Top tips for a high score in your IB English Literature Oral (IO)

What is the Individual Oral?

As the parent of an IB student, it is only a matter of time until you start to hear your child talk about the IO. (Yes, another acronym to throw into the mix!) 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 then moderated by the IB.

What happens during this assessment?

Students are required to give a 10 min spoken analysis of a literary extract and a non-literary text  (+ a 5-minute discussion with the teacher) focusing on a common global issue (for example, the objectification of women, conspicuous consumerism, gender equality, etc.) The candidate selects their own literary extract and non-literary from the texts that have been covered in class and prepare their oral exam in advance.

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

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.

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.

How can students prepare for the IO?

Having established that the IO is an important element of the English A Lit & Lang assessment, 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 and he is has held different teaching posts in Canada, Germany, Switzerland and currently, the Czech Republic.

Sebastian Wierny English tutor

Sebastian’s top tips for IOC 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 an IO to ensure you can maximise your own marks. This means listening to IOs that have obtained top marks and analysis WHY they scored highly. (Link to Oral Sample)

Be clear on how to structure a great 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 and of one of the works and one of the texts that you have studied.”
  • Understand that excellent commentaries are focused, ordered, well-developed, and 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)
  • 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. 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.
  • 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. 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

  • Select a revision buddy and peer assess your classmate’s IO and vice versa.
  • Record yourself and self assess, ask yourself how you would grade your performance and how you can improve.
  • Ask your teacher or tutor for feedback on your recording so you can continue to practise and improve.

If you need a little help preparing don’t hesitate to get in touch with TutorsPlus and 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

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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