Strategy to Prepare an Ethics Paper

Strategy to Prepare an Ethics Paper

The most intriguing and misunderstood section of the UPSC syllabus is probably GS paper IV. In your mind, perhaps in your subconscious thoughts, you almost have the impression that it is within your grasp.

Strategy to Prepare an Ethics Paper

The most intriguing and misunderstood section of the UPSC syllabus is probably GS paper IV. In your mind, perhaps in your subconscious thoughts, you almost have the impression that it is within your grasp. You immediately feel confident when you see terms like "integrity," "honesty," and "governance." 


  • 2013 saw the introduction of GS Paper-4, titled Ethics, Integrity, and Aptitude, as a result of changes to the civil services examination's main syllabus.
  • The broad guidelines provided by the official UPSC syllabus provide an overview of what the exam will cover.
  • This paper mostly focuses on students' attitudes and approaches to solving issues related with integrity, probity in public life, and problem-solving approaches.
  • This paper is subdivided into two sections, Section A and Section B, each worth 125 marks.
    • Theoretical questions, which are typically of an applied nature, are included in Section A.
    • Case studies are found in Section B. 
  • Specific approaches are needed for both sections.
  • The ability to project oneself as a person who is pragmatic and productive while being committed to personal and professional ethics is ultimately what determines how well an ethics paper is graded.
  • The examination is of a generalist kind. Up to this point, UPSC has asked questions that call for the use of common sense while keeping ethical principles in mind.

Let’s focus on the strategy portions.

Read the Ethics Syllabus in its entirety. 

The most crucial source for what to study for an ethics paper is the GS Paper IV Syllabus of Ethics. So, know the syllabus fully so that you can use keywords later. 

Understanding the perspective from which the examiner will review your paper is crucial for the aspirant. To understand the requirements for each section, read the syllabus. Make a note of the key terms from each unit.

Focus more on answer writing than reading.

In contrast to the other three GS Papers, Ethics is a game of answering questions and presenting opinions. Your responses should reflect your thoughtful perspective on a range of issues rather than just your academic background.

Write your answers as a future bureaucrat.

As a potential bureaucrat, your case study solutions ought to be things you could actually implement and carry out. Both their practicality and ethical correctness are crucial. Along with being morally sound, your arguments should also make sense legally. They must adhere to the principles of our constitution.

 Practice Flow Charts and Diagrams

For some subjects, like emotional intelligence, good governance, and civil service principles, using flowcharts and diagrams to illustrate the characteristics makes the responses succinct and organized. It will be simpler to use these flowcharts and diagrams in the final test if you prepare them in advance and incorporate them into the mock tests.

Prepare Different Answer Structures for Case Studies & General Questions

Case studies, as opposed to the theory section, clearly highlight our moral quandaries and critical thinking. Case studies are designed to prepare you for fieldwork. Once you join the civil service, you might encounter situations where opposing values clash.

Therefore, one of the most important pieces of advice is to imagine yourself as an administrator and think of yourself as a problem solver. The whole exercise becomes more engaging because of this, and your responses consistently demonstrate enthusiasm and well-organized thought.

Discuss Current Issues to Get Various Viewpoints

It is suggested that you read a few books for the ethics paper and instead form your own opinions on current events. Discussing and debating topics with your peers that you are unable to take a position on is one way to go about this. You'll be able to appreciate different or opposing points of view and reach a more well-rounded conclusion as a result. Write what you believe in and would do as a civil servant in your ethics responses. It will be clear if you genuinely believe what you are writing. Having a strong moral conviction also makes it simpler to respond to ethical questions. 

Watch Justice for Harvard Videos

We suggest watching the Justice Harvard Videos by Michael Sandel before you start reading anything. You will gain a thorough understanding of the area of ethics and morality as a result of this. Additionally, it will significantly broaden your perspective.

You do need to start out by watching every video. Observe a few videos, and then go over them when you have time.

There are some points that you should keep in mind.

  • You do not need to spend as much time studying ethics as you do for GS every day.
  • Do not begin your study of ethics a year before the test! That's excessive for a paper that only calls for a quick (sketchy) read that takes no more than a couple of weeks. If you don't, your responses will start to sound more academic, and you'll get severely penalized.
  • You shouldn't read dense philosophical material and voluminous ethical jargon (not definitions). Pursue only the knowledge required to navigate ethical conundrums and administrative life.
  • To impress the examiner, you shouldn't start memorizing sayings from famous people or catchy phrases. His search is for "your" perspective and understanding. However, there is no harm in mentioning another person once or twice in your responses.
  • Logic-based writing should be your main priority rather than twisted philosophy.  Not your philosophies, but your arguments are what The Examiner is interested in.
  • Most importantly, avoid "forcing" morality into your responses. It is challenging and appears artificial as well. Morality would naturally manifest itself in your responses if you are one.
  • Consider putting what you learn in books into practice. You actually feel better and become a better person as a result!

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