

What a candidate should always keep in mind while attempting to such answers are it is easy to answer these question in thinkers point of view, which UPSC does not want and what it looks for is how much the candidate has analyzed, utilized and applied it to the current context.

How a candidate can prepare to answer this section

To answer the questions in this part, candidates have to take different sayings of various great personalities and should make sure that the saying is not a common statement but which they could relate it to the present context and apply it. 

For an e.g. if it is about corruption, then should try to use it to the present situation and examples of scandals or scams which they would have read in the newspaper or witnessed in their life. 

It is recommended to aspirants to consider few books about 5-6 of great thinkers whom you admire, like or follow. Candidates can choose 3 books of Western Personalities like Socrates, Aristotle, and Plato and 2 books of Indian Origin like Gandhi, Ambedkar or anyone whom you like and get inspired. Here candidates, instead of memorizing their date of birth, the birthplace which is not of importance for this section one should give importance on what they preached in ethics.

The next thing to focus in this area is role of family, society and educational institutions in inculcating values.

From where do we acquire values?

We acquire values in from our family, society, and education institution

Role of family: honesty, love, truthfulness and etc. should be imbibed in their kid,

3. Attitude: Content, Structure, function; its influence and relation with thought and behavior; moral and political attitudes; social influence and persuasion

In this area, the question may be asked either in Part 1 or Part 2 i.e. either in theory or case study.

Let’s take an example: Narendra Modi government want to bring Swachch Bharat Abhiyan successfully. And, you are a district administrator in a particular district and in that district half of the villagers don’t use toilets and half of the villagers use toilets. What measures would you take to change the attitude of the people who are not using toilets?

Attitude is a most important concept used by the media a lot so how would you change the attitude. There are three types called as ABC model and they are:

● Affection

● Cognitive

● Behavioural based

As a district collector, you would go through each model and make a case study on each model.

It is recommended to candidates that if have come up with their own solution try to mention it in the exam which would be an added advantage for them.

In one of the previous year question paper, UPSC has asked the migration of village population to urban areas and why is this happening. And, this question was completely based on attitude.

And, any candidate who would have approached and attempted the answer mentioning attitude would have definitely scored high.

In this area, 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 while the moral and political attitudes; social influence and persuasion would be for Part 1 of the Ethics Question Paper i.e. theory.

4. Aptitude: Foundational values for civil service, integrity, impartiality and nonpartisanship, objectivity, dedication to public service, empathy, tolerance and compassion towards the weaker-sections.

Let’s see what exactly this area of ethics paper means:

Candidates should use some ethical words in their answers and some of the words are:

Integrity: Theory related question maybe asked on this in Part 1 of the question paper like what is integrity? Or Definition of integrity.

Here, the UPSC may give five related words and ask to write for 50 words each carrying 5 marks.

There may be case study based on this.

These are the 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

The first words mentioned are the universal administrative values, while the rest four as an administrator one should acquire especially in the developing country where there is inequality a lot.

Hence, if you have observed, UPSC comes up with questions bringing in characters in the questions like 90 years old or a person who would have walked for 100km to reach your place.

Candidates can refer 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.

5. Emotional Intelligence

Questions may be asked in both Part 1 and Part 2, for an e.g. questions like have undergone any emotional intelligence and how did you overcome it.

Its definition, concepts and how would you apply them in administration.

Here’s a scenario as an example, a thousand of protestors are protesting in front of a district administration office and as an administrator and you know the protest is for the wrong reason. How would you handle the situation?

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


6. Contributions of moral thinkers and philosophers from India and the world

This area again can be covered under the Human Values.

7. Public or Civil Service Values and Ethics in Public Administration

Candidates can refer ‘Ethics in Governance’

The laws, rules, regulation and conscience as sources of ethical guidance; accountability and ethical governance; strengthening of ethical and moral values in governance candidates can refer IGNOU

8. Ethical issues in international relations and funding corporate governance

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

International relations funding candidates can take the example of Nepal Earthquake video how funding aided or any current similar such scenarios

Corporate governance: corporate social responsibility; ethics and governance are not only required in administration but also applicable in the corporate offices, as an administrator in corporate offices or private offices, in any situation how would you deal them. E.g.: in sexual harassment cases.

9. Probity in Governance: Concept of public service; philosophical basis of governance and probity; information

10. Sharing and transparency in government, Right to information, codes of ethics, codes of conduct

To cover Areas 9 and 10, candidates can refer CCS, 1964 – The Central Civil Services (Conduct) Rules, 1964, which is of 300-400 pages.

It is also observed that every year two questions are asked on the case study from this section as discussed in the beginning.

11. 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
  • To frame a Citizen’s Charter, hence candidate should be aware of how to frame a Citizen’s Charter and the rules and regulation that should be followed before framing a citizen charter.
  • Questions in Case Study may also be expected.
  • Work Culture: Work environment
  • Quality of Service Delivery: PDS and delivering it to public
  • Utilization for public funds and challenges of corruption

Source: Ethics in Governance

The questions on this area would be mostly on case study.

Takeaway from this article on Ethics Syllabus

●  Many concepts are not yet explored by the UPSC; hence candidates should not ignore the untouched areas

●  Importance of conceptual clarity

●  Must know Code of Conducts

●  Citizen’s Charter, RTI

●  Probity in Governance Reports

●  Sources to refer: Ethics in Governance; IGNOU; Arora

●  Public Administration related case studies and its application

●  Practice previous year Ethics and GS Mains paper IV

●  For case studies

●  Prelims CSAT Paper and solve decision-making question


Last Minute Revision tips

These last minute revision tips can be followed before one week of the UPSC Mains Examination:

●  Candidate should the words listed above like

●  Work on Quotes and apply them

●  Read 6-7 philosophers and their preaching


Some quick tricks on answer writing in the UPSC Mains exam ethics paper and score high

The GS Paper IV is for 250 marks

● First, work on case studies and utilize around an hour and thirty minutes on it

● As by answering a case study chances are there that you may score 15-16 marks out of 20-25 rather scoring 7 marks out of 10 for theoretical questions

● Later attempt the theoretical questions for 125 marks


How to attempt the Case Study Questions of the Ethics GS Paper IV in the UPSC Main Exam

●  Write an outline of the scenario first

●  Write down the four options available to him

●  Next Step start the merits and demerits of all the options

●  Finally, analyse the merits and demerits and come up with a solution

These are should few ways to attempt the case study part of the Ethics paper that will allow you to answer elaborately within the short frame of time and fetch you more marks at the same time.

Hope, this article would be useful for the IAS aspirants and we also request the aspirants and readers to share their tips and strategies and leave any suggestions in the below comment box.

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