1. Study Tips and Features for IB English A Literature

1.1 IB English A Syllabus

IB English A Literature encourages students to experience the artistry of literature and critically reflect on their views through a wide range of literary studies. Acquiring this skill is the main goal of this subject.
The course is divided into four sections, each focusing on different elements to develop this skill.

IB English A Syllabus*

Part 1: Work in Translation

  • Students will study works chosen from the “Prescribed Literature in Translation list”, which are literary texts originally written in a language other than English and translated into English.
  • HL: 4 works / SL: 2 works

Part 2: Detailed Study

  • Students will study works chosen from the “Prescribed List of Authors” for the language being studied (in this case English), each from a different genre.
  • HL: 3 works / SL: 2 works

Part 3: Literary Genres

  • Students will study works chosen from the “Prescribed List of Authors” for the language being studies (in this case English), all chosen from the same genres.
  • HL: 4 works / SL: 3 works

Part 4: Options

  • Students will study a selection of texts of different genres from either the “Prescribed List of Authors” or others, usually chosen by teachers.
  • HL: 3 books / SL: 3 books

* This syllabus is based on the curriculum in 2020.

IB English A Literature SL (Standard Level)

1.2 Overview of English A Literature SL

Standard Level requires a thorough reading of at least 9 literary works throughout the two-year course, and these assignment books are selected from the “Prescribed List of Authors” by the IB school teacher.

In order to get a high score, it is crucial to analyze the format of all the assignment books, grasp the content, and consider the purpose of writing the work and the message that is being conveyed. For the oral and written exams, you are required to critique the literary works on your own, based on these considerations.

By analyzing and criticizing literary works in this way, you will be able to learn how to read literary works and understand the importance of it. It’s an interesting subject for those who like reading books and writing.

1.3 Advice from those who have taken SL

Because I was not good at English, I read the assignment books twice until I understood them.

You can get a higher score for SL because the amount and level of assignments in SL is lower than that in HL.

This course is recommended for those who like literature, because you can study it in great depth. Many of my classmates also liked literature, so we sometimes had heated discussions about assignment books even outside of class!

IB English A Literature HL (Higher Level)

1.4 Overview of English A Literature HL

In IB English A Literature, the course structure of SL and HL is the same, but there are major differences in quantity and expected quality of assignments between SL and HL. HL students learn 13 literary works while SL only learns 9 . In addition, for oral assignments and written exams, HL requires a deeper knowledge and understanding of the work and author, and a higher skill of analysis and written composition than SL.

1.5 Advice from those who have taken HL

It is important to take time and work carefully on each text and analyze it in detail. The more you analyze, the better understanding you will have of the content and be well prepared for the exam.

In order to get a high score in the oral exam, it is important to practice a lot! I asked my tutor and friends around me to help me practice in the form of a mock oral exam.

Since I write a lot of sentences, I have acquired the ability to write in English.

Understanding the cultural and historical background of the work is very important when analyzing the content of the work and the intention of the author.

1.6 Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. If my school offers both English A “Literature” and “Language and Literature”, which one should I take?

The “Literature” course will only focus on literary works, while students in “Language and Literature” will have a chance to analyze not only literary texts but also advertisements, blogs, and speeches.
In most cases, either choice will allow you to go for any career path, but if you are comfortable with the language and like literature, you should choose “Literature”, and if you are interested in linguistics as well as literature, “Language and Literature” may be a better choice.

Q2. Should I take it in Higher Level or Standard Level?

As with any subject when choosing between HL and SL, you should consider the following 2 points:

  1. Are you good at the subject?
    In IB English A, you will read a lot of literary works and write a considerable amount of essays. If you are worried about reading and writing in English, we recommend taking SL. On the other hand, if your mother tongue is English and you are good at reading literary works or plan to go to the liberal arts department, we recommend taking HL.
  2. Are there any conditions for the subjects you should take in the university / department you want to go to?
    There are not many universities where it is mandatory to take English A Literature in HL unless you go on to a literature department. Therefore, it is recommended that you consider the subject selection in consideration of other subjects. For example, if you want to go to medical school, it is often compulsory to take Chemistry or Biology in HL. In this case, you should consider whether your remaining one HL (since you need to take 3 HL subjects) is better in English or if you are likely to get a higher score in other subjects.

2. Assessment model for English A Literature

This section describes how the English A Literature exam works. The International Baccalaureate (IB) subject-specific assessment is determined by the External Assessment (mainly the Final Exam), which is graded by IBO teachers, and the Internal Assessment, which is graded by the high school teachers who attend.

IB English A Literature Assessment Model*

 External Assessment

Paper 1

  • Weight: HL 35% SL 35%
  • Evaluation: Analyze a literary text that you have never seen and answer questions.
Paper 2
  • weight: HL 25% SL 35%
  • Evaluation: Choose one from four questions and discuss it while comparing two literatures you have studied.

HL Essay

  • Weight: HL 20% SL None
  • Evaluation: Create a 1200-1500 word essay with your chosen work and theme.

Internal Assessment

Individual Oral

  • Weight: HL 20% SL 30%
  • Content: Students give oral presentations on global issues found in the two works they have learned and answer questions from school teachers.

* This syllabus is based on the new curriculum in 2021.

3. Advices and Tips for Improving Your Score

In this section, we will introduce the recommended study methods by former IB students who received high scores in IB English A Literature.
IB has strong scoring standards and unique study methods, so if you understand them and take prepare adequately, you can study efficiently and expect to improve your score.
If you have any concerns about English A Literature measures, please consult with an EDUBAL teacher.
* The content written here is based on the experience of the curriculum before 2020.

3.1 Study Tips for English A Literature

1. Make a table that summarizes the key elements that should be analyzed for each literary text

In IB English A Literature, the elements to be analyzed are clarified in each work to be studied. In the exam and IA, students are expected to write a comparison of two literary works.
If you have already summarized the information of all the works as preparation, it will be much easier to compare and answer thoroughly.

Some key information that you would want to keep in this table are for example, the name of the author, the name of the work, background information of the time period when the work was written, the format of the text, a summary of the content, the intention and message the author is conveying, the impression that you received from reading the work, and other characteristic elements. It is a good idea to organize these topics into a table and fill in the information each time you study a new literary work in class.
If you add not only the facts obtained from the work but also your own opinions, it will be useful when writing the commentary. It is also effective to make the same table with your classmates and share each other’s information to get different perspectives.

2. Make annotations on a daily basis

It is very important to understand the content and format of the work covered in class.
Especially when conducting a detailed analysis of a work in an examination or a commentary, you need to understand the work from all perspectives. In addition, since it is often required to quote from the work in the writing task, it is crucial to memorize the exact sentences that left an impression on you.

Because the interpretation of the work is not something that can be done in a hurry, it is not a good idea to look for sentences or summarize the content of the work right before the exam. From the moment you start reading the literary work, make a note of the parts that you might be able to quote in the final exam, such as unique sentences and interesting metaphors. If you make a note of the page number, you can save the trouble of having to look for it again later on.
It may be a little difficult to imagine at this point, but just writing comments of your analysis and impressions on the pages will deepen your understanding and strengthen your feelings toward the book.

3. Discuss with friends and tutors

It is of course necessary to have your own interpretation of the work. However, as many IB Literature classes consist of discussions, it is also very important to listen to the opinions and interpretations of others.
Discussions are a place where you can find out what you didn’t notice and answer questions about the content. Develop your understanding and thoughts about your work by discussing it with your friends and tutors.

4. Understand the author

IB English A Literature requires you to analyze not only the actual content of the work itself but the “author’s intent” as well.
When thinking about what an author’s intentions are, it is important to know some things about the author’s life. For example, what kind of era were they born in, what kind of place did they grow up in, and what kind of thoughts did they have?
It may also be important to know how old the author was when he/she wrote the work, and what other works he/she wrote around that time. Keeping this information in mind will help you to make a convincing commentary when analyzing the author’s intentions in exams.

3.2 Advice from those who have taken the course:

I was able to enjoy literary criticism and analysis by getting to know the work and the author, and by becoming fond of the work.

I enjoyed talking with my classmates about the assignment books during breaks and after school, which helped me understand the work better.

I made annotations and wrote essays to the point I felt that my hands were tired and the ink of the ballpoint pen was used up in no time! My advice is to practice writing quickly and accurately in a limited amount of time.

4. Strategies for Each Paper

4.1 Paper 1: How to prepare for the Literary Analysis with questions

Paper 1 requires you to analyze and write a commentary on any literary passage or poem, such as an unseen novel or essay. There is one “Guide Question” to make the analysis easier, but it is designed so that you do not have to answer this question. The problem is common for HL and SL.

The assessment criteria in this exam is the ability to deeply understand and analyze unseen literary works. Students should focus on analyzing the specific part of the sentence in question, and the evaluation criteria are “A) Understanding and Interpretation”, “B) Analysis and Evaluation”, “C) Coherence, focus and Organization”, and “D) Language”.

When looking at the question, it is important to first identify the focus point accurately. Be sure to write your answer convincingly and consistently based on the grounds in the text.

4.2 Paper 2: How to prepare for the Comparative Essay

For Paper 2, students need to choose 1 out of 4 given questions to answer by comparing two literary works learned in class. Students will not be able to bring the books with them to the exam. Questions are the same for both HL and SL.

The difficulty with Paper 2 is that you need to analyze each text separately while also writing a comparative essay. IB graduates with high scores often organized their essays by commonalities and differences between the two literary works, or separated the paragraphs for each of the literary works.
Although you cannot bring the studied books into the exam, students are still expected to quote from the text in their essays. It is important for this purpose to note down important sentences in class during the school year or while studying on your own.

Going over ”Past Papers” is also important as a preparation method for the exam. In order to meet the five criteria of “A) Knowledge and Understanding”, “B) Response to the question” “C) Understanding the use of effects of stylistic features”, “D) Organization and development”, and “E) Language”, planning before starting to write an answer is important. Use the short time of 1 hour and 45 minutes systematically.

4.3 How to prepare for the IB English A Literature HL Essay

For the HL Essay, students choose one of the works they have learned in class, set a theme, and write an essay of 1200 to 1500 words. (You cannot select works that are covered in IA or Paper 2.)

Since this essay must be a broad discussion of the work of choice, the seven main concepts (Identity, Culture, Creativity, Communication, Transformation, Perspective, Representation) listed in the syllabus are recommended to be the theme of the essay. It is required to analyze not only the content of the work but also the life of the author and the background of the time when he/she lived.

There are four evaluation criteria, “A) Knowledge, Understanding, Interpretation”, “B) Analysis and Evaluation”, “C) Focus and Composition”, and “D) Language”, and the first two are especially emphasized.

4.4 Internal Assessment: How to Prepare for the Individual Oral (IO)

For the Individual Oral (IO), students need to prepare in advance a theme and outline in response to the question, “Examine the ways in which the global issue of your choice is presented through the content and form of one of the works and one of the texts that you have studied.” and give a presentation for 10 minutes, and make a discussion with a teacher for 5 minutes.

Regarding the two works, students must select one non-literary text and one literary work studied in class. An extract of about 40 lines should be selected from each which is representative of the presence of the global issue in it. You have enough time to research the global issues and works in advance, analyze them carefully, and create an outline, so this is a great chance to earn points before the final exam.

The global issues presented by the IBO refers to the following three properties:
• It has significance on a wide/large scale.
• It is transnational.
• Its impact is felt in everyday local contexts.

<For example>
– About gender and sexuality
– About rights and responsibilities in politics
– About the relationship between humans and the natural environment, etc.

Here are some things to keep in mind when choosing a global issue:
・The issue is not too wide and not too narrow
・You can explain the issue in both works evenly
・ You can mention how the global issue is expressed in the text, the author’s intentions, and the impact it has on the readers.

Regarding global issues, the following three points should be mentioned in the IO:
・ What exactly does the global issue entail?
・ What are the authors’ thoughts on this issue?
・ How are the thoughts about the global issue expressed in each work?

* According to a teacher who teaches Language A Literature, students should focus on how the global issue is stated in each of the two works, it is not necessary to compare multiple works.

4.5 How to Prepare for the IB English A Literature Extended Essay (EE)

When writing an EE in IB English A Literature, you are required to choose one of the three categories and proceed with your research within that range.
The three categories are:
• Category 1—Studies of a literary work(s) originally written in the language in which the essay is presented
• Category 2—Studies of a literary work(s) originally written in the language of the essay compared with literary work(s) originally written in another language
• Category 3—Studies in language.

Students must read and analyze a wide range of relevant literature beyond the ones covered in class. It is also important that the content of the essay proves that it is based on personal research.
Any literary work can be selected as an EE research subject if appropriate, but be very mindful when selecting the work so that you can write a detailed critique.

4.6 Key points for the Extended Essay

・ It is better to choose a supervisor that has a good knowledge of the EE subject. Even if they don’t, it’s still important to set up a meeting with the supervisor as they will give you advice on progress management and writing the essay.

・ Topic selection is extremely important. Since this is an EE that you will work on for almost two years, select a topic that you are interested in and can put your heart into it.

・ When writing the EE, it is crucial to specify the references. Make sure not to forget to mention all references.