Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Last Minute Tips for IB English Literature Paper 1

Exams are coming up soon, and you might be starting to panic. Fear not, dear student, the Nardvark is here to help!

I always advise my students to follow a five-paragraph essay structure with PEE paragraphs. Although the IB board is not specific about how the literary analysis should be structured, this is a sort of simple catch-all for pretty much any literary essay. You can add as many PEE paragraphs as you want, so your five-paragraph essay might end up being a seven- or ten-paragraph essay, but the structure will still be sound.

Once in the exam, I recommend looking through the extracts quickly to see which one speaks to you more. Some students go in to the exam prepared to write about either the prose or the poetry, but it's not a good idea to limit yourself like that because the IB board always chooses pretty complex extracts and you want to be able to choose the one that is more suited to you. 

Next spend some time reading through your chosen extract several times and annotate it. You have 1.5 hours in SL or 2 hours in HL, and I'd recommend dedicating about 25% of your time to this analysis. If you're in SL, take a look at the guiding questions and try to find enough evidence in the extract to answer them. If you're in HL, you should be prepared to talk about the broad aspects of your extract such as progression, characters, plot (if applicable), tone, theme, structure/form, etc, AND the literary features. Remember that this is not an exercise in hunting down examples of literary tools -- you need to explain the effect on each. This is Appreciation of the Writer's Choices on the rubric.

Then spend a few moments to arrange your annotations into an outline. Consider your introduction, points in your PEE paragraphs, and a conclusion. Spend about 50% of your time drafting your response, and then spend the rest of your time rereading your writing. At this point you need to check your structure and language, two more points on the rubric. For a high mark, your structure should be unified, so if you find yourself rambling, try to insert sentences to link your ideas together. You also need to be precise and concise, so eliminate any extra wordiness (e.g. "I think", "It can be seen that," etc,) and repetition, and check your word choices to make sure you are using the correct literary terms. 

Before the exam, you should review all the literary terms (see here and here) you have learned in your course and make sure you can use them correctly, and practice with some past papers to get the timing right on the process I've outlined above.

If you have done some practice papers and want to send any of them to me, I can give you detailed, specific feedback. I charge for my services but since I am an IB examiner, the feedback I would give you would be very helpful in your exam preparations.