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 11

Noah Mass 3 March 2017 - 03:57

Hi Tim:

Can students without learning disability accommodations write Paper 1 or 2 electronically, or must the exams be handwritten?


David McIntyre 3 March 2017 - 05:57

Hi Noah,

This is really a question for your IB Coordinator/AEN specialists. However, I am reasonably confident that there needs to be special circumstances to use a laptop. This does not have to be a 'learning disability'. Students cannot choose to write electronically because it is their preference.

Best regards,


Gemma Treeby 16 April 2017 - 03:35

Does anyone know how the scaling works for Lang/Lit? The overall is out of 100. But if you add the components it come out as 95 - how do they calculate the scaling of Paper 1? I can't seem to find information on this anywhere. Thanks!

David McIntyre 16 April 2017 - 04:36

I assume it's simply expressed as a ratio, Gemma. The paper is worth 25% and has 20 marks. Say, then, a student scores a raw mark of 16. Divide 16 by 20, then multiply by 25. In this instance, the student scores 20 out of 25.

Best regards,


Tanya Henderson 18 April 2017 - 09:30

Hi David and Tim

Would either of you happen to have a copy of the mark scheme for the following paper: N16/1/AYENG/SP1/ENG/TZ0/XX? We have the paper itself but do not have the examiner's notes which are always beneficial. Thanks in advance. Tanya

David McIntyre 19 April 2017 - 02:47

Hi Tanya,

For reasons of copyright law, we cannot unfortunately provide this. You have, of course, the subject report freely available on the OCC.

Kind regards,


Tim Pruzinsky 19 April 2017 - 03:26

Hi Tanya,

You can buy the mark scheme here:
That's about the best we can do on our end.


Mike Wooten 18 May 2017 - 15:54

Hi David and Tim

How important is addressing the guiding questions in the SL exam?

David McIntyre 19 May 2017 - 02:18

Hi Mike,

Good question.

I provide a strategy or scaffold for approaching the exam, and I would imagine most teachers do this, more or less. I tend not to direct the attention of my students to the guiding questions, and they are certainly not encouraged to frame their response in light of the guiding questions.

The guiding questions are generally quite generic.If students, without prompting, aren't tackling the guiding questions, they are probably struggling.

So, in my view, students should not ignore guiding questions, but the structure of their response should not be guided by them; rather, they should be taking an approach to the exam that is guided by your teaching (which may therefore differ somewhat from student to student in your class).

Best regards,


Caitlin Gray 29 August 2017 - 18:55

Hi David and Tim,
Would students ever receive a poem in Paper 1, at SL?

David McIntyre 29 August 2017 - 20:03

Hi Caitlin,

No - Paper 1 (SL) does not assess literary texts (including poems), although it may be argued that some of the non-fiction texts presented in exams have some literary qualities.

Kind regards,


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