Academic Group 1 Subjects

Overview: English A Literature SL

Note: first assessment 2021, from the IBO Language A Literature guide.

While many students may have reservations about attempting English A Literature SL, I found it to be an extremely enticing and exciting option to attempt as a part of my IB subjects. It not only fosters a lifelong interest in a wide range of literary texts and develops your analytical and critical thinking skills, but it also teaches you to be appreciative of various perspectives, cultures and texts. If you’re thinking about taking English A Literature SL, I’ve prepared an overview that may help you in making a decision!

Assessment Pattern

1. Paper 1: Guided Literary Analysis

In Paper 1, you need to write one essay, choosing between two literary texts. Paper 1 lasts for 1 hour 15 minutes. The text types can be either prose, poetry, drama or non-fiction text. This paper accounts for 35% of your final grade, and the essay itself is marked out of 20. Paper 1 is externally marked. 

2. Paper 2: Comparative Essay

Please note that Paper 2 has been cancelled for students taking the May 2021 and 2022 IBDP exams

In Paper 2, you will be given four questions from which you need to attempt one. You will need to compare two works you have studied during your course and write one essay. Most schools study between 4-5 texts during the two years of IB, and you can choose any two that you are comfortable with! The time limit for this paper is 1 hour 45 minutes. The questions in Paper 2 will be general in nature, such that theoretically any of the texts can be used when answering them. 

For example, a sample Paper 2 question is:

“Compare the ways in which at least two playwrights you have studied use a range of techniques to vary the overall mood of their plays, and consider the effects achieved.” (ref: English A: Literature Paper 2 November 2019)

This paper accounts for 35% of your grade, and the essay itself is marked out of 30. Like Paper 1, it is externally marked. Some important things to note include:

  • You won’t have access to your texts or any extracts during the exam, so remember to prepare accordingly! 
  • According to the Language A: literature guide for exams starting in 2021, you are not expected to include quotations from the works you have studied, but you need to make detailed references to them.

3. Individual Oral (IOC/IA)

The Individual Oral involves an analysis of a global issue of your choice, that is to be supported by two extracts: one should be a work in translation and the other a work in English. It accounts for 30% of your final grade and is marked out of 40. For your oral, you can prepare your transcript beforehand (YAYY!) 

One very important thing you should keep in mind is that your analysis addresses the global issue you have chosen. The exact prompt given by the IB in the Language A: literature guide for exams starting in 2021 is:

“Examine the ways in which the global issue of your choice is presented through the content and form of two of the works that you have studied.” 

Please keep in mind that you cannot use the text you are studying for Paper 2 for your Oral.

The Learner’s Portfolio

Essentially, the Learner’s Portfolio is a way for you, as a student to record the various assignments you do in class. In our school, we use the learner’s portfolio to record any peer-review work or essays we attempted as part of our coursework. 

This is not assessed by the IB, but it is really helpful to maintain a well-structured portfolio. 

Especially during this pandemic, where some of you may not be able to give your final IB exams, the learner’s portfolio could be used to supplement your predicted grades. 


Please be mindful of the changes in the assessment pattern for your sessions due to the coronavirus. Paper 2 has been cancelled. Paper 1 accounts for 55% of your grade. Individual Oral accounts for 45% of your overall grade.

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