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.

Comments 7

Abdes Kaur 24 September 2015 - 12:44

Hi David,
Should Paper 1 analysis stick to the 5 paragraph rule with a thesis, intro and conclusion?

David McIntyre 24 September 2015 - 23:50

Hi Abdes,

The simple answer is 'no'. Not least, five paragraphs is hardly adequate at HL. Also, this is analytic, commentary writing; it's not an essay students are asked to write (although it shares the hallmarks of 'academic' writing). A full response to your question would be very long indeed. Moreover, you would get my view. That's not a wrong view, it's just one view amongst others. May I suggest that you look at the samples on the site? Most are very good or outstanding. Looking at these closely, you get a very good sense of how students have structured their response.

I think your question is a good one and suggests ways we might add to the site to improve it further.


Abdes Kaur 27 September 2015 - 10:27

Thank you David, that was very helpful.

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,


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