English IO – How to Ace Your IB English Literature & Language Oral

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What is the English IO?

English Literature & Language IB? Then it’s only a matter of time before you have to start thinking about your English IO. (Don’t worry, our IB Examiner gives you a complete guide on how to prepare, and get the best mark possible!)

IO stands for Individual Oral and is an integral part of the assessment for English A Language and Literature. It is usually taken in the first term of the final year of the IB, so for many, it is their first taste of a formal exam. It is internally assessed which means that it is marked by the teacher and moderated by the IB.

Just 2-3 lessons can set you up for success in your final exam. To book a session with one of our IB English teachers and examiners click HERE.
What happens during this assessment?

Students are required to give the following:

10 min spoken analysis of a literary extract and non-literary text

5-minute discussion with the teacher focusing on a common global issue.

The candidate can select their own literary and non-literary extract from the texts that have been covered in class so that they can prepare their IO in advance.

The IO is recorded and sent to the IB for moderation (thus the grade is subject to change).

Jon S


Jon is a qualified teacher and IB examiner. He holds an M.A. in English from New York University. Jon was Head IB teacher & Head of Year at St Andrew’s schools in Buenos Aires. He currently teaches English at the esteemed Avenue World School in New York. Jon is an experienced Extended Essay and Individual Oral Commentary supervisor.



Victoria is a fully qualified teacher certified by Durham University in the UK. Since graduating, she has worked at the International School of Geneva and at L’Ecole Anhugar in Nyon where she teaches gifted students. She teaches English across the IB, A-Level and GCSE curriculums and TOK as well as English as a Foreign Language for the Swiss Matu.



Katy has taught at a number of prestigious schools in the U.K. and Switzerland. Katy teaches English IGCSE & IB Diploma alongside TOK, Global Politics, Geography, History, Religious Studies.  She is also an Extended Essay moderator for Global Politics & Geography.


Vera is an IB English Examiner and IELTS teacher and has been teaching the IB at top IB World Schools for the last 15 years. Her expertise covers IB English Language & Literature, AP Literature & Composition, and Extended Essay support as well as IGCSE English Literature & Language.


Tao has been an IB English Teacher for over 20 years and an IB English Examiner for 14 years. She is also an IB Individual Oral expert. She has worked in international schools in the UK, Portugal & Greece before arriving in Switzerland. She has experience of the IB, English & US programmes.
Sebastian English Tutor


Sebastian is a fully qualified IB English Literature and Language, Theory of Knowledge (TOK) & IB Extended Essay teacher. He also teaches IB French Literature & Language and IB Spanish B. Following more than a decade of teaching in international schools he is able to support IB students with their exam preparation. Specialist English Oral (IO) tutor.
Christopher is a TutorsPlus tutor


Chris has been a Maths & Physics tutor for over 10 years. Also, he has a track record of helping his students gain entrance into top English boarding schools. Students have succeeded in getting places at Eton, St Paul’s, Dulwich College through excellent common entrance exam results.
Anna is a TutorsPlus tutor


With 10 years of experience teaching English, Anna is an Examiner for the IB and GCSE AQA exam board.  In addition to her first-class degree in English from Durham University, she is also a certified Teacher. More recently she has also taught at Collège Champittet.

How important is the IO?

At SL the IO is worth 30% and at HL it is worth 20% of the final English A grade, so the short answer is that it’s pretty important and a good opportunity for students to boost their grade. For 2022/23 cohort the IB is likely to apply tougher grade boundries. See below.

How is the IO graded?

Students only have one opportunity to take their IO. There are 4 different criteria, each worth 10marks, giving a possible total of 40 marks.

You can review the grading structure here.

Note for the 2023 examinations and beyond: The IB organisation has announced here that they intend to return grade boundaries to pre-Covid levels. Another reason, careful preparation will be even more important.

How can students prepare for the IO?

Having established that the IO is an important element, how can students best prepare? TutorsPlus IB expert IB Diploma teacher, Sebastian, offers us his essential strategies – and he knows his stuff. His last cohort scored among the highest IO results in Europe!

To book a session with Tao or Sebastian click HERE

Sebastian Wierny English tutor

Sebastian’s top tips for English IO revision:
Knowledge is power – know the marking rubric
  • Before anything else, ensure you are familiar with the requirements of an effective IO.
  • Be able to evaluate other IO’s to ensure you maximise your own marks. This means listening to IOs that have obtained top marks and analysing WHY they scored highly. (Link to Oral Sample)
Be clear on how to structure a great English IO
  • Remember that the central focus of your commentary is the global issue presented in both texts. Here is the mandatory prompt for all students:  “Examine the ways in which the global issue of your choice is presented through the content of one of the works and one of the texts that you have studied.”
  • Understand that excellent commentaries are focused, ordered and well-developed. They should provide a close analysis of how language produces both meaning and effect in relation to the global issue presented in both the work (literary extract) and the text (non-literary text / extract).
Introduction – Body – Conclusion – just like an essay
  • Divide the commentary into 3 main parts (just like you would do in a written essay): An Introduction, the body and a conclusion.
  • The introduction should last one minute and the conclusion as well. This leaves you with ONLY 4 minutes to devote to each of the texts. However, there are many ways to organize the body on your oral (for example, body 1 = 4 min, body 2 = 4 min)
  • How you subdivide body 1 and body 2 of your oral is the difference between obtaining an average grade and a high one. Here is where your tutor will be most helpful.
Timing, timing, timing
  • Please note that the commentary should be “balanced” which means that you must spend the same amount of time talking about the literary and the non-literary text. So, never underestimate the importance of timing your IO!
  • AVOID the “this means this that means that problem” this is typical when students don’t organize their IO (# 1 problem)
Top revision tips
  • Many say selecting a revision buddy can help, and peer assess your classmate’s IO and vice versa.
  • Another idea is to record yourself and self-assess, ask yourself how you would grade your performance and how you can improve.
  • So, remember you can ask your teacher or tutor for feedback on your recording so you can continue to practise and improve.

If you need help preparing for your Oral,  we can match you with Sebastian or one of our other IB experts to give you the support you need.

Sebastian Wierny teaches English A, English B, French, and Spanish online for TutorsPlus. To book a lesson with Sebastian, click here

For more information on our English IB tuition click here

Watch one of our expert IB Examiners talk about how to ace your English Oral



To book a session with Tao or Sebastian click HERE

Olivia has been a client manager for TutorsPlus for over 6 years and is an expert on international education in Switzerland.

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