10 Steps to success in the IB Oral Commentary (updated September 2021)
- Know your works! Above all read, and re-read your works. It is your interpretation of the texts which will be the crux of the oral. So if you don`t know the texts then you will come unstuck. Undoubtedly in the 5 min teacher/student Q&A session that follows your presentation!
- Choose your Global Issue carefully. Particularly make sure you the focus narrow and make sure you care! The overarching link between different texts is the way in which the author comments on your global issue. So, to help the IB organisation has specified 5 key issues: Culture, identity and community, Beliefs, values and education, Politics, power and justice, Art, creativity and the imagination, Science, technology and the environment.
- Think about the “form”(text type) as well as the content of the work. Remember, the I.B. says, “examine the ways in which the global issue of your choice is presented through the content and the form of two works you have studied”. This means you must make sure to link your ideas to the text type and explore how it enables both writer/author and reader to engage in the global issue.
- Dig deep and deconstruct. Make sure to explore in depth a few choice moments in your extracts. You do not have to unpick every choice the writer/author makes but make sure that you demonstrate your ability to analyse the use and the effects of specific stylistic features be they language-based or visual. so you can think of this kind of question: Why has the author of the text made the choice he or she has? More importantly, how does it encourage you, the reader, to feel about the global issue?
- Pull out and Position. Don’t forget to demonstrate your knowledge of the body of work as a whole. So this means making links to other parts of the novel, or other poems in the anthology, or, additional photographs in the exhibition or other adverts in the campaign.
- Choose a structure that works for you. Comparative commentaries are difficult and not all texts “fit” smoothly together. This means you need to think carefully about how to approach the commentary – will you take it text by text or will you integrate your discussion based on the authors’ choices? Above all, let the texts help you decide.
- Use the 10 bullet points wisely. Firstly, this means trying not to overwrite and if possible avoiding full sentences. Often, students find developing a shorthand works. Secondly, you might learn your introduction to the texts and the authors by heart thereby saving precious bullet points for more analytical ideas.
- Know the criteria and use them. Although it may seem boring getting to know the criteria is key to hitting the top marks and thereby obtaining success.
- Practise, practise, practise. Firstly, find a friend and practise together or record yourself. Secondly, make sure to time yourself and pay attention to timing as you rehearse.
Be confident. Difficult I know, but in the exam try to enjoy it and be confident. Clearly, this is your idea, your “work”, so be proud of what you have achieved and be confident.
Watch Teo talk about how to ace your IB Oral Commentary
By Tao McCarthy
Tao is a highly experienced English teacher, passionate about language and literature. She has been an IB English Examiner for over fourteen years. Unquestionably, she believes in the importance of critical thinking and creativity in education. First, she worked in schools in the UK, then Portugal and Greece both as a classroom teacher and a Head of Department. Importantly, she created an engaging pre-IB secondary English Language and Literature programme. Above all, Tao is committed to her students. Also she is an expert at preparing them for the IB Diploma English exams and IB Oral Commentary.
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