Today In this article I want to walk you through the complete General Studies Paper 4 Syllabus i.e. ethics syllabus for UPSC Mains Examination.

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. Questions may utilize the case study approach to determine these aspects.

UPSC Mains: General Studies-IV (Ethics syllabus UPSC)

Paper–VGeneral Studies – IV (Ethics, Integrity & Aptitude)250 marks

The General Studies Paper IV covers the following subjects:

  • Ethics
  • Integrity
  • Aptitude

This paper may have a slight overlap of topics with Governance and Social Justice Subjects from General Studies II in the Civil Service Examination mains papers but is largely independent of the syllabus of other GS papers.

Structure of UPSC Mains General Studies Paper- 4

The following are the important features of the ethics syllabus for UPSC i.e. General Studies IV paper:

  • The paper consists of twelve questions with these divided into two sections. Before 2018, there were fourteen questions, though now the complexity has been increased and the number of questions has been reduced.
  • All the questions are compulsory.
  • The questions are of 10 marks and 20 marks depending on the length of the answer required. The 10 marks questions need answers within 150 words while the 20 marks questions need answers within 250 words.
  • The total marks allotted to this paper are 250 marks.
  • The questions are of two types:
    • Direct concept related questions which test the candidate’s understanding of ethical issues and concepts related to integrity and aptitude (125 marks)
    • Case studies which test the candidate’s application of those concepts to situations involving the candidate and other stakeholders such as politicians, pressure groups, the public and other people (125 marks)
  • This paper is the most variable of the four General Studies Papers and the nature of questions differs widely from year to year. Candidates should familiarise themselves with the syllabus, and the last few year’s patterns as well.

The key takeaway from this paper is that it tests the candidate’s honesty and integrity along with their problem solving and conflict resolution skills.

Ethics syllabus UPSC: General Studies Paper 4

Ethics, Integrity, and Aptitude:

  • 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 Civil Service, 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 the 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 the above issues

Micro Topics: Ethics syllabus UPSC

1. Ethics: Basic Introduction

  • Dimensions and Essence of Ethics
  • Approaches of Ethical Study: Indian Perspective and Western Perspective
  • Basic concepts: morality and value
  • Ethics in public life
  • Ethics in Economic Life
  • Freedom and Discipline
  • Duties and Rights
  • Virtue Ethics
  • Consequences of Ethics in Human Actions
  • Values and Ethics in Government: Legislature, Executive and judiciary
  • Contribution of Family in Value Education
  • Contribution of Society in Inculcating Values
  • Role of Educational Institutions in Inculcating Values

2. Human values

  • Human Values& Socialization
  • Individual Personality and Values
  • Values and Skill
  • Fundamental and Instrumental Values
  • Democratic values
  • Role of Ethical values in governance and society
  • Significance of values in civil services
  • Aesthetic values
  • Values in work life and professional ethics

3. Aptitude and Foundational Values of Civil Services

  • Essential Aptitude for civil servants
  • Foundational Values of Civil Services
  • Civil Services Accountability
  • Neutrality, Anonymity, Integrity, Humility, Adaptability, Magnanimity, Perseverance
  • Impartiality and Non-Partisanship
  • Tolerance and compassion for the Weaker section
  • Contribution to society by Civil Services

4. India & World Thinkers

  • Indian Thinkers
    • Mahatama Gandhi
    • Dr. S Radhakrishnan
    • Rabindranath Tagore
    • Swami Dayanand Saraswati
    • MahadevaGovindaRanade
    • Sri Aurobindo
    • Swami Vivekananda
    • Sardar Patel
    • Buddha
    • Bhim Rao Ambedkar
    • Raja Ram Mohan Roy
    • Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj
    • Mother Teresa
    • Amitabha Chowdhury
    • Aruna Roy
    • T N Seshan
    • E Sreedharan
  • Administrative Thinkers
    • Max Weber
    • Elton Mayo
    • Peter Drucker
    • Chester Barnard
    • Mary Parker Follet
  • World Thinkers
    • Plato
    • Aristotle
    • Socrates
    • Jeremy Bentham
    • J.S. Mill
    • Thomas Hobbes
    • John Locke
    • Jean Jacques Rousseau
    • John Rawls
    • Immanuel Kant
    • Carol Gilligan
    • Jean-Paul Sartre
    • Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
    • Confucius
    • Rene Descartes
    • Karl Marx
    • Adam Smith
    • Thomas Aquinas
    • David Hume
    • Democritus
    • Galileo
    • Friedrich Nietzsche
    • Montesquieu
    • Voltaire
    • Thomas Jefferson
  • Indian & World Leaders
    • Benjamin Franklin
    • Martin Luther King
    • Dalai Lama
    • Nelson Mandela
    • Mahatma Gandhi
    • Siddhartha Gautama
    • Aung San Suu Kyi
    • Swami Vivekananda
    • Albert Einstein
    • Abraham Lincoln
    • Mother Teresa
    • J L Nehru
    • Lee Kuan Yew
    • Henry Ford
    • Abdul Kalam
    • Muhammad Yunus
    • Wangari Maathai
    • Kofi Annan
    • Lech Walesa
    • Desmond Tutu
    • Isaac Newton
    • Elie Wiesel
    • King Ashoka
    • Sun Yat-Sen

5. Emotional Intelligence

  • Concept of Emotional Intelligence
  • Models of emotional intelligence
    • Peter Salovey and John Mayer
    • Reuven Bar-on Model
    • Goleman’s model
  • Utilities of Emotional Intelligence
  • Main Components of emotional intelligence
  • Importance of emotional intelligence in bureaucracy
    • The relevance of Emotional intelligence in Civil Services
  • Critiques of emotional intelligence

6. Attitude

  • Components of Attitude: Affective, Cognitive, Behavioral component
  • Functions of Attitude: Adjustive, Ego-Defensive, Value-Expressive, Knowledge Function
  • Attitude Formation Model
  • Impact of Beliefs and Values on Attitude
  • Group Influences
  • Social Influence
  • Persuasion Tactics and Tools of Persuasion
  • Moral Attitude formation
  • Political Attitude formation

7. Ethics & Governance

  • Values & Ethics in Public Administration
  • Ethical Concerns in Public Institution
  • Ethical Concerns in Private Institutions
  • Ethical Dilemmas in Public and Private Institutions
  • Laws, Rules, and Regulations as Source of Ethical Guidance
  • Accountability and Ethical Governance Strengthening of Ethical and Moral Values in governance
  • Moral Judgments in International Relations Ethical Relation in Funding
  • International Relations and the concept of Moral Responsibility
  • Ethics in working of international organizations
  • What is Corporate Governance?
  • Models of Corporate Social Responsibility
  • Steps were taken by the World Bank for Good Corporate Governance
  • Norms for Corporate Government in India
  • Concept of business ethics

8. Probity in Governance

  • Concept of Public Service
  • The philosophical basis of Governance and Probity
  • Information Sharing, Transparency and Right to Information
  • Flaws in RTI and recommendations for improvement
  • Importance of vigilant citizens
  • Information sharing and participation Importance of Code of ethics
  • Code of Ethics in Professions
  • Code of Conduct for Ministers; for Legislators; for Civil Servants; for Regulators and for the Judiciary
  • Components of a Citizen Charter
  • Steps in the formulation of a Citizen’s Charter Concept of Work Culture
  • The Indian Approach to Work
  • Methods of improving Work Culture
  • Quality of Service Delivery
  • The utilization of Public Funds
  • Problems in Fund Release and Utilization of Parliamentary Control on Expenditure
  • Corruption in India: extent, dimension, and response
  • Corruption as a social evil
  • Probity in public life Corrupt practice among civil servants and official misconduct
  • Exposing corruption: Civil Society initiatives and the role of the Whistleblower Act
  • Tackling corruption: Role of government and institutions of governance
  • Controlling corruption: Various approaches and efficacy


1. Euthanasia Issue

  • Social and Ethical perspective
  • Different arguments related to Euthanasia

2. Surrogacy

  • Case studies and Ethical Issues
  • Concept of ethical surrogacy

3. Ethics & Sports

  • Importance of sports
  • Ethical Issue: Need for sportsmanship, Doping
  • Ethical Issue: Discrimination and Sexual Harassment
  • Ethical Issue: Sports as a Business
  • Measures needed

4. Media Ethics

  • Role of Media and Ethical Issues faced by Reporters
  • Trial by Media and Media Prejudice
  • Ethical Dilemma faced by Photo Journalists
  • Digital Media Ethics
  • Paid News

5. Business Ethics

  • Principles of Business Ethics
  • Dimensions related to Business Ethics in Organisation
  • Business Ethics and Corporate Governance
  • The journey from Philanthropy to Corporate Social Responsibility
  • Issues related to Corporate Social Responsibility
  • Issues in the implementation of Business Ethics

6. Ethics Related to Economic Sanctions

  • Why Economic Sanctions placed?
  • Ethics in Economic Sanctions

7. Refugees & Ethics

  • Why Migration occurs?
  • Case study of Syria
  • Dilemmas related to the Refugee crisis
  • Rohingya Crisis

8. Ethical Dilemmas of Globalization

  • What is Globalization
  • Free trade in the Globalized world
  • Issues with Newly Developed Trade Patterns
  • Criticism against the global regime

9. Ethics of War

  • Ethics and War theories
  • Evils of war

10. Environmental Ethics

  • The linkage between Ethics and Environment
  • Theories related to Environmental ethics
  • Role of individual and society at large

11. Ethical Issues in Biotechnology

  • Issues related to Stem Cell
  • Issues related to cloning
  • Issues related to designer babies
  • Genetic engineering

12. Animal Ethics

  • Issues of conducting research on animals
  • Issue of keeping animals as pets
  • Issue of Cruelty against animals

13. Food Adulteration and Ethics

  • Ethical dimension
  • Ethical issue related to the food additive

14. Abortion: Ethical or Unethical

  • Law of abortion in India
  • Recent Supreme Court verdict
  • Ethical Issue: Health of Women vs. fetus
  • Justification for abortion – Argument against abortion
  • Abortion and women rights
  • Abortion and father rights
  • Honour Killing
  • Role of Khap Panchayats

15. Marital Rape

  • Why Marital Rape should not be criminalized?
  • Why Marital Rape should be criminalized?
  • What are the hurdles?

16. Child Labour

  • Rights of children
  • Child labor and company
  • Role of consumer

17. Ethical Issues Involved in the Juvenile Justice System

  • Negative implications
  • Ethics and Old Age
  • Ethical issues
  • Issues faced
  • Importance of autonomy

Ethics books for UPSC

Also, read

Reference: UPSC website for Syllabus & GS SCORE

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