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1.After/Because she had finished the exam, she felt very happy.

2.After/Because she finished the exam, she felt very happy.

Is there a big difference when simple past is used instead of past perfect with conjunctions? (or What is the difference between the above two clauses?)

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    There is no significant difference between the meaning of these sentences in American English. The first is more formal and the second more conversational, but either would be acceptable in either context. – Jason Patterson Nov 9 '14 at 17:31
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Either one is OK, but the better choice would be simple past, to keep it simple.

2) After/Because she finished the exam, she felt very happy.

Using past perfect would be more appropriate in reference to another time event. For example:

1) After she had finished the exam, she remembered that she forgot to put her name on it.

or

1) Because she had finished the exam, she decided to go shopping.

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There is no difference. We can use the past perfect tense or the past simple with before or after without any difference in meaning, especially when one action happened immediately after the other.
e.g. They went out after it had stopped/ stopped raining.

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