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Issue no 21, 20-26 August 2022

Civil Services (Main)

Exam Preparing For Gs Paper III & IV


S B Singh


There are four GS (General Studies) papers for the UPSC Civil Services (Main) Examination. In the previous article, preparation strategy for GS-I and GS-II were discussed in detail. This article seeks to decode the syllabus of GS-III and GS-IV papers and offer a sound preparation strategy for the same. Each GS paper is inter[1]disciplinary as well as multi[1]disciplinary by nature. This is true of GS paper III and IV as well. There are as many as six distinct topics under GS-III to make it a truly multi-disciplinary paper. These are - Economy, Agriculture, Environment and Ecology, Disaster Management, Internal Security, and Science and Technology. Thus, of all the four GS papers, GS-III is most diverse in nature. As is clear from these subjects, GS-III is very dynamic in terms of the topics to be studied. Most of the questions are current and application based. For example, the rising inflation, its impact on economy, measures to curb inflation can be a topic for this year's mains exam. Similarly, on environment, the forest fires, heat waves, floods occurring in all parts of the world and their connection with climate change can be asked. The point to note here is that one should take into account these latest developments relating to the syllabus of GS-III paper rather than studying just their traditional aspects. As already mentioned, there are six different disciplines in GS-III paper and striking a balance in their preparation, therefore, is a key challenge. In other words, one may end up reading only economy and agriculture, and leaving a great portion of the other areas like internal security, science and technology etc. Therefore, each small part of the syllabus must be carefully looked into by preparing a list of topics. A careful perusal of last several years' question papers of UPSC helps to make a comprehensive list of topics for GS-III paper. Needless to add that the best sources to find these topics are newspapers, journals which comment on latest developments on economy, ecology, science etc. Besides, govt. reports, especially annual reports of ministries of agriculture, forest, environment and climate change, department of space, need to be consulted. All government reports are available online and are easily accessible.



Economy: Apart from developing a basic understanding of concepts of economy, which is very clearly explained in NCERT books on economy, one needs to understand the entire budgetary process, concepts like fiscal, revenue deficits, monetary and fiscal policies, role of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) as a regulatory body, challenges of reviving a pandemic affected economy, issues of trade deficits, economic benefits of bilateral agreements with different countries, etc.


Agriculture: Some of the important topics to be covered in agriculture are - farmers' income, new agricultural practices, problems of agricultural marketing, organic farming, zero budget farming, issues of agricultural finance, impact of climate change on agriculture, crop diversification, changes in irrigational practices to save underground water, etc.


Environment & Ecology: The horizons of environment and ecology are fast expanding as climate change is impacting human lives and livelihood in multiple ways. Therefore, this section requires added attention by candidates. One should be thorough with the issues of climate change, its causative factors, climate negotiations like COP 26, Paris Climate Treaty, agenda of the upcoming COP 27 meet in Egypt, etc. Further, India's stand and its engagement with climate issues must be followed. One must also know the meaning and significance of environmental terms and terminologies, especially the current ones. For example, terms like anthropogenic change, adaptation, mitigation, and resilience are used everyday on reporting climate related issues. Similarly, terms like heat budget, net- zero emissions, heat domes, ocean acidifications etc must be familiarized with. There is a lot to learn about the wildlife also. For example, translocation of cheetah in Kuno National Park, Madhya Pradesh has given rise to fierce debate on its rationale and viability. There will be many more such topics being regularly reported in newspapers, TV, social media which require attention


Disaster Management: Both man-made and natural disasters cause loss of life and livelihood. Their causes, prevention, mitigation strategies, need to be studied. Role of NDMA (National Disaster Management Authority) and other agencies in tackling disasters should also be examined. Earthquakes, floods, lightning, landslides occur frequently in different parts of India. How to minimize damage caused by these disasters and ways to rehabilitate the affected people, should be prepared. Policy response to these disasters should also be looked into.


Internal Security: The syllabus of internal security is well laid out and this makes it easier to follow the relevant issues. The role of various agencies like the Home Ministry, paramilitary forces, NIA (National Investigation Agency) and also the organizational structure dealing with internal security should be understood. Issues of border security, drug trafficking, human trafficking cross-border terrorism, ethnic violence, separatism, radicalism, naxalism are extremely important. Money laundering, terror finance, role of FATF (Financial Action Task Force) in tackling these problems, cyber security, are other related issues to be prepared well.


Science & Technology: Latest developments in space, bio-technology, blockchain technology, defence, artificial intelligence, should be covered by following newspapers and scientific journals.



This is a paper which is known as Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude and it was introduced in the Civil Services (Main) Examination only in 2013 in order to evaluate the approach of the candidates to issues that need application of values, morality and Ethics in Civil Services. The Ethics paper is divided into two segments, viz; seven subjective questions based on the syllabus, and six[1]seven case studies. A close looks at the Ethics syllabus reveals that everything in it is not necessarily about Ethics. There are sections on Social Psychology, viz; attitudes, and emotional intelligence. Then, there are sections relating to Governance issues such as Public Delivery, Citizen Charter, and RTI (Right to Information) etc.


The challenge posed by the Ethics syllabus is that it is not descriptive but indicative. Therefore one has to create a syllabus on one's own by deciphering the broad contours of the UPSC syllabus. Moreover, the Ethics syllabus is more contextual and less textual. By this, it is implied that the syllabus is rooted in its social, economic, and human contexts. The questions are raised on problems related to decline of values, lack of integrity and probity issues of corruption which all have a specific context. The first chapter of Ethics syllabus is its backbone and it requires understanding the meaning, dimensions, consequences of Ethics, its human interface, important ethical thinkers, administrators etc. Applied Ethics is immensely significant. This covers Environ[1]mental Ethics, Animal Ethics, Bio Ethics, Sports Ethics, Medical Ethics, Corporate Ethics, Media Ethics, and Ethics of Artificial Intelligence. Similarly, the failure of the family, educational institutions to impart the right values in children is part of the first chapter which needs to be covered. For the chapters on attitude and emotional intelligence, one needs to look up a book on social psychology. NCERT books on social psychology have given the fundamentals of these two chapters, but are not adequate for writing answers. Therefore, additional studies are called for on these chapters. On governance-related topics under the Ethics syllabus, the best reference source is Administrative Reforms Commission's Fourth Report. It must be stressed here that there is no need to run for too many study materials on Ethics, what is really required is to develop insight on the issues that affect us and formulate a value based stand. However, for topics like corruption, Citizens Charter, international relations, utilization of public funds, one needs to consult relevant sources. As regards the case studies asked in the Ethics paper, one must understand at the very outset that no specialized knowledge is required to solve these cases as they are of very general nature. The best way to approach case studies is to apply the following principles.

·         Understanding the issues given in the case study

·         Pinpointing the issues that need solution in the case study

·         Finding the most practicable solution that is workable, not just ideal talks

·         Solving ethical dilemmas, if any, in the case study

·         Taking into account public interest while suggesting a solution

·         Application of empathy, emotional intelligence while solving the problem

·         A stakeholders' approach to problem solving

·         Decision making capacity As stated earlier, the best way to approach the Ethics paper is to closely examine the pattern of previous years' questions


Key Advice: Familiarity with ethics related terms and their applications in real life situations is clue to preparing for Ethics syllabus. A glossary of terms should be compiled. Terms like accountability, autonomy, generosity, compassion, tolerance, empathy, virtue, fortitude, objectivity, impartiality etc need to be familiarized with. Also, the basic tenets of important western thinkers like Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Machiavelli, Kant, Rawls as well as Indian religious leaders like Buddha, Mahavira, Sankara , Kabir, Guru Nanak need to be covered along with their quotations.



Economics: (i) NCERT books on Macro and Micro Economics and India's economic development (ii) Misra and Puri: Indian Economy (iii) Economic Survey (iv) Yojana Journal of Publications Division.


Agriculture: (i) Annual Report of Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India, (ii) Kurukshetra Journal of Publications Division.


Disaster Management: (i) Website of National Disaster Management Authority (ii) Website of the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India.


Internal Security: (i) ARC (Administrative Reforms Committee) Report (ii) Website of the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India (iii) Daily Newspapers.


Science and Technology: (i) Reports published by the different Science-related ministries of the Government of India (iii) Daily newspapers (iv) Reputed Science Journals.


Ethics: (i) ARC Fourth Report (ii) BBC Ethics website (iii) Marakula School of Ethics website


(The author is an academician and competitive examinations mentor. He can be reached at: sb_singh 2003@yahoo.com)


Views expressed are personal.