A Tutor’s Perspective: Top Challenges of IB English and Some Solutions

The International Baccalaureate (IB) Curriculum offers an array of Language and Literature courses in 17 different languages. The IB English course is widely followed in Hong Kong schools, and therefore our IB English tutors at Aegis often work with lots of students to prepare for essays, build vocabulary, and discuss texts. Through working with many students over time, our IB English tutors have put together a list of the top reasons students struggle with their studies. Below we have compiled a list of top challenges and some advice on how to tackle them.

First, let us begin with an overview of the IB English curriculum. This article is specifically looking at Language A literature courses, which focus on the study of literary works from a global perspective. Through analysis, discussion, oral presentations and written work, students explore literature with an emphasis on critical thinking, textual dissection, and interpretation.

Top Challenges Faced by Students in the IB English Program in Hong Kong:

1. Time Management on Extensive Reading

– The program involves a substantial amount of reading and literary analysis, which can be time-consuming and mentally demanding. Some students struggle to create a schedule that allows them to manage all their readings

Solution: Planning head will afford you more time to read texts slowly and take notes as you read. Some students even choose to hire IB English tutors whose main goal is to create a reading schedule and hold them accountable for completing readings. 

2. Multicultural Perspectives 

The IB English program is intentionally designed to draw from cultures and stories around the world. The curriculum involves an array of literary texts, which offers complexity and nuance. This means you are likely to have your mind changed about something, or maybe you will have to take a stance on a heavy moral question. Navigating new cultural and social perspectives requires us to adapt to different narrative styles and contexts. While reading and exploring challenging terrain like this with an open mind is rewarding, it can be a challenge for some. 

Solution: Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Students frequently share that they do not want to “say the wrong thing” or accidentally cause harm during a discussion. However, keep in mind that it is ok to not know everything. If you come across a text that is challenging you or brings up a lot of questions, do some research online or ask your teacher for more cultural context that will help you understand the text.

3. Mastering Oral Presentations

 The Individual Oral Presentation (IOP) component of many IB English curricula can be anxiety-inducing for some students who may struggle with public speaking or articulating their thoughts effectively.

Solution: Practice, practice, practice. If public speaking makes you nervous, try giving small, casual presentations or mini speeches to the people close to you. Hoping your parents will take you for ice cream after dinner one night? Try preparing a 3 minute argumentative speech ahead of time! Before you have a major graded presentation, practice that presentation with friends, or during a session with your IB English tutor.

4. Writing strong essays

A large component of any English literature class will be writing. Depending on your teacher, this might range from creative writing to argumentative essays. Students often struggle with developing a solid thesis and organizing their thoughts in a clear way.

Solution: Good readers make good writers. IB English tutors often say that when they encounter an excellent essay, it is obvious that the student who wrote it not only reads the assigned book, but also reads literature outside of the classroom. Be it fiction, newspapers or magazines, reading the work of others makes you a better writer. It also builds your vocabulary. 

5. Understanding Difficult Texts

Reading Comprehension is one of the top challenges for many students, but it is critical not only to perform well in IB English classes, but also for standardized tests. Reading comprehension is often a part of American entry tests such as the SSAT. 

Solution: Build your vocabulary and start with small texts. If you are working with an IB English tutor, they are an excellent resource for vocabulary and analysis practice. Ask your tutor to provide new vocabulary terms each week, or work with them during a session to analyze a short excerpt together. There is also plenty of comprehension practice online. Lastly, be sure to discuss the texts in your class with classmates, your teacher, or your tutor to hear other interpretations and perspectives. 
Aegis Advisors has a team of experienced and committed IB English tutors in Hong Kong and online who can help you in a full range of subjects across all major curriculums. Contact us today to see how we can help.