Strategy GS-IV Ethics, Integrity, and Aptitude

Ethics,Integrity and aptitude as a subject has  been incorporated into mains examination with an aim to teach students what a civil servant should be. It checks basic ethical values in civil services  aspirant rather than just information and memory. The basic ethical values known as the foundational values are based on neutrality,integrity,concern for weaker sections with empathy ,tolerance and compassion, impartiality, objectivity and corporate social responsibility.Writing answers in Mains on this subject requires an aspirant’s uniqueness and creativity to be outstanding. There are a few standard recommendations  that can help achieve success.They have been  presented in subsequent parts in this article.

 Understanding GS –IV:

The opening declaration about the syllabus for GS paper IV  in CSE notification read as follows:

        “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”

How to achieve this? We shall see in the subsequent sections.

What is the basic Structure to write an answer?

There is a need to understand how to convert the idea into marks.It is not the content ,as content will be approximately similar for every candidate .What will make the difference in the competition is how well the answer is structured and presented. This is what  gets appreciated by the evaluator and helps increase the score to 100 plus .

Structure of answer writing

What we usually followWhat can be done to enhance marks




1.Put the opinion itself in the summary.

2.In order to add to the effects the opinion you carry you can  include Preamble, fundamental rights,S C judgements, Civil services oath and Citizen’s charter.

3.writing simplified definition of complex definition with bare minimum words.

4.when it come to writing the comparison type answer , instead of writing in paragraphs or bullets putting it in tabular form enhances the presentability ,reduces the density to the answer writing making it look more neat.

5.remember to underline the important key words.

  • Advantages attached to it:

      1.This enables the candidate to write further in sync with the already drawn opinion.

  1. As the examiner gets hold on to the opinion it becomes easy to draw a general idea of 3-4 page answer, thereby   making the job less tiresome for the examiner.
  2. The examiner looks at the keywords stated by the candidate and it becomes easy for evaluating the pages   
  3. It becomes lucid and this is how it becomes  more interactive for the examiner to look into it.

How to have a proper Presentation?

We can better use diagrams using blocs or flowcharts .By doing so we are innovating in the paper.  Any answer can be written with focus on the following points: content, presentation and lucidity. If you are getting low in your test series or main exam, it is a given fact that you may be lacking in any or many of these points even after practicing so many questions

Eg.,Define integrity.

While defining, it will usually involve  a paragraph. Instead we can reduce it to

The evaluator /examiner even knows the answer. But what gets appreciated in your answer is the simplicity of the deliverance. The more simplicity we show ,the more clarity to the subject matter is reflected.

How to answer Case study questions?

Case studies include types such as:

  • Reaction to specific situation(with dedication to service) .
  • Zero tolerance case(where you and your organization is benefitting)
  • Means vrs end (rule breaking but with legal methods,others benefit but not you)

The keywords must be used as sprinklers .The topic  must be analyzed and written in terms of the keywords ..

What are keywords ?

eg., Case study :animal sacrifice in my locality of which my parents are a part of .I happen to be someone who is into saving animals .what will I do?

Ans: “I will try talking to my family” or “I will try persuading my family”  But turning it into an answer of ethics standard,we write “I will  try to bring a attitudinal change in my family”. Here the ‘attitude’ is just not a word but a keyword from the syllabus and hence the answer gets refined.

How to put examples?

As we practice more questions the answers get refined more,the more it is refined it looks simple and the examples too get improved.

Eg.,question asks ,if honesty and integrity are different?

The answer becomes too easy for the examiner to comprehend when instead of explaining both the terms I explain the two concepts  as-

  • Examples should be short, simple and concise
  • Examples should be coherent
  • Examples must include day to day activities/work. The real life incidents may be as simple as offering a seat to elderly in bus, helping a visually challenged cross road and so on . Yet, bring them into your answers.
  • Create a structure around the example as shown in the figure:

How to draw arguments for taking any particular stand?

When we are given options to  write either for/against it is all about balancing these extremes .This is the only part which requires to be practiced more .Internalize your intuitions but at the same time get hold of logic and rationality. It is an art and you can master this art through honest writing practice.

How to approach quote based questions?

  • Ist para: explain a general understanding of the quote even if it is very absurd and is hardly known  to you.
  • 2nd para : write answer while providing specific examples.
  • Per answer have at least 3 to 4 examples.

What are the ways to Understand the question and decode/ bifurcate a question?

E.g., Question :If corruption is the failure of  Individual ethics?

Here divide the question into two broader terms as ‘corruption’ and ‘ individual ethics’. Then try to decipher corruption in  terms of Institutional: e.g.,lokpal, Social:e.g., 2-g scam and  legal :e.g.,Supreme court perspective   and align your answer on the individual ethics along these lines.

It becomes more marks fetching if we can include the formulas of corruption for example,

Corruption= Monopoly +discretion-Accountability.

How to Optimize the answers?

  • Practice questions more close to the UPSC pattern
  • maintaining a speed and accuracy of a minimum of 7 min per question.(10 mark) . and 9 minutes to answer a 12.5 marks question.. Rather than writing a rockstar answer for 2-3 questions and ending up wasting time and missing questions practicing  answer-writing, average marks can be pulled to 5-5.5 marks. That translates to 100-110 score. This is the most basic requirement to write an answer.
  • be aware of the fact that irrespective of the content you have, you are limited by the time and space to present the same. So  try to reduce concepts to its bare minimum words.

How to Evaluate yourself?

  • Self-evaluate: evaluate the same writing after 2-3 days. Because soon after writing ,our emotions are strongly attached to the answer and it becomes hard to evaluate more strictly.
  • Peer evaluation: Apart from the test series attempt of around 14-15 full question papers , get them evaluated from friends. Over the course of solving these papers, you develop good examples to illustrate various ethical concepts and dilemmas. These can be used liberally in actual examination.
  • Discuss your feelings with your peers, family and guide. Defend your thoughts and at the same time be receptive to criticism as well.

Understanding the directives attached to the question:

  • EVALUATE/CRITICALLY EVALUATE –To evaluate is to come to a decision based on the overall analysis of the pros and cons backed by evidences. The word “Critically” is used when a fair judgement is demanded by the examiner.
  • COMMENT/CRITICALLY COMMENT –Comment is a statement which expresses an opinion or reaction. One should take a neutral ground and write facts and viewpoints. As mentioned previously, the word “Critically” demands fair judgement and hence both the pros and cons are weighed. The opinion expressed may swing for or against but it should be backed by right evidences.
  • DISCUSS/DISCUSS CRITICALLY-Discuss necessitates a debate where a reasoning is backed up with evidence to make a case for and against an argument and finally arriving at a conclusion. “Discuss Critically” are broad based in nature and a UPSC examiner would expect the candidate to give out his own perspective with regard to the question.
  • ANALYSE/CRITICALLY ANALYSE –When a candidate is asked to Analyse, he/she is expected to break an issue into constituent parts and explain how these relate to one other and present as one summary.On the other hand when asked to “Critically Analyse”, a candidate is supposed to provide a fair judgment and the other steps remain the same as Analyse.
  • EXAMINE/CRITICALLY EXAMINE –The word “Examine” means to probe deeper into the topic and understand the topic in detail. In “Examine” you probe deeper than “Comment” and in “Analyse”, you probe deeper than in “Examine”.
  • ELUCIDATE –Elucidate means to explain in detail/to make clear. Thereby presenting  a cause- effect correlation. In such cases, a candidate has to bring out the connection more clearly by citing evidences and examples.
  • EXPLAIN –Explain gives a clear account as to How/Why something happens. A candidate here is expected to clarify with relevant facts and implications.

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