Further oral activity

For Parts 1 and 2 students will be asked to conduct several further oral activities (FOA). These activities can be based on different types of situations that use spoken language, ranging from presentations to interviews, or from debates to speeches. In the FOA students must demonstrate their understanding of course work, focus on the relevant topic and an achievement of one or more learning outcomes. In the classroom preparation that leads up to FOAs, teachers should guide students towards successful ideas and speaking formats, without prescribing one method or approach.

Further oral activities are a form of internal assessment. The assessment criteria for Higher and Standard Level are the same. Marks for the FOA are added together with the marks for the individual oral commentary and divided by two. At the end of each exam session, a subject committee decides upon grade boundaries for Higher Level and Standard Level students. Higher Level grade boundaries are slightly stricter than Standard Level grade boundaries.

Remember: The IB moderators who listen to the sample recordings of the individual oral commentaries (IOC) do not only moderate the marks from the IOC. They moderate the entire internal assessment grade. This means that the marks for the further oral activity are also affected.

The basics

The following bullet-points apply to both Higher and Standard Level students

  • Further oral activities are based on texts and topics from Parts 1 and 2 of the syllabus. The activity should be rooted in a primary source.
  • Students must conduct at least two FOAs; one on Part 1 and one on Part 2. Teachers may provide more opportunities to do an FOA than these two.
  • Students may work alone or in groups.
  • Students decide on an activity in consultation with their teacher.
  • Although there is no official time limit, there must be enough material to assess. On this matter the IB Teacher Support Material states: "The length of the individual oral commentary may be used as a rough guide for the amount of time an individual student should spend speaking during the further oral activity: 15 minutes."
  • The oral activities do not need to be recorded. However, recording good samples is useful for future students.
  • Following each FOA, students have to write a reflective statement, which is kept on record within the school. The reflective statement explains how the student met one or more of the learning outcomes for Parts 1 or for Part 2.
  • The marks from the best FOA performance count for 15% of the final grade.

Teacher talk

After reading the Language A: Language and Literature guide, you may still have many unanswered questions about the further oral activity. In fact, this form of assessment requires some professional judgment and an understanding of formative assessment. More on these topics below.

Professional judgment and formative assessment

The further oral activity requires a great deal of professional judgment on the part of the teacher, since the Language A: Language and Literature guide does not offer much guidance. In the guide, we read about the various activities that students may choose for the FOA. You can find the criteria and a brief description of the reflective statement. That’s it. Many questions go unanswered, such as ‘How long must the FOA be?’, ‘What material must students discuss?’ or ‘How do the reflective statements play a role in the assessment process?’ In brief, teachers are left to discover their own answers.

What’s more, the IB seems to place a great deal of trust in the teacher’s hands. No recordings are required. The record sheet of reflective statements is not sent to the IB (though it may be requested). And it is internally assessed, meaning that many marks may never be moderated. Surely schools will take a range of approaches. For example some teachers may assign all of their students to write speeches. Even though this goes against the spirit of the further oral activity, there is no system in place to prevent this from happening. Chances are high that this will happen somewhere at some school.

While this lack of guidelines may leave one feeling insecure, it can also be seen as a great opportunity. Rather than worrying about what is fair practice across all IB schools, it is recommended that teachers focus on their own school, their own students and the interests of their students. Every teaching context is different, and most likely these are differences that the IB would like to accommodate. So too should we. The FOA is the perfect chance for teachers to experiment, learn from mistakes and apply professional judgment.

Generally speaking, the various forms of IB DP assessment are summative in nature, meaning that they are a test of learning. The further oral activity, however, could be regarded as one of those few forms of formative assessment in this DP course, meaning that it can be used as a tool for learning. After all, the best one counts, meaning there is room for trial and error. Because the guidelines are so vague, teachers have the freedom to run several FOAs under a range of conditions (see tips page).

For example, students and teachers often ask, ‘Should FOAs be based on texts that were studied in class? Or should they be based on texts that students find outside of class?’ You have to walk before you can run. Applying in-class concepts to out-of-class texts requires more critical thinking that the application of in-class concepts to in-class texts. This is an argument for doing one round of FOAs one way and another round of FOAs another way, using this form assessment as a tool to develop skills in a formative way. Use the freedoms of the guide to your advantage, turning the FOA into a learning tool rather than an end-station test.

Comments 13

Luis Castro 15 October 2014 - 18:10

Even if the samples cannot be retrieved as audios, would it be possible to give some ideas how a FPA could look like (thank you for the McDonalds idea. When this site was managed by Brad Philpot there were a lot of ideas as far as I remember. Thank you.

David McIntyre 15 October 2014 - 21:48

Hi Luis,

Thanks for your comments.

Two things: 1. The only difference, in regard to FOAs, between the site I inherited and now is that the FOAs are no longer available (and it was the aforementioned site manager who chose to remove the files permanently, fully aware of the impact); 2. Since inheriting the site, in April 2013, the site has doubled in size.

Best regards,


James Guest 27 October 2014 - 08:26

What is the suggested policy on students writing out notes prior to the start of the FOA?

David McIntyre 27 October 2014 - 21:37

Hi James,

No 'policy' as such. But, notes are, I think, just fine. Obviously you prefer for students to speak to you rather than to read to you, and so notes should not be a transcript of what students say.



James Guest 29 October 2014 - 03:11

Thanks David.

Angela Kolter 4 December 2014 - 01:20

Hi David, can you provide further elaboration on the fact that the FOA should be "rooted in a primary source." While this connection may seem obvious, given the variety of speech acts afforded as well as the range of what the teacher last year taught and how I have conducted a further exploration of PI&II, I could use some additional verbiage in explaining how to "root it" yet deviate from it. Thanks in advance.

David McIntyre 5 December 2014 - 21:41

Hi Angela,

I think that aspects of the study guide in regard to FOAs needs to be reconsidered. The introduction is lovely - it mentions cultural practices, intercultural understanding, cultural context, and learning outcomes. It is, in my view, fine ambition. Unfortunately, these ideas don't seem to resurface in the grading criteria. Moreover, there are a range of suggested activities that seem 'awkward' if students are to 'hit' the grading criteria.

For these reasons, I try to keep my FOAs straightforward, using them as activities that develop oral skills and provide collaborative opportunities to prepare for Paper 1.

At present, criterion B, I suggest, seems unambiguous, and that students must show understanding of how language is used. Since this is so, I would argue that FOAs should consider a primary language text.

What do you think?


John McCune 12 January 2015 - 19:40

I much appreciate the contents of your FOA section, and it's from your pages that I have distilled three primary requirements: (1) it must reflect one or more of the learning outcomes for that part of the course, (2) it must be rooted in a primary text (which I take to mean either ONE that's been taught in class or ONE they pick on their own, and (3) it needs to reflect texts and topics taught in part 1 or 2. Unfortunately, this distillation of mine didn't not come before the first 3 FOAs in my class, each of which failed to meet at least one of the three requirements above. So I have a question and a comment. My question is whether you think those 3 are in fact the ones I should be emphasizing. And my comment is that I agree with you that some of the examples given of possible FOAs (the more "creative" ones) strike me as cases where it would be very challenging to show that those 3 criteria have been met, in a way that would score well.

David McIntyre 13 January 2015 - 02:46

Hi John,

It seems to me that what you are doing is very well-intended. It is worth remembering that FOAs (unlike IOCs) are not sampled/moderated. Fundamentally, the FOA must be embedded in the analysis of text (see p.16 of the study guide) and language, and that you are able to use the assessment criteria to mark the FOA.

Let me know if you want further advice/guidance, John. If the nature of the discussion becomes a little sensitive, I can email you (moving our discussion away from this public forum).



Mary Worrell 26 January 2015 - 11:50

Hi David,

I've had a few students come to me with ideas for FOAs that involve an edited/produced video. Assuming the students hit the marks of the assessment criteria, is it acceptable to submit a FOA that is a video? Or does the activity have to be "live" in front of the teacher? I can see a lot of creative possibilities if the FOA can be recorded ahead of time and edited, but I also see an advantage for students to do multiple takes and improve their marks for certain criteria. I couldn't find any mention of this in the guide, so I'm turning to your site, yet again! Thanks :)

- Mary

David McIntyre 27 January 2015 - 02:51

Hi Mary,

You won't find clarity in the study guide on this question. Personally, I have always gone for the 'live' approach. Maybe, I'm unimaginative. I like, however, to challenge students to present in public.

I can understand the creative possibility of using communicating technologies and the role of schools in equipping students with skills for a future only partially imagined.

I would suggest that if you go for some video type FOAs, you include some Q and A post presentation as a route to checking and extending understandings.

You seem quite executed about the course. Excellent!


Alexandra Molina 4 February 2015 - 03:29

Hello David,

This is my first year as a language and literature teacher and I have two important questions.

1. Do I have to use a text for the FOA or could it be about mass media communication "advertising"?

2. Could I give the grade to the students after their presentation and evaluation or not??

Please help!!!

David McIntyre 4 February 2015 - 04:00

Hi Sandra,

1. FOAs should involve a discussion/analysis of texts (where 'text' is broadly defined).

2. This is a more complex discussion, and your school should probably develop a policy/approach to this issue. On the one hand, you need to give students feedback to summative assessment. On the other hand, orals are moderated (IOC moderation applies to both IOCs and FOAs); this means that the raw mark you award may not be what the student is ultimately awarded.

For what it is worth, I do not permit my teachers to share FOA grades explicitly/precisely. They may, however, use grading criteria as the basis for a discussion of a student's performance. I think this amounts to more than splitting hairs.

Best regards,


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