Each IB essay is different. Required formats, prompts, and sources can vary across the IB subjects and assignments. Still, the same general writing process is applicable to any IB paper. Understanding and becoming comfortable with this routine will help you in the long run. In exams or any stressful situation, having a prepared pattern will allow you to concentrate on the next step, instead of losing your concentration to external influences. IB writing can appear as a daunting task for students, but broken down into these stages, it looks less threatening. This categorization can also allow you to figure out where your weaknesses lie. Try going through this list with an IB English tutor to assess what parts of your writing process need work!
1. Study up
The real trick to writing is realizing that it starts before you even jot down your first word. Absorb as much good writing as you can, both in your classes and out. Many students who are avid readers are also talented writers! Books provide interesting and diverse examples of writing. If you are not a bookworm, there are plenty of other ways to include some reading into your daily life. Stay up to date on the news with articles, or help your friends’ with their essays. Ask your IB English tutor for their recommendations, or practice short writing assignments in your study sessions.
2. Take notes
Once you know what your IB essay will cover, reflect on what it will require. Perhaps you are writing for the IB History Internal Assessment, in which case you will know that you will need to include sources, investigate the information, and reflect on the result. Do not be afraid to start writing words down! Immediately put down to paper anything that comes to your mind on the topic or what the assessment is looking for. Having a collection of your thoughts and ideas will be more helpful than getting stuck on the perfect sentence. If there are sources to consider, make sure to annotate them while reading. An IB English tutor can help you develop your note-taking skills. Notes of any kind will give you something to work off, but good notes will truly speed up your writing development.
3. Organize your ideas
After you have finished the note-taking, preparation step, it is time to start thinking about the actual essay. Take a moment to observe what you have written down. Think about which ideas work together and where there are common threads to pull out. Sometimes you can look for key terms that are repeated in your notes or sources that disagree with one another. This can be a challenging phase for some students. An IB English tutor can work with you to develop this ability, so that it becomes natural to see how your essay will come together just through your notes. Practice creating an outline for your essay, with all of the necessary essay elements — an introduction, thesis statement, topic paragraphs, supporting evidence, and conclusion.
4. Justify your argument
One of the most common problems for IB students is writing more than what is essential! It is easy to stray from what the paper is asking for while writing. Always remember what the task at hand is and the main idea of your essay. Everything you write should connect to those purposes. With an IB English tutor, practice reading your essays with an objective perspective. All of your sentences should be justified by the essay’s central thesis. Think about the other person reading your essay and these questions while writing. Does this sentence make sense? Do I have sources for this assertion? Does this augment my overall argument?
5. Write, Rewrite, Repeat
The best writing is rewriting. You will not always have time to check your work, but if you do, take advantage of the opportunity! Your writing will always improve the more you revise it. Picture your essay as a sculpture that needs chiseling. There will usually be words that can be cut or sentences that can be rearranged. Try to practice the rewriting process with your IB English tutor. They can help you figure out how your essay can be reshaped and modified to better suit the assignment. You can even rewrite in-class assignments with your tutor or have multiple rounds of editing with the same essay. This is why you should try to start your essay as early as possible!
The stages listed above are not exhaustive, and the way you write will likely evolve from one essay to the next. Yet at its core, the IB writing process will look similar to this list. The next time you are writing an IB paper, frame your actions as steps in this process. With practice and an IB English tutor, it will start to feel like second nature!
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