Tips to Strategize to Prepare for the Ethics Paper

Ethics Paper: The Mains, Civil Services Exam conducted by UPSC comprises 9 Papers including 2 language Papers. Both carry 300 marks and are qualifying in nature. There is an Essay Paper carrying 250 Marks and 2 Papers for the Optional subject carrying 250 Marks each.

The Ethics Paper that we have been talking of is the General Studies Paper IV for Ethics, Integrity & Aptitude. In total, there are 4 General Studies Papers, GS I-IV. All carry 250 Marks each.

Why is the Ethics Paper still enshrouded in mystery?

Surprisingly, Ethics, Integrity & Aptitude, the GS IV Paper, Mains is still enshrouded in mystery in spite of the fact that UPSC had introduced it in 2013. Though a considerable time has gone by, the IAS aspirants still do not seem to be very clear concerning what to study and how to go about preparing for the GS IV.

Although the reasons behind the perplexity caused by the Ethics Paper might vary, the major ones are given below:

1.Lack of authentic books

There is no single book providing all the basics and details of the subject in an authentic manner. As a result, most of the times, the candidates are left wondering what to study and where to study it from?

2.Multiple interpretations of the syllabus are possible

The UPSC syllabus prescribed for the Civil Services Exam, GS-IV, Mains itself can be interpreted in multiple ways. Thus how can you be sure, what does the syllabus actually require you to study? It’s only natural for most of the IAS aspirants to feel confused concerning how to go ahead with the preparation.

3.A lack of academic background in the Ethics

Usually most of the subjects chosen for the graduation are not directly related to the subject called Ethics. The lack of the academic background in Ethics further adds to the confusion of the candidates.

How to strategize well in order to prepare for the Ethics Paper?

A thoroughly well thought of strategy to score well in the Ethics Paper would include:

  1. Study Material, and
  2. Plan of Action

Study Material

When it comes to look for the right kind of the Study Material for the Ethics Paper, the candidates usually proceed in the following sequence:

  • Lexicon: Most of the candidates usually refer to the Lexicon, first of all, to get to know the meanings of various terms related with the Ethics Paper.
  • Previous years’ question papers: Next, they pick up the previous years’ question papers. It widens your understanding of the types of the questions that UPSC asks, apart from the scope of the syllabus. And nobody can deny that the UPSC question papers are the most authentic of the sources. 

Study material provided by the IAS coaching institutions

The study material and the class notes that you might procure from an IAS coaching do vary to a smaller or greater extent. The faculty members coaching for the Ethics Paper usually belong to the Philosophy or Psychology or the Public Administration backgrounds.

Thus, they have different perspectives on different issues. And that might be beneficial as well as limiting simultaneously. It would be a good idea to transform their expertise into your class notes.

(iv) Published books: Most of the IAS candidates opt for the book by Subba Rao. The author opts for a balanced approach  in between the theoretical and the practical perspective.

(v) Authorship: The books for the subject of Ethics have usually been authored by 3 different types of authors as stated below:

(a) Quite a few successful candidates have authored books on the subject of Ethics based upon their experience.

(b) Some of the books have also been authored byvarious university professors and academicians.

(c) Some of the practitioners including the serving bureaucrats have also authored the books on the subject of Ethics.

Besides, there are various compilations comprising articles, speeches and essays etc. However, each of the types of books has its own pros and cons.

It should be noted that the format of the Ethics question paper evolves with every passing year. As a result, the books and the notes turn obsolete as the time goes by. Whichever study material is suitable today might not be so tomorrow. So, it’s advisable to opt for the books carefully.

(vi) Internet – Internet offers a number of the sources that offer excellent knowledge concerning Ethics. Various reports published by Indian government include Second ARC. Besides, there is an authentic manual published by DoPT on Ethics for the civil servants in an Indian Perspective. DARPG and Home Ministry have also published their manuals.  

Also, you would find across the W

eb, a course called Justice by the Harvard Prof. Michael Sandel. The excellent series comprising video lectures exposes the uninitiated candidates to ethics. Besides, you may find various videos on Ethics on the YouTube. Moreover, quite a number of the western governments,  apart from the institutions like OECD, UN etc., have their  own documents. There are various kits and reports including that of the Cadbury committee of UK, Nolan committee etc.

Besides there are the reports by Indian government including Second ARC and the Ethics manual for Civil Servants by DoPT.  Home Ministry, DARPG etc., also have their own manuals. Thus, it’s advisable to solve the past years’ question papers for the GS Paper IV. Take a note of the changing patterns. And choose the study material as required.

How to Prepare Successfully and Score High in the Ethics Paper?

1) First of all, it’s important to prepare by means of the case studies. After you read quite a few of the case studies, you will begin to realize that every case demands a specific decision making power. And it’s quite possible that in every situation, your reaction might be different from the previous one. You have to make a decision depending upon the context.

The case study format serves as a specific pedagogical tool for

 (i) business studies,

(ii) medicine,

(iii) military strategies,

(iv) law etc.

The case studies for each of the fields specified above have a format of their own. It’s advisable to be well versed with various answer writing styles for the case studies and employ them suitably while answering the Ethics Paper in the Mains.  

However, practical answers are preferable in the case of the situational case studies. Social awareness is assessed in case of the social case studies. Above all, the administrative skill does count for UPSC looks for a potential administrator before allowing you to join IAS.

Also, it’s advisable to get the basic knowledge of the SWOT analysis and the stakeholder analysis etc., to maintain a strong hold over the case studies.

2) Next, when you read a newspaper, try to gain and develop further, a critical insight into the actions undertaken by the several people involved. Focus on:

(a) stakeholders

(b) communication

(c) decision making

3) It’s advisable to minimize the resources and focus on what has been required. And the question papers from the previous years help you a great deal to do the same.

4) A continuous answer writing practice must not be ignored. It helps you present your opinions in a logically convincing manner.

Finally, it should not be forgotten that it’s your personal insight into a situation that matters more rather than the knowledge you have gained from the books. Thus, it’s advisable to present a logically convincing analysis with suitable examples, and reasons etc., in support of your answer.

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