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Preparation Strategy for GS 4 Ethics paper

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    28th Jul, 2021

The GS Paper IV of the UPSC IAS Mains exam which is also known as Strategy for Ethics paper. This paper often give jitters to many aspirants. The UPSC syllabus and type of questions asked in this question are quite subjective in nature and answers may vary for the same questions. The questions can be answered with different view points in numerous ways. The syllabus and pattern of GS Paper IV are different from all other papers that require a philosophical yet practical mindset to answer in the exam. The right approach and clarity of concepts and broader perspective can help you to fetch more marks in this paper. But to achieve this objective there should be a precise Strategy for Ethics and planning.


The General Studies Paper IV covers the following main areas:

  1. Ethics
  2. Integrity
  3. Aptitude

Before moving forward to discuss Strategy for Ethics it is important to discuss the syllabus in details. The syllabus will decide the contours of your preparation and helps you to form Strategy for Ethics accordingly. In the syllabus, UPSC mentions” The  paper 4 of GS will include questions 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. Questions may utilize the case study approach to determine these aspects” 

For detailed UPSC syllabus click on the link following:

Previous Years Papers:

The previous year papers will help you to understand the different dimensions and nature of questions and their difficulty level. These papers will also help you to gauge your performance and assess your preparation level.

Booklists and Resources:

The following books and resources could be followed for grasping the concepts:

Strategy for Ethics Paper:

  • 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. The paper is designed to evaluate the ‘ethical competence ‘, but not the ‘knowledge about ethics ‘.
  • Initially one should acquaint oneself with terms mentioned in the syllabus. One should be able to express terms in simplest words and minimal possible words.
  • To illustrate, Values mean preferences; ethics means guide about right or wrong; Transparency means the provision of access of government information to the public; Accountability means holding a person answerable to his/her acts; Attitude means a person’s own evaluation of another person, idea, situation etc.
  • Relate terms and values mentioned in the syllabus with one’s personal experiences. For example - if you are honest, try to recollect events from your life where you demonstrated honesty. If there is no real-life example, be ready with anecdotes from lives of social reformers, leaders, civil servants etc. and other venerable public figures to illustrate one’s point.
  • Mapping the UPSC syllabus with Previous Years Paper is as important as getting to know the syllabus. Identifying and correlating with the current affairs, finding ethical dimensions in them, making and practising case studies related to them.
  • GS-IV can be divided into 2 parts, Theoretical part, Case studies related to current affairs. For theoretical part, limit the sources of material and correlated it with the current trends.
  • Revision and practising play a major role here. For the second part, trying to make case studies from the current trends helps in predicting the paper. Whichever study material source is grabbed, one can't overlook the style of writing down the answers.
  • Ethics is about verbalization. The only way to improve is to write more and more. Practical answers influenced by personal insight is more appreciated than the theoretical knowledge gathered from books and web sources.
  • It helps when one applies the concepts, they have learned to their real-life activities, applying the teachings of philosophers to modern day issues, and developing an opinion which can be portrayed in the answers. Strategy for Ethics is rather an easy paper to prepare and if prepared right, is very rewarding in boosting the marks. Ethics can be a deciding paper for making it into the list.

Scoring high in Ethics is easy to say but difficult to execute. It demands a “basket strategy”, where different approach is required for different bits of UPSC syllabus. Overall, scoring in ethics paper is a game of keywords, awareness about self, and ability to project oneself as an individual who is pragmatic and productive while being committed to personal and professional ethics.


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