10 steps to success in the IB English oral commentary

10 Steps to success in the IB English oral commentary (updated September 2021)
In Language A the IB Oral Commentary is now even more important than ever. This year, like last,  Language A students  will not sit Paper 2 in the May 2022 examinations. In fact 28 papers have been removed across the IB for 2021.


This means that the IB Oral Commentary (OC) is even more steeply weighted and doing well is integral to achieving those 6s and 7s in English. With this in mind, here are10 key steps students can take to prepare for their oral commentary.

  1. Know your works and by that I mean read (and, if possible, reread) your works. It is your interpretation of the texts which will be the crux of the oral and if you don`t know the texts then you will come unstuck in the five-minute teacher and student questions and answer session that follows your presentation.
  2. Choose your Global Issue carefully. Make the focus narrow and make sure you care!

    The overarching link between what may at first seem radically different texts is the way in which the author, through specific artistic choices, comments upon your global issue. The I.B. 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.

  3. Think about the “form”(text type) as well as the content of the work.

    Remember, the prompt, provided by the I.B., is “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”. You must make sure to link your ideas to the text type and to explore how it enables both writer/author and reader to engage in the global issue.

  4. Dig deep and deconstruct. Make sure to explore in depth a few choice moments in your extracts. You do not have 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. 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?
  5. Pull out and Position. Don’t forget to demonstrate your knowledge of the body of work as a whole. Make links to other parts of the novel, or other poems in the anthology, or, to additional photographs in the exhibition or other adverts in the campaign.
  6. Choose a structure that works for you. Comparative commentaries are difficult and not all texts “fit” smoothly together. 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? Let the texts help you decide.
  7. Use the 10 bullet points wisely. Try not to overwrite and if possible avoid full sentences. You may like to develop a kind of shorthand or you might like to learn your introduction to the texts and the authors by heart thereby saving precious bullet points for more analytical ideas.
  8. Know the criteria and use it. It may seem boring but getting to know the criteria is key to hitting the criteria and thereby obtaining success.
  9. Practise, practise, practise. Find a peer and practise together or record yourself. Make sure to time yourself and pay attention to timing.
  10. Be confident. Difficult I know, but try to enjoy it and be confident. This is your idea, your “work” as it were, so be proud of what you have achieved and be confident.

Watch Teo talk about how to ace your IO

By Tao McCarthy

Tao is a highly experienced English teacher, passionate about language and literature. She has been an IB Examiner for over fourteen years and she believes in the importance of critical thinking and creativity in education. She has worked in schools in the UK, Portugal and Greece both as a classroom teacher and a Head of Department. In her last role as Head, Tao was excited to be able to develop the English Curriculum combining best practises from British International and American educational systems to create an engaging pre-IB secondary English Language and Literature programme. Tao is committed to her students and is an expert at preparing them for the IB Diploma English exams.

If you would like to book a lesson with Tao, click here



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