Top tips to tackle IB English Poetry

One of the biggest challenges for many IB English students is poetry analysis. Perhaps you’ve never read much poetry outside of class. You might find the complex structure, subtle language, and many literary allusions of poems challenging to decode. Or maybe it’s literary devices that baffle you. After all, it’s not easy keeping straight tongue twisters ranging from anaphora and allegory to alliteration and apostrophe!

Why Annotate?

Poems are less straightforward than prose extracts. You need to take time to read through the poem and appreciate it holistically. It may take you several read-throughs to fully grasp a poem’s meaning. A good IB English tutor will tell you to always annotate! Annotating as you go will help you take note of literary devices, structure, meter, rhyme scheme, and important images and themes that the writer uses to achieve the desired effect. 

Paraphrase to Decode!

As many poems may be in old-fashioned, difficult, or convoluted language, paraphrasing challenging kinds may help you interpret the poem. The form of poems and their content are fundamentally linked. Make sure you understand the meaning and structure of each line as well as the author’s overall intent, and you’ll be able to decode how the elements of the poem work together to contribute to the greater meaning of the work.  

Feeling Lost? Try SPECSLIMS

Two important elements to look for are opposing elements/contrasts and recurring or repeating motifs. According to our IB English tutors, one popular method to remember the elements you might need to address in your analysis is SPECSLIMS (subject matter, purpose, emotion, and craftsmanship— structure, language, imagery, movement, and sound). By checking if you’ve addressed each of these in your analysis, you can be sure you’ve covered the essential points. 

Number 1 Tip: Be organised!

It helps to be prepared with an organised structure. You may want to use themes, techniques, or the structure of the poem to focus your thesis and organize your body paragraphs. Of course, the best way to improve your understanding and analytical abilities is through practice; practice reading poems, and practice writing about them. A great IB English tutor can help you refine your poetry analysis abilities and improve your writing skills to make sure you are confident and prepared for your exams!