Academic Group 1 Group 2 Subjects

What is a Self-Taught Language A subject?

Like many other IB students, I am studying in a country different from my native one. To feel connected to my culture, I decided to continue studying my native language as a Lit SL course. Since the school doesn’t offer this subject, I had to take it as Self-Taught, and in this article, I will explain how the system works and what you can do to get ahead.

Self-Taught vs Self-Study

Despite confusing names, this is indeed two different things. You usually have to self-study a subject if you missed a lot, for example due to lockdown, or are dissatisfied with your teacher. This is unofficial additional studying you do to improve your skills and knowledge of the subject. 

In contrast, Self-Taught is an official name of the course, meaning that it will appear in your final report this way (for me, it is Russian A Lit SL Self-Taught). Attention: you can take only a Lit A course from an authorized list of languages in standard level as Self-taught. 

Coordinators and curriculum

Official student guide can be found here.

However, “Self-Taught” doesn’t mean that the school will leave you to struggle with the subject on your own. Firstly, it will provide you with an SSST supervisor, who may not speak the language you are taking, but is responsible for helping you with organizational difficulties. Usually schools also assign a tutor who is proficient in the language in question, to give you feedback and help you prepare for the exams.

However, most of the tasks that would’ve been done by the teacher still fall on your shoulders: for instance, you choose the books to study yourself (still complying with the IB requirements). Apart from that, the requirements and assessments are fairly similar to usual Lit SL, with an exception of the Individual Oral, where you will be required to talk for 15 minutes (no questions) instead of the usual 10+questions.

School reports and predicted grades

My self-taught language score did not appear on my school academic report. Chances are, this is a common situation: depending on the tutor, you may be graded very rarely or even not at all, receiving only feedback and improvement suggestions. As for predicted grades, you may have to negotiate them with the tutor individually. My school even required me to sit an exam graded by a different Russian teacher to confirm my predicted grade.


  • Communicate with your tutor! They are there to help you and will be able to advise you at least on the structure of your work and assessments
  • Devote certain times in the week to study your self-taught language. This way you will ensure that the work gets done regularly and steadily, instead of cramping the entire course the night before the deadline
  • Take a lot of notes. You may need to submit your portfolio with notes to the IB examiners at the end of the course. And it also helps enormously to remember everything!
  • Buy paper-back books, if possible. It may be a subject of personal preference, but I personally find traditional books easier to annotate and study. Don’t forget to donate them to charity or recycle when you feel you don’t need them anymore!
  • Read more outside of the program. It will help you improve your writing and literature analysis skills, and you may even start noticing intertextual connections between topics, character archetypes and more!

In conclusion, taking your education in your own hands can be a frightening step. Nevertheless, in my opinion, it is a brilliant opportunity to prepare yourself for university or college, developing self-discipline and dedication to studying.

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