Individual oral commentary

The individual oral commentary (IOC) is a test on Part 4, a critical study of literature. By the time students take this oral exam SL students will have studied two works from the PLA, and HL students will have studied three works from the PLA. In class much preparation can be done to create confidence and understanding. For example students can be involved in the process of finding important passages from the literary works. Presentations on passages can be given in class. Teachers can draw students' attention to the assessment criteria. We recommend at least one round of mock orals before the final orals are conducted. Unlike the further oral activities, where the best performance counts, in the IOC, the last performance counts.

Both HL and SL students are assessed according to the same criteria. Differentiation between levels only occurs at the stage when grade boundaries are determined by the IB. Marks for the further oral activity are added together with the marks for the individual oral activity. Then they are divided by two. After moderation, grade boundaries are determined by the subject committee. Standard Level boundaries are more lenient than Higher Level boundaries. 

The basics

All of the following points apply to both Higher and Standard Level students:

  • Each student receives a 40-line passage from a work that he or she has studied for Part 4.
  • Students do not know which passage they will receive on this internal exam.
  • Each student has 20 minutes to prepare the passage.
  • Students must then talk about their passage for a minimum of 10 minutes and a maximum of 15 minutes. 
  • All orals must be recorded. Some will be sent to the IB for moderation.
  • After the 10th minute a 2 to 5 minute discussion may take place with the teacher.
  • The IOC counts for 15% of the final grade.
  • Teachers must ensure that there are enough passages to draw from during the oral exam. There should be an equal number of passages from all Part 4 works. The IB has stipulated the following total number of passages for class of these sizes (the following table is taken from the Language A: Language and Literature guide):
Number of students Number of extracts required
1-5 1 per student
6-10 6
11-15 7
16-20 8
21-25 9
26-30 10
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Comments 119

Dione Smith 1 September 2017 - 13:54

Hi Tim, Just triple checking that 'The Great Gatsby' and 'Heart of Darkness' are appropriate choices for a SL Langlit IOC. Your advice is very much appreciated.

My Part 3 works are 'The Handmaid's Tale' and 'Antigone'.

Thank you ever so much,

Tim Pruzinsky 2 September 2017 - 02:46

Hi Dione,

I love the pairing of "Antigone" and "The Handmaid's Tale." It sounds like such an interesting exploration for the students. As for "Heart of Darkness," it's considered a novella. The PLA states you must study 2 novellas for it to be considered one "work." But this Conrad text is so dense and so complex that I just don't know what they will say. Please contact IB Answers (and let me know the answer too) about it as it's a tricky area in the PLA and one I am not confident giving a definitive answer about as it's too murky for my liking.

Otherwise, the syllabus looks good. You have two places, two time periods, and a two genres.


Dione Smith 2 September 2017 - 07:34

Hi Tim,
Thank you for your fast reply. I agree that HOD is very dense the the novella problem is a tricky one. I will check with IB answers and get back to you asap but am inclined to play it safe and read a second novella as there is still time.

Have a great weekend!

Dione Smith 4 September 2017 - 17:20

I am still waiting for the IB answer but wanted to ask one more thing pretty please. Is 'The Secret Agent' by Conrad considered a novella and is it a good choice to pair with 'Heart of Darkness' for the IOC SL with 'Gatsby' as well? I'll get back to you as soon as I have an answer on HOD standing alone as a works. I am so grateful to have Inthinking and your excellent advice. Have a wonderful day,

Tim Pruzinsky 5 September 2017 - 14:20

Hi Dione,

I think most people consider it a novel. In that case, you could teach it instead of HOD if you want. You also don't want to burden students with having to study more texts than necessary (and having to know more for their IOC).

I'd say go for "The Secret Agent" on its own and drop HOD, but if you really want HOD, wait to see what IB Answers says (and let us know of course).


Dione Smith 15 September 2017 - 11:32

Hello again,
I have had confirmation from the IB that 'Heart of Darkness' paired with 'The Great Gatsby' is acceptable for the IOC at SL. Excellent news and thank you ever so much for your advice. I am eager to read 'The Secret Agent' anyway just for fun and am happy that the students aren't required to cover another text.

Have a wonderful weekend.

Tim Pruzinsky 16 September 2017 - 01:44

Hi Dione,

Excellent news! And many thanks for letting me know this information. It really helps me when advising others.


Christine Helyer 18 May 2018 - 10:33

Hi Tim,

I asked you earlier this year about HOD for part 4 as well - you said it should be ok as it is a dense work requiring significant study. It is my HL text for Part 4. The students are also reading Hamlet and Gatsby (Hamlet and Gatsby are also the SL texts). I was a little worried after reading this thread that HOD might not be enough for HL. I am planning to do the IOCs at the end of this year (June) to get them out of the way in Year 1. Could you please advise if you think I might have to postpone the IOC and introduce another text? Thank you,


David McIntyre 18 May 2018 - 11:28

Hi Chrissie,

It's just fine. No delay will be necessary!

Kind regards,


Christine Helyer 22 May 2018 - 11:32

Thanks so much! That's great news.


Will Fordham 19 October 2017 - 11:43

Hi Tim,
Just a quick question, if I may: in selecting a poem for an extract for the IOC, does it matter if the poem is 42 lines long? Or just under 40?

Is there any guidance for whether the text has to be specifically 40 lines?

Sorry to seem like a pedant!


David McIntyre 19 October 2017 - 14:16

Hi Will,

The poem should not exceed 40 lines. Often less than 40 works well.

You may decide - using professional judgment, but breaking prescription - that you do want to include a poem that, with short line length, has, say, 42 lines. I would suggest, however, that if you go this way this is an exception and not your general practice.

Best regards,


Jannine Gammond 24 October 2017 - 10:53

Hi do all of the extracts have to come from all the works studied for Part 4 or can they just come from one text?

David McIntyre 24 October 2017 - 12:18

All the works studied, Jannine.

Best regards,


Will Fordham 25 October 2017 - 11:35

Thanks for your help, David.

Morgan Baxter 25 October 2017 - 14:29

Good morning,
If a student only speaks independently for 7.5 minutes, but makes many insightful points in that time, is it possible for them to score a 6? Can their organization be considered adequate if in those 7.5 minutes they used transition words and structured their response?

David McIntyre 26 October 2017 - 08:11

Hi Morgan,

This is a difficult, and probably impossible, question to answer.

It is, I think, better to think in terms of raw marks, rather than grades.

Potentially, the student can score 5 marks in crit. D. They would be unlikely to score 5 marks in crit. C. In crit. A and B, assuming you have chosen extracts designed to elicit a 10-12 minute oral, the student is highly unlikely to score top marks. However, if they are particularly insightful in the subsequent discussion with you, they must be given 'credit' for this.

Thus, your question, again, is rather difficult to answer. From experience, a student who (only) manages 7.5 minutes in their initial presentation of ideas is unlikely to do particularly well - but you never know.

Kind regards,


Pratik Thapa 2 November 2017 - 05:17

Dear David,

For IOC,

HL students have 3 texts - Macbeth, Sylvia Plath's collection of poem and The Great Gatsby.

Will the students get to choose their extract out of these three texts during their IOC? Or they might just get any extract out of these three?


Tim Pruzinsky 2 November 2017 - 07:17

Hi Pratik,

Students do not get to choose what text their extract comes from. This must be random. So, a student should have an equal chance at all three texts and they should not know until the moment the examination begins.

I hope that clarifies the procedure.


Pratik Thapa 18 January 2018 - 06:03

Thank you Tim, this clears that doubt. I do few more questions.

1) I have 18 HL students. I have made 18 extracts (5 from Macbeth, 7 from Gatsby and 6 from Sylvia Plath's poem), I hope this combination is fine?

2) I understand that a poem need not be of 40 lines as long as student can speak about it for 9-10 mins. My query is regarding the poem 'Tulips' which is longer than 40 lines. Should I change that?

3) With each extract I have only attached ONE guiding question. Can the students talk about other points which may not directly be related to the guiding question but somehow also is relevant to the extract? I fear that a more specific/precise/narrowed down guiding question may only allow them to speak for few mins (not meeting the 10 min rule)? What do you suggest here?

Tim Pruzinsky 18 January 2018 - 07:54

Hi Pratik,

1. The combination is fine. Just make sure students have an even shot at all three text going into the IOC.

2. Yes, keep it at 40 or under. Cut as needed or replace it with another poem.

3. You must have two guiding questions - one on content and one on style. They should be very general in nature ("how does the writer use of imagery in this poem" could be said about any poem and is in the ballpark of what you would write). And students do not have to answer the guiding questions. They are to closely analyze the passage/poem in a way they think works best.


Pratik Thapa 18 January 2018 - 09:14

Thank you Tim.

This helps a lot.

Katherine Adisa 7 November 2017 - 08:06

We are doing the poems of Eavan Boland and I particularly like 'Quarantine' However it is only 20 lines so I am guessing I cannot use it. Is that correct?

Tim Pruzinsky 7 November 2017 - 12:31

Hi Katherine,

There is actually no minimum required for length. Your only guide is this: can a student speak for at least 10 minutes on his or her own without interruption for the IOC? In your professional opinion, if you think this is possible, then you can use the poem. If you think a student will finish at 7 minutes because they have talked about everything, then pick different poems for inclusion in the IOC.


Katherine Adisa 7 November 2017 - 21:59

Perfect, Thank you.

Gordana Medakovic 19 November 2017 - 21:34

Hi Tim and David,
I`ve chosen 12 different extracts from the Part 4 works for my pretty small group of 4 students only (1 passage per student per work, am I right?) I wonder what if, theoretically, the two or three or all of them draw different passages from the same book? Will that be o.k, or they should try another draw> Please, clarify.
Thanks a lot,

Tim Pruzinsky 19 November 2017 - 23:44

Hi Gordana,

I am of the theory that as long as you keep it random, if students select the same passage, then so be it. You have twelve passages for four should be okay and you have completely adhered to the spirit of things (and then some).

However, if you are worried, I would start with all twelve, and then take out passages once they've been selected so it can't be used again. To keep it equal, you would have to take out two other extracts from the other works.

Or, you could just not worry about it and have all twelve as possible. Both are acceptable.


Christina Tonoyan 20 November 2017 - 09:00

Dear David, Tim.
For our IOC we have Maya Angelou's poems and I have 4 students. Do I have to take 4 of her poems or to take extracts from say 1984 too?
If I take only poetry can it be somehow considered not correct? Thank you in advance.

Tim Pruzinsky 20 November 2017 - 11:05

Hi Christina,

It sounds like you have a SL class. That means you've studied 2 texts. Both texts should be possible for the IOC and students should have an equal shot at either (randomly and not knowing which one beforehand).

I hope that clarifies things, but please do let me know if you need more information.


Christina Tonoyan 9 January 2018 - 17:06

Thank you dear Tim, actually my class is an HL one and I have included all three works we studied: Maya Angelou poems, 1984 and Macbeth. I have decided to take two poems an extract from 1984 and one extract from Macbeth. Do you think it's a good idea? Thanks a lot.

Tim Pruzinsky 10 January 2018 - 02:29

Hi Christina,

That's fine. I like to give students an equal shot at all three texts and it is okay if they end up repeating.

So, if two students end up doing an IOC on "Macbeth" from the same extract, and the other two students have a poem and a passage from "1984," that's okay.

Just as long as all three texts are possible and available to all 4 students, you're in the clear here!


Gordana Medakovic 22 November 2017 - 16:16

Thank you, Tim, I feel reassured now. Did I understand correctly that if they all, quite at random, draw different passages from one book only (Othello, or Gatsby or Blake`s poems), will that be o.k, or they will have to choose again so that their passage is from one of the remaining two books? Sorry for bothering and thanks again.

Tim Pruzinsky 22 November 2017 - 23:22

Hi Gordana,

As long as you gave them an equal shot at all three, and they all randomly ended up choosing the same text, this is okay. I've never seen it happen with a cohort of 10 or more, but I guess anything is possible. Will it look off? Yes. But, as long as you went through the process correctly, can show that you did, and have evidence of other passages that weren't selected, you are okay.


Jannine Gammond 7 December 2017 - 06:27

How long should we spend on Part 4? I was thinking around 14 hours not included the reading of the texts?

Part 4 materials are only used for the IOC correct? So I am assuming they do not need to study them as thoroughly as the Part 3 texts?

David McIntyre 7 December 2017 - 09:16

Hi Jannine,

The course study guide (p13) recommends 30 hours (SL) and 50 hours (HL) for Part 4. It does not specify how you use the time, and you can suppose that much of that time could be eaten up reading if students are studying long 19th century novels.

Part 4 maps onto the IOC; that is correct. However, written tasks may also emerge from part 4 study. Moreover, the skills are transferable; much or most of the course has aspects of close reading. Finally, students can become very agitated by the IOC, even the stoics in your class. Thus, you need to find a balance that teaches the students the skills of the IOC, puts them at ease, and provides understanding of the texts studied. It remains the case, however, that the IOC is only one component of a much larger course.

Best regards,


Jannine Gammond 7 December 2017 - 10:00

Hi David,

Sorry I phrased that incorrectly; I meant 14 hours per 'text', so that works out about right.

Our lessons are 55 minutes so for planning reasons I was going to dedicate around 18 lessons per text.

Thank you!

Santiago Ordoñez 15 December 2017 - 14:10

Hello guys.
What happens if an IOC ends up being only 13 minutes long?
Would examiners penalise this?
In this particular case, the student spoke at a rather fast pace.
Please let me know.
Many thanks
S. Ordóñez

Tim Pruzinsky 17 December 2017 - 01:52

Hi Santiago,

13 minutes is fine. Often, students will finish between 12-15. We of course want our questions to get the students to the 15 minute mark, but all of us who have done this before know that sometimes there's just nothing more a student can/will say.

They aren't penalized. Instead, the moderator looks at your marks and decides if you were too easy, hard or just right in awarding them. An adjustment is made from there.

It's also a holistic approach. If the student did enough to earn top marks and showed excellent knowledge and understanding of the text, then award top marks, even if it is 13 minutes.


Jannine Gammond 17 December 2017 - 11:09

Hi Tim,

What kind of questions do you ask after 12 minutes?

Tim Pruzinsky 18 December 2017 - 05:07

Hi Jannine,

It depends on the student and on the IOC itself. While I have some stock questions ready for each passage - just for my own ease of mind - I almost never use these. Instead, I play it by ear and wait to see what the student actually says in the IOC.

Once I get a feel for it and for what they produced/said, then I ask questions usually in two areas.

1. Extension. They may have mentioned an image or imagery, but not expanded.
I'll quickly say "You stated that the author uses imagery in line 15. Can you provide more detail about the effect on the reader?"

2. I'll ask a question about craft or technique without giving something away, but taking the student to a place they didn't deal with. "Can you discuss stanza two and the author's choices and effect?"

These are generalities though. If a student didn't talk about the end of the poem/passage, I'll ask them questions about that area. So, it all depends on what the student produces. I keep in mind that I want to help them, not hurt them with my questions, but I also don't want to give them too much information that the examiner can't award their thinking.


Amy Nicholson 10 January 2018 - 01:08

Hi Tim and David!

I need just a little bit of help!

In an Oxford IB L&L textbook I have been using with my class it suggests to the student 'although you are not allowed to know which passage you will be given to talk about in your IOC, you are allowed to know which extracts have been chosen by the teacher for the compilation.' That seems to go against a lot of what I've been told in the past: Can you weigh in on that for me?

Also, do you ensure that it is possible for all students to have all extracts or do select the required amount of extracts and prepare enough copies for your number of students? For example, last year I had 16 students so I prepared 8 extracts and made 2 copies of each. I realized after the fact that that was maybe not quite fair. Any thoughts?


Tim Pruzinsky 10 January 2018 - 02:43

Hi Amy,

Let me first start by saying the IOC is a minefield. Almost every school does it a bit differently and so you want to think about the "spirit of the assessment."

What is clear is that the student not know the specific extract beforehand. In the case you cite, I'm personally not comfortable with it. I fear that at the start of teaching Part 4, this will allow teachers to give students a "packet" of extracts to know and nothing else. I'd rather not teach in that way and I worry that if I do this - or advise others to do this - we will see teachers limiting the discussion of say "1984" to 3 key passages and knowing them only for the sake of the assessment. Do know that some schools and teachers do this. Other schools don't. And both complain about each other. For me, I'm 100% comfortable with my process and not sharing the exact extracts with students. I don't worry about fairness and I just get on with it all.

As for your second question, again, almost all teachers do something a bit differently. Some will - like you did last year - only allow an extract to be used twice. Others don't care. It's up to you really. As long as students have an equal shot at any of the 3 texts (or 2 as SL) and there is enough variety as required by the IB in terms of number of extracts, you can run it as you see fit.


Eileen Olmedo 11 January 2018 - 13:36

Hello all,

This is my first year teaching DP Lang/Lit HL and I would like advice regarding logistics for the IOC. I understand that students have 20 minutes to prep and then they move on to the oral component lasting 10-15 minutes. I have 28 students and their IOCs are scheduled for April 16-30. How does this work? After school? Saturdays? During regular school hours and while I am focusing on the IOC a substitute teaches my other classes? If so, do students not miss their other classes?

I would really appreciate this community's input and advice.

Also, our school has two Language A courses because of the peculiar requirements of our school system. Therefore, students in the full diploma programme will have two IOCs this semester, one for Spanish Language A and mine for English Language A.

Thank you!

Tim Pruzinsky 11 January 2018 - 23:50

Hi Eileen,

Welcome to the IB! My first piece of advise would be to talk to the Spanish department. In the schools I have worked in, I find it is very helpful to coordinate with the other Language A subjects when doing the IOC.

That doesn't mean you need to do what they do; instead, it will give you an idea of how another department approaches the same task.

With that said, every school I have worked in does something different. I personally like the conduct the IOC during school hours and to have a substitute take my classes. I realize not everyone has that luxury and it is a luxury for many teachers. In doing it that way, I am usually able to get students out of English class or their free period.

I know other teachers that really like the Saturday approach. Students can concentrate on the IOC and the teacher can focus on just that too. They usually try to do half on one Saturday and half the other Saturday.

I think after school is the worst option as you will find they are never ending. But that's a personal feel, and not everyone will think the same way.

Good luck with the IOCs and do ask if you have any more questions.


Eileen Olmedo 12 January 2018 - 17:57

Thank you!

Tayyaba Shahid 12 January 2018 - 03:25

How to go about with an IOC with short poems that students do in P4? I am still figuring out; as the IOC demands a 40 line passage. Please Guide!

David McIntyre 12 January 2018 - 08:46

Hi Tayyaba,

The maximum number of lines is 40. Using a poem with fewer lines is just fine.

Kind regards,


Ashley Gregoris 12 January 2018 - 18:15

Hello, I know there are a lot of questions already here about excerpt selection, but I haven't quite found the answer to my question. So, I have 13 IB students which means that I have to provide 7 excerpts from the three texts studied.
1. This means that I will have an uneven amount of extracts from each of the three texts, is this a problem?
2. I usually just put numbers in a hat, the student selects a number and works with that excerpt. This means there is potential for repetition of the same extract and therefore, not all 7 are used. As I see in other posts it seems that others do this as well, would you say this is an appropriate way to go about selection?

Thank you,

Tim Pruzinsky 13 January 2018 - 03:08

Hi Ashley,

Your "numbers in a hat" method works. It's random and students can get any of the three texts. Sounds good to me!

As for your 7 excerpts, it's really best for students to have an equal shot at the three texts. In your case, putting only 6 numbers in a hat would do that. You could then occasionally take out the #6 and put in the #7 which would allow for all 7 extracts to be used while also providing an equal chance at getting any of the three texts.

Please do let us know if you have any other questions as the IOC causes teachers so many headaches. We're here to help!


Ashley Gregoris 15 January 2018 - 02:29

Great solution! Thank you :)

Tayyaba Shahid 15 January 2018 - 04:05

Hi David,
Thank you for the guidance, however through your answer I understand that one little poem of lets say 8 verses or 10 verses may be given for the IOC.

Tim Pruzinsky 16 January 2018 - 00:29

Hi Tayyaba,

Technically, yes, you could give an 8 line poem to a student. The IB doesn't want you to give a poem that is longer than 40 lines. No teacher I know would ever do that though because our students would not be able to talk for 10 minutes without interruption about an 8 line poem.

In figuring out the length of poems for the IOC, many teachers go for 30-40 lines. That tends to be what many out there do. David's point is that you can have a beautiful 28 line poem that is so dense that students will be very successful working with it on their IOC.


Russell Baker 18 January 2018 - 19:55

I apologized if this was already answered or if I overlooked it.....but can the students use their preparation notes for the IOC ?

Tim Pruzinsky 19 January 2018 - 00:09

Hi Russell,

The student can bring in any notes, plan(s), and annotations they made during the 20 minute preparation time, but only what they produce in that prep time. And no need to apologize; we're here to help!


Ma Luisa Castro 30 January 2018 - 14:28

Hi Tim. Am I correct in understanding that because I only have 4 students in the DP program, I can assign one extract for each student? Or is it 4 extracts from the three texts and each of the student can actually choose randomly?

Ma Luisa Castro 30 January 2018 - 14:30

Is there any resource in this website on Sylvia Plath's and Seamus Heaney's poems? Is it ok to just get them from the net?

Tim Pruzinsky 31 January 2018 - 02:37

Hi Ma Luisa,

I'll answer both of your questions here.

1. Type in "Heaney" and "Plath" into the search engine. You will find resources that will help you out. They may not be what you are looking for, and if not, I'm sure you can find something else online.

2. "Assign" is too strong of a word. It still needs to be random. So, pick 4 extracts from the three texts and let the students choose - unknown to them. You should not be assigning a specific text to a specific student.


Max Crowther 30 January 2018 - 15:43

Hello. My apologies if this is a foolish question, but there's some debate within my department concerning this. If using prose passages from a novel, of approximately 40 lines, you as teacher have picked out the appropriate number of passages the students may choose from on the day of the IOC. The question is: do the students know which of the potential passages you may pick in advance? For example, the student knows we may look at page 40, 55, 86, or 99-100 but does not know which one they will draw from. Or are they expecting any 40 line chunk from anywhere in the novel they studied?

Tim Pruzinsky 31 January 2018 - 02:34

Hi Max,

This is not a foolish question at all! And know that most departments have this debate at some point.

I am of the opinion that providing students a packet of passages or poems (let's say 10 for the sake of this example) before the IOC goes against the spirit of the program. I also think that saying "anywhere" in the novel is a bit much as well. I like to think of key events/moments or a juicy passage that students will easily be able to identify if they have read and studied the text.

In other words, there is a sweet spot to be had - I don't want students studying page 86 because it will be one of the 10 IOC passages, but I also don't want them floundering around completely lost because they don't know what's coming. Letting them know that I will be choosing "significant" passages that has importance in the text for some reason (character, development, conflict, theme, setting, and so on) is not prescriptive, but not wide open. I won't tell them what those significant passages are, but if they have read and studied the text, they should know them.


Ma Luisa Castro 31 January 2018 - 15:20

Thanks, Tim. What I meant was , I will get 4 extracts from the 3 texts , but each student will pick randomly from those 4. In the end, each one will have a different extract from the other? so, it is like a draw lot kind of thing ? Or should it be that, each student will be given all the 4 extracts in an envelope, and he gets to pick one. chances are however, there will be duplication; or all of them would get the same extract. How should be done? any suggestion/recommendation for my 4 students?

Tim Pruzinsky 31 January 2018 - 23:38

Hi Ma Luisa,

You can do it either way. My preference is 4 extracts and students select the envelope. Duplication may occur, but it's the process I like. However, you can "draw lots" if you like and I think that is just as fine too. Up to you.


Patrick Kariku 7 February 2018 - 16:44

Hi Tim,

Just finalising preparations for the IOC, and I wanted to clarify if there is a difference between the extracts provided for SL / HL students?

Our class has 14 HL students and 8 SL students. Do we provide a total number of extracts based on each group OR total them together?

Any advice would be greatly appreciated,


Tim Pruzinsky 7 February 2018 - 23:42

Hi Sadie,

I think that it works out easiest if you do it as a whole cohort, so 22 students. In that scenario, you should have 9 extracts total or 3 for each text. That means HL has an option of 9 extracts from 3 texts studied and SL has an option of 6 extracts from 2 texts studied.

Technically, you could have only 7 extracts for HL as their are 14 students. But including two more extracts, you get even numbers - 3 for each text - and it keeps things simple in my eyes. Remember that students should have an even shot at all three texts at HL. And of course, they all get moderated together and they are graded on the same criteria.

Of course, either way is technically okay and if you think it's easier the other way, that works too.


Patrick Kariku 8 February 2018 - 03:33

Fantastic, thanks Tim! Much appreciated.

Stijn Simkens 12 February 2018 - 14:48

Hi Tim,

one of my chosen extracts will contain a poem of about 28 lines. Since the poem is part of a biography the work itself also contains prose and that's why I was wondering whether it would be fair and justified to add say 10 extra (prose) sentences that immediately follow the poem in the biography. Would I be providing an unfair advantage to the student?



Tim Pruzinsky 13 February 2018 - 21:35

Hi Stijn,

I wouldn't add it. Not knowing what poem you are asking about, it's tough to advise. However, the IB is clear in the subject reports. Title only for a poem and all other identifying information must be left out.

Good luck with the IOCs!


Lucia Fayad 20 February 2018 - 00:25

Hi. I know there are different successful ways to organize an IOC on poetry, but I would like to know what could be better, specifically, to develop the body.
Option A: Comment form/structure, literary devices, imagery, etc.
Option B: Comment all these aspects, but discussing stanza by stanza
Am I clear? Thank you!

Tim Pruzinsky 20 February 2018 - 01:26

Hi Lucia,

I would argue that it depends on the poem. Some poems work really well chronologically, and students discuss a whole load of devices stanza by stanza. Yet other poems work better with a structure that is by device.

In other words, I tell my students both ways work, both ways can be successful, and that they should wait and see what makes most sense with the poem they get. I realize that doesn't answer your question in the way you were hoping, but I tell my students that the arguments and claims they want to make dictate the structure of the IOC.


Lucia Fayad 20 February 2018 - 12:34

I understand. Thank you!

Peter Thompson 22 February 2018 - 14:57

Hi there,
When the extract is a drama text, do the stage directions count as some of the 40 lines? I presume this is the case but I just wanted to check.
Thanks a lot and best wishes, Peter

Tim Pruzinsky 22 February 2018 - 23:39

Hi Peter,

Yes, count stage directions as part of the 40 lines. For some playwrights, they are extensive and there's just no way to not include them as part of the line count.

We're here to help so check away on any questions you have. Good luck with your IOCs!


Clare Chatfield 23 February 2018 - 18:08

Hi Tim,
Is there somewhere on this site where I can find out more info about some of the proposed changes to IBLL assessments? A colleague just sent me a link to an IBO blog ( /) that discusses changes to come in the next couple of years. I have a couple of questions, namely: 1) Will the new IA involve passages/texts found by us or provided by IB (all students have the same 2 passages)?; and 2) Will the Written Tasks be no more?

Tim Pruzinsky 25 February 2018 - 02:05

Hi Clare,

Unfortunately, there isn't. You'll need to wait for the 3rd/final report to teachers which sounds like it is coming soon from the IB. You'll also need to wait for the IB to publish their new subject report to find out the finalized specifics, especially for the I/A.

But, from the blog, yes, Written Tasks are no more and the IOC is no more in the new course starting in August 2019.


Clare Chatfield 2 March 2018 - 12:51

Thank you for the information, Tim.

Peter Thompson 1 March 2018 - 14:22

Hi Tim and David, I hope you're both well.

I'm currently thinking about which IOC extracts to choose from my part 4 texts but I'm still unsure about how many lines I should give my students. I realise that it should be no more than 40 lines (give or take) but do I decide how long each line should be? For example, should the amount of words on each line be the same as the published edition I'm using or can I chose where the line break should go?

I'm not sure if there is a set font/size that should be used for the extract but perhaps that would help to determine it.

I'm teaching short stories at the moment and I've asked my students to select passages of 40 lines from one story and create a mark scheme for each one (stylistic devices they would expect to be commented upon). However, if I typed up a 40 line passage from the book, then I could add more words to each line so that students would have more to talk about.

I know it seems like I'm being very pedantic but I'd just like to be clear so that I can choose the passages I'll look at in detail.

In addition, would be ok to give students an extract from the start or ending of the short story? Another teacher suggested that doing this would prevent the student from showing their knowledge of the text and their ability to place it in the original short story (start/end/after climax etc.) I thought that they could show knowledge of its context in the collection by making thematic/stylistic links to other stories in the collection but I just wanted to check this.

Finally, will I have to send off to the IB the extracts I have used once the IOCs have been done?

Thank you very much for your help and sorry for so many questions!

Best wishes,


Tim Pruzinsky 2 March 2018 - 00:04

Hi Peter,

I'm putting this in number order because you have several questions and this helps me sort it out.

1. This is tough to answer because so many teachers in so many different schools do it differently. You aren't being pedantic with your questions about typing.

If you are going to type it, I'd advise that you pick a standard font and 12 point size. Get 40 lines and go from there. Do know that it most likely will be longer than 40 lines in comparison to your own actually novel or text.

Does this "help" or advantage a student? Arguments exist on both sides. Make sure to not provide too much text, as 10 minutes really isn't that much time for a very able student. Feel comfortable cutting your typed passage off at 34 lines, for example.

2. You can give students an extract from any part in the short story. I wouldn't limit myself to the start or end. They sometimes aren't the richest in terms of language or content. But if it is a really good part, then by all means, include it as one of your extracts. I would expect that the student could talk about the importance of that extract being the opening of the story and what effect it creates (or the ending). When selecting extracts, I look for passages that students can show their knowledge and be successful with in their assessment; I don't try to "catch" them on what they don't know.

3. Yes, you will need to send your extracts to the IB. You will only need to send the ones that get moderated, but keep a clean copy of all of them on file for ease of reference. It makes your life so much easier when you have to send things to the IB and you aren't running around trying to find stuff.

And keep the questions coming - we're here to support you. Good luck with the IOCs!


Peter Thompson 2 March 2018 - 14:04

Thanks Tim. This is incredibly helpful! I appreciate your time on this.
Best wishes,


Tara Bradford 8 March 2018 - 06:07

Hi Tim and David,

I'm sorry if this is not the relevant place to ask this question, but I'm not sure where else to find the answer. When I upload my marks for the IB internal assessment, the marks are out of 30. Each IA, the FOA and IOC, are worth 30 each for a total out of 60. Here are my questions:

Do I add the marks together and then divide by 2 to get the marks out of 30?

If there is a half mark do I use the half-mark, round up, or round down?

For example, student A scores 25/30 on their FOA and 22/30 on their IOC.
25 + 22 = 47/60. 47/2= 23.5. So the mark I upload on the system would be 23? 23.5? or 24?

Is this correct? Or am I completely off?

Thank you so much for your advice. This is my first year teaching the course and thus doing all the admin that comes with it.

Tim Pruzinsky 9 March 2018 - 00:04

Hi Tara,

This is definitely the place to ask! We want you to come to us with your questions.

You are correct in how you are figuring out the IA. And then round up. In your example, 24 points would be put into the system.


Erin Woltkamp 9 March 2018 - 20:27

Hello Tim and David,

I have a couple of questions about IOC excerpts. I am going to use Blake's Songs of Innocence and Experience and I am wondering...

1. If I am allowed to give them 40 lines and two of the poems we looked at are 20 lines each ("Lamb" and "Tyger") or 12 lines each ("Infant Joy" and "Infant Sorrow"), can I give them both poems side by side (as Blake's intention was to use this very juxtaposition). I know this will lead to much further analysis but if I just give them one, am I limiting their ability to connect to the larger ideas of his work?

2. The poems were originally printed as embedded in illustrations and we have been analyzing the illustrations along with the poems as they work to enhance one another. I have the image of the illustrated manuscript is on one side of the paper, and the poem typed out on the other side in case they cannot read the font. Can I give them the illustrated poem for an IOC extract? Again, this gives them more to say and technically that is the text in is original form.

Thank you very much for all your guidance! I don't know what I would do without your site!


Tim Pruzinsky 10 March 2018 - 00:58

Hi Erin,

1. Unfortunately, the assessment limits you to one poem. I understand your points and reasoning, but the logistics of it require you to provide one poem only. Also, they don't need to do much connecting to the larger ideas of Blake's entire body of work. The IOC is asking students to analyze and work with what's in front of them - really good detailed close analysis of the poem will score well.

2. Wow! This is a very difficult question. My gut says no, you can't include the illustrations. However, you make a really good point that the poems were originally embedded in illustrations and thus, it would seem you should be able to include it. I worry about your moderator knowing this information - that it's the original form - and students not being given credit for making comments about the image. I'd ask IB Answers on this one just to make sure. You can find them on MY IB. If you are allowed to proceed, I would try to include a note of some sort to say that IB Answers approved this text with illustration so the moderator does not penalize your students.

And thanks for the kind comments at the end. We really do appreciate it!


Jenni Battaglieri 14 March 2018 - 17:44

Hi Tim and David,

If I use "Daddy" by Sylvia Plath for the IOC, is it acceptable to use the first 40 lines or the last 40 lines as options the students might receive? My students are conducting their IOCs over two Saturdays, so I wouldn't put both passages in the pile of potential prompts from them to choose from, but just one or the other on both days. Have you found success in a poem being cut by that many stanzas? I actually would prefer to just have them do the second half of the poem...

Tim Pruzinsky 14 March 2018 - 23:45

Hi Jenni,

Yes, it is acceptable to do what you propose. I'd suggest that if you prefer to have them do the second half of "Daddy," then just include that portion.

When working with poetry, I try to find poems between 30-40 lines as I personally don't like cutting poems. However, I have many colleagues who do have to cut poems. In fact, they don't see it as an issue and their students have been very successful on the IOC.

Good luck with your IOCs!


Jannine Gammond 25 March 2018 - 10:24

Hi Tim,

We are using Streetcar Named Desire for our IOC- should the students discuss stage directions or just the dialogue?

TIA :)

Tim Pruzinsky 26 March 2018 - 00:43

Hi Jannine,

It depends on what you include in the extract. Most teachers I know include the stage directions. Students would then talk about the stage directions in relation to their purpose, or why Williams uses them and for what effect on the audience/the performance?


Peter Thompson 27 March 2018 - 22:12

Hi Tim,

I hope you're well.

I have a combined class of HL/SL 3 times a week and then HL for 2 extra periods. The combined class is of 11 students and the HL class of only 5. Please could you advise me on how I interpret the ratios of extracts/student number?

It would seem logical to treat the class as the combined number of students but then the HL have their third text. Perhaps it is better to treat the group as a 5 (HL - 5 extracts - 2 poems, 2 short story extracts, 2 play extracts) and a 6 (SL - 3 poems/3 extracts from our play). Thank you very much and best wishes, Peter

Tim Pruzinsky 28 March 2018 - 00:50

Hi Peter,

I think the option you propose in the second paragraph makes the most sense because HL has the third text. While it is a bit more work for you, it's only 1 extra poem and 1 extra extract from a play you have to prepare. And good luck with the IOCs!


Peter Thompson 12 April 2018 - 22:31

Thanks, Tim

Deborah Walker 30 March 2018 - 14:04

Good Morning,
Could you just give me a rule of thumb for choosing my extracts? My students read Othello and Their Eyes... How many extracts per text since I have 28 students?

Tim Pruzinsky 31 March 2018 - 02:08

Hi Deborah,

For Othello, I would suggest his soliloquy in Act 5, Scene 2. You might also pull something from 1.3, and when he first sees Desdemona again in 2.1. His "fit" in 4.1 might work and when he slaps her in 4.1 is a possibility as well. I don't know the Their Eyes Were Watching God as well, but find 35-40 lines that are filled with figurative language and more that will allow students to talk in depth about the text.

As for your number of extracts, you need 10, or 5 per text.


Deborah Walker 1 April 2018 - 02:09

Thank you so much.

Leigh Henderson 2 April 2018 - 07:41

Hi Tim or David
I am looking at doing Little Red-Cap for an IOC and the poem has 42 lines. I know the rule is maximum 40 lines but I can't decide which lines to cut. Will it be OK to leave it at 42 lines or do I have to find 2 lines to cut?
Thanks very much

David McIntyre 2 April 2018 - 08:57

Hi Leigh,

If you use 42 lines, you may receive some feedback to the effect that you exceeded the line limit (that's all). I think it is better to use the 42 lines, rather than cut 2, if you are going to use the poem. In my experience, the poem provides a lot to discuss. For weaker students, it can be a good poem to use in the IOC. However, for more able students, it can be argued that there is simply too much detail to cover in 10-12 minutes. Obviously, I leave things to your professional judgment; I am simply relating my experience.

Kind regards,


Peter Thompson 29 April 2018 - 21:11

Dear David and Tim,
Please could you share your insight on the practicalities of running the IOCs? I am a one-man DP English department at my school so I am a little limited on how much flexibility I have. Do you usually oversee the assessments on your own, including the preparation time and actual commentary? This seems ok but isn't very time efficient. One idea was to get students to choose their extract in the Library (supervised by a colleague) and then to come to me after the 20 minutes for the assessment. Any practical tips you could share on running these would be brilliant. I have requested two days cover to get through them.
Thanks and best wishes, Peter

Tim Pruzinsky 30 April 2018 - 02:05

Hi Peter,

Two days cover is smart! Good move there. Without it - and many teachers don't get it - I find it difficult to get through them. And yes, have a room where a colleague supervises the 20 minute prep time. Also, figure out your timings, breaks, and eating times. You'll need them. I slot students in for 40 minutes, even though it only technically takes 35 (20min prep and 15min recording). It gives me a bit of breathing room, but not too much.

So, if student 1 starts prep at 8am in the library, they should come to your room at 8:20. They deliver until 8:35. The next student should come in at 8:40. See the "rough" schedule below.

8:00-8:20 + 8:20-8:35

8:20-8:40 + 8:40-9:00

8:40-9:00 + 9:00-9:20 and so on.

Other than that, make sure to mark them on the spot. You can go back and listen if you want, but do have a marking sheet/rubric with detailed notes. Staple everything together - your notes, marks, their outline and annotations. This will be helpful when you have to send in your samples to the IB. Also have the passages/poems prepped yourself so you know some questions you could ask. You might not use any of them, but it's helpful to have. And do ask if you have any further questions about the IOC.


Nimat Dandashly 1 May 2018 - 17:03

Dear David and Tim,
Hope this message finds you doing well.
Since it is my first year in IBDP and my class is very small in number, is it possible that I get all extracts from one book- say Macbeth- without including extracts from the poetry collection or the third book for HL students? My students were better in the drama than the poetry or novel. What does the IB say in this regards?
Thanks in advance for your tolerance.

Tim Pruzinsky 2 May 2018 - 01:15

Hi Nimat,

Unfortunately, that's not possible. The IB is very clear here: you must provide extracts from all three texts at HL. Students must have an equal and random chance at selecting any one of those three and they must not know in advance which text they will be examined on. I hope that clarifies things for you and your students going forward in preparation for the IOC.


Nimat Dandashly 17 May 2018 - 03:28

Thanks a lot, Tim... Sounds great to me!

Peter Thompson 2 May 2018 - 14:34

Thank you so much, Tim. That's great. Best wishes, Peter

Josefino Rivera 4 May 2018 - 08:29

Hi - thanks for all the wonderful resources here. This website has been incredibly useful!

Quick clarification question - for the IOC extracts, the title of a poem is considered part of the poem, but if we use extracts from short stories, should we include the title or not?


Tim Pruzinsky 5 May 2018 - 00:47

Hi Josefino,

Titles are only allowed for poetry. If you are using short stories, do not include the titles. And thanks for the feedback. We appreciate it!


Noah Mass 8 May 2018 - 04:09

Hi Tim:

I'm using some Derek Walcott poemts for the IOC this year, and I had a question about line numbering. Should the title of the poem count as one of the lines? Should stanza breaks? I ask only because I would prefer to include complete poems, but some run longer than 40 lines. I'm trying to conserve line numbers as much as possible.



David McIntyre 8 May 2018 - 07:04

Hi Noah,

You should not, as a rule, go over the 40 line limit. I understand that you wish to use complete poems - that makes sense to me. However, in my experience, it can be difficult for students to 'do justice' to a 40 line poem; there is, in my view, often too much to discuss.

If you decide to go slightly beyond 40 lines - by 1 - 3 lines - it is unlikely to be remarked on (assuming the IOC is sampled), and the student will not be be directly penalised.

If you decide to go beyond 40 lines, stanza breaks are not line numbered. And, if you omit the name of the poem, presumably students can identify the poem despite the absence of its title.

I hope this helps.

Kind regards,


Sarah Norman 8 May 2018 - 12:48

Hi both,

I have a few questions about the IOC which I wanted to put to you. In terms of the initial selection of extracts to be used in the IOC what advice can you offer? Inevitably, whilst we have studied both of the texts (SL) in full, in the teaching process some parts of the text have received greater focus than others; this is particularly the case with longer novels.plays for example. Do you have any tips to ensure that I select extracts which allow students to excel, but in a fair manner?
In terms of the random allocation of extracts to the students, how do you randomly allocate the extracts to the students? Have you found a method that is particularly effective? I have a large SL group and am looking for a clear, fair strategy.

If I have not been clear please don't hesitate to ask for clarification.

Thanks in advance,


David McIntyre 8 May 2018 - 14:21

Hi Sarah,

Your question is perfectly clear! I hope my answer is also unambiguous...

The main thing is that students do not know in advance what they will see in the IOC. In this way, you can decide who gets what, or it can be random selection in sealed envelopes. Note, it is not a requirement (although I have heard it said) that students receive their extract in an anonymous envelope.

This partly answers your question.

I think - i.e. in my opinion - that it is fine to give students IOC extracts from the parts of texts you have focused on, as long as you don't say, to be a little facetious, "between pages X and Y". What is desirable is academic honesty and parity (right?). Imagine that your SL students had studied a number of poems and a 600-page Victorian brick of a novel. Then, imagine that some of your students respond to a poem in the IOC and some respond to any old page of a big, big novel. Not really fair, is it?

Thus, in short, do this as you please, as long as you feel that there is nothing in the process that could be regarded as dishonest, and as long as you feel you are treating your students as equally as the process permits.

I hope this helps.

Kind regards,


Janelle Codrington 11 May 2018 - 02:09

Hi Tim,

In this case, how many extract do I prepare for?
I have SL/HL combined class. 4 of HL students and 10 of SL students.
I assume 4 extracts for HL and 6 extracts for SL.

Thanks in advance,


Tim Pruzinsky 11 May 2018 - 05:51

Hi Chiwoo,

Yes, that's correct. Best of luck on your IOCs!


Sharon Ware 18 May 2018 - 11:52

Hi David/Tim,
Just completed my IOCs today and will moderate next week with my colleagues. Before I do, just want to check a couple of things for myself.
- I know it says here that the student must speak for a minimum of 10 minutes about their extract - what if they only got to 8.5 or 9 minutes?
- A couple of my students said things that were irrelevant about their passages e.g: a student misread the phrase 'a naked new born babe' from I.vii Macbeth, as a 'snaked new born babe' and talked about the connotations of a snake, which isn't part of the passage at ALL (he was just nervous). How much does this count? He mentioned it more than once :(

Thanks so much,

David McIntyre 18 May 2018 - 13:03

Hi Sharon,

Lovely to hear from you.

I once had a student who referred to 'Little Red Crap' throughout her IOC. She passed and received her diploma. I listened to her, biting down hard on my pen.

Mark on the basis of what students say, both in terms of their initial presentation of ideas and in the Q&A. Take a holistic and 'best fit' approach. Don't think in terms of 'penalising' students. If something is wrong, that shows a lack of understanding, but balance that against the understanding they do have. Use the marking criteria as you think it ought to be used. If in doubt, be sanguine. Aim to be consistent with all your orals. Moderate if possible.

A student who speaks for 9 minutes may still receive a very sound mark - it all depends on what they say.

Kind regards,


Sharon Ware 21 May 2018 - 13:19

Hi David,

Yes, I remember you telling us about the 'little red crap'! I guess this is my equivalent.
Thanks for the clarification, particularly re: time - this may come up during moderation.

Hope you and family are well,

Peter Thompson 21 May 2018 - 13:49

Dear Tim and David,

I hope you are both well.

Tomorrow I will run some Mock IOCs. Is it ok for me to include a poem/extract in the Mock that might come up in the real IOC? Of the poems I've studied, only a few are complete poems between 1 -40 lines so I feel a bit limited.

Thanks and best wishes,


Thanks for your advice and best wishes,


Peter Thompson 21 May 2018 - 14:36

Hi again,

Sorry to ask yet another question!

Should the recording be in a particular file format? I've just looked at the DP Assessment Procedures guide but can't see anything about this.

Thank you very much and best wishes,


Tim Pruzinsky 22 May 2018 - 01:48

Hi Peter,

I would argue that the same poem would be okay in a mock as well as the real IOC. It's a poem and there's nothing you can do really here. Students cannot get the same poem in their mock and real IOC though. That's clearly out of bounds.

As well, I think having the same extracts is out of bounds as well for the mock and the real. Again, with poetry, it's not like you can choose a different passage from the same chapter. But with prose or drama, they really shouldn't double up.

As for your file format, I use mp3 and that's acceptable.


YOSUKE TACHI 22 May 2018 - 03:00

Dear David and Time,

I have a few questions about the IOC. The poetry I am
plaining to choose for my HL students is consisting of 46 lines. In that case, do we cut to 40 lines from whale sentence or it can be arranged the poetry in 40 lines by kerning or making the space between the letter or lines.

In different original book, it can be seen the poetry consisting of different line which is 55line(expanded) or under 40line(shorter). Obviously original sentence is all same in each book but the just the numbers of line are different.

Thank you so much in advance,


Tim Pruzinsky 23 May 2018 - 00:41

Hi Yosuke,

Keep the lineation like the original; in other words, present it as it was published. I'm a bit surprised that different publishers have it at 46 lines and others at 55 lines. That's a big difference!

For the IOC, you should have no more than 40 lines. Please do ask if you have any follow-up questions.


YOSUKE TACHI 22 May 2018 - 03:01

Sorry Tim, miss typed your name.

Sarah Norman 22 May 2018 - 08:59

Thank you david. Your answer was most helpful.

Peter Thompson 22 May 2018 - 14:19

Thanks Tim. Your advice was a great help. Thanks for replying so swiftly. Best wishes.

David Neill 24 May 2018 - 04:44

Hello! We are getting ready to conduct our first I.O.C.s next week, and I am having trouble remembering how closely my grades need to match those of the IB moderators. If the IB moderators score an I.O.C. as a 25 then would I be safe at one point above or below their mark (24-26). Do criterion grades A-D matter in terms of matching or just the overall score?

Also, is there any kind of penalty for kids who finish short? For example, if a student stops speaking at 9 minutes is there a required deduction or would that just naturally hurt the depth of understanding they could show in sections A and B of the rubric. I appreciate your help!

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