Number 1: Be Disorganized
Disorganisation is your biggest enemy on any timed writing assessment, and especially on IB English, where Criterion C assesses focus, organisation and development. Students are often scared to use any of their time on outlining and planning their answers, but those minutes are the most valuable ones of all. To avoid stress, simply allot yourself a certain amount of time: those 5 or 10 minutes are now planning time and not part of your writing time. You don’t need to race through your planning.
Use your guiding question to help formulate a clear thesis, draft your body paragraph topic sentences and make sure they align, gather the evidence you want to use, and think about where you’re headed with your conclusion in terms of the larger significance of the work. These decisions should be made at the planning stage, not on the fly as you are writing.
Number 2: Fail to Use Enough Evidence
Remember, the point of this whole exercise is to support your interpretation of a text using evidence from that text. While you should definitely avoid regurgitating large amounts of text into your IB English paper, neglecting to use enough quotes, using them poorly, and failing to integrate them into your analysis will cause you to lose marks on Criterion A and Criterion B. Focus your selection of evidence on quotes that clearly illustrate how the text achieves the effect on the reader that you wish to analyse— for example, you might describe how a repeated phrase in a poem builds tension and emphasises a key theme.
Number 3: Sloppy Writing
Just as you should be fearless about leaving yourself time to plan, you need to give yourself time to check and revise your work. Criterion D focuses on your use of language, and it’s hard to write well and fluently under timed conditions. Leaving yourself 5-10 minutes to revise can help you do things like write an interesting “hook” (it’s tough to think of one right as you dive into your paper!), make sure you have a solid conclusion, and elevate the language overall. Of course, you need to check for typos and grammatical errors, but you should also look out for repetitive and redundant writing. Taking time to check your work can help you avoid losing points for dumb mistakes on an otherwise excellent essay, and can sometimes boost one that’s struggling. Working with an IB English tutor can help you avoid these common problems and make sure your work stands out.