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Questions & Answers

What is the meaning of the word 'significance' in essay questions?

The word 'significance' is used in many exam questions in both English Literature, and can often be a complicated and confusing concept.

For example, an English Literature essay question on The Taming of the Shrew may ask 'Explore the significance of Bianca's courtship in relation to the play as a whole'. Often, students may find themselves listing events that they believe are important, and demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of the subject. However, they often do not accurately convey their understanding of 'significance'. This can be frustrating when your knowledge is correct, but your grades are not reflecting your efforts.

With regards to these types of questions, the examiners are asking for you, as students, to demonstrate not only your awareness of literary facts, but also your wider understanding of the impact that this had on the text. They are asking for you to demonstrate how the particular concept, such as irony, impacts the text as a whole. 

There are a number of ways you can show the examiner that you understand 'significance', and these can dramatically improve your essays. They are also relatively simple, and once you start to use them, it will become second nature to include them in.

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