IB DP English Literature Explained

The IB English Literature syllabus can be difficult to understand. Here’s a rough breakdown of what it requires:

  1. Read!
    1. You will be required to study 9 or 13 works, depending on whether you are doing SL or HL. Some will have to be translated works, while others will be written originally in English. They will vary in form as well, so for example you might be studying a poetry collection and a play! This is to make sure you are reading a wide range of literary forms from different periods and cultures.
  2. Individual Oral (30% for SL, 20% for HL)
    1. You have to make a 10-minute oral response comparing one work in English with another work that’s translated. The key is to identify a global issue that is common to the two works, and base your analysis around that. Then there will be a 5-minute Q&A session with your teacher.
    2. The IO is a challenge to prepare for – the analysis is tough enough, and you will have to rehearse your speaking as well. If you think you need help, consider having an IB English tutor to guide you in preparing for it. Afterall it does take up a significant chunk of your grade despite not being a written paper!
  3. Paper 1 (35% for both SL and HL)
    1. This is the unseen paper. You have to answer one question out of two for SL, and both questions for HL. It will likely be one prose and one poetry, but according to the syllabus you may be given drama as well! A lot of students find that they’re stuck at a certain grade for Paper 1 practices and cannot seem to move up. It might be a good idea to engage an IB English tutor at this stage to give you more guidance! [You can also read our article here to learn more about scoring higher in Paper 1]
  4. Paper 2 (35% for SL, 25% for HL )
    1. This is the comparative essay, and the format is the same for SL and HL. You have to choose to answer one question out of four, and to refer to two works you have studied. The questions will be phrased in a very generic manner, and the key would be to make sure to frame your analysis to address the question. If you find yourself struggling to keep up with the discussion in class, having an IB English tutor would help you get back on track.
  5. HL Essay (20% for HL)
    1. As the title suggests, only HL students are required to write this piece of formal essay of 1200-1500 words. You will have to choose your own line of inquiry (i.e. phrase your own question), and to dig into the deep depths of one of the works studied. There are many skills involved – from framing the question to organising your argument, everything will have to be done with care as your teacher will be scrutinising your work in detail! To make sure you are producing your best work, consider getting help from an experienced IB English tutor to guide you along this coursework to ease the stress (and possible confusion!).

We understand that the IB Literature syllabus can be difficult to understand. Apart from a breakdown of the elements, you may want to look into the marking criteria for each element as well to understand what examiners are looking for. If you find yourself struggling with any of the elements or need more guidance with a particular work that your teacher has assigned, contact us so that we can arrange you to work with an IB English tutor to shed more light on how you can do better.