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 15

elizabeth smith 30 January 2018 - 15:17

Hello David and Tim

How important is it for the hyperlinks to work when citing google images as part of the WT1. I think my student has got the link from an old source. I asked that he add these to his Reference page but then he realised the links don`t function.

Kind Regards


Tim Pruzinsky 31 January 2018 - 02:44

Hi Elizabeth,

If they don't work, but the student has tried to cite it properly - acknowledging that it is not his or her own work - they should be fine. It's the acknowledgement that is key here, clearing stating or showing it's not their work. If the link breaks down, I can't see that as being an issue.


elizabeth smith 1 February 2018 - 20:39

Hello Tim

Do the students have to respond to the text in translation as part of their paper 2 Examination response and clearly stipulate which it is in their response?

Best Wishes

Tim Pruzinsky 1 February 2018 - 23:44

Hi Elizabeth,

At SL, yes, as they only have 2 texts to work with. At HL, if your free choice isn't in translation, then no, they might not write about it.

However, in almost all cases, students will provide context. That context would usually make it clear that it is a Norwegian, Iranian, Japanese text or writer. So, a student might write that "A Doll's House" written by Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen..."

At that point, it's clear it's a text in translation. So, while not a requirement, it's hard not to do it.


elizabeth smith 2 February 2018 - 11:37

Dear Tim

Thank you.

I have another question about the submission of the Written Tasks. Do the students have to devise a front cover- apparently this is a new rule. Is there a format for the front cover?

Best Wishes


Tim Pruzinsky 3 February 2018 - 01:33

Hi Elizabeth,

What "rule" are you speaking about? They have to fill out a coversheet from the IB. You can get that from your IB Coordinator. And some schools do have students put a front cover, but as far as I know, it's not mandatory. Finally, do know that no identifying information (school, candidate number, name...) should appear on the task.


Anne LaGrand 2 February 2018 - 18:53

Could you give some advice in terms of how much time students should take in planning their essay v. writing it? I just did a practice Paper 1, and in my view, students did not spend enough time in close reading and planning. Rather, they plunged into writing, often writing more than needed - sometimes falling into repetition. What would you advise in terms of the time ratio?

Tim Pruzinsky 3 February 2018 - 01:36

Hi Anne,

It's going to be different for every single student, but at HL, I think 20-30 minutes of planning and 90-100 minutes of writing makes sense. Some might do a bit less, but 90 minutes is enough time to write a ton and 30 minutes of planning (at the top end) makes sense to me in terms of the thinking time needed to plan a response. For a percentage, think about 20-25%. That's my take and what I tell my students. Others may believe something else and that's okay too.


Roland Blows 20 March 2018 - 07:56

Greetings Tim and David

This is not a question about the literary merits of the song lyric or a pedantic stab about at the exam board on definitions of "text".
More a request for clarification as to what my students could face in Paper one.

I read that "literary" texts do not appear in Paper one, but song lyrics are provided in your exemplars (eg. Paper one "Surveillance" includes a Jill Scott lyric and I have read others that include raps on identity and slang language).

Is it ok for me to use a song lyric, in a practise paper one task for my students? Or has the rubric changed since these excellent and illuminating examples were used with a class?



David McIntyre 20 March 2018 - 08:36

Hi Roland,

SL students will not be confronted with any kind of so-called 'literary' text (i.e. prose fiction, poetry, or drama). This, of course, does not mean that 'non-literary' texts do not have literariness.

It is possible that Paper 1 texts may be visual only. To date, this has not happened (but I recommend you prepare students for the possibility). Many texts have been multimodal. And, many texts (or representations of texts) have been selected from digital, online sources.

It is possible (and quite likely) that HL students will have one literary texts (within their 4 texts, 2 combinations choice).

Let me know if you would like further clarification.

Kind regards,


Mohammed Bhuiya 19 April 2018 - 09:47

Good Day,

We just set a mock (which was decided by IB coordinators without even English teachers knowing the choice beforehand) and, unfortunately, the HL paper only had one 'choice' of texts as the first option was omitted due to copyright reasons (quite common with the past papers). Two related questions:
1. Do you have any model answers for the Nov 2017 HL/SL questions?
2. Most of my HL students are weak in analysing poetry (and they were put off by the rather obscure poem in the Nov 2017 paper). Is it a safe bet that they will always have an option to choose two texts where one isn't a poem?


Tim Pruzinsky 20 April 2018 - 01:59

Hi Mohammed,

Such an odd scenario you present! All HL exams will present students with two sets of texts and they will choose one. As of right now, what you see on the site is what we have. We update constantly, but if you don't see a model answer, we either don't have it or it's in the works. I don't think we will have a Nov 2017 model answer up anytime soon though. As for poetry, often - not always - one of the texts will either be poetry or song lyrics. Usually - but not always, as the IB is free to do whatever they want here - the second set of texts does not include poetry or song lyrics. How safe is this? Pretty likely, but then again, curveballs are always thrown at us when we do end up seeing the exam and I wouldn't want a student going into an exam not being ready for poetry.


sebastian wierny 22 May 2018 - 11:16

Dear Tim, dear David,

We are currently working on paper 1 skills with my students. We are, at the moment, focusing on a unit on News reporting and Bias and news and technology. My question is whether it is better to give my students paper 1 texts that deal with the specific topic (which they have learned specific terminology for) or to simply give them past papers? My concern with past papers is that it would be difficult to find texts that deal with the exact same topic and concepts we have been working on for weeks. Basically my questions is, what constitutes better practice? Having them write a paper 1 analysis on the topic we are currently studying, doing past papers (on part 2 topics but not related specifically to news reporting) or both?

FYI: For their mocks they were only asked to write a paper 2 response.

Thanks in advance,


David McIntyre 22 May 2018 - 11:39

Hi Sebastian,

My inclination would be that you should test their understanding of what they have focused on in class, and that you should select texts that reflect your teaching. In this way, the learning is, I think, more obviously formative, and you can (more) straightforwardly gauge what the student knows/doesn't know (and work to close the gap). If you work in this deliberate way, over time, you would hope that the students' understandings are transferable, and can prepare them for 'any' text in the actual examination.

I am not, of course, arguing that students should not be introduced to 'real' Paper 1 past papers.

I hope this helps.

Best regards,


sebastian wierny 26 May 2018 - 08:08

Thanks a lot David!

This is very valuable advice...



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