Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Last Minute Tips for Paper 1 - Commentary

IB A1 students taking Paper 1 today may find this helpful: from "Marking Notes" (May 2010) sent to me by the wonderful and talented Mashael. I have added a few comments of my own to help you interpret and apply the concepts listed.

Criteria A and B
The danger of rewarding or penalizing the use of illustration/references/quotations twice in both
these categories should be avoided. Try to use different illustrations/references/quotations in support of your understanding (for criterion A) than you do for support of your interpretation(s) (for criterion B)
Criterion B
The passages for commentary offer candidates a variety of possibilities for analysis and
interpretation. The test of any interpretation is that it has to be tied carefully to the words, images
and relevant details of the text. Personal response, in the same way, must be tied to the passage.
In the descriptor for level 2, there may be other conditions under which a “2” may be awarded,
such as a limited use of evidence or a generally weak response. Substantiation of points may be
made but be very weak/superficial. Try to explain your illustrations/references/quotations clearly, and link them to either the meaning or interpretation or both. Pay attention to specific words/phrases and point out / evaluate any literary features in your illustrations/references/quotations.
What is sought by “personal response” is an individual voice and engagement with how the
text works. Engaged and individual commentaries will usually make themselves clear by the depth
of insight into the text and the quality and interest of the details cited in support.

The first person singular does not automatically constitute a personal response and conversely an
impersonal academic style does not necessarily indicate a lack of personal response.
Criterion C
“Awareness” and “appreciation” of literary features are the key elements under this criterion.
The mere labelling, without appreciation, of literary features will not score the highest marks.
On the other hand, the candidate who is attentive to literary features and deals with them in a
meaningful way, but who does not consistently use the vocabulary of literary criticism, can still be
awarded the higher achievement levels.
Reminder: the term “literary features” is broad and includes elements as basic as plot, character
etc., attention to which is valid and must be rewarded as appropriate. So the most important thing here is to show the effect of literary features. Any point you make, follow it up with "This shows that..." or "This makes the reader/audience feel..." or "This makes the character seem..." or "This makes the setting seem..." etc.
Criterion D
Any form of structuring to the commentary will be rewarded if it is effective and appropriate.
Different conventions are in operation and therefore all approaches, including the linear, (line by
line analysis) are acceptable and will be judged on the basis of their effectiveness.
Examiners should remember that structure does not exist by itself, but any structure must be
measured by appropriate reference to the passage or poem and by its capacity to integrate these
towards the development of an organized and coherent commentary.
Reminder: In this criterion, supporting examples must be evaluated in terms of how fluently they
are incorporated/integrated to shape/advance the argument, not in terms of their appropriateness
or accuracy. The best way to have an excellent structure is to plan. Use an outline or even a spider diagram. Make sure your introduction introduces the passage/poem by title and author's/poet's name, states in one sentences each your understanding of the passage/poem and your interpretation(s) of the passage/poems, and then list the main points you're going to explore in your commentary.  Then follow the main points laid out in your introduction. Your conclusion should summarize the main points again, and restate your understanding and interpretation(s) of the passage/poem.
Criterion E
If you have reservations about awarding a four, you should ensure that these are well founded
before awarding a three. The breadth of achievement in level three sometimes makes examiners
reluctant to award four.
Use judgment when dealing with lapses in grammar, spelling and punctuation; therefore do not
unduly penalize.
Mechanical accuracy is only a part of this criterion. Ensure that all the other elements
are considered.
Examiners should be careful to avoid being prejudiced in their application of this criterion by
achievement levels in other criteria. It is possible to score highly on this criterion even if candidates
have scored in the lower levels on the other criteria, and vice versa. Make sure you spend a few minutes after writing your commentary to re-read and check for errors and omissions.
The following elements are particularly relevant to criteria A, B and C:

The last bit was specifically meant for the Paper 1 passage and poem from May 2010, but I generalized it a bit:
Question 1. Prose 
Satisfactory and good papers, three to four, on a spectrum of increasing precision and detail, may:
• identify and comment on the situation in the passage, with some attention to the final paragraph
• comment on the presentation and effect of setting
• comment on diction, imagery and narrative perspective
• identify and comment on aspects of structure.
Very good to excellent papers, four to five, on a spectrum of increasing sophistication and literary
sensibility, may also:
• explore the situation further and engage with the final paragraph in greater detail
• analyse presentation and effect of setting, explore tone
• comment further on diction and imagery, looking at patterns of these; comment further on
narrative voice
• explore aspects of structure (e.g. sentence/paragraph length, change in focus).
Question 2. Poem
Satisfactory and good papers, three to four, on a spectrum of increasing precision and detail, may:
• comment on diction and imagery or other literary devices
• comment on formal elements (e.g. stanza length, number, enjambment, rhyme/absence of rhyme)
• comment on the use of punctuation and its relation to structure
• comment on perspective, narrator's voice.
Very good to excellent papers, four to five, on a spectrum of increasing sophistication and literary
sensibility, may also:
• explore further the use of language and imagery or other literary devices
• analyse formal elements and explore tone and shifts of mood
• explore further effects of structure and the use of punctuation
• explore further the contribution made by perspective, narrator's voice

Hope that helps a bit. Good luck, and may the force be with you.


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