1. Study Tips and Features for IB English A Language & Literature

1.1 IB English A Language & Literature Syllabus

IB English A Language and Literature focuses on the critical study and analysis of literary and non-literary works (newspaper articles, advertisements, etc.). It is a course to deepen the understanding of language and literature through the study of various text types, literary forms, and contextual elements (such as the period and region that the author comes from).

[Number of literary works to read]
Students will read at least 6 books in Higher Level (HL) and 4 books in Standard Level (SL).
The book selection is based on the “Prescribed Reading List” selected by IBO and other works selected by the school teachers based on the literary form, time period and region.

In addition to literary works, English A Language and Literature covers a wide variety of works such as advertising texts, newspaper articles and political speeches.
The course will be organized into the following three areas of exploration, and students will be able to develop their critical literacy by analyzing the works through these factors.

IB English A Language & Literature Syllabus

1. Readers, writers and texts

  • Students will develop the ability to recognize how words are expressed and to consider how their literary features influence the way it is being communicated.

2. Time and space

  • Students will explore how the words and expressions differ depending on the social environment and the time period that the literary works are written. While examining the events and careers of the author’s life, students will analyze how the social and political events and ideas of that era are reflected.

3. Intertextuality: connecting texts

  • This area focuses on understanding the relevance of texts in different media and works. By reading the text from a broad perspective, students can analyze the similarities and differences between each of the works.

If you get 6 points or more in the HL of English A Language and Literature, you may be able to convert it into credits at some universities.

1.2 Advice from those who have taken IB English A Language & Literature SL

I’m not good at English, so I decided to take English B, but my school policy recommended English A. Therefore, I chose English A Language and Literature SL, which does not require reading many long novels like English A Literature. Still, it was quite difficult for me to get a high score.

In this course, you have the chance to read not only literary works but also advertising texts and newspaper articles, which is diverse and interesting.

1.3 Advice from those who have taken IB English A Language & Literature HL

The level of difficulty of the literature work itself is almost the same between SL and HL, but HL covers a wider variety of texts, and I think that the expected level of English vocabulary and writing is a lot higher as well.

In both the IA (Internal Assessment) and the Final Exam, I studied the Evaluation Criteria carefully and made sure that my own writing meets this criteria.

I was worried that I would mess up at the IOC (Individual Oral Commentary) and IOP (Individual Oral Presentation), so I wrote the introduction in a notebook and memorized it beforehand.

Since I am a Math & Science student, I thought that “Language & Literature” would be less time consuming to prepare than “Literature”, so I took this course. This course is recommended for those who want to focus in the Math & Science field in the future.

1.4 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 Language & Literature

This section describes how the English A Language & 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 teachers in your school that teach this course.

IB English A Language & 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.

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 Language & 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 Language & Literature measures, please consult with a MakeSensei teacher.

3.1 Study Tips for English A Language & Literature

General Study Methods

In “Language and Literature”, you will learn about the uses and purposes of language through analysis of non-literary works. When you come across documents such as advertisements, speeches, and mobile emails in your daily life, it is a good idea to be aware of the difference in language such as tone, style, and composition, depending on each purpose.

For the literature works covered in “Language” it is important not only to focus on the words, but also visuals such as illustrations in the advertisements and the gestures used in the speeches. If you can analyze these points in addition to the passage, you can expect to get high scores!

This course also requires you to analyzes literary works in variety of ways. It is important to identify the key theme of the work, look into how the theme is expressed throughout the work, how the characters and background settings relate to the theme, and analyze the literary techniques and rhetoric used by the author.

If you can’t analyze by yourself, you can also try to find what others think. It is a good idea to listen to the analysis and opinions of your teachers and classmates, tutors, as well as research the analysis, thoughts, interpretations of others online.

3.2 Paper 1

In Paper 1, documents are set from non-literary genres such as advertisements and newspaper articles. It is difficult to prepare because it will be an un-seen text, but if you focus on the following items and proceed with the analysis, you will be able to write a cohesive essay.

(1) Summarize the abstract: include the title, genre, when and in what country the document was published.
(2) Think about the content and theme: the content of the literature, the main themes and topics
(3) Identify the target: who the author intends to target, what kind of message the author wants to deliver to the readers, etc.
(4) Think about the purpose of the literature: Whether the author is trying to persuade the reader, or to provide information, to entertain, etc.
(5) Analyze the composition: How does the composition of the literary work achieve the author’s purpose?
(6) Analyze the style: what kind of style and language does the author use, and how it affects the message.

3.2 Paper 2

Paper 2 covers a literary work learned in class, and will ask a question to be answered in essay format. You can prepare for this exam by practicing to write analytical essays based on questions from past exams, so that it will be easy when you get similar questions. It is also possible get a question that was not in past exams so the most important point is to analyze all literary works covered in class from as many angles as you can.
For example, you can focus on the setting and time period, characters, key themes and symbols of a particular work, and analyze the effects they have on the story and the author’s intentions. Also, the analysis will sound more specific and persuasive if you could includes quotes from the literary work. Therefore, it is recommended to take note of interesting quotes that can be a basis of your analysis while reading the work.

3.3 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?

3.4 How to Prepare for the IB English A Language & Literature Extended Essay (EE)

When writing an EE in IB English A Language & Literature, you are required to choose one of the three categories:

IB English A Language & Literature Extended Essay Categories

Category 1

  • An essay about a literary work(s) originally written in the language
    in which the essay is presented.

Category 2

  • An essay comparing a literary work originally written in the language,
    and a literary work originally written in another language.

Category 3

  • An essay on language.
  • This category requires you to analyze the relationship between the English language and the culture of English-speaking countries. Specifically, you can analyze all linguistic forms from a cultural and historical perspective, or how those linguistic forms were born and became part of the culture. It is an essay on language so it should not be a general analysis about a culture,

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.

5. Curriculum and Criteria for IB English A Language & Literature

Please click here (IBO homepage) for further information on the curriculum and criteria.