UPSC CSE Mains Exam consists of total 10 Papers which include 2 Language Papers (qualifying in nature), 1 Essay Paper, 4 GS Papers (GS-I, GS-II, GS-III & GS-IV) and 2 Optional Subject Papers. Out of all these papers, Ethics is part of GS-IV Paper.
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Ethics Paper (GS-IV) was introduced in 2013, full six years ago, but still is shrouded in mystery. Partly because there is no single good book explaining basics in an authoritative manner, partly because the syllabus itself can be interpreted very widely and also partly because most of us have no background in ethics as there is no directly related undergraduate course.
To clear up the confusion students have related to Ethics study material and Strategy to prepare the subject, we have compiled this Article that states some standard study material sources to be referred to and a plan of action that you can adopt to prepare for ethics paper.
Ethics Study Material for UPSC CSE Mains Exam
Lexicon is the starting point for most aspirants. After that, the next logical steps can include following things -
1. Previous year’s papers - It's the most authentic source in order to understand the scope of the syllabus and type of the questions asked.
2. Preparing from study material provided by the institute.
Class notes vary depending upon the background of the teacher. Teachers in ethics come from either of three backgrounds - philosophy teachers, psychology teachers and public administration teachers. They all bring their own perspective which is useful and limiting at the same time. Idea is to incorporate each ones expertise into the content.
3. As far as standard published books are concerned, many people go for a book by Subba Rao as it gives somewhat balanced approach between theory and practice. There are generally three kinds of authors in this field - some successful candidates have written books based on their experience, some university professors and academics have authored books, and finally there are some practitioners like serving bureaucrats. There are also compilation of articles, essays and speeches by combination of above three. Each type of book has its pros and cons.
In ethics, difficulty is that notes and books become outdated quickly as the question paper format keeps evolving every year. What's good today may not be for tomorrow. So, choose the book wisely.
4. Internet - There are very many sources here and some very tempting. There is a course by Harvard Prof. Michael Sandel called Justice. It's a fantastic series of video lectures exposing an uninitiated to the world of ethics. There are various topical videos on YouTube. Various western governments and institutions like OECD or UN have there own documents, kits and reports (like Nolan committee, Cadbury committee of UK)
Indian government has published some reports like Second ARC. DoPT has published a good manual on ethics for civil servants with Indian perspective. Home Ministry, DARPG also have their own manuals.
So, go through previous year’s ethics papers, notice the changing trend and choose your study material accordingly.
How to Prepare Ethics Paper for UPSC CSE Mains Exam & Score High
1) First and the most important 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.
2) Secondly, while reading newspaper, try to focus on actions of various people involved. It's all about three things - stakeholders, communication and decision making.
3) 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.
4) 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.
5) 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.
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All the Best!