The English IO is often considered to be a very stressful part of the IB English curriculum. But I am here to hopefully calm some of your nerves by sharing thorough tips and my takeaways as I completed my oral earlier this year.
I am by no means an expert. I am simply an IB graduate who performed well on their IO and would like to share tips to help others be successful. As part of IBlieve, I was joined by another IB grad and a subject lead to organize several IO study sessions for current IB students over the past two months. I really enjoyed it and so decided to write an article about the IO as well! This is not exactly an overview of the IO, but rather more focused on curated steps and tips in a 2 part article! These 2 articles will cover steps in a chronological manner – starting from initial planning, organizing, to executing your oral! For Part 1, I will focus more on the planning and preparation.
1. What is the IO?
The Individual Oral Commentary is a 10 minute oral exam where you analyze one literary and one non literary piece of text along with a connected global issue. The general purpose is to examine the ways in which the global issue of your choice is presented through literary analysis. After your 10 minute oral, there is a 5 minute question and answer session with your teacher. During the actual oral, you are only allowed to have limited notes with you along with clean versions of both your texts. That being said, here are some things to keep in mind.
2. Picking your texts and following guidelines
Take your time to pick two interesting texts (one literary and one non literary text to analyse). Remember that you have to pick texts that you have covered in class or are included in your syllabus. That being said, for your literary piece, you should pick around 30-40 consecutive lines to analyse. For your non literary piece, you must choose 35-40 lines. If you are using a graphic novel text, usually the length is 1 page or 9 panels. But be sure to check with your teachers! Lastly, your passages should be set in different time periods and locations. Then you are all set to go!
3. Finding a perfect fit global issue
After you have picked your texts, it is time to find a perfect fit overall theme and global issue that connects the two. The way I approached this was to begin by looking at the general fields of inquiry. In Language and Literature, this includes, “Culture, Identity, Community,” “Politics, Power, Justice, “ “Science, Technology, Environment,” “Beliefs, Values, Education,” and “Art, Creativity, and Imagination.” Find one or two general fields that align well as a common theme for your texts. Perhaps both your texts relay the idea of how certain traditional values in society oppress the rights of certain individuals. In this case, the field of inquiry may be, “Culture, Identity, Community,” or “Beliefs, Values, Education.”
After this step, think about more specific themes and issues addressed in your text. For example, maybe one text addresses corruption while the other text addresses poverty. Therefore, perhaps your theme statement and narrow global issue could be focused on the lack of growth in developing countries. Your global issue/theme statement can come at the end of your introduction and clearly express the purpose well. It can start with something like: “Through the use of literary devices such as metaphors and visual imagery, both texts portray how….” You may also include what the main takeaway for the audience is. Think of it as a cause and effect statement. Remember to talk to your teacher and look at resources to complete this step because it is one of the most important!
4. Having an effective and strong introduction
The introduction of your oral should be around 1 minute. In your introduction, it is best to cover the basics of each of your texts separately. You may choose to delve into these basics later throughout your oral as well. But for me, I talked about the title, author, text, contextual background, audience, general devices, and purpose of each text. Try to be as detailed and specific as possible when describing these basics. For example, when you are identifying the audience of your texts, try to think about the primary and secondary audience. The primary audience may be from a specific age group, or culture, whereas the secondary audience could be more general and inclusive.
To have a clearer structure, you should talk about one text first and then talk about the details of the second text after. I wrote one way to introduce one text below:
Persepolis is an autobiographical literary graphic novel written by Marjane Satrapi and published in 2000. The graphic novel is set during the Islamic Revolution in Iran in around 1980 and expresses young Marjane’s story. The primary audience of this novel would be the young Iranian diaspora as well as a global audience or individuals who like to read graphic novels. Through the use of visual imagery, and other graphic devices, Marjane Satrapi educates her audience about life under an oppressive regime, particularly how it impacted women.
So after you introduce one text like how I gave my example above, you can follow it up by introducing your non literary text. After that, to wrap up your introduction, you should clearly express the perfect fit global issue and theme statement. You can also choose to begin your introduction with the global issue statement. But ultimately your theme statement should express the common global issue between both texts and the author’s purpose.
5. Planning a solid and comprehensive outline
The structure of your IO is very important so that you can make the most of your time and have solid content. Your introduction should ideally be one minute and the conclusion should also be around one minute or less. So that leaves you with 8 minutes for analysis in between.
There are two structures I will briefly talk about. The first one starts with the introduction, then is followed by textual and analytical insight into your first text, then textual and analytical insight into your second text, some comparing and contrasting of texts, and then the conclusion. So basically you are dedicating a good chunk of your time talking about each text. So you will identify quotes and devices in each text and explain how they relate to your global issue.
Another structure suggestion is one that analyzes both texts simultaneously under common devices. So you will first have the introduction, and then an analysis of a certain device in both texts, then an analysis of another device in both texts, and then your conclusion.
Personally, I used and prefer the first structure because you can devote ample time to analysing each text separately. In this way, you can really focus on unique literary devices and pick out meaningful quotes that help relay the main purpose and global issue. I made a document dedicated to annotating my two texts. I also laid out the entire structure and script. The second structure focuses more on comparing and contracting devices and this might be a bit constricting. Furthermore, comparing and contrasting is not a required part of our IO. It is not graded- just highly encouraged.
Overall, these are two suggested structures that you guys can work with!
So those were my tips that should steer you to the right path when it comes to starting your IO. I covered elements such as picking your texts, doing some initial reading and analysis, articulating the perfect global issue statement, and then planning your structure and introduction! Good luck everyone and be sure to read Part 2 of my article for more insight into the next steps of your IO!