When I stepped into the process of preparing for exams, SL Group 1 subjects seemed to take a back seat, in contrast to more demanding HLs. However, most of the marks in the languages rely on these exams, which is why succeeding in those aspects is so important to succeeding in the subject! With that said, here are some tips that helped me through my Group 1 subject as an SL student!
1. Take the time to organise your response
One of the most fundamental, yet overlooked elements of language responses is to structure your writing well. Making sure your writing piece is cohesive will automatically make it easier for an examiner to mark your paper; remember that Criteria C tests “how well organized, coherent and focused the presentation of ideas” are. For instance, I tend to structure my Language A: English Language and Literature Paper 1 responses using the PEEL paragraph structure.
2. Give yourself time to brainstorm in the exam
Annotate and brainstorm the question in the exam. At the end of the brainstorming session, you should produce an outline of your writing piece so that you know exactly what the flow of your work is going to be. This helps to save time whilst writing, since you already have the points before you and all you have to do is expand on them. Your plan can differ in its detailing based on your personal preference!
3. Should you memorize vocabulary?
Vocabulary is important, but it isn’t everything. Here’s an example: Have a look at Criterion D: Language in IB English Language and Literature A for Paper 1:
Looking at the highest band, Band 5, vocabulary is only one element being judged here. Having knowledge of good vocabulary is always a bonus point, but it should not come in the way of the overall clarity of your paper and the message that you are trying to convey through your response.
If you absolutely have to learn vocabulary, ensure that they are words that you will actually use when analysing texts, and not words that just “sound good or fancy”.
An extremely helpful list I found online adapted from those by Ms. Liz Davis can be found here. Additionally, the National University of Singapore has put together a list of common errors in academic writing here, which provides a helpful starting point to those in IB Year 1.
4. Literary devices
In written tasks of Group 1 subjects, merely showing your knowledge of technical terms such as juxtaposition, allusion, and foreshadowing (in Language A: English) is not sufficient. Always remember to explain their significance with relation to context, the text type, your main idea, and writer choice. Go get those marks in Criteria B!
5. Proofreading after writing
I have always heard quite a bit of debate around this, so before I present my opinion, I will say this: I highly encourage you to try out both the ideas I put forth, to figure out which one works for you. Afterall, what works for me may not work for you!
As a general rule, I tend to spend less time planning out my answer, and try my best to keep a few minutes to proofread my essays. However, if you prefer to spend a significant portion of your time—say, 20-25 minutes—planning out your essay in detail, and then writing for the remainder of the time, you might not have enough time to proofread. BUT the extensive planning that you do should be able to steer you clear of any major “grade-threatening” errors. Once again, I encourage you to try out both methods—perhaps while doing class assignments—so that by the time you sit for your exam, you are fully aware of what works for you and why!
Before exams: practice, practice, practice! One of the most common misconceptions I’ve heard about language subjects is that “You can’t study for them!”. This is when past papers can become your best friend! In addition, make sure your practice is time-bound, otherwise there is no way you’ll know what kind of a writing piece you can produce in the examination time period. It’s not really about whether you can write a good essay or not, it’s about whether you can write a good essay in the limited time that IB gives you.
Apart from practicing writing responses, it may be a good idea to go through key features of text types. Especially those that have recognisable characteristics, such as cartoons and advertisements.
I hope that these tips help you out in preparing for your Group 1 exams. Remember that once everything is said and done, it all comes down to what you are able to do in the examination time, so keeping a calm mind is the most important.