General studies Paper IV–Case Studies

General studies Paper IV–Case Studies

General studies Paper IV–Case Studies


In 2013 UPSC introduced General studies paper IV consisting of two parts.

In 2013 UPSC introduced General studies paper IV consisting of two parts. 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. The candidates should get conceptual clarity of topics. They should read ethics in governance reports and go through the previous year question papers. They should not forget thinkers' quotes and apply them to the prevailing situation. There are a lot of books available in the market for this paper.

Telugu Academy Hyderabad has published my book ethics, integrity and aptitude in English. The second part consists of case studies that test the candidate's application of those concepts to situations involving the candidate and other stakeholders such as politicians, pressure groups, public and other people. Among all general studies papers this paper is the most variable. The nature of questions differ widely from year to year. Hence the candidates should familiarise themselves with the last few years' patterns. When we analyse the previous question papers of 2018, 2019 and 2020 it is evident that the questions on basics and thinkers carried 60 marks each in 2018 and 2020 whereas it was about 40 in 2019. This paper has a slight overlap of topics with governance and social justice subjects from general studies paper II. But it is largely independent of the syllabus of other general studies papers.


Candidate is required to answer questions based on a given case study. There is no right or wrong answer when answering questions on a case study. But it is all about being reasonable and ethically, morally right based on one thought process and experience. The topics may vary on gender issues, Mal governance, environmental issues, current affairs, corruption, human development factors, ethical dilemmas and conflict of interest. The candidate must be familiar with the common terminology and try to use the keywords while writing the answer. He must be very good at the basics of ethics. Another aspect is it is very important to learn how to skim through the major contents. This will definitely save valuable time and effort and can go through more content in a limited amount of time. Within the time frame the candidate should be able to put his thoughts in a coherent manner.

Examiner point of view:

Mostly the answers are of practical nature. From the examiner's point of view it seeks to gauge the candidates basic understanding of code of ethics, code of conduct, work culture, quality of service delivery and ability to analyse and form his own views on various conflicting social economic issues. The candidates must answer in such a way that it reflects his or her complete knowledge on the topic .The formation of the answer should be focused to the point and relevant. There is no key or a set answer for the case study. The original idea should be to learn from the format itself. Candidates should try to provide practical solutions, ideal solutions and workable solutions. It should be out of the box. Specific solutions instead of generalized solutions should be given. In case it is regarding transparency he should mention how he would promote transparency rather than mentioning the steps to take to promote transparency. You can give even the most undesirable course of action as one of the options. If it is a case of accepting a bribe, the candidate should take the option of rejection of the bribe. Search up on peripheral issues than on core issues. Try to address the issue as well. " I won't accept the bribe'' is not a simple answer. Mention that I would launch a complaint against the person who has offered the bribe. All the solutions should try to balance conflicting options as much as possible. Such a balancing may not always happen.

2019 GS Paper IV

In the case studies sector in 2019 there was a paragraph mentioning about politicians and bureaucracy. The question is like this:

"In a modern democratic polity, there is the concept of political executive and permanent executive. Elected peoples representatives from the political executive and bureaucracy forms the permanent executive. Ministers frame policy decisions and bureaucrats execute these. In the initial decades after Independence, the relationship between the permanent executive and the political executive were characterised by mutual understanding, respect and cooperation, without encroaching upon each other's domain. However in the subsequent case the situation has changed. There are instances of the political executive insisting upon the permanent executive to follow its agenda. Respect for and appreciation of upright bureaucrats has declined. There is an increasing tendency among the political executive to get involved in routine administrative matters such as transfers, postings etc. Under this scenario there is a definitive trend towards politicisation of bureaucracy. The rising materialism and acquisitiveness in social life has also adversely impacted upon the ethical values of both the permanent executive and the political executive.

What are the consequences of this "politicisation of bureaucracy"? Discuss.

This is not a problem solving issue, it involves the theoretical and practical aspect of ethical values of a government servant. One should be careful in attempting the answer. During the recent decades the civil servants are subjected to frequent transfers and postings which do not carry any workload. The local MLAs and political party leaders bring pressure on the executive head to toe his line according to their wishes. Even at the helm of affairs the civil servant does not have a support. But there are examples where the civil servant showed his firmness in dealing with such personalities though he may have to suffer frequent transfers.

The answer should be of practical nature. Learn more by studying previous questions. Mindset should be of practical nature with integrity. Bookish knowledge will not help.

(Author is a retired additional director general , Doordarshan, New Delhi)

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