The Best SL/HL IB English Study Guide and Notes
Do you need assistance with your IB English studies? There's no need to reread all of the books and poems you read in class! This study guide is intended for IB English A students (those enrolled in IB English A: literature SL/HL, IB English A: language and literature SL/HL, or IB English literature and performance SL) who need help writing their commentaries or essays.
This IB English SL/HL Tutor
study guide was created using the best free materials available for this class. Throughout the school year, use it to supplement your classwork and prepare for exams.
What Are the IB English Exams Like?
The IB English courses differ from other IB classes in that they do not follow a strict curriculum with specific topics to cover. Instead, your class (or, more likely, your teacher) is free to select which works to teach (from a list of prescribed authors and a list of prescribed literature in translation from IBO). The exams reflect this liberty.
All English a courses require you to write essays that include examples from novels, poems, plays, and other texts you've read. You will also be asked to interpret a text that you will have read for the first time on the day of the exam.
The exact number of questions you'll have to answer varies by course, but they all fall into one of the two categories listed above.
What Is Included in This Guide?
I've compiled resources in this guide to help you learn how to interpret poetry and structure your essay/commentary. I've also included notes on several books that are commonly taught in IB English SL/HL.
This should cover the majority of the material you'll need to study for your IB exam as well as your in-class exams.
Poetry Interpretation Guides
Many people struggle the most with the poetry material, and if you're one of them, we have some resources designed specifically to help you with poetry questions.
Here's a comprehensive explanation of how to interpret poetry for the IB exam, complete with term definitions, descriptions of different types of poems, and examples. We also have a tonne of poetry resources on our blog, ranging from definitions of specific terms to complete, expert analyses of poems you should know.
Guide to Writing an Essay
If you're not sure how to write an essay for the IB English SL/HL papers, here's a guide to help you out. This guide will tell you how to structure your essay and what you should include. It also includes a few sample questions to give you a better idea of the types of prompts to expect.
The Best IB English Study Techniques
This guide should be useful to you throughout the school year for in-class quizzes and at the end of the year for the IB exam. Taking practice tests is also important, and you should check out our other article for FREE IB English past papers to help you become acquainted with the types of questions asked by the IBO (and I'm sure your teacher will ask similar questions on your quizzes).
Make sure you read and take detailed notes on all of the novels and poetry assigned to you in class. This will help you remember key themes and plot points so that you don't have to reread a stack of books right before the exam.
Finally, don't fall behind on the material you learn in class. Reading several novels in the week before the IB exam will not help much. You must allow time for the material to sink in throughout the class so that you can recall it easily on the day of the IB exam.
How to Make the Most of Each Previous Paper
A full SL test will take you 3 hours and a full HL test will take you 4 hours. If you're going to devote that much time to learning, you should make the most of it. Follow these guidelines to do so.
Rule 1: Increase Your Endurance
The IBO used to divide the English exam into two days, with one essay due each day. That is no longer the case as of 2021, which means you must take the entire exam in one sitting.
That means you'll be doing a lot of analysing, writing, and thinking on test day. That can be draining! Start working on your mental endurance now to ensure you have the energy you'll need to succeed.
Real-time practice sessions are the most effective way to accomplish this. Set aside three to four hours on a weekend to write sample essays based on the writing prompts from previous papers. This will give you a sense of what to expect on test day, and you'll be able to optimise your writing process so you don't run out of time.
Rule 2: Set a timer.
You must become accustomed to the timing. The time frame is as follows:
English Language Arts SL
HL in English Literature
- 1 hour 15 minutes for Paper 1 (Guided Textual Analysis).
- 45 minutes for Paper 2 (Comparative Essay).
- Paper 1: 2 hours 15 minutes (guided textual analysis)
- 45 minutes for Paper 2 (Comparative Essay).
Additionally, students will turn in a prewritten essay that is between 1200 and 1500 words long.
Rule 3: Examine the Mark Scheme
Examine your answers after finishing the entire test. You must review to learn from your mistakes and avoid making them on the actual test. That includes going over your essays critically.
Spend an hour reviewing. While it may appear that you are wasting time that could be spent on other aspects of your practice, this is different. Focus on the quality of your practice rather than the quantity. I'd rather you take two practice tests with thorough review than eight without.
You should also consider having your practice essays reviewed by your English teacher or another qualified mentor. They can provide you with additional information to help you improve your analytical and writing skills before the test!
How Are IB Exams Graded?
IB exams are not graded in the same way that other school exams are. We go over the grading scale for IB exams and how it works in this section.
IB exams are graded on a scale of 1 to 7.
Every IB exam is graded on a scale of 1-7, with 7 representing the highest possible score. The IB employs what is known as "grade descriptors" to describe what each level means for each of the six possible categories.
Which IB results will colleges accept for credit?
Each school may have slightly different requirements for receiving credit for IB courses, but most college classes will give you credit for IB HL classes if you have a 5 on the exam. If you have an IB Diploma, some colleges will even waive your General Education requirements.
Others, such as my alma mater, the University of Southern California, will give you up to a full year of credit for having an IB Diploma.
To learn more about a college's IB college credit policy, look up "[School Name] IB credit policy." The majority of universities have a dedicated web page that explains their credit policies.
What If You Believe Your IB Exam Score Was Inequitable?
After the IB results are released, schools can request re-marks for specific students if they believe their grades are unfair. Schools can also receive a variety of feedback on their students' performance.
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