IB English/Paper II

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Introduction[edit]

Paper 2 is the second part of the written examination for candidates taking the IB English A1 course. Using the Part 3 works the candidates have studied throughout the year, the candidates are required to write an essay based on a selection of prompts.

The time given to write the essay is 2 hours for Higher Level candidates and 1 hour, 30 minutes for Standard Level candidates.

The test itself is split into five categories:

  • Drama
  • Poetry
  • Prose: The Novel and Short Story
  • Prose: Other than the Novel and Short Story
  • General Questions on Literature

Each heading contains two questions, with the exception of the General Questions section which has four. For the most part, each prompt elicits a general response. However, the broad question base is deceiving, as writing a general response will not garner you that esteemed 7. Your best bet is to focus on providing as detailed a response as possible. The following are suggestions only:

  • Acquaint yourself with the key motifs, themes, symbols, and literary elements of the works you study
  • Utilize direct quotations from the text. (While you are not required to do so, it will show your dedication and complete understanding of the text, especially if the quotes are used as pillars for your arguments.)
  • Obtain viewpoints from professional sources during the school year, and refer to their research in your own paper. (Ex. Look up Dr. Mark Breitenberg, who writes on Macbeth)

How Many Works Should I Write About?[edit]

The paper requires the candidate to write on at least two works of literature (from two different authors) that have been studied, but it is not recommended to write about more than three, as the scope is too broad to incorporate a detailed discussion.

Also, the questions are intended to ensure that no "canned essay" can be used, that is, an essay a candidate has memorized before hand to fit the themes of essay. So, if you were planning on using this, you're out of luck.

Duration of Exam[edit]

The IB English Paper 2, (more formally known as English Language A1 Paper 2), is written in a 2 hour timeframe for HL (Higher Level) and in 90 minutes for SL (Standard Level). The questions on the test are broad and generalized (see above), and require you to use the novelists you have studied in your IB English course, or the texts in your "Prescribed Titles", that your school has selected. The questions often employ a generalized quotation, and then ask that you analyze your texts based on the themes presented in the quotation.

Length of Essay[edit]

Remember: Quality over Quantity. A short, concise and to-the-point essay will score higher than a long, rambling one which repeats itself.

The length of the essay should probably be around 1000 words by the end of the examination, and for a question such as the one below, it is recommended to juxtapose at least 2 novels against each other, and examine this claim.

Examples of Typical Questions on The Paper[edit]

  • “Often enough the novelist favors certain characters, even waxing sentimental about them, and becomes annoyed with others, even feeling contemptuous of them: one way or another, the reader detects bias in the portrayal of the society. How far have you found your chosen novelists to be biased or unbiased in their presentation of their characters and what has been the resulting effect in each novel?"
  • "Authors favor certain characters, often portraying them in positive light, wherein others are portrayed contemptuously. How far have you found this to be true with your chosen novelists?"
  • Compare and contrast the authors' use of dreams, hopes or aspirations in two or three novels and/or short stories you have studied.

How would you answer the above? If you have time, try a mock final on your own, if your school doesn't already have them set up for you.

Marking[edit]

The examination is externally moderated, and is timed.

Results typically come out 2-3 months after your exams, often the date falls near July 5th for May testing and around January 5th for the November session.