Paper 1

Paper 1 is a (comparative) textual analysis of one or two unseen texts. This section provides various ideas to develop the necessary skills for Paper 1. Sample Paper 1s are provided, so that you can learn through example and become familiar with the criteria. Finally, we have also provided a short list of tips, which should help you prepare for the exam in a more focused way. 

The basics

  •  The Paper 1 asks students to comment on one of two texts within one and a half hours.

  •  The Paper 1 asks students to compare and contrast one of two pairs of text within two hours.

  •   Passages for analysis may be complete pieces of writing or extracts from larger works. There is also the possibility of commenting on a visual text or an extract from a longer piece. Possible text types for analysis include: advertisements, opinion columns, brochures, extracts from memoirs, or travel writing.

  •  One of the texts from one of the pairs may be a literary text.

  •  Each individual text is presented with two guiding questions. HL students will not have guiding questions. 

  •   Paper 1 counts for 25% of the final grade. It is assessed externally.

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Comments 8

Sarah Holden 10 November 2015 - 01:00

HI David,
I would like to do the Nov 2013 HL paper with my students but I can't find the Ken Cursoe comic on the virtues of being in love (or not) anywhere online. It has been removed from the paper for copyright reasons. Any ideas? Thanks,

David McIntyre 10 November 2015 - 04:25

See my email, please, Sarah.


Lesley Gardner 22 November 2015 - 09:22

Hi David, I'm looking for some accessible resources to aid in the teaching of identifying and integrating context in analysis of a Paper 1 response. Can you please make a suggestion?

David McIntyre 23 November 2015 - 01:05

Hi Lesley,

You'll see that a number of the lesson ideas in Part 3 (this website) involve contexts, and some of my own most recent blog posts reflect on the issue of contexts. Perhaps, however, there is scope to develop resources that specifically address contexts in Paper 1.

Context - I prefer contexts - is complex for a number of reasons. The principal reason, in my view, is that contexts are frequently extra-linguistic; that is, they involve forms of knowledge that are not always entirely evident in the texts that students encounter. And, the knowledge students need is often text dependent; that is, the knowledge students require to access a text depends on the specific text they encounter.

Early in my course, I work a lot with students and their own ethnocentrism (resources exist on this website; again, mainly in Part 3). The role of the reader, their preconceptions, socialised schemata etc. are, to my mind, crucial aspects of context. Students (like teachers, perhaps!) are not always aware of their own meta-perspectives. Making the familiar strange help students recognise what they bring to texts.

Beyond this, there are, I think, contexts that, more or less, impact on understanding all texts, including social/cultural; historical/temporal; linguistic, technological, and legal. Of course, these contexts don't really exist as discrete entities; often they overlap and inform one another in complex ways.

For what it is worth, I ask my students to address contexts in their second paragraph of a commentary (where the first paragraph introduces text types, intended readers, functions/purposes, and topics/themes). It's important, however (if one is to make a response meaningful) that students return to contexts, readers, and purposes throughout their response forming a continuous 'so what?' as they scrutinise language and meaning.

I hope this is of some help,


Sherry Van Hesteren 14 March 2016 - 20:53

Hi David,
A student is wondering if she can create portions of a graphic novel for her Written Task 1 (rationale + graphic novel of scene from Part IV text).


Sherry Van Hesteren
Saskatoon, SK, Canada

Tim Pruzinsky 15 March 2016 - 07:05

Hi Sherry,

My understanding is that you have read a Part 4 text and she wants to take a scene from a play (for example) and turn it into a page or two from a graphic novel.

While I think this is really quite creative, and tough to do, I’m not sure about Criterion B though. How can she show her understanding of the text if it is just a re-creation of the plot, albeit in another genre? I don’t think this will demonstrate her understanding of the scene as best she could.

And although the rationale can help her out with this enormously, I’m not sure she has the word count in which to fully explore what she wants to show. In other words, I’m skeptical.

I would share your concerns with her, but I do ultimately let students make a poor decision if that is their choice after consulting with me and knowing the risks.



Geraldine Farrell 8 April 2016 - 10:31

Geraldine Farrell 8 April 2016 - 10:29
Is it possible to add additional examples of Paper 1s, in particular? I find them incredibly helpful with my classes but I have exhausted the examples. It is especially helpful to have the examiner's comments and we use this resource fruitfully for class discussion and for students to have a turn at marking work comparing their grades and comments with the official grade ones.

Many thanks


David McIntyre 8 April 2016 - 13:40

Hi Geraldine,

I think we have, at the time of writing, 25 sample Paper 1 responses on the site. Whilst we aim to add more (and a broader range), I think our current selection is reasonable. We need to ensure that there is a good balance of materials on the site. As a subscriber, we guarantee you a 'significant update' every week. As we update the site, we will include, amongst other materials, Paper 1 samples.

Best regards,


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