How to Prepare for the English Individual Oral

For most students, the Individual Oral is a looming cloud that hovers over the IB curriculum. It seems filled with an intricate set of rules, and judges you harshly with it's set criteria.

But it needn't be so ominous. The IO has a set number of simple rules. And within those rules, you have complete freedom to navigate through the Global Issue you would like to advocate for, and what you will like to speak about.

Before we begin, you can quickly take a look at the following:

Things you should know about the IO

  • The IO is internally assessed by your school, which means your teacher will mark it and the marks they give will be verified by an IB moderator.

  • The IO will be 15 minutes in total.

In the first 10 minutes, you will be presenting your stance, where you will be explaining how one literary text and another non-literary text are reflecting and depicting the same Global Issue.

Then, the teacher will ask you a question which you both will discuss for the next 5 minutes.

  • You may use any of the works you have studied up to the time of the IO. This may seem like a limitation, but it actually does entail a lot of freedom, while also setting you up with all the knowledge you need. I will explain this soon.

  • The requirements of the IO are the same for SL and HL students.

Now that you have a general idea about the main requirements of the IO, we can move on to what you need to focus on, in order to show the examiner what you are capable of, and also showcase your complete understanding of your topic.

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Photo by Cookie the Pom / Unsplash

So, there are three skills in total that you need to showcase for your teacher to get impressed by your efforts. These three skills are not meant to be intimidating, and they are general skills that you will require in life anyway. They will aid you not only in the IB examinations; but will also serve you well in college, and beyond!

So what are these three skills that are being tested?

The 3 skills you need to demonstrate:

1) Communication skills

Now, the first one seems pretty standard. You may think, it is hard to display your communication skills when there is no conversation! You will be speaking to yourself, so how can these communication skills possibly be displayed?

Imagine yourself in a situation where you are giving a speech - speeches are an exemplary example of one-way communication. While giving a speech, you need to be organised, prepared, and very clear, so that your message resonates with the audience.

It is much the same thing with the IO. You have to deliver a well-organised, clear, convincing and balanced argument. Your argument will also have to be very much focused on the Global Issue.

To sum up, a clear and focused presentation will give you a leg up for your Individual Oral.

2) Knowledge and Interpretation skills

Now, this skill seems to be a given as well. You do need a lot of knowledge of what you are speaking about - it shows the amount of time and effort you have put into your Individual Oral.

You need to be familiar with the literary and non-literary works that you have chosen. This is the only way in which you can display your knowledge and understanding of the works, so take your texts out again and get to know them further!

Secondly, you also need to interpret the texts you choose. By this, it means you need to connect your understanding of the two works and be able to relate it to the Global Issue. In this way, you can really explain why and how the texts and the Global Issue are connected with one another.

To sum up, use your familiarity of the literary and non-literary texts in order to connect them with each other, as well as the Global Issue.

3) Analysis and Evaluation skills

Now, this one may seem a bit more complicated, but you need to remember that analysis and evaluation are two things you have been learning and perfecting ever since you started the DP course.

This part of the Individual Oral is very similar to the textual analysis of Paper 1, which you must be familiar with as well. You need to analyse and evaluate how both the texts are communicating using their unique perspectives.

A literary text will not be having the same textual features as a non-literary text. And so, even though they may be speaking about the same Global Issue, they will be displaying completely different authorial choices, in order to depict the same issue in two different ways.

To sum up, you need to evaluate the uniqueness of both the texts, using the different authorial choices that can be deciphered in them.

Now like I said, this last skill may seem slightly more complicated, and rightly so. You need to really use all your knowledge of analysing texts. If you are in Year 1, you have a lot of time to perfect your knowledge and your skills, so keep reading!

However, if you are in Year 2, and you are still feeling unsure about how to approach the examination, you need only to ask for guidance and you are at the right place. Our IB English experts will guide your understanding through the specific criterias to ensure you achieve a good result. So click here and take a step to enter the examination with complete confidence.

It is important to note that some schools do choose for their students to deliver the Individual Orals in Year 1. However, it is a bit unlikely that schools will do this, since you will be having a comparatively limited selection of texts to choose from, and lesser experience with analysis.

Usually, you will have plenty of notice and more than enough time to watch the IO slowly approaching you from a distance... So how can you prepare for it in the best possible way?

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Photo by Thought Catalog / Unsplash

How to prepare for the IO if you are in Year 1

Quick note: If you are in Year 2, skip ahead.

You may already have heard this from your teachers, but Year 1 is a good time to start preparing for all your main examinations. By 'preparing', I mean thinking ahead. The key to being successful with your decision to pursue the IB Diploma, is your ability to be organised. That's the main tip any IB teacher will tell you! And it is the truth.

... so how to go about it?

1) Keep a log of extracts

It is likely that you may forget about the texts you went through in Year 1, by the time the IO examinations are due in Year 2. Students often have to rack their brains, thinking back to all the texts they have covered, and also try to find all the key points which they had already analysed previously.

Keep track of your notes over the 2 years. When you are introduced to new texts by your teachers, you can begin to keep a list of the global issues that are present in each of them. Keep a table for each text that is covered in class, or texts that you feel you wouldn't mind revisiting later.

It will be good if you will be having around 3 - 5 key extracts, from one text or many, by the time your IO is around the corner. This gives you greater flexibility in choosing your global issue and linking texts together.

2) Complete several practice orals throughout the course

Your school is very helpful with this, if you look at it this way. You will have several mock Individual Orals in the two year duration of your course.

You can also practice by yourself, and record yourself delivering these practice orals. The good thing about this is, you can practice on your oratory skills, and also, according to studies in cognitive science, explaining something aloud has a potent effect in your understanding of it.

How to prepare for the IO in a short span

1) Have two copies of your extracts

Prepare two clean copies of your extracts, for both your literary and non-literary texts. By clean, I mean the two printouts or copies must be unannotated - one is for you and the other is for your teacher.

Keep your own copy with you and familiarise yourself with it, although you cannot write notes on it. You can take these extracts with you when you deliver your Individual Oral, so you do not need to memorize any quotations.

What you can use it for, is to practice with these extracts, so you can prepare yourself by getting familiar with just the unannotated papers you hold in your hands, and no other prompts.

2) Make sure your bullet points are concise and clear

Even if your school requires you to write a script for the Individual Oral, do not practice with it - practice with your bulleted points. Regardless of whether you have a photographic memory or not, you will soon to able to memorise all the important aspects of your speech.

Once you practice enough times with the bulleted points, you can perfect your presentation and even be able to speak without consulting it. Once this starts happening, you know you are almost prepared to walk into your Individual Oral with utter confidence.

3) Consult with someone before you deliver your Individual Oral

This step is often overlooked because sometimes it can be a bit embarrasing to show your best efforts to someone who may even subconsciously judge you. But pick someone you trust - maybe a friend, a family member, or someone you know who is an expert on the matter.

Get tips and guidance on how you can improve the delivery of your points, or how you can better explain your analysis of the argument. This is better done with some feedback from your IB teacher, or from an IB expert whom you can find here.

Finally, I would like to say - Don't let the IO intimidate you. It is an opportunity for you to show how much you have learned, how much you understand the main issues within the world, and how you understand the efforts made by artists to bring these issues to light.

It is know that the IB can be a very challenging curriculum and sometimes you may require the help of an expert tutor or a mentor, to help you score the best grade possible. Vidyalai provides live, one-to-one classes from the comfort of your home, with handpicked IB teachers. Click here to get in touch with us, and find yourself fully prepapred before you enter your examination.

How to Prepare for the English Individual Oral
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