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English Literature Internal Assessment: Advice & Tips

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The IB English Literature (language A) internal assessments are broken down into 3 parts. Below I detail the requirements for each one, giving the mark scheme criteria, and suggest some things to include, based on my experience studying English at Standard Level. We hope you find this guide helpful and best of luck in your assignments!

A young Pablo Neruda in Sri Lanka (Photo: Literary Hub)

Part 1: Works in translation

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The first part of the internal assignment is a 1,200 – 1,500 word essay, worth 25% of your overall grade, analysing a work written in another language. Standard level students study 2 works whilst Higher level students study 3 works, one of which is chosen for the essay. These works come from the Prescribed Literature in Translation (PLT) list. For my essay, I looked at the use of imagery in Pablo Neruda’s Poem 20 – A poem written by Chilean writer Neruda about a lover he had lost. Below are the marking criteria for this 25 mark essay, which is the same for Standard and Higher Level:

Part 2: Detailed Study

Part 2 of the internal assessment is a detailed study of 2 works (Standard Level) or 3 works (Higher Level) – each from a different genre – that contributes 15% to your overall mark. These works come from the Prescribed List of Authors (PLA) which encompasses poetry, drama and prose work by a range of international authors. The assessment is a 10 minute oral commentary on one work for both levels, with Higher Level having an additional 10 minute discussion (question and answer) on another of the part 2 works which was not discussed in the oral commentary. The oral commentary is broken down into 8 minutes of student presentation followed by 2 minutes of questions from the teacher and will be a work of poetry for Higher Level students.

The work to be discussed in the oral commentary is known 10-20 minutes before the presentation and the work discussed in the questions and answer following this (for Higher Level only) is known after the oral commentary has finished. The questions asked in the last 2 minutes of the oral commentary will typically dig deeper into grammatical features and interpretations given by the student, looking at other areas of the work to see if these have been used elsewhere. For Higher Level students, example questions that may be asked during the 10 minute discussion can be seen below:

  • Which fictional character did you find most interesting? Can you account for that effect based on some choices you see that the writer has made in constructing the character?
  • Did you observe any contrivances in the novel that were in some way distracting, such as coincidences, or unresolved questions, unconvincing resolutions, chance meetings and so on?
  • How powerfully—or not—would you say the setting affected the events or action of the novel?

In my own experience of the Standard Level exam, I presented on Shakespeare’s Othello (Act 1, Scene 1), emphasising the dramatic structure of the scene (with Brabantio above Iago and Roderigo) and the cunning persuasiveness of Roderigo’s language. For Standard and Higher Level students, extracts and poems are normally 20-30 lines long and will have been analysed in class. During the assessment, try to outline the context of your extract or poem at the start of your commentary, and then break the piece down into 3 distinct themes or movements. Try to include elements from different parts of the text in your analysis of each theme or movement, breaking from the normal chronological approach if you feel comfortable. The questions asked by the teacher will then probe deeper into your analysis, so keep two or three points spare in case these are useful in the 2 minute question and answer.

Othello, as played by Chiwetel Ejiofor (Photo: Phpbits)

Note: For Higher Level, the overall mark is still 30, but the mark scheme is split between the 10 minute oral commentary and the 10 minute discussion that follows this. 5 marks are awarded for knowledge and understanding per section (giving 10 in total), whilst criteria B: Appreciation of the writer’s choices is reformed into a separate criteria E: Response to the discussion questions. However, the mark scheme demands much of the same analysis here as it does in the oral commentary, so do not be too discouraged by this.


Leonardo Di Caprio as Jay Gatsby in Baz Luhrman’s adaptation of the novel (Photo: IndieWire)

Part 3: Options

Part 3, the final part, of the Internal Assessment for English Literature is formed of 3 works, freely chosen from the Prescribed List of Authors (they do not have to be in different genres, as they are in part 2), and is assessed through a 10-15 minute oral presentation contributing 15% to your overall mark. The topic for the oral presentation can be chosen by students, and common topics are the role of:

  • Cultural setting
  • Thematic focus
  • Characterisation
  • Techniques and style

I chronicled the use of imagery in F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, looking particularly at the use of the green light across the bay (no spoilers as to what that symbolises – you’ll have to read the amazing book to find out!). This assignment is worth 30 marks and uses a marking scheme very similar to parts 1 and 2, although criteria C (appreciation of the writer’s choice) and D (organisation and Development) are replaced by a 10-mark Presentation criterion. This assesses whether the presentation is effective in conveying its message, so I recommend using a variety of devices to do this (for example, gestures, posters, dramatic monologues, artwork or music – if appropriate ).

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Please find the marking criteria below, with Standard Level criteria in green and Higher Level in blue

We wish you the best of luck with your English assignment and hope it goes well! If you would like support writing your assignment or preparing for the final exam, please do take a look at our tutoring and courses pages, where we can support you to achieve your best grade! Alternatively, for more articles like this one, please visit our resources page.

Whilst researching for this article, I also found some very useful online resource for IB English:

English Literature paper 1 advice: https://www.eliteib.co.uk/resource/paper-1-english-literature-blog/

English Language & Literature paper 1 advice: https://www.eliteib.co.uk/resource/ib-english-a-language-and-literature-paper-1-commentary-advice/

Internal Assessment and Exam advice: http://mrhoyesibwebsite.com/

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Timothy Hoffmann