The pattern for the UPSC examination has been through a series of significant changes over the past few years. Amongst them, the most crucial one is undoubtedly the inclusion of the new “Ethics, Aptitude And Integrity” into the General Studies Mains Paper since the year 2013.

Ethics, Aptitude and Integrity accounts for 250 marks and is a major deciding factor in your overall score.

By just looking at the name, you know that the subject is of an abstract nature!

As a UPSC aspirant, we know your question is – “What should be my ethics preparation strategy for UPSC? Is there any one source to get all the concepts in one place? What kind of questions should I expect”?

We know how confused you are right now. To address such doubts, our experts have summed up the perfect preparation strategy that you must adopt to smash your ethics paper.

But before we get to that, it is critical for you to understand that the questions asked in your Ethics, Aptitude and Integrity paper have more to do with  testing our basic understanding of all ethics related issues, the ability to analyse situations, and to take a diagnostic view on conflicting socio-economic objectives and demands.

Also Read: List of Ethics books for UPSC Exam

You are expected to answer in a strictly relevant, problem-solving, concise and meaningful manner.

Let Us Also Make A Note Of Never-to-do Things In Your Study Plan: –

  • Do not even attempt to study ethics for long hours as you do for your GS paper
  • Ethics requires only 3-4 months of brief and selective study. Please do not start preparing for this subject a year prior to your examination
  • Do not waste your time on complicated ethical jargon and brainwrecking philosophies. Your questions will be aimed at handling ethical issues from an administrative perspective. Therefore, don’t lose track of what you must study.
  • A few are fine, but don’t try to memorise as many quotes, punchlines, phrases and thinkers, etc, you can, so you can impress the examiner. The examiner is least bothered about these and specifically wants to know your take on a particular ethical dilemma
  • You must practice writing answers to look like a logical analysis of any situation, and not another revolutionizing new philosophy that’ll rock this world.
  • Remember, your answers should look like arguments, and not a piece of abstract writing
  • Some candidates unfortunately try to ‘force’ morality in their answers. This is the worst you can do. Your morality should automatically reflect in your answers, don’t push it too hard!
  • A great tip to write amazing answers is to try and  implement the principles you’ll learn in the books in real life. This will help you practice and understand ethical philosophies as well as help you become a better person.

The 5 Step Preparation Process For Ethics

Let us quickly get down to the 5 step preparation process for your ethics paper : –

Step 1

You must know your syllabus before you get set to read even the definition of ethics!

Let us help you with that! Given below is your Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude Syllabus at a glance :-

  1. Ethics and Human Interface
    • Essence, Determinants And Consequences Of Ethics In Human Actions
    • Dimensions Of Ethics
    • Ethics In Private And Public Relationships

  2. Human Values
    • Lessons From The Lives And Teachings Of Great Leaders, Reformers And Administrators
    • Role Of Family, Society And Educational Institutions In Inculcating Values

  3. Attitude
    • Content, Structure, Function
    • Atitude’s Influence And Relation With Thought And Behavior
    • Moral And Political Attitudes
    • Social Influence And Persuasion

  4. Aptitude and foundational values for Civil Service integrity
    • Impartiality
    • Non-partisanship
    • Objectivity
    • Dedication To Public Service
    • Empathy, Tolerance And Compassion Towards The Weaker Sections

  5. Emotional intelligence
    • Concepts,
    • Their Utilities
    • Application In Administration And Governance

  6. Contributions of moral thinkers and philosophers from India and world

This is just the outline of the entire syllabus. Do not waste time and head to the official UPSC website to read the syllabus in detail.

Another word of advice- Don’t let the exhaustive syllabus make you nervous!

Step 2

  • You must go through the previous years’ question papers
  • This point is crucial as it will help you come out of your panic zone after seeing the entire syllabus in step 1.
  • You must understand that all the exhaustive theories and principles that you’ll read about is not what you have to reproduce on paper.
  • You are expected to solve problems pertaining to administrative ethical dilemmas if you were an officer in the indian civil services.
  • The question have/will always mostly be personal opinion based questions or case studies, that require a very general understanding of ethics foundations.
  • A list of Sample questions from previous years’ papers with respect to topics mentioned in step 1: –

    • topic 1: 2016 – What is meant by ‘environmental ethics’? Why is it important to study? Discuss any one environmental issue from the viewpoint of environmental ethics.
    • topic 2: 2016 – Discuss Mahatma Gandhi’s concept of seven sins.
    • topic 3: 2017 – “Young people with ethical conduct are not willing to come forward to join active politics. Suggest steps to motivate them to come forward.”
    • topic 4: 2017 – “Examine the relevance of the following in the context of civil service: (a) Transparency (b) Accountability (c) Fairness and justice (d) Courage of conviction (e) Spirit of service.”
    • “One of the tests of integrity is complete refusal to be compromised. Explain with reference to a real life example.”
    • topic 5: 2017 – “How will you apply emotional intelligence in administrative practices?”
    • topic 6 : 2017 – “Great ambition is the passion of a great character. Those endowed with it may perform very good or very bad acts. All depends on the principles which direct them.” – Napoleon Bonaparte. Stating examples mention the rulers (i) who have harmed society and country, (ii) who worked for the development of society and country.” (2017)

Step 3

Pick the right sources of study!

It is crucial for you to stick to minimal sources of reference. Since the syllabus is detailed, too many books and guides will do nothing but wreck your nerves completely!

For all the topics mentioned, here is the perfect combination of time-tested ethics preparatory material : –

  • NCERT, Psychology (12th) – Selected chapters
  • Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude by G Subba Rao and PN Roy Chowdhury.
  • The Hindu
  • the internet for secondary research

Step 4

  • You should study to understand the basics!
  • It is important that you do a selective and cursory study.
  • You must practice going through the pages rather than studying every word. while going through the pages, learn the basic terminologies, grasp all the recurring keywords, and try not to memorize much.
  • Do not forget to make notes!

Step 5

  • You must practice your answer writing skills
  • It doesn’t matter if you’re the most ethical person on this planet, or if you know all that there is to know about the world of ethical philosophy.
  • If you cannot pen down your stand on paper in clear, concise words and in due time, it’s not worth it!
  • Pick up the previous question papers, time yourself, and write like you’re in the examination hall on a regular basis.

These 5 steps will take care of all your worries regarding your ethics preparation for UPSC.

Good Luck!

Also Read: Ethics Notes for UPSC IAS Exams

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Greeta Sulochana

Greeta Sulochana is a content evangelist with a flair for compelling creative writing. She has penned down her thoughts in poetry and prose since the past five years, and has catered her skills to the Indian and international audiences. She started out as an advertising intern with Grey worldwide, and is now a full-fledged writer in passion and profession, who has worked for major national brands.

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