On this page you can find some of the questions students frequently ask about the Individual Oral (IO). If you are looking for an answer to a question, or you are uncertain about an aspect of your IO exam, check out the FAQs below. The questions and answers are relevant to both SL and HL students.
How long does the IO last?
The IO lasts for 15 minutes. You should aim to speak for 10 minutes. Practice your IO so that you speak for exactly 10 minutes, give or take about 15 seconds). After you have spoken for 10 minutes, your teacher will ask you questions for a further 5 minutes. These questions will probe what you've said. Your teacher will aim to get you to extend and clarify your ideas. Through thoughtful questioning, your teacher aims to enable you to show a fuller understanding of the works and texts you have chosen (in light of the global issue you have selected), giving you the opportunity to improve your mark for the task. Your teacher is not trying to catch you out. If your oral extends beyond 15 minutes in total, anything you say after 15 minutes cannot be credited for the purpose of marking.
When and where will the IO take place?
The time of the IO is determined by your teacher. She or he should give you lots of advanced notice so that you know exactly when you will take your exam. Normally, this will be at or towards the end of your first year of study, or at some point in your second year of study. Earlier dates are possible, but unlikely. Your IO will take place with only you and your teacher present; there is no audience. The IO will be recorded. Only oral recordings are required.
Who marks my IO? That is, who is my examiner?
Your IO is marked by your teacher. Where there is more than one parallel English Language and Literature class in your school, the teachers may engage in 'internal moderation', listening to sample work from a cross-section of students and, possibly, modifying the marks they award. All IB schools are subject to a process called 'moderation'. This means that a sample of oral recordings and marks will be sent to a 'moderator' (often this is an experienced practicing teacher in another IB school) who listens to all recordings sent, marks awarded, and may in turn modify the marks originally awarded by the teacher. Where this occurs, it is possible that the mark your teacher originally awarded you will be changed. In some schools, it is the practice to inform students of their IO marks. Other schools choose not to. In either case, remember that the mark initially awarded by your teacher can be changed.
Will I be nervous? What can I do to manage my nervous anxiety?
Most students are nervous before the IO. A lot is at stake, and being nervous is perfectly normal. However, you should put things into perspective; a sub-standard performance in the IO is not, by any stretch of the imagination, the worst thing that can happen to you. Good, extensive preparation and practice can reduce your anxiety considerably. If, despite good preparation, you continue to feel uncertain, discuss your feelings with your teacher in the first instance. You may also turn to, for example, a mentor, the school counsellor, your guardian(s) or parent(s), and/or your IB coordinator for support and advice. Keep in mind that nervous energy is almost certainly a prerequisite for doing well in the exam. It's not impossible that you will actually enjoy the exam once you get going - we're not kidding! - and you will certainly feel a sense of relief once you have completed the task.
How many times can I do my IO?
Only once. Even if you and/or your teacher feel that the IO did not go particularly well or as well as you expected, it cannot be repeated. If you have prepared and practiced well, you have nothing to worry about. Despite some possible nerves, you will almost certainly do just fine. It is very likley that you will practice the skills for your IO many times before the exam, and it is very possible that you will have a complete 'mock' IO.
How often can I practice my IO?
As often as you like. We suggest you practice a lot! This said, yove to put the IO into some perspective; you must also prioritise study in other subjects, and you may also like to enjoy some precious free time beyond your IB studies. Sadly, it isn't true that 'practice makes perfect', but adequate practice is likely to give you greater confidence for the exam.
How and to what extent can my teacher and others help me with my IO?
Your teacher should be giving you lots of help and encouragement as you work with literary and non-literary works and texts, and as you develop the skills for doing the IO. Although you should decide independently what works, texts, and global issue will inform your IO, your teacher may provide some feedback and advice. Further advice may be sought as you develop your ideas and when you submit your outline. However, this advice is likely to be of a general nature and non-specific. Your teacher will not tell you what to say, and your teacher will absolutely not practice your IO with you. Any practice or mock IO with your teacher must be completed with a different combination of works/texts/global issue. It is possible that you will practice the IO with classmates, friends, relatives and, if you have one, a tutor. Where this is the case, you must observe normal practices to ensure academic honesty. For example, it is a breach of academic honesty for someone else to tell you how you should structure you IO and/or tell you what to say.
So, what exactly am I going to do in the IO?
The IO addresses a prompt. This is the prompt: Examine the ways in which the global issue of your choice is presented through the content and form of one of the works and one of the bodies of work that you have studied. This is always the prompt. It will not change. Thus, you should select a literary work and a non-literary body of work (or complete work) that you have studied on your course and that you think addresses, represents, and connects to a global issue of your choice. You should bring two extracts to the examination - one taken from the literary work you have chosen and the other chosen from the non-literary body of work (or complete work) that you have chosen. Each extract must not exceed 40 lines of 'conventional text' (in 'non-conventional' texts such as graphic novels do not bring in so much text that it cannot be maningfully discussed in the short time you have). Using the prompt, above, connect the texts you have chosen to the wider work/wider body of work, ensuring that you are highlighting the ways in which the texts and works are presenting the global issue. You must do this for both the literary work you have selected and the non-literary body of work (or complete work) you have selected. We suggest you do this for each (the literary and non-literary) in turn. Elsewhere on the site, we have provided examples of ways in which you can structure your discussion. Note two important things, however: (i) the IO is not a comparative task. However, it is possible to compare and contrast the literary and non-literary extracts and works, and this may contribute to a better mark; there is no guarantee of this (ii) It is important that you discuss both the extract and work/body of work in roughly equal measure. For example, if you have studied Charles Dickens' novel Great Expectations and you are considering as a global issue ideas around childhood poverty, you should spend as much time discussing the presentation of child poverty in both the extract you have chosen and the the wider work (i.e. the novel). You need to repeat this process for the non-literary body of work (or complete work) you have chosen. There is, as you can see, a lot to do in 10 minutes!
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