Best Strategy to Prepare Ethics, Integrity & Aptitude for UPSC IAS GS Paper 5

By Sudheer Kumar K|Updated : April 8th, 2021

Ethics is new to everyone as is it is not taught formally in our schools or anywhere in our education system. But we learn and cultivate it in an informal way as a member of society through experience and interactions with parents, teachers and peers etc.  

In this article, you will get to know about the preparation strategy for UPSC IAS GS Paper-IV i.e. Ethics, Integrity, and Aptitude.

Table of Content

Preparation Strategy for UPSC IAS Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude

The relevance of Ethics for Civil Services

The Bureaucrat is also called a change agent, who is expected to bring out a positive change in the society and behavior of citizens. They play a larger role in the government- centre and states- in advising, formulating, and executing laws and policies that affect the lives of all the citizens.

However, rules and regulations cannot govern their behaviour in every situation. Similarly, laws and policies meant for social and economic development cannot envisage and predict every situation on the ground. 

There are limitations in laws and policies as well. For instance, officers at times face with new challenges and situations, for which no answer or remedy can be found in extant laws and policies. In those circumstances, the civil servants are expected to apply his ethics, integrity and aptitude to effectively establish justice or implement the laws in the larger public interest. 

Sadly, there has been a significant decline in values and morals among civil servants today. In 2013, UPSC included the subject Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude in Civil Services Main Exam, so as to ensure strong ethical leadership and good governance in the country. 

Why Study Ethics?

Study of ethics is essential because officers generally face a lot of ethical challenges in their day to day administration. Some of the common ethical challenges are enlisted below:

  • Avenues for abuse of power and authority.
  • Conflicts of interest and impartiality: For example, awarding a government contract to a business owned by the relatives of the officer directly or indirectly.
  • Gifts and payments: A bureaucrat accepting or asking his or her Minister or a Contractor for a holiday gift or payments.
  • Use of government position and resources: For example, an IFoS officer of Odisha cadre has amassed wealth illegally and spent the money luxuriously for travel and holiday trips.
  • Outside employment and activities: An officer working part-time for monetary gains or other etc.

Hence it is very essential to learn about ethical challenges and also know about values to provide ethical governance. Since the subject is newly incorporated into the UPCS Mains syllabus, candidates have many doubts about how to prepare and answer the ethics questions. Before discussing the preparation strategy, let us first understand the structure of Ethics Paper. 

Structure of UPPCS GS Paper-IV (Ethics)

There are 20 questions in the UPSC IAS GS Paper-IV [Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude] Time: 3 hrs; Maximum Marks: 200.

UPSC IAS 2019 Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude Paper brought some sort of standardisation in the structure of the paper as mentioned below:

Section A:

  • Contains 6 questions
  • Five questions contain two 10 mark questions
  • One question contains three 10 mark questions
  • Questions based on Theory

Section B:

  • Contains 6 questions
  • Each question carries 20 marks
  • Questions based on Case studies  

Now move on to the preparation strategy as to how to cover UPCS 2021 Ethics syllabus comprehensively.

How to prepare for UPCS GS Paper-IV (Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude)

  1. Carefully read the syllabus and enlist subtopics for each topic mentioned in the syllabus.
  2. Section-A of the paper contains 6 short questions. Hence it is important to prepare notes for each subtopic and keyword in the syllabus: like the definition of the keyword with suitable examples. For example, take the word “Objectivity”. You must prepare notes for the issue objectivity in about 100-150 words covering the following aspects:
    • Definition of Objectivity
    • Examples of Objectivity in Personal or everyday life experience
    • Examples of Objectivity in Public life
    • Importance of Objectivity in Civil Services
    • Ways to develop Objectivity
  3. Prepare short notes from Second ARC (SARC) report on Ethics, which contain expert recommdation for all the problems plaguing civil services in India. SARC is as sacred and important as the Indian Constitution for IAS aspirants. Quoting SARC recommendations in the Main answers would fetch maximum marks.
  4. Learn and practice the answer structure for both the theory part and case studies.
  5. Solving previous papers- Previous UPSC Ethics papers would provide the best idea about how questions would be asked. For Ethics Paper, practising previous questions are more than enough. No test series from outside is required.
  6. Evaluation of answers is the key to scoring high. Get your answers vetted by experts and rectify all the mistakes.
  7. Reference books for UPPCS GS Paper-IV (Ethics):
    • Refer NCERT Psychology books, Class XI & XII, for Attitude and Emotional intelligence topics
    • Ethics, Integrity & Aptitude by G. Subbarao (or)
    • Ethics, Integrity, and aptitude by M. Karthikeyan (McGraw-Hill education)
    • Second ARC 4th report on Ethics in Governance and 12th report on Citizen Centric Administration.
    • Lexicon Book by Chronicle Publications
    • Make a list of Proverbs, quotes of famous personalities or thinkers like Buddha, Kautilya etc.
    • Read Famous personalities’ Biographies- eg. “The Story of My experiments with Truth” by M.K. Gandhi. 

Answer Writing Strategy for Theory type Questions

Writing answers is a skill. It can be learned, acquired and mastered through rigorous practice. UPSC clearly mentioned that credit will be given to answers with succinct, coherent and exact expression. Hence to write the best answer for Ethics questions, the candidate must make note of the following answer structure:

  • Introduction: Define keywords in the question stem/ Highlight the ethical issue involved in the question stem.
  • Body: There is confusion among students as to how to structure and write the answer. Should they write the answer in paragraphs or pointwise? What matters most is not the format, but the logical flow (coherence) between lines. The body of the answer shall include:
    • Theory/Thinker: For the given question, you must identify a suitable thinker or theory. Include in your answer the ethical theory related to the question/ethical challenge. You may also include diagrams or figures so as to convey the lengthy matter in a simple visible expression.
    • Example: Remember! No ethics answer can be the best or complete without supporting your point with suitable examples. Hence, It is always advisable to quote relevant examples even when the question has not asked you to write examples. If the question explicitly mentions giving examples, you should support your point or argument with relevant examples.
    • Solution: The civil services aspirants are expected to provide solutions to the problem in the question and resolve the ethical issue/dilemma or provide the best alternative ethical course of action.
    • Conclusion: You should sum up in just a few lines but not more than 30 words

Answer Writing Strategy for Case studies Questions 

Section-B of the paper contains Case studies related questions.

Ethics case studies are different from theory type questions. Case studies may require the candidate to imagine himself as an officer to solve the given case.  For example, “What would you do, if you are a DM or an SDM of a district…”   

Structure of the Answer for Case study Type questions 

Step1: Read the given case study carefully and find out the ethical issues involved in it.

Step2: Enlist the ethical issues that you have found out, for example, lack of empathy, conflict of interest or lack of accountability etc.

Step3: Identify and list out all the possible alternative choices- because a problem can be resolved in many ways. The critical aspect here is that you will have to weigh the positive and negative side of each choice in some case studies to arrive at the best choice.

Step4: Choose the best solution or choice or course of action. The best choice should be one that promotes maximum happiness of the maximum number of people or upholds virtue ethics or uphold constitutional values or sprit or principles of natural justice. 

Example Case study

Let us see one 2019 UPSC Ethics case study question;

You are heading the rescue operations in an area affected by severe natural calamity. Thousands of people are rendered homeless and deprived of food, drinking water and other basic amenities. Rescue work has been disrupted by heavy rainfall and damage to supply routes. The local people are seething with anger against the delayed limited rescue operations. When your team reaches the affected area, the people there heckle and even assault some of the team members. One of the pa-Ur team members is even severely injured. Faced with this crisis, some team members plead with you to call off the operations fearing threats to their life.

In such trying circumstances, what will be your response? Examine the qualities of a public servant which will be required to manage the situation. 

The structure to answer a case study shall include:

Step1: Read carefully and find out the ethical issues in the Case study.

In the above case, the morale of the rescue team has taken a beating with public assault.

Hence, being the leader of the rescue team, you should boost their morale. 

Step2: Enlist the ethical issues that you have found out in this case- for example, lack of empathy, conflict of interest or lack of accountability etc. 

Ethical issues involved in the above case:

  • Stopping the rescue operation (or) Continue rescue and save thousands of people
  • Low morale (or) Public Service
  • Fearful (or) fortitude
  • Emotional Intelligence (or) Anger against victims
  • Patience (or) Reaction and retribution 

Step3: In this case, a possible course of action to improve the situation is: 

Being sensitive and showing high persuasive skills would ward off peoples’ anger and lead the team with high morale for successful operation. 

Step4: Choose the best solution or choice or course of action. The best choice should be one that promotes maximum happiness of a maximum number of people or upholds virtue ethics.

To resolve the issue:

In this high tension area, any delay in rescue costs valuable lives. It is natural for the public to panic in those circumstances.

Here, you, as a leader, must do the following:

Lead by example: A leader is one who leads by example. In such low morale situation, the leader should take lead and continue rescue operation with courage or fortitude.

Persuade victims: Effective persuasion is required to pacify the victims

Public Service: Motivate the rescue team about the higher cause of service to victims

Emotional Intelligence: Show empathy and concern towards victims. 

Apart from the reference books mentioned above, the candidate has to keenly follow newspapers (Panchayati Raj Institutions, Municipal Corporations, State National and International Issues), which provide you with a lot of ethical issues or case studies every day. For example, the recent issue between “Mumbai Police Commissioner vs. the Republic TV channel.“

Lifetime UPSC Online Classroom Program

UPSC CSE 2020: Free Mock Interview Program

Additional Links

Get Unlimited access to Structured Live Courses and Mock Tests- Online Classroom Program

Get Unlimited access to 60+ Mock Tests-BYJU'S Exam Prep Test Series


write a comment

ArtiDec 22, 2020

Please sand it hindi also
Kajal Roy

Kajal RoyDec 22, 2020

Nice 👍👍 Post
Suman Sumit Soren
Case study explained coherently

Follow us for latest updates