Note: first assessment 2021, from the IBO Language A Literature guide. There is no specific guide for Vietnamese, as with any other Language A subject.
Vietnamese A Literature is subject only available in Vietnam as a first language or second language. The subject focuses on enhancing students’ literacy and analysing skills, as well as developing a good habit of reading throughout the course. In my school, we needed to read approximately 8-10 pieces, both international and Vietnamese literature pieces. The number of pieces depends on your teacher, and it can either be your choice of pieces or options given by your teacher.
IB Assessment structure
IB Assessment for Vietnamese A Literature includes 4 parts:
- Paper 1 Guided Literary Analysis
- Paper 2 Essay (cancelled due to pandemic)
- Higher level Essay (HL only)
- Individual Oral
- External Assessment: 80% (Paper 1: 35%, Paper 2: 25%, HL Essay: 20%)
- Internal Assessment: 20% (Individual Oral)
- External Assessment: 70% (Paper 1: 35%, Paper 2: 35%)
- Internal Assessment: 30% (Individual Oral)
Tips on how to succeed
Besides being an HL Vietnamese A Literature student, reading has been a hobby of mine since childhood. Therefore, I personally do not have any problem with reading for the pure enjoyment of the pieces. However, I do realize that this may not be the case for everyone, so here are a few things that can help you enjoy and immerse yourselves into the reading process throughout the course:
1. Start with a book that you enjoy
The novel could be a series of short stories (truyện ngắn) or a novel (tiểu thuyết) that interest you the most. Poems can also be an alternative but the majority are quite hard to understand. Develop a habit of reading 1-2 pages per day, and during the climax, you can increase the number of pages a day (let’s say 4-5 pages) so that you get used to the habit of reading every day but do not accidentally overwhelm yourself.
From my personal experience, I usually start with choosing a recently released piece with a good review or a short story with an interesting topic (you can also start with translated pieces if you are unable to find original Vietnamese pieces from Vietnamese authors). I started with I am Đàn Bà by Y Ban because it is written by a Vietnamese author with a modern writing style, which is easy to understand compared to Nam Cao’s or Xuân Quỳnh’s pieces. I would say that Nguyễn Nhật Ánh’s works are also fascinating.
2. Get in the habit of annotating
Annotating quotes, important information, or the gist will help you note down potential evidence for your HL Essay and IO (depending which one you are using that particular piece for). It can be done directly into the book using pencil (I do not recommend using a pen as it can blur out the printed letters) or using sticky notes. Pick an annotation style that you will be able to understand when you look back on your notes and that will not interrupt your reading momentum.
I usually summarize chapter by chapter while taking notes by underlining or highlighting important information directly in the book. I just love all my annotations, as it allows me to recall what my thoughts were at that moment.
3. Practice speaking in front of the mirror
As the pandemic continues, specifically for 2020-2022 students, IB has been cancelling Paper 2, which means each component weight more than usual. Therefore, the IO (Individual Oral) also becomes more important. For this component of the course, you will need to speak for 10 minutes as well as answer impromptu questions from your teacher. More importantly, each IO will be examined by an examiner rather than teachers only, like other years.
The reason why you should not be memorizing your notes is because it can make your IO sound bizarre if it is too rehearsed. Additionally, the impromptu questions from your teacher after your ‘speech’ may expose your actual ability in conveying a message in Vietnamese. Therefore, instead of memorizing the notes, you can be more comfortable and confident with your IO by practicing in front of the mirror to avoid awkwardness.
4. For those doing a Vietnamese A Literature EE: Plan out your reading schedule and reference to what others think about that piece
Planning your schedule to set goals ahead of time can be significantly useful when deadlines are coming. For example, you can commit to regularly reading 1000 words, 2500 words, or meeting with your teacher. After reading, look at what the media or general public think, as it can give you a new perspective when analysing the piece.