Selecting texts

For this course you will want to become a connoisseur of texts, meaning that you will want to collect, compile and study a range of text types in hopes of appreciating their qualities. Assembling a reader is good practice. This should involve both the teacher and students. But how do we know which texts to include in our reader? Here are some points to consider for all parts of the syllabus:

  • Ensure there is a broad range of text types. For a definition and a deconstruction of different types of texts see the resources pages on text types
  • You do not have to do everything with every text. You can find a pair of texts that are rich in tone and another pair that are rich in alliteration in order to study these concepts separately. 
  • You may want to organize your texts along the lines of particular themes. This strategy is characteristic of the holistic approach to the course. 

The nature of each part determines to some extent which types of texts you select for your course. Here are some points that you will want to consider when selecting texts for each part. You may also want to consult our FAQ page on text selection.

Part 1 - Language and cultural context

For Part 1 you should consider a few basic but important questions when selecting different types of texts:

  • What's your areas of expertise? Some of this will come from past experience, but also from your own knowledge of the suggested topics. How do your personal interests relate to topics such as bilingualism, translation or political correctness? Although we may not consider ourselves experts in these fields, a working knowledge is a good start. We are not expected to become subject area professors, but to establish an informed analysis of texts. Jump in! Start with three suggested topics and organize your reader along these lines. 
  • What resources are available to you? Depending on your location, you may have limited or unlimited access to different types of texts. Find out what magazines and newspapers are regularly available in your school library. Check with your librarian about whether your school subscribes to a research database. Ask friends and family at home to do some focused snipping of pertinent newspaper and magazine articles for you? Finally, you will find that this Subject Site offers a wealth of primary and secondary sources.
  • How you will divide the topics into the recommended teaching hours? The Language A: Language and Literature guide suggests 40 teaching hours for this unit at SL, and 60 teaching hours for HL. If you focus on three topics, with HL students, that makes 20 teaching hours each. How often do you meet with your students, and for teaching periods of what length? Within each of these topics, you can explore several subtopics that are organized around a particular theme.  

Sample Part 1 texts

Topic Text type Time allocated
Language and the individual 
You may want to explore poetry on bilingualism and an extract from Pygmalion. While the topics of Part 1 invite you to explore non-literary texts, this is an example of how literary texts may also be relevant
  • Biography
  • Excerpt from play script
  • Encyclopedia entry
  • Poetry
  • Textbook
  • Travel Writing
  3 combined lessons per week for 5 weeks (15 hours)
 2 extension lessons per week in these 5 weeks (10 hours)
Language and power
Examples of language and images being used to persuade an audience to support a political stance come to mind, images of a 'clean' war or refugees. Emotional appeals in protest songs or speeches, or a more scholarly and detached view in an essay.
  • Essay
  • Film/Television
  • Speech
  • Song Lyric
  3 combined lessons per week for 5 weeks (15 hours) 
 2 extension lessons per week in these 5 weeks (10 hours)
Language and taboo
Much humor comes from taboo. Cartoons and film can be appealing for the lines they cross. You can also explore several public service announcements that spread awareness about HIV and AIDS
  • Cartoon
  • Film/television
  • Parody
  • Public service announcements
  3 combined lessons per week for 5 weeks (15 hours)
 2 extension lessons per week in these 5 weeks (10 hours)

Part 2 - Language and mass communication

For Part 2 much of the general advice for Part 1 applies. Ask yourself the following questions when compiling texts:

  • How visual and media literate am I? Even though you may not have a formal background in media studies, you may find that you are very good at explaining the effects of non-linguistic features on an audience. We should look for texts that are visually rich, which ask us to explore the effects of lighting, camera angle, staging and layout, just to mention a few aspects. 
  • Remember: This part of course is not about the media. Rather than discussing Rupert Murdoch's purchase of MySpace, we should focus on how MySpace is a different type of text than Facebook and targets a different audience, using similar and different devices.

  • How much do I know about new media? Twitter, podcasts, blogs and many other types of texts are changing the ways in which we communicate with each other. How will you incorporate these into your teaching? As tools to support classwork, or as text types to analyze? 
  • How will you divide your topics over the recommended teaching time? The guide suggests 40 hours for Standard Level students and 60 hours for Higher Level students. If you wish to cover four of the suggested topics you may wish to take the following approach:

Sample Part 2 texts

Topics Text types Time allocated
Language and the state
You can look at brochures from the US Department of Homeland Security that raise awareness about terrorist threats. You can look at anti-drug campaigns, such as these from this lesson titled 'Just say no!' Wikileaks texts also come to mind.
  • Brochures
  • Public service announcements
  • Official documentation and records
  • Governmental websites
  3 lessons per week for 5 weeks (15 hours)
Language and speeches
The speeches themselves will form much of this section, but interviews about the success of the speeches, and charts or diagrams illustrating the effect of political speeches on audience support could easily be introduced. 
  • Chart
  • Interviews
  • Speeches
  3 lessons per week for 5 weeks (15 hours)
Persuasive language
All of the text types listed provide examples of different types of persuasion. This is a rich and interesting topic.
  • Advertisements
  • Appeal
  • Blog
  • Brochure/Leaflet
  • Manifesto
  • Radio broadcast
  3 lessons per week for 5 weeks (15 hours)
Textual bias and media institutions
Exposing students to bias in texts that are explicitly constructed to contain bias, such as opinion columns, versus texts that hide their bias.
  • Magazine article
  • News Report
  • Opinion Column
  • Photograph
 2 extension lessons per week in these 15 weeks (30 hours)

Part 3 - Literature: text and context

For Part 3 you will have certain IB requirements to keep in mind when selecting different texts. These are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Do these texts meet the requirements? At Standard Level, students read two texts: one text from the PLT (Prescribed Literature in Translation List) and one text from the PLA (Prescribed Language A List) or elsewhere. At Standard Level, the school's free choice (SFC) must have been written in English. At Higher Level, students read three texts: one text from the PLT, one text from the PLA and one text chosen from either the PLA, the PLT or elsewhere. This school's free choice may be a work in translation.

    Remember: Parts 3 and 4 texts must be selected from at least two different genres (type of text), times (the century in which it was written) and places (where it was written).  

  • How do these texts prepare students for the exam? Keep in mind that Part 3 is assessed through the Paper 2 exam. The texts you choose need to lend themselves to rich and stimulating conversations about how context - social, historical and cultural - influence both the production and reception of literature. 
  • What do I already know? When embarking on a new course, and considering the amount of searching you will be doing for Parts 1 and 2, it is sound advice to choose literary texts that you have taught before, if possible. You can branch out and introduce novelty once you have the course under your belt!

Sample Part 3 texts

Text Requirements Time allocated
Death and the Maiden by Ariel Dorfman School's free choice,
South America, 20thcentury
  5 lessons per week for 5 weeks (25 hours)
The Visit by Friedrich Dürrenmatt PLT (German),
Europe, 20th century
  5 lessons per week for 5 weeks (25 hours)
Master Harold and the Boys by Athol Fugard PLA,
Africa, 20thcentury
 5 lessons per week for 4 weeks (20 hours)

Part 4 - Literature: a critical study

There are two questions to keep in mine when selecting Part 4 texts:

  • How do these texts prepare my students for the exam? These texts need to be rich in stylistic opportunities, as the focus is precisely here: close analysis. Again, in the first year of teaching try to stay comfortable with some tried and true texts if possible.
  • What are the requirements for Part 4? For Standard Level students, choose two texts from the PLA. For Higher Level students, choose three texts from the PLA.

Sample Part 4 texts

Macbeth by William Shakespeare PLA, Europe, 17th century   5 lessons per week for 4 weeks (20 hours)
Selected poems by Emily Dickinson PLA, America, 19th century    5 lessons per week for 4 weeks (20 hours)
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen PLA, Europe, 19th century  5 lessons per weeks for 4 weeks (20 hours)
Part 3 
Master Harold and the boys
Death and the Maiden
The Visit
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Comments 23

Maleha Arif 13 May 2017 - 12:18

Hello gentlemen,

Please give me some feedback on the following selections:

Part 3- Persepolis, Things Fall Apart, The Great Gatsby
part 4- The Awakening, The Importance of Being Ernest and selected poems by William Carlos Williams.


Tim Pruzinsky 15 May 2017 - 00:44

Hi Mel,

In terms of adhering to the requirements of the course, your selection works. Some may argue that "The Awakening" is a novella and as per the PLA you need to have two novellas by the same author. Others would argue it is a novel and you are therefore justified in your selection. If you think it's a novel, and teach it as such, I think it's okay to proceed. If you teach it as a novella, the PLA does say that 2 novellas must be taught then.

I've also never taught Williams as an IOC text as I am only familiar with his shorter poems. You will want to make sure you have poems that are around 30-40 lines in length for the IOC portion of the assessment. Some of his poetry I love, but I could never teach because it's just too short. But again, I'm not familiar with his entire work.


Peder Gravlund 29 May 2017 - 16:25

Dear Tim,

I have a question about the "time"-requirement mentioned above. You define time as "century", but the PLA suggests "period" could also be about historical or literary movements - to me, this sounds like Coetzee's "Disgrace" and Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby" would qualify as two different historical movements (post-apartheid South Africa and American Jazz age), while still belonging to the same century. This is of course primarily for Lang A Lit, but I can't seem to find an official description particularly for Lang Lit apart from the guide, which states: "Texts should be selected to cover at least two literary genres, two periods and, where appropriate, two
places as defined in the PLA for the language A." A reference to the PLA, that is.

What do you think?


Tim Pruzinsky 30 May 2017 - 10:10

Hi Peder,

This is such a difficult question. And you won't find something more specific than what you quoted from the PLA.

I understand your exact concern: a modern text from the 1920's is so different from a post-modern text written in the 1990's. However, I've never seen, in the eyes of the IB, someone be able to cover "two periods" within the same century. I could be wrong and I am okay with that, but to date, I've never heard of the IB being okay with the entire syllabus coming from the 20th century (in Lang/Lit or Lit).

Do remember that these requirements are for the entire syllabus and so if you are teaching Shakespeare or a 19th century text in another part of the course, you are okay.


Peder Gravlund 7 June 2017 - 08:36

Hi again, Tim. Out of curiosity, I asked IB Answers about "Periods" as defined in the PLA, and they simply advised me to use the "Period column", which incidentally only refers to centuries. So, I guess the part about of various movements is more confusing than helpful in this situation! I once happened to construct a SL course with only 20th century works (stretching from Dubliners to Disgrace), but I guess I slipped through the cracks on that one!

Thanks again for your advise.


David McIntyre 7 June 2017 - 11:09

I think, Peder, although it is a very blunt instrument, the point of periods being defined by centuries is to ensure diversity of texts over time. It cannot be left to professional judgment. I think it is unlikely that the IB will pick-up on schools where the requirement is not met, and they may not be particularly concerned where text choice reflects genuine diversity.



Mary Faragher 7 June 2017 - 07:07

Hi, the link for "holistic approach" on this page seems to be broken.

David McIntyre 7 June 2017 - 07:12

Okay - sorry. We'll have a look at it Mary. Thanks for letting us know.


Caitlin Gray 10 June 2017 - 21:31

Hi David and Tim,

Would you be able to provide feedback on these text choices and whether they meet requirements for SL? (Pretty sure they do!)

Part 3 - A Doll's House (Ibsen) and A Handmaid's Tale (Atwood)
Part 4 - The Bloody Chamber (Carter) and The World's Wife (Duffy)

Would we need to teach all the poems in The World's Wife, or would a selection be sufficient? How many would be needed?

Many thanks

Tim Pruzinsky 11 June 2017 - 14:19

Hi Caitlin,

For poetry, 15-20 poems is the requirement. For short stories, it's 5-10. From looking at your syllabus, everything checks out.


Charlotte Hulks 31 July 2017 - 10:25

Hi Tim,

Please can you confirm that these texts would be acceptable for 2017-2019 - I cannot log onto the OCC website at the moment.

Part 3: Macbeth - Shakespeare (SL)
Ghosts - Ibsen (SL) (PLT)

Part 4: Carol Ann Duffy - selected poetry (SL)
A Streetcar Named Desire - Williams (SL

Then for HL texts, I am thinking of The Great Gatsby and The Color Purple; however, which one should I put as Part 3 and Part 4? Any advice would be appreciated.

Thank you.

Tim Pruzinsky 31 July 2017 - 13:51

Hi Charlotte,

Your syllabus looks good and meets the requirements. Because power and ambition are such a part of "Macbeth," I think I would teach "Gatsby" in Part 3. This seems like it will pair well. I have read but I haven't taught "The Color Purple" and so I don't know how well it works for IOC passages. Close detailed study of this text could be really interesting though. If you find just by flipping through the book that there are enough places that you could pull and IOC passage, put this in Part 4. If not, flip it and place it in Part 3.


Christina Tonoyan 31 August 2017 - 20:04

Dear Tim, David,
I need your help in my text choices. Do you think this looks fine?
Part 3 Franz Kafka :Metamorphosis" PLT
Oscar Wilde "The Picture of Dorian Gray" PLA
Marjane Satrapi "Persepolis" free choice
Part 4 William Shakespeare "Macbeth"
Maya Angelou Poetry
George Orwell" Animal Farm"
Looking forward to hearing any comment. Thank you beforehand.:

Tim Pruzinsky 2 September 2017 - 02:34

Hi Christina,

For Part 4, "Animal Farm" is considered a novella. According to the PLA, you would have to teach 2 novellas here. You can double check with IB Answers as novellas on the PLA have always been a bit of a tricky one, but I've advised people to not go with "Animal Farm" for that reason. The same could be true of "The Metamorphosis" in Part 3. Again, I would choose texts that aren't novellas to ease any confusion.

Other than that, you have two places, two time periods, and a variety of genres so the rest checks out!


Christina Tonoyan 2 September 2017 - 16:46

Thank you so much!

Christina Tonoyan 2 September 2017 - 17:01

Dear Tim,
One more question. Will "A Doll's House" work instead of "Metamorphosis"

Tim Pruzinsky 3 September 2017 - 02:10

Hi Christina,

Yes, "A Doll's House" definitely works.


Gabriela Del Pozo 5 September 2017 - 15:15

Dear Tim/David,
I have a bit of a problem. I got to a new school and their syllabus choice was the following:

PLT work - Siddharta
PLA work - A clockwork orange
Chosen freely (PLT, PLA, or elsewhere) - Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

The problem is that I cannot find Siddharta in the PLT list. Could you please confirm this is an ok work to include? If so, could you provide a link where it is shown?

Thank you very much.

Tim Pruzinsky 6 September 2017 - 03:54

Hi Gabriela,

It's not on the PLT - at least I didn't find it.

You have some options. One text must be replaced. But, that text is completely up to you, oddly enough. You could keep Siddharta as your free choice. At HL, it can be a work in translation, freely chosen. If that was the case, choose a new text from the PLT and replace one of the other two.

Of course, you could just choose another PLT text and replace Siddharta. That option is up to you, but you will need to change 1 text to comply with the syllabus requirements.


Gabriela Del Pozo 6 September 2017 - 13:23

Thanks a lot! :)

Luke Smith 8 October 2017 - 17:40

Dear Tim and David,

Recent subscriber and first-time teacher of IB here. The site is proving incredibly helpful, so thank you. I just wanted to run a few things by you in terms of text choices, if I may?

I'm considering the following texts for part 3:

PLT: The Outsider/Stranger - Camus
PLA: either Heart of Darkness or the Crucible
Free: The Meursault Investigation - Kamel Daoud

I have a couple of questions. Firstly, The Meursault Investigation (in case you're not already aware) is essentially a re-consideration of the murder of 'the arab' in The Outsider, from the point of view of the murdered man's brother, writing in 21st century Algeria, with all the changed contextual understanding implied by the shift in perspective and time. I was hoping this might provide a usefully focused springboard for considering and writing about context. My only concern is whether the fact that the the latter text is specifically written as a re-contextualization of the former will have any negative or limiting consequences for the students -- perhaps because they are not having to draw out more implicit connections between works, or because... well, I'm not sure, really. It would be really helpful to hear your thoughts on this!

Secondly, regarding the choice of PLA text: It feels like there are plenty of good reasons to choose either text in terms of contextual understanding and conceptual links to The Outsider, but would having all three texts be prose fiction be an issue if I were to choose Heart of Darkness? Or would it be a problem all three texts being from the last 60 years or so if I were to choose The Crucible? I'm imagining either could limit responses in some way, so, again, it'd be great to hear your more experienced perspectives...

(Also, I am working under the assumption that both The Outsider and Heart of Darkness can suffice as a work on their own, despite their brevity -- studying as short novels,essentially, rather than novellas. Does this fit with your understanding?)

And one final question: for part 4, the majority of the texts I'm keen to use for this are poetry. Are there potential problems with not having multiple genres in the IOC texts (as long as requirements for genre are taken care of over the course as a whole)? It seems okay as far as assessment goes (I think), but I'm very aware of my not having been through the course before...

Thanks so much for your help!


Tim Pruzinsky 9 October 2017 - 08:45

Hi Luke,

"The Meursault Investigation" got rave reviews when it came out, but I haven't picked it up yet. I can see how it would be a great text to study. I can also see your concern that it might limit students.

Not having read the text means I can offer only limited support here. If it's too similar or too obvious in terms of students writing about each, or too hard to go back and forth between characters between the two texts and becomes hard for students to keep clarity in their writing, then I wouldn't teach it.

If it isn't an issue in that regard, I think it would work well. As for your texts being in the last 60 years, I wouldn't worry. As long as you have time coverage in your entire syllabus, you will be fine. As for "Heart of Darkness," my understanding is that the IB is treating it as a novel (same with "The Outsider").

I do worry a bit about all your Part 4 texts being poetry. That would mean students need to have read and studied 45 poems (at a minimum) and be ready for any one of those 45 to be their IOC. That's intense! I can see why poetry works so well in the IOC, because, well, it's poetry and close, detailed analysis of poetry makes sense. I do worry about the sheer amount though. Technically, it is allowed - as long as you hit all the syllabus requirements over both parts. However, I would caution here for only poetry.

Do let me know if you have any follow-up questions and welcome to the course!


Luke Smith 10 October 2017 - 13:56

Thanks, Tim -- that's very helpful. And a good point about the poetry; I was so focused on the course objectives that I hadn't really considered the practicalities.

I think I'll re-read "Meursault" over helf-term and consider my options.

Thanks again,

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