Your browser (Internet Explorer 6) is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites. Learn how to update your browser.

Tutorial: Understanding Irony on the GAMSAT

Trying out a new format today. It would be great to get your feedback if you find this helpful, or if you’d rather just be doing straight-up gamsat questions. You can get in touch on Twitter, in the comments below, by email, or by taking this survey (hint: do the survey!)


What is irony?

Irony can come in many forms depending on the medium of communication. The three most likely forms of irony you might encounter on GAMSAT Section 1 are Verbal, Situational and Dramatic irony.

Verbal Irony is the use of words to convey the opposite of their literal or actual meaning. For example, when somebody describes the Eurovision as “Amazing” when what they really mean is “hilariously bad”.

Some literary-types will say that sarcasm is a special type of verbal irony, others will say it isn’t. ACER take great care in constructing questions for GAMSAT Section 1 to ensure that their answers are not debateable. For this reason it is unlikely that a question will actively refer to both sarcasm and irony. That said, if a question specifically asks for an example of verbal irony, then there is a good chance the answer will be something sarcastic a character in the narrative said.

Situational irony arises due to a complete reversal of what was expected to happen. Dramatic irony is a subset of situational irony. It occurs as a result of the audience having more information than a character in a story. For example, a character may have a plan that will enable her make millions of pounds. The audience knows, however, that due to other events in the narrative unknown to herself, this plan will actually result in her losing all of her money and becoming poor. Before it even happens it is ironic, because the audience can forsee an ironic situation ahead. The audience understands the significance of the upcoming events, but the character does not.