There are a total of four papers in the general studies for IAS Mains. Among these, the Ethics and Integrity paper is the most challenging as the concept is very abstract and there are very limited study materials available. It is a thoroughly analytical type of subject where the candidate’s ethical principles and values and their understanding of right and wrong while maintaining a bureaucratic stance is tested. This topic became a part of the Main syllabus 2013 onwards and you can find a broad guideline about the key criteria for which this paper tests the candidates. There are two subsections of the paper- section A and B and each carries 125 marks. Section A comprises theoretical questions while section B is more inclined towards case studies.
Importance of the GS-IV Ethics paper
Scoring high in this paper is easier than other papers. Moreover, you can do so with the least preparation. Moreover, preparation for this paper will help you to add moral dimensions to your other general studies answer. This is also the paper that helps you to highlight the essential qualities of an IAS officer that you have. Hence, if you have a good score, it will leave a notable mark in your personal interview round too.
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General tips to prepare the GS-IV Ethics paper
The following are a few generic tips that you must keep in mind regarding your preparation for the IAS general studies paper 4. The key to scoring good marks in this paper is having a very clear sense of the different concepts that are discussed in this paper.
- Getting a good idea about the basics is very important to prepare this paper well. Get familiar with the common terminologies related to the topic.
- Practice skimming through large chunks of the content to extract the important parts. However, rather than memorizing these sections and answers, try grasping the meaning and writing it in your own words.
- Avoid reading too many references for the same topic to keep your strategy more focused and save time. Give attention to famous philosophers and authors and their analysis of the theories.
- The paper is designed to judge your character as well and hence the best way to answer this paper is through your personal revelations, experiences and belief. This will only be possible when you imbibe these values as a part of your lifestyle. These are values that cannot be faked and hence memorizing and writing an answer will still leave loopholes for the examiners to judge whether you truly have the qualities needed for the position.
- Understand the examiner’s point of view by carefully reading the questions. The question will give away what the examiner expects an answer and they will evaluate the paper to understand the candidates’ basic code of ethics, conduct, idea about work culture, quality of the service delivery, and their ability to analyze and evaluate situations with conflicting socio-economic issues.
- There are certain keywords you will come across for every chapter you read while understanding the concepts of the subject. It is very important to implement these keywords in your answer to keep it concise and also enriched with the right terms and strategies.
- Go through the previous year question papers since 2013 to get a fair idea about the questions that are frequently asked and also about the topics that are repeatedly emphasized on.
- Rather than reading, give more time to writing answers and improving them. The same answer can be written in different forms in this paper and it is upon the candidates’ discretion to determine which is the best format to follow. Moreover, the more you practice writing the answers, you can develop a habit of following the case studies.
- Create your own notes of examples from day to day life and event current affairs from different spheres.
- Candidates who can draw diagrams to demonstrate their answer better will have an extra edge over others, hence this is a viable and good practice that you can incorporate.
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Important Topics for GS-IV
Since the study materials are limited, and the syllabus is abstract, following a strict preparation strategy for this paper is tricky. The key is to make sure that each and every broad topic is well understood and comprehended so that you are able to frame the answers impromptu if needed. The following are the important topics that must be thoroughly studied to make your preparation better.
- The basic concepts of ethics- definitions and terminologies are particularly important.
- Determinants and consequences of ethics on human behavior.
- Different dimensions of ethics- study this section in detail to have a clear concept.
- Role of ethical values in private and public relations- study as many case studies relevant to this concept to substantiate answers accordingly. You will get several questions that are going to be based on this concept.
- Human values are best prepared for IGNOU materials.
- Lives and teachings of philosophers, teachers, administrators and reformers- get a few autobiographies and biographies with a specific focus on Indian reformers. Learn a few good quotes by these people and use them to enrich your answer better.
- Role of family, society, and educational institution in developing ethical sense and values.
- The structure and function of ethical concepts and influence on the thought process and behavior of the individual- you will get a brief but comprehensible idea from NCERT psychology books for XI and XII.
- Morality, political attitude, social influence and their interrelation with ethics.
- Concept of attitude, integrity, and impartiality are important for civil service aspirants.
- Concept of emotional intelligence, and its utility and administration and governance.
- Ethics in public administration is a very important section to be prepared in detail for this paper- ethical dilemmas and concern in administration, conscience, laws and regulation as sources for ethical guidance, ways to strengthen the ethical values of governance.
- Probity in governance- concept of public service, philosophical basis of governance and probity.
- Codes of ethics, conduct, citizen’s charter.
- Work culture, and challenges of corruption.
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Best study material for GS-IV ethics paper
The study materials being limited calls for preparing from all types of sources you come across. This includes magazines, biographies, videos and podcasts, reports, essays and the internet. The following are some of the options that you can use as references:
- Ethics, Integrity & Aptitude: G. Subbarao.
- NCERT Psychology book Class XI & XII: Selected chapters.
- ARC 4th report.
- Verghese Kurien autobiography.
- Swami Vivekananda – Karma Yoga and his biography.
- Ethics in Public Administration – Patrick Sheeran.
- Lexicon for ethics, integrity, and aptitude- Civil services chronicle.
- Ethics, Integrity, and aptitude – McGraw-Hill education – M.Karthikeyan.
- Experiment with Truth – Mahatma Gandhi.
- Citizen-Centric Administration – ARC Report.
- Yojana Issues- Good Governance (2013), Inclusive Governance (2013), Reforms in Public Administration (2014).
- Learn famous quotations from Goodreads and use them wherever possible.
- Refer to Fodder for the essay.
- Selected articles by Immanuel Kant, Aristotle etc. There is a BBC website also on ethics.
- Harvard lectures by Michael Sandel.
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Tips to write good answers for GS-IV
The answer writing strategy will vary slightly between sections A and B. for section a there will be 12-13 questions which are 10 marks each. They should be within 150 words each and most questions are analytical in nature.
The following is the structural breakdown of your answer which must be followed for the maximum score:
- Introduction- It is very important that the introduction is written very precisely and has an impactful language. It should also consist of the keywords of the answer and definitions- all of which should be completed within 2-3lines.
- Answer body- Points and paragraphs are equally useful- the primary target should be expressing your perspective accurately through your chosen words. Avoid digressing and keep the answers to-the-point. This can be controlled better when you are using the bullet format.
- Theories- enrich your answer by referring to the theories of different philosophers but it should be done very concisely so that the word count is not exceeded.
- Examples- Substantiate your viewpoints with suitable examples so that your answers could be understood better.
- Diagrams- This is not mandatory but further adds an edge to your answer over the other candidates.
- Conclusion- Like the introduction, the conclusion should be very strong and must be a summary of everything you wrote in 2-3lines. It should also demonstrate your analysis on the given topic.
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Section B is based on case studies and there is no set format that you can follow while answering such questions. You have to judge the type of question and then determine the most suited format of answering so that your views are explained best. The following are some generic ideas that you can follow while writing answers for GS-IV Section B:
- Take an approach to provide practical solutions to the case described in the questions. Ideological solutions are acceptable only if they are workable, otherwise, it will not fetch you marks.
- Try to think out of the box- this section gives you immense scope to share your personal views and if they are unique and positive, they will fetch good marks.
- Avoid vague and generalized answers. Substantiate any solution you provide with the specific flow of action and how they will be implemented to make your answer richer.
- If the question asks for all the possible courses of action, then include the most undesirable and unlikely option too which is the last resort.
- When you are given a case study, recognize the core and the peripheral issues. While writing the answers, you should make sure all the issues are touched upon.
The key to acing this paper is reading and writing on a regular basis so that you are able to come up with impromptu analytically rich answers for any question that is being asked. Keeping the above-mentioned tips and ways to format your answer will help in fetching a good score alongside dedicated studies.