Theme or Issue Questions

For higher level sometimes you are asked to discuss “at least two texts” so only discussing 2 if the question is worded in this way is fine. More often than not you are told to discuss all three.. If it says “the texts you have studied” then you MUST answer on three texts because the syllabus tells you to study three texts.

At ordinary level you are almost always only expected to discuss two texts.

Sample 70 mark questions:

Studying a theme or issue enables a reader to form both personal and universal reflections on that theme or issue” Discuss in relation to two or more texts.

Important themes are often expressed in key moments in texts” Compare how the authors of the three comparative texts studied by you used key moments to heighten your awareness of an important theme.

A reader’s view of a theme or issue can be either changed or reinforced through interaction with texts.”

There are key moments in a text when a theme comes sharply into focus” Discuss.

The dramatic presentation of a theme or issue can add greatly to the impact of narrative texts

Exploring a theme or issue through different texts allows us to make interesting comparisons

A theme or issue explored in a group of narrative texts can offer us valuable insights into life

Sample 30 / 40 mark questions:

In many texts, a theme or issue may not be resolved to the complete satisfaction of the reader

(a) Discuss the extent to which a theme or issue is resolved to your satisfaction in one text on your comparative course. (b) Compare the extent to which the same theme or issue is resolved to your satisfaction in two other texts on your comparative course.


(a) Choose a theme from one text you have studied and say how it helped maintain your interest in the text. (30) (b) Compare how the theme is treated by the authors of two other texts to maintain the reader’s interest. (40)


The comparative study of a theme or issue allows the reader to gain a variety of viewpoints on that theme or issue

(a) Describe the viewpoint on your chosen theme in one text you have studied. (30)

(b) Compare the viewpoint on the same theme in your other two texts. (40)


(a) Compare how key moments of two texts you have studied raised an important theme or issue. (40)

(b) In the case of a third text show how a key moment helped in your understanding of the same theme or issue. (30)


The study of a theme or issue can offer a reader valuable lessons and insights.”
(a)    Identify and discuss at least one valuable lesson or insight that you gained through the study of a theme or issue in one text on your comparative course.    (30)
(b)    Compare at least one valuable lesson or insight that you gained, from studying the same theme or issue (as discussed in (a) above), in two other texts on your comparative course. The valuable lesson or insight may be the same, or different, to the one discussed in (a) above.    (40)


7 responses to “Theme or Issue Questions

  1. Hi I was just wondering if the theme of relationships is too broad for the essay? The three texts I’ve studied are Inside I’m Dancing, Dancing at Lughnasa and How many miles to Babylon. Would it be better to just focus on family relationships, for example?

    • The theme of relationships is fine. The theme you choose isn’t terribly important, what matters is the quality and depth of your links, your engagement with the question asked and the overall quality of your writing. Hope that helps, best of luck tomorrow and Thursday.

  2. Thank you! 🙂

  3. Has this post been updated with new sample questions since December 2011?

    • Yes, I’ve been adding in questions from the exam papers each year, so the questions that came up on theme or issue in 2013 are included. Theme or issue didn’t come up in 2012 or 2014.

  4. Hi I was just wondering if I can use the theme of “friendship, loyalty and betrayal” in my answer? I know you’re only supposed to answer on one theme and I think in the mock my comparative was marked as three different themes when I tried to use FL&B.
    Also, when they ask for what insights you’ve gained personally, what kind of stuff are they looking for? Thanks!

    • It says theme or issue. So you could discuss the issue of loyalty and betrayal, but don’t call it a theme.

      Friendship is a theme. Loyalty is a theme. Betrayal is a theme.

      To me, it’s odd to say ‘I will discuss the theme of friendship, loyalty and betrayal’ because, as the person correcting you mock rightfully observed, that’s three themes, not one.

      As for insights? Wisdom. Lessons learnt about life. Observations. Things you now understand that you didn’t really get or hadn’t really thought about before reading the text. Those are insights.

      For example, one insight we get from reading Foster by Claire Keegan is the realisation that a child isn’t always better off with their biological parents. She challenges this assumption by gently presenting an alternative family unit where the love and attention lavished upon the child far outstrips what was available to her in her biological family home.