This paper is based on Ethics, integrity, and aptitude. It is an area of study that deals with ideas about what is good or bad behaviour. It is a branch of philosophy that deals with what is morally right or wrong. It also lists the outset of moral principles to lead an ideal life. The primary reason why the ethics paper was introduced in the Civil Service exam was the long-felt need to instil an ethical sense among civil servants. And what could be better than placing ethics as one of the nine general studies papers to test candidates’ probity and integrity.  Let us now look at the UPSC GS 4 paper 4 syllabus and exam pattern to get a deeper insight.

Ethics investigates soul searching questions such as what is the best way to live an ideal life? It also aims at resolving questions of human morality by throwing light on concepts like virtue and vice, justice, and crime. Our ethics are shaped by personal experiences, schools, family, etc. Now let’s jump to find out the exam’s structure.

Ethics Exam Structure

The exam consists of 12 questions, worth of 250 marks in total. There are 10 marks and 20 marks questions accordingly. The questions asked are of generally two types. They are direct-based questions referring to ethics definitions and key concepts related to integrity and aptitude. Other types of questions are based on case studies checking the candidate’s application of these principles to cases that involve the candidate and other stakeholders, such as politicians.

Let us go through the syllabus now.

UPSC General Studies 4 Paper 4 Syllabus

  1. Ethics and Human Interface: 

Essence, Determinants, and Implications of Ethics in-Human Action;

Ethical dimensions;

Ethics-Private and Public Relations.

  1. Human Values: 

Human Values

Lessons from the Life and Teachings of the Great Leaders,

Reformers, Administrators;

The role of the Family Community and the Educational Institutions in values inculcation.

  1. Attitudes: 

Material, Structure, Feature;

Influence and Connection to Thinking and Behavior;

Moral and Political Attitude;

Social influence and Persuasiveness.

4. Aptitude and Principles for Civil Service:


Non-partisanship and unbiased,


Public Sector Dedication,

Empathy, tolerance, and compassion for the weakest sections.

  1. Emotional intelligence: 

Concepts and their Utilities and Management and Governance Implementations.

  1. Contributions by Moral Thinkers and Philosophers from India and the World. 
  2. Morality in  governance

Public Service Concept;

Philosophical grounds for governance and probity;

  1. Code of Ethics: 

Codes of conduct;

Charters of citizens,

Culture of Work,

  1. Public Administration Ethics: 

Status and issues;

Ethical issues and dilemmas in government and private institutions;

Laws, Rules, Regulations, and Consciousness as Sources of Ethical Guidance

How to Approach Ethics Paper?

  • The object of the ethics paper is to assess ethical competence, but not ethical knowledge so to say. Initially, one should be familiar with the words listed in the syllabus. One should be able to express terms in the simplest of words and minimal words.
  • Connect the words and values listed in the syllabus to one’s personal experiences. For example, if you’re truthful, try to remember the events of your life where you’ve displayed honesty. If there is no real-life example, be prepared with anecdotes from the lives of social activists, politicians, civil servants, and other public figures.
  • Again, whatever source you pick up, you can’t forget to practice answer writing.   When writing answers keep in mind, your responses to case studies should be something that you, as a potential bureaucrat, would actually do and enforce. Their practicality is as critical as their ethical correctness. Apart from being ethically right, the ideas should be legally correct. They should be in line with the ethos of our constitution.

Also Read: Daily Answer Writing Practice for UPSC 2021


The secret to this paper is reading and writing on a regular basis so that you can come up with spontaneous rich analytical responses to every question that is being asked. Following the above tips and ways to approach this paper will help to get a decent score alongside the dedicated studies.

Read Also: Understanding the Different Dimensions and Branches of Ethics

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UPSC GS Paper 4 Syllabus: How To Deal With This Confusing Paper?
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UPSC GS Paper 4 Syllabus: How To Deal With This Confusing Paper?
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