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UPSC Mains General Studies Paper 4 Strategy, Syllabus & Structure

General Studies paper-IV on Ethics, integrity, and aptitude is an important paper in mains examination. UPSC Mains examination is the second stage of the UPSC Civil Services Exam. It is one of the qualifying papers.

“This paper will include questions to test the candidates’ attitude and approach to issues relating to integrity, probity in public life and his problem-solving approach to various issues and conflicts faced by him in dealing with society”.


Ethics paper can also become a deciding factor if the candidates really prepare for this paper. The Ethics paper tests the ethical integrity of the candidates through various case studies given in the question paper.

GS Paper-IV Structure:

GS Paper-IV is for 250 marks. There are twelve questions divided into two sections. This paper has a total of twelve questions and it is subdivided into two sections Section A and Section B, each valuing 125 marks.

  • Sections A includes theoretical questions which are generally of the applied kind.
  • Section B consists of case studies.

Candidates should strictly adhere to the word limit and need to answer questions within the prescribed word limit of 150 to 250 words.

The following table lists the important topics in GS paper-IV:

Important Topics in GS-IV
  • Ethics and Human Interface
  • Human Values
  • Attitude
  • Aptitude
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Ethics in Public Administration
  • Core Philosophies
  • Probity in Governance

GS Paper-IV Booklist:

The following table lists important books and sources for UPSC Mains GS paper-IV:

SubjectReference Books/Sources
Ethics, Integrity & Aptitude
  • Ethics in Governance,
  • ARC Report Lexicon by Chronicle Publications The Book on Ethics,
  • Integrity & Aptitude published by Access PublicationCase studies from newspapers Harvard lectures by Michael Sandel.

GS Paper-IV Syllabus:

The following table categorises the UPSC Civil Services Mains GS-IV syllabus:

SubjectImportant topics
       Ethics and Human InterfaceThe Essence of Ethics, Determinants and Consequences of Ethics in Human Interaction Dimensions of Ethics Ethics in private and public relationships Human Values – lessons from the lives and teachings of great leaders, reformers and administrators Role of family, society and educational institutions in inculcating moral and ethical values
          AttitudeContent, structure and function of attitude Influence of attitude in thought and behaviour Relation of attitude to thought and behaviour Moral and Political attitudes Social influence and persuasion
            AptitudeAptitude and foundational values of Civil Service Integrity Impartiality and non-partisanship Objectivity Dedication to public service Empathy, tolerance, and compassion towards the weaker sections of the society
    Emotional IntelligenceConcepts of emotional intelligence Utility and application of emotional intelligence in administration and governance
Contributions of Thinkers and PhilosophersContributions of moral thinkers and philosophers from India and the world to the concepts of morality
Public/Civil Service Values and Ethics in Public AdministrationStatus and associated problems Ethical concerns and dilemmas in government and private institutions Laws, rules, regulations and conscience as sources of ethical guidance Accountability and ethical governance Strengthening of ethical and moral values in governance Ethical Issues in international relations and funding Corporate governance
       Probity in GovernanceConcept of public service The philosophical basis of governance and probity Information sharing and transparency in government Right to Information Codes of ethics Codes of Conduct Citizen’s Charters Work culture Quality of service delivery Utilization of public funds Challenges of corruption

Strategy for UPSC General Studies Paper-IV:

  • Syllabus of Ethics is your most important book and keywords list in itself. Learn the syllabus so that you can use the keywords mentioned in the syllabus in your answers. Make micro notes on each keyword mentioned in the syllabus.
  • Try to define important terms in the question in your own words. Use simple language and Give examples to score better.
  • The questions asked in the paper tend to be subjective with no single correct answer.
  • 2nd Administrative Reforms Commission Reports can be quoted where ever needed, but not fully because the questions always showcase a new angle of the administrative problems. 
  • Moreover, the candidates are required to choose the best optimum and ethical decision-making without compromising the objective of the organization/Government.
  • For Case Studies collect examples from newspapers. Visualize yourself as an administrator and try to find a solution for it and identify the pros and cons of it. It helps to develop an analytical and mental frame of mind suitable to deal with case studies.
  • Give multiple solutions to case studies along with the issues associated with them. Finally, an optimal solution can be written.
  • Read the question 2 to 3 times especially those of case studies. Underline keywords in that to understand the question better.
  • Substantiate with personal life experiences or examples to add value to the answer.
  • Do not mention superficial or illogical solutions.
  • Avoid repetitions and follow time management. Practice answer writing regularly.

Ethics is not a conventional subject taught in most schools or colleges.

Hence it is quite natural from the candidate’s point of view to ponder about the questions to be asked from the same.

But there is no need to panic and if properly handled, this area is really high scoring. A candidate’s attitude, approach and their problem-solving skill is the focus area.

For detailed Notes and compilations related to General Studies Paper-IV from one of the Best IAS Institute in KarnatakaClick Here.

November 2023