How to Prepare Ethics for UPSC - GS Paper 4 - Civil Services Mains Examination

There have been many changes in the examination pattern of the UPSC examination in the past years. One major change was the introduction of the new General Studies Paper (in UPSC Mains 2013) – Ethics, Aptitude and integrity. This paper carries 250 Marks and therefore holds very much importance.

As the name suggests, the topic is a little abstract and due to this,  aspirants struggle to understand which study material to follow in order to do well in this paper.

We at Neostencil have tried our level best to make things easier for you and for this we have deciphered the syllabus for upsc ethics, trying to break it up topic wise, then analysing the trend for past 4 years and finally recommending books for the said topic/sub-topic.

In this context, it is useful to base your search for material and overall efforts on the following guidelines set by UPSC:

The questions are likely to test the candidate’s basic understanding of all relevant issues, and ability to analyse, and take a view on conflicting socio-economic goals, objectives and demands. The candidates must give relevant, meaningful and succinct answers.”

Ethics for UPSC - GS Paper 4: Detailed Preparation Strategy

The paper on ethics for upsc seeks to check the candidate’s basic understanding of topics like Code of Ethics, Code of Conduct, Work Culture and the ability to analyse and form views on various conflicting socio-economic issues.

Ethics and Human Interface

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

The topic includes sub-topics of

  • Its essence, determinants, consequences with respect to Human actions.
  • Essence like Definition, purpose, significance and evolution of ethics as a subject.
  • Determinants like Macro Determinants, Micro Determinants, Morality, Will, Human Rights etc.
  • Consequences as in result as to the application of ethics and morality.
  • Dimensions of Ethics.
  • Dimensions such as Public life, Private life, Bio-ethics, Environment Ethics, Politico ethics etc.
  • Ethics in private and public relationships.
  • Public vs Private life and values and maintaining balance between both.

Sample this question -

What is meant by ‘environmental ethics’? Why is it important to study? Discuss any one environmental issue from the viewpoint of environmental ethics. (2016).

Sources

  • Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude by G Subba Rao and PN Roy Chowdhury.
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Human Values

  • Human Values – lessons from the lives and teachings of great leaders, reformers and administrators; role of family, society and educational institutions in inculcating values.

The topic of Human values include

  • Lessons from the lives of great leaders, thinkers, administrators like Buddha, Vivekananda, Kautilya, Ashoka, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, etc.
  • Role of own family, society and school/college in inculcating the basic human values.

Questions are repeatedly asked from these topics and therefore it definitely requires your time.

  •  Discuss Mahatma Gandhi’s concept of seven sins. (2016).

 Sources

  • Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude by G Subba Rao and PN Roy Chowdhury.

Attitude

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

The topic deals with primarily with –

  • Attitude – Content (Political, Moral, Social etc.), Structure (Affective, Cognitive etc.) and functions .
  • Influence that Attitude has on other factors and it’s relation with thought and behaviour.
  • Moral and political attitudes ; how they are shaped and what influence do they have.
  • Role of Social influence and persuasion in shaping individuals attitude.

Sample this question from 2017,  “Young people with ethical conduct are not willing to come forward to join active politics. Suggest steps to motivate them to come forward.”

Sources

  • Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude by G Subba Rao and PN Roy Chowdhury.
  • NCERT, Psychology (12th) – Selected chapters
  • Internet.

Aptitude and Foundational Values for Civil Services

  • 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.

This topic concerns Civil services and the foundational values attached to it and required an understanding of topics such as Integrity, Impartiality, non-partisanship, objectivity, dedication to public service, empathy, tolerance and compassion towards the weaker sections.

Other values have to be looked such as Perseverance, Diligence, Commitment and Neutrality. It also covers the area of competency framework for administration like ethos, equality and efficiency.

One must read the topics along with examples from real-life bureaucrats regularly featured in newspapers. One will get a good idea of the topic if we look at the questions asked in past years.

  • “Examine the relevance of the following in the context of civil service: (a) Transparency (b) Accountability (c) Fairness and justice (d) Courage of conviction (e) Spirit of service.” (2017)
  • “One of the tests of integrity is complete refusal to be compromised. Explain with reference to a real-life example.” (2017)

Sources

  • Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude by G Subba Rao and PN Roy Chowdhury.
  • Internet.
  • The Hindu.

Emotional Intelligence

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

The topic concerns the topic of Emotional Intelligence which includes:

  • Definition and Significance.
  • Traits of Emotional Intelligent People (Empathy, Self-awareness, Social skills etc.)
  • Role of Emotional Intelligence in Administration, Business enterprises, Political system etc.

Questions asked are not very difficult and can be answered effectively if one is well acquainted with the topics mentioned

How will you apply emotional intelligence in administrative practices?” (2017)

Sources

  • Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude by G Subba Rao and PN Roy Chowdhury.
  • Internet.
  • The Hindu.

Moral Thinkers and Philosophers

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

This topic focusses on the contribution and significance of ideas of Moral Thinkers and Philosophers from India and the world in today’s socio-economic life, international affairs, administration management, public as well as private life.

The focus must be on:

  • Indian Philosophers and Moral Thinkers – Mahatma Gandhi, Kautilya, Buddha, Mahavira, Ashoka, Swami Vivekananda, Raja Ram Mohan Roy, etc.
  • World Philosophers and Moral Thinkers – Aristotle, Plato, John Rawls, Abraham Lincoln, Napoleon Bonaparte, Max Weber, Nelson Mandela, etc.

Don’t go into details when reading about their thoughts and theories, just a plain reading with examples would do. Sample this question from 2017:

“Great ambition is the passion of a great character. Those endowed with it may perform very good or very bad acts. All depends on the principles which direct them.” – Napoleon Bonaparte. Stating examples mention the rulers (i) who have harmed society and country, (ii) who worked for the development of society and country.” (2017)

Sources

  • Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude by G Subba Rao and PN Roy Chowdhury.
  • Internet.
  • The Hindu.

Civil Services Values

  • 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.

This part is quite exhaustive and covers various dimensions on Ethics in Public Administration/Civil services values. It covers the following sub-topics:

  • Civil Service values/ethics in Public Administration
  • Status and Problems (Definition, Efficacy, Legality and issues such as Human Rights, Terrorism, Encounters etc.)
  • Ethical Concerns and Dilemmas in Government and Private Institutions (Transparency, Justice, Equality, Rule of Law, Fairness etc.)
  • Laws, Rules, Regulations (Natural Law, Law vs Ethics, Source and Moral authority of laws) and Conscience as a source of ethical guidance.
  • Accountability and Ethical Governance
  • Instruments of Accountability (Parliament, Media, RTI, Elections etc.)
  • Code of ethics and conduct.
  • Challenges and issues arising out of it.
  • Strengthening of ethical and moral values – Citizen Charter, RTI, Participatory Governance etc.
  • Ethical issues in International relations and Funding – issues like Competition among nations, existing inequality in the world, Environmental degradation, Terrorism and

Indirect influence on nations internal matters.

  • Corporate Governance – Definition, Legal angle (Companies Act), Social angle, Corporate Social Responsibility, lacunae and loopholes vis a vis ethics.

Questions have been regularly asked from these topics, both theoretical and case study. Sample question

  •  “At the international level, the bilateral relations between most nations are governed on the policy of promoting one’s own national interest without any regard for the interest of other nations. This leads to conflicts and tensions between the nations. How can ethical consideration help resolve such tensions? Discuss with specific examples.” (2015)
  •  “You are the head of the Human Resources department of an organisation. One day one of the workers died on duty. His family was demanding compensation. However, the company denied compensation because it was revealed in investigation that he was drunk at the time of the accident. The workers of the company went to strike demanding compensation for the family of the deceased. The Chairman of the management board has asked for your recommendation. What recommendation would you provide the management? Discuss the merits and demerits of each of the recommendations.” (2017)

Sources

  • Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude by G Subba Rao and PN Roy Chowdhury.
  • Internet. (Ministry of Corporate Affairs website and SEBI website)
  • The Hindu.
  • 2nd Administrative Reforms Commission Report, Ethics in Governance and Code of Conduct, at 

Probity in 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.

This topic is very wide with different sub-topics integrated into it. Topics such as:

  • Probity in Governance – Definition, requirements and principles.
  • Concept of public service – Definition and need.
  • The philosophical basis of governance and probity – Concept of the welfare state (Indian and Western views)
  • Information Sharing and Transparency in Government – Right to Information and E-Governance.
  • Code of Ethics and Code of Conduct– Need and Issues vis a vis Civil services.
  • Citizen Charter – Need and Issues.
  • Work culture and related quality of service delivery.
  • Issue of Corruption (Definition, Causes, Institutions, Reforms and legal protections).

Sample this question from 2017:

“If a country is to be corruption free and become a nation of beautiful minds, I strongly feel there are three key societal members who can make a difference. they are father, the mother and the teacher.” – A. P. J. Abdul Kalam. Analyse.”

Sources

Ethics Case Studies 

This topic is the final culmination point of all the other topics mentioned above. One is required to answer question-based on a given case study, the issue here is that there is no right or wrong answer when answering questions on case-study, but it is all about being reasonable and ethically-morally right based on one's thought process and experiences.

Sub-topics/Issues important are:

  • Gender Issues
  • Mal-governance
  • Environmental Issues
  • Current Affairs Issues
  • Corruption
  • Human Development factors.
  • Ethical Dilemmas.

Sample this question from 2017 concerning ethical dilemma (Personal Interest vs Sympathy) -

“You are aspiring to become an IAS officer and you have cleared various stages and now you have been selected for the personal interview. On the day of the interview, on the way to the venue, you saw an accident where a mother and child who happen to be your relatives were badly injured. They needed immediate help. What would you have done in such a situation? Justify your action.” (2017)

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Important Tips to Prepare Ethics for UPSC - GS Paper 4

Grasp the basic

One must be familiar with the common terminology used in the Ethics Syllabus and try to use those keywords while writing your answer. It will not suffice to only memorize answers. You must be very good at the basics.

It is very important to learn how to skim through contents. This will save you valuable time and effort and you can go through more content in a limited amount of time.

The candidate should understand that if he or she tries to read from too many sources, it won’t serve a purpose. Rather, one should stick to a single source and focus on how famous authors have analysed a particular topic and formulated their theories.

Imbibe the qualities

Ethics and integrity is a vital part of your life, when you struggle or when you achieve, and it can’t be faked. It helps guide you while you make important decisions. Naturally, the examination board would like to check your knowledge of ethics and, most importantly, your opinion on the social events from an ethical point of view.

Practise Answer-writing - Ethics for UPSC

During preparation, simply memorizing ethical jargon will not be of much help. Try to focus on those topics which relate to ethics and integrity in the administrative life. Read the syllabus carefully and make note of all the sources that you would like to check – books, newspapers, relevant videos which talk about justice and morality.

After doing this part, it is recommended to practise answer writing, theories, case studies with help of past year papers.

General Preparation Strategy - Ethics for UPSC Mains

The questions are likely to test the candidate's basic understanding of all relevant issues, and ability to analyze, and take a view on conflicting socio-economic goals, objectives and demands. The candidates must give relevant, meaningful and succinct answers.

What the examiner seeks?

From the examiner's point of view, the ethics integrity aptitude of ethics paper in UPSC seeks to gauge the candidate's basic understanding of topics like Code of Ethics, Code of Conduct, Work Culture, Quality of service delivery and ability to analyze and form views on various conflicting socio-economic issues.

For the questions framed in this area, the candidates must answer in a such a way that reflects his or her complete knowledge on the topic and the formation of the answer should be to the point and relevant to what has been asked.

The candidate should understand that if he or she tries to read too many study material based on these areas, it will be a waste of time. Rather, one should focus on how famous authors have analyzed a topic, formed their observation on it and presented it in their own words.

Grasp the basic

At the very outset, you must be familiar with the common terminology used in the ethics for upsc paper and try to use those while forming your answer.

The paper broadly covers Ethics and Human Interface, Attitude content, structure and function, Aptitude and foundational values for Civil service, Emotional intelligence concepts and their utilities and application in administration and governance, Public/Civil service values, Ethics in public administration and Probity in governance.

However, ethics is a way of life. It will not suffice to only memorize answers. You must be very good at the basics. Mastery of ethics will come from reading relevant material which talks in length about the importance of ethics and integrity in daily life.

As time is minimum and the candidates are still unsure about proper sources of study, make sure that you also learn how to skim through contents. This will save you valuable time and effort and you can go through more content in a limited amount of time.

Imbibe the qualities

If you are finally selected in the exam, integrity and ethics will be a part of your everyday life guiding you while you take important decisions. Naturally, the examination board would like to check your knowledge of ethics and, most importantly, your opinion on the social events from an ethical point of view.

You cannot simply mug up answers and sit for the exam hoping to come out with flying colours in ethics for UPSC. You need to first understand the concept and why it is necessary in the life of an IAS officer. You must read about the opinion of renowned authors who have written in detail about this topic.

As you go on reading, try to relate their views with the events in and around you and form your own view on those topics. Your views should be based on your newfound knowledge of ethics. The more you try to imbibe the thoughts and lead a way of life based on moral practices, the more your success rates will be.

Prepare a Strategy - Ethics for UPSC

From the exam point of view, it is important that you make a complete strategy of how to prepare for the ethics paper in UPSC. It might seem an easy paper to you given the simplicity of the terms but in reality, it is as tough as the other papers.

However, devote only that amount of time which will be required by you to grasp the basic idea of what the paper is about and not mug up whole answers. If you do not know how to approach the answers asked in the exam and the intent behind such questions, you are likely to fail.

During preparation, simply memorizing ethical jargon will not be of much help. Try to focus on those topics which relate to ethics and integrity in the administrative life. Read the syllabus carefully and make note of all the sources that you would like to check, books, newspapers, relevant videos which talk about justice and morality.

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