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How To Prepare

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How to Prepare Ethics Paper ( General Studies Mains Preparation)

  • Firstly , Best way is by practicing through case studies. To start with read a lot of case studies, while doing this you will notice that every situation demands a certain decision making or reaction that is different from the other. You will notice that approach to the case study varies depending upon the context. Case study format is a standard pedagogical tool in business studies, medicine, military strategies, law etc. Each of them have their own styles. Civil service is a new entrant in India and thus its format is not yet formalised. The point is to be aware of various styles of writing answer to case studies, and being flexible enough to apply them appropriately here. Practical answers are more appreciated in situational case studies. Social awareness is checked more in social case studies while the application of administrative mind is checked in some cases studies. Read some basic material on SWOT analysis, stakeholder analysis etc that gives you handle over the case studies.
  • Secondly, while reading newspaper, try to focus on actions of various people involved. It's all about three things - stakeholders, communication and decision making.
  • The key is to minimise the resources and focus on only what is required. And it is here that previous year’s papers help you.
  • Also, whichever source is picked up, one cannot forget answer writing. Ethics is about articulation. It can be improved only with the help of sustained writing practice.
  • Finally remember, more than sound theoretical understating that you gather from books, what is appreciated by the examiner is personal insight. Therefore, try to come up with your own examples, analysis and understanding.

Important Points to remember:

  • Ethics is at odds with morals. In the UPSC exam, there is not any question emerging on personal morality, but it is about ethicality as a public administrator.
  • On one occasion, search things from a layman’s standpoint, in other words from an outsider’s lookout. The action can be ethically and rightfully accurate from an individual perspective. As a community manager, in what way it has an impact on the aspect of the institution you help and signify? These are the questions you must answer in this paper.
  • It is correct that ethicality differs from one individual to the later. It is a very particular thing. But keep in mind that, you are anticipated to go along with ethicality for a public administrator, not for an individual but for an NGO, etc.
  • As a communal staff, you have a duty to uphold impartiality and independence. There is a guideline for civil servants which you must standby.
  • You should target as a minimum 120 marks in this paper, which you can effortlessly get if you keep on the plan we are talking about.
  • Questions might utilize the case study method to regulate these facets and covers area:
  • Ethics and Human Interface– Essence, determinants, and consequences of Ethics in human actions; dimensions of ethics; ethics in private and public relationships
  • Human Values– lessons from the lives and teachings of great leaders, reformers and administrators; the role of family, society and educational institutions in inculcating values
  • Attitude– content, structure, function; its influence and relation with thought and behavior; moral and political attitudes; social influence and persuasion
  • Aptitude and foundational values for, integrity, impartiality and non-partisanship, objectivity, dedication to public service, empathy, tolerance and compassion towards the weaker-sections
  • Emotional intelligence-concepts, and their utilities and application in administration and governance
  • Contributions of moral thinkers and philosophers from India and world
  • Public/Civil service values and Ethics in Public administration– Status and 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 Governance– Concept of public service; 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
  • Case Studies on above issues
  • Now let us see how to go about dealing with some of the topics in the syllabus:
  • Ethics and human interface – this deals with ethics and how you relate it to society. How do you judge if an action is ethical or not? You mostly get theoretical questions from this section until ‘dimensions of ethics’.
  • Human values – this topic deals with statements or sayings from eminent people from the past and applying it to the present context. Eg. Gandhi, Ambedkar, Socrates, Plato, etc. Just take 5 – 6 thinkers and analyze their quotes.
  • Attitude – This is an important concept as far as UPSC is concerned. You can expect questions from both theory and case studies from this section.
  • Aptitude and foundational values – Here, notice the keywords used like integrity, impartiality, etc. It is essential that you use these words in your answers. UPSC may not ask questions directly. They can present a case scenario and you are expected to relate it to these words and elaborate.
  • Contributions of moral thinkers and philosophers from India and world – This section can be merged with ‘Human values.’

Answer Writing Strategy for Part A- Theoretical Portion

  • Section-A generally includes 12-13 questions of 10-marks each amounting to 120-130 marks. These are to be answered in 150 words and 2 pages are provided to do the same. A 10-marker question should ideally be answered within 7 minutes. Questions may be analytical or at times theoretical.
  • Answers in Ethics can be written both in paragraphs or points based on the demand/type of question. Ideally, an answer shall include following:
    • Introduction: here definition for keywords/terms mentioned in the question shall be given in 2-3 lines.
    • Answer body: it can be in points or paragraph. What matters is that various dimensions get covered so that the answer is multi-dimensional. Answer written in points-bullets handles dimensions much more easily, compared to one in paragraphs where the risk of digressing from the question is high.
    • Theory: theories, thinkers, and terms mentioned in the syllabus shall be incorporated in answers. This helps in keeping the answers ‘ethical’. Theory should ideally make a maximum 20% of an answer. Overdoing theories/keywords makes answers mechanical.
    • Examples: generally it is mentioned in the question to quote example(s). In such questions write 2 examples. While in questions where example has not been explicitly asked, one should still write at least 1 example.
    • Diagrams: these are important to gain the edge over other candidates. Diagrams provide the X-factor that the examiner is looking for. They also break the monotony and make for better presentation.
    • Conclusion: it is as important as introduction or answer body itself. Do not skip the conclusion in a hurry to jump to the next question(s). Just summarize the answer in 2-3 lines.


Answer Writing Strategy for Part B- Case Studies

  • There is never a set answer for a case study. The idea should be to learn from the format:
    • Actors
    • Dilemmas
    • Answer Body
    • Points
    • Keywords
    • Theory
    • Diagram
    • Conclusion
  • Try to provide practical solutions. Ideal solutions, if unworkable, would not fetch you marks.
  • Give out-of-the-box yet practical solutions.
  • Try to provide specific solutions. Avoid generalized solutions.
    • To illustrate, don’t say, “I would take steps to promote transparency. Mention how you would promote transparency.
  • When you are asked to give all the options available to you - give even the most undesirable course of action as one of the options. However, don’t choose that option.
    • To illustrate, in a case that mentions the offer of a bribe to you, mention ‘acceptance of bribe’ as one of the options. But prefer the options that entail ‘rejection of bribe’.
  • Do not touch upon only core issues. Also, touch upon peripheral issues in a case study.
    • To illustrate, suppose a case study in which “you are the head of the committee investigating the irregularities of colleges. You are in the dilemma whether to recommend for the derecognition of college and spoil the career prospects of students or to recommend their regularization in the light of future of thousands of students. You have been offered a bribe of Rs. 5 crores.” In this case study, a core issue is ‘whether to regularize colleges’. Most candidates would just address this issue in their answer. However, there is another issue, the ‘peripheral issue’, that is, the offer of a bribe. Try to address that issue as well. While addressing bribe issue, please don’t just say – “I won’t accept the bribe”. Also, say – “I would lodge a complaint against the person who has offered me the bribe”.
  • Let your solutions try to balance conflicting options as much as possible. (Caution – such balancing may not happen always).
    • Consider the examples mentioned in the previous point. Most candidates would say, either “I shall recommend derecognition of colleges because errant colleges have to be punished” or “I shall recommend for regularisation of colleges because of the future of students”. Rather, try to think of a solution that penalizes the colleges and at the same time rescues the career prospects of thousands of students. One such solution can be – allowing already enrolled students to finish their course and recognizing their degrees while prohibiting any fresh admissions. Or, accommodation of students of such colleges in other recognized colleges.


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