Friday, April 29, 2016

IB English Literature Paper 2 - Last Minute Tips

Your IB English exams are just around the corner, and since it is the last minute, you are studying your butt off. You have only days to prepare, you are panicking because you feel like you have learned nothing in the last two years and there is no way you will be ready to write a literary essay. Sound familiar?

Relax. (written in pink, which is scientifically proven to be a relaxing colour. Also baby blue.  But I digress...)

The Nardvark is here to set your cray-cray mind at ease with:


Last Minute Tips to Excel on IB English Literature Paper 2


Or, rather, Nardvark will eat a PBJ (pretzel, broccoli, and jalapeno peppers sandwich) while the Nerdvark does all the hard work of giving you tips. Either way, you're the winner. Read on:

Unfortunately for the Nardvark, you have to write Paper 2 on at least two of the texts you studied in Part 3 of IB English Literature (Literary Genres)
  • Paper 2 consists of a bunch of questions. Your task is to write an essay in answer to one of the questions which addresses TWO OF THE WORKS YOU STUDIED IN PART 3 of the course.
  • To prepare for Paper 2, you need to do two things: 1. Review all your notes on your Part 3 works. 2. Review how to write an essay.
  • I would actually recommend re-reading your Part 3 works, or at least skimming through them, in preparation for Paper 2.
  • When you go into Paper 2, you need to time yourself. One great way to get a totally low, crappy mark on this paper is to randomly choose a question off the exam paper and scribble down your stream-of-thought answer as fast as you can and then nap for the remainder of the exam period. You are given a short amount of time to produce a brilliant essay; use it fully and follow the writing process.
  • Spend the first few moments selecting a question. This exam paper seems daunting because there are so many questions to choose from. Make it easier on yourself by first ELIMINATING all the questions you will not be able to choose from. That is to say, Part 3 of the IB English Literature course is on a specific genre -- defined as poetry, prose - novel and short story, prose - other than fiction, and drama. Whichever genre you studied, that's what you have to answer a question on in Paper 2. So either cross off all the questions for the other three genres, or put a big circle around the questions for your genre. There, that reduces the exam paper to something a lot more manageable, does it not?
  • Spend the next several minutes CONSIDERING THE QUESTIONS for your genre. Think about each question and figure out exactly what it is asking you to do. Criterion B, worth 20% of your overall mark for Paper 2, is "Response to the Question." So make sure you understand what the question is asking you to do before you begin your response.
  • Here is a sample of a Paper 2 question on poetry from the IB board:

A sample of a Paper 2 question on poetry from the IB board, which I easily found by Googling.

  • Let's analyze this question. First, what kind of essay is it asking you to write? Answer: discussion. Some questions might ask you to analyze, evaluate, or explain. Pay attention to the question word. Next, what is the topic? Answer: "the object of a poem is pleasure, not truth." So think about the poems you have studied. Do at least two of them appear to be written for pleasure rather than to demonstrate a truth of the world? Jot down some ideas in the margin of the question paper.
  • Analyze each of the questions in your genre like this before deciding which question you will answer.
  • Spend the next few minutes (5 - 10 minutes) OUTLINING/PLANNING your essay. Criterion A is for "Knowledge and Understanding," so you need to spend some time coming up with everything you know/understand about the two texts you'll be discussing and jot it down in point form. Criterion D is for "Organization and Development," so you'll want to plan out your essay instead of just rambling on, and you'll want to jot down all the ideas you will use to develop your points so you don't forget anything.
  • Spend approximately 50% of your time (one out of two hours for HL and 45 minutes out of 1.5 hours for SL) DRAFTING your essay. I recommend double-spacing so you'll have enough space to add to or correct your work.
  • Spend the rest of your time REVISING and then PROOFREADING your essay. Check that you've included enough information to demonstrate your knowledge and understanding of the works and that your writing is well-organized and flows. Criterion E is "Language," so you'll want to make sure your writing is clear, precise, and concise, your punctuation, grammar, and spelling is correct, and you've used the appropriate literary terms. It is totally acceptable to add to your essay, cross stuff off, or change things. If you want to add a whole bunch of stuff, like a whole paragraph, put in a little indicator like a star (*) where you want to add it, and then put the same indicator after the conclusion and add your extra paragraph. You will not lose marks for having stuff crossed out or added, but you will lose marks for not expressing yourself clearly, making mistakes, and writing incorrect stuff about the works. You will also lose marks for not answering the question, i.e. writing something totally unrelated to what the question is actually asking. So spend some time revising and proofreading to make sure your essay is brilliant. 
I would also recommend doing a practice paper to get your pacing down. You probably haven't written very many essays, especially ones that you do by hand and have a limited time for. If you write at least one practice paper and limit yourself to doing it in the allotted time, you'll feel a lot more prepared on exam day.