Ethics Syllabus UPSC – GS 4 Syllabus for UPSC

By BYJU'S Exam Prep

Updated on: November 14th, 2023

Ethics Syllabus UPSC which is also known as GS 4 Syllabus in Mains consists of Ethics, Aptitude, Human Interface, Attitude, Foundational values of civil services, and code of conduct of governance. UPSC Ethics Syllabus is one of the 9 papers in the Mains Exam of the Civil Services Examination. The GS 4 Syllabus is designed to test the candidate’s approach and attitude to issues relating to integrity and problem-solving to various conflicts and issues he/she faces.

Ethics Syllabus UPSC was introduced in 2013 to educate future administrators about the ethical aspect of society and leadership. Aspirants need to analyze the topics covered in the UPSC Ethics Syllabus and come up with a robust strategy to ace this paper.

What is Ethics Syllabus UPSC?

The GS 4 Syllabus is largely independent of the syllabus of other General Studies papers. However, it may slightly overlap the Governance and Social Justice topics from the General Studies II Syllabus of the CSE Mains paper. The UPSC Ethics Syllabus includes- Ethics, Integrity, and Aptitude.

UPSC Ethics Syllabus PDF

The Ethics syllabus for UPSC aims to test the candidates’ understanding of ethical and moral concepts and their application in various contexts. Ethics paper is considered to be a critical component of the selection process, as it helps to assess the candidate’s overall personality and suitability for a career in civil services.

Ethics Syllabus UPSC

Below, we have mentioned the UPSC Ethics Syllabus in detail. It is recommended that aspirants understand all the topics covered in the GS Paper 4 Syllabus before starting their preparation.

Ethics Syllabus UPSC
Ethics and Human Interface The essence of Ethics, Determinants, and Consequences of Ethics in Human Interaction, Human Values – lessons from the lives and teachings of great leaders, reformers, and administrators, Dimensions of Ethics, Role of family, society, and educational institutions in inculcating moral and ethical values, Ethics in private and public relationships
Attitude Content, structure, and function of attitude, Moral and Political attitudes, Social influence and persuasion, Influence of attitude on thought and behavior, Relation of attitude to thought and behavior
Aptitude Aptitude and foundational values of Civil Service, Dedication to public service, Empathy, tolerance, and compassion toward the weaker sections of the society, Integrity, Impartiality and non-partisanship, Objectivity
Emotional Intelligence Concepts of emotional intelligence, Utility, and application of emotional intelligence in administration and governance
Contributions of Thinkers and Philosophers Contributions of moral thinkers and philosophers from India and the world to the concepts of morality
Public/Civil Service Values and Ethics in Public Administration Status and associated problems, Ethical concerns and dilemmas in government and private institutions, Strengthening of ethical and moral values in governance, Ethical Issues in international relations and funding, Laws, rules, regulations, and conscience as sources of ethical guidance, Accountability, and ethical governance
Probity in Governance Concept of public service, The philosophical basis of governance and probity, Information sharing and transparency in government, the Right to Information, Codes of ethics, Codes of Conduct, Citizen’s Charters, Work culture, Challenges of corruption, Utilization of public funds, Quality of service delivery.

Important Topics from UPSC Ethics Syllabus

Here, we have mentioned the important topics from Ethics Syllabus UPSC that candidates must give extra focus on during the preparation. However, candidates are recommended cover all the topics as question trends can vary.

  • The fundamental notions of ethics-definitions and terminologies
  • Morality, political attitudes, social impact, and their connection to ethics.
  • Different aspects of ethics
  • Form and Function of ethical conceptions
  • Ethics Determinants and Consequences on human conduct
  • concepts of attitude, integrity, and impartiality
  • Ethics in public administration
  • concept of emotional intelligence, its application, governance, and management.
  • Workplace culture and corruption challenges.
  • Probity in governance, philosophical foundations of governance, and the Concept of probity.

Ethics Syllabus UPSC Trend Analysis

Below, we have mentioned the number of questions asked from the UPSC Ethics syllabus in the previous year’s exams. It would help candidates to figure out the importance of each section, and they can take a strategic approach to prepare accordingly.

Questions Asked from UPSC Ethics Syllabus
Category 2020 2019 2018
Basics and thinkers 60 40 50
Work and office 0 0 20
Family and society 60 40 10
Public organization 10 50 30
Private organization 0 0 19
Case Studies 120 120 120

Structure of UPSC Ethics Syllabus

This is one of the most unpredictable paper, and the questions asked from the UPSC Ethics Syllabus varies from year to year. The following are the important features of this paper:

  • Ethics Syllabus for UPSC consists of 12 questions and is divided into two sections. Before 2018 a total of 14 questions were asked in the Ethics paper. With time the number of questions has been reduced, and the complexity has increased.
  • The GS 4 has 250 marks, and the questions carry 10/20 marks each.
  • The word limit for the 10 marks question is 150 words, and the 20 marks question is within 250 words.

There are two types of questions asked from the Ethics syllabus for UPSC:

  1. Direct Concept related, which tests the understanding of ethical issues, and concepts related to aptitude and integrity (125 marks)
  2. Case Studies test the application of those concepts in various situations involving the candidate and pressure groups, politicians, the public, and other people (125 marks)

How to Prepare Ethics Syllabus for UPSC?

Ethics is one of the scoring papers in the Mains if one is well-prepared. To prepare for ethics, candidates would need a robust study plan, followed by a strict UPSC timetable. That’s why we have mentioned some effective strategies that would help to cover the UPSC Ethics Syllabus efficiently.

  • Try to define and write about 100-150 words for each micro topic- compassion, integrity, probity, honesty, etc. You can use this in answer writing for different topics of the GS4 syllabus.
  • You need to conceptualize the topics covered in the UPSC Ethics Syllabus. Make UPSC ethics notes on topics that are part of integrity and ethics.
  • See Code of Conduct, RTI, citizen’s charter, and Probity in governance reports.
  • Remember thinkers’ quotes and apply them to the required situation.
  • Solve the CSAT question based on decision-making. You can refer to some CSAT Books for the same.
  • Case studies on the topics mentioned above are required. You need to keep yourself in the shoes of an administrator and think about what you have done in a certain situation.
  • Go through the Ethics Previous Year Question Papers.
  • Choose the highly recommended UPSC Books for preparation.

Best Books for Ethics Syllabus UPSC

UPSC Ethics Syllabus demands a comprehensive understanding of various ethical concepts, principles, and case studies. Therefore, selecting the right set of books to cover the Ethics syllabus becomes extremely important for an aspirant. However, with tons of ethics books available in the market, it can be overwhelming to choose the right ones. That’s why we have provided a list of the best books to cover the Ethics syllabus of the UPSC below.

  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 – M Karthikeyan
  4. Ethics in Governance: Innovations, Issues, and Instrumentalities – Ramesh K Arora
  5. ARC Reports
  6. Ethics, Integrity, and Aptitude – Santosh Ajmera & Nanda Kishore Reddy

Answer Writing Strategy for GS 4 Syllabus

UPSC mentioned that credit would be given to answers with succinct, coherent, and exact expressions. Hence to write the best answer for questions asked from Ethics Syllabus UPSC, the candidate must make a 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 the format and the logical flow (coherence) between the lines. The body of the answer shall include

  • Theory/Thinker: You must identify a suitable thinker or theory for the given question. Include the ethical theory related to the question/ethical challenges in your answer. You may also include diagrams or figures to convey the lengthy matter in a simple visible expression.
  • Example: Remember! No ethics syllabus 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 question, resolve the ethical issue/dilemma, or provide the best alternative ethical course of action.
  • Conclusion: You should summarize in just a few lines but not more than 30 words.

Case Studies from UPSC Ethics Syllabus

Section B of the Ethics syllabus for UPSC 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 were a DM or an SDM of a district….”

Structure of the Answer for Case Study Type Questions

  • Step 1: Read the case study carefully and determine its ethical issues.
  • Step 2: Enlist the ethical issues that you have found out, for example, lack of empathy, conflict of interest, or lack of accountability, etc.
  • Step 3: Identify and list all possible alternative choices- because a problem can be resolved in many ways. The critical aspect here is that you will have to weigh each choice’s positive and negative sides in some case studies to arrive at the best choice.
  • Step 4: 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 and upholds virtue ethics, constitutional values, spirit, or principles of natural justice.
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