In Part 4 - Literature: critical study we examine literary texts through a more form-focused lens. This is to say that close reading, textual analysis and critical literacy are at the heart of Part 4. There are several requirements to consider when engaging in texts throughout Part 4. 


When selecting texts, it is important to keep the nature of the corresponding assessment in mind. Since students will be speaking about a passage from one of their Part 4 works, there should be a significant quantity of stylistic and structural features in these works. Poetry tends to be popular in Part 4, as poems are often dense in their use of language. Literary texts in Part 4 do not have to have a common theme or genre, but they must all be taken from the Prescribed List of Authors (PLA)

Two literary texts, both from the PLA.

Three literary texts, all from the PLA.


The following hours of tuition should be spent on Part 4 and preparation for its corresponding form of assessment

30 hours

50 hours


In the individual oral commentary, students receive a 40-line passage from one of the Part 4 works. There are 20 minutes to prepare a 10-minute commentary on the text, after which a 5-minute discussion ensues. This form of Internal Assessment counts towards 15% of the final mark.

At SL students must also write at least one written task based on a literary work from either Parts 3 or 4. At HL students must write at least one written task based on a literary work from Part 3 and also one based on a work from Part 4.

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Comments 39

maimoona hamed 2 September 2016 - 06:08

Dear Tim & David

Could you suggest part 4 texts? I am concerned with my current choices of Animal Farm and Scarlet Letter.

Would Lord of the Flies, or 1984 be suitable choices for this? Kindly guide.


Tim Pruzinsky 2 September 2016 - 07:31

Hi Maimoona,

Unfortunately, you can't teach "Lord of the Flies" as Golding is not on the PLA. As well, you can't do two Orwell texts.

So, my suggestion would be to keep The Scarlet Letter and 1984. Cut Animal Farm and Lord of the Flies since they can't be done. You are left with one more text to choose. Perhaps a female poet? Duffy? Atwood? Poetry works well for the IOC.


Syed Abbas 5 November 2016 - 05:58

HI Tim & David

1. Guided Questions (GQs)
GQs are provided by the teacher for SL students.

Are GQs also provided by the teacher for HL students?

2. Length of the extract

Forty lines are the maximum. Is there a minimum?

Thanks & regards,

Tim Pruzinsky 6 November 2016 - 03:10

Hi Faheem,

1. Yes, HL and SL students get 2 GQ's. One is based on style and one is more content focused.

2. There isn't a technical minimum, but most teachers don't go under 30 lines.


Syed Abbas 6 November 2016 - 13:24

Thanks Tim.

Syed Abbas 6 November 2016 - 14:55

Sorry, two other related questions.

1. If, for example, the work is a novel that is demarcated into chapters, then can I write down the chapter number & or its title at the end of the extract?

2. What if one marginally exceeds the 40 line limit, to say 50; does one have that kind of latitude or can one really not go beyond 40? I'd only want to exceed it if I felt that the extract would lose its concreteness/cohesiveness.


Tim Pruzinsky 6 November 2016 - 23:09

Hi Faheem,

Keep the questions coming. Getting the "regulations" of the IOC down can be tough. To answer your questions:

1. No, you cannot give that information. It gives too much away to the student. And if they don't know the title of the novel just by looking at it quickly after studying it for so long, well, that's a whole other issue.

2. I would not go beyond 40 lines. These are pretty tight restrictions. 50 lines total is way too much.


Syed Abbas 7 November 2016 - 01:48

Dear Tim,

Thanks. Got it.


Deborah Walker 7 November 2016 - 05:06

How do I go about choosing the extracts for the IOC? For plays or a novel, do I copy the text, re-type and number? What? Then do I create my own guiding questions or does IB provide general ones? How specific must my questions be? Sorry, I am feeling a bit out of sorts here for more reasons than I can tell.

Tim Pruzinsky 7 November 2016 - 07:36

Hi Deborah,

The IOC can do that! Let's see if I can answer your questions.

1. You choose extracts that are "meaty." Find key sections of the text - whether it is about conflict, or character, or setting, or theme, or something else that is juicy for students to discuss.

2. Then, you get to choose. You can just photocopy the 30-40 lines from the original text or you can type it up. Your choice. Provide line numbers every 5 lines.

3. Then, you create your own guiding questions. Provide two. One should be on content and one on style. Your questions should be specific to the extract, but not give the answer away. So, don't explain what the green light symbolizes in "The Great Gatsby," but do ask a question about how Fitzgerald uses a motif in the extract and to what effect.


Deborah Walker 16 November 2016 - 06:07

Thank you, Tim. I am in my second year and, at times, feel out of my depth. Thank you so much for this place that helps me out so much.

Jessica Holloway 8 November 2016 - 05:44

Hello, David. We have two questions for you...

1. Can SL students (Language and Literature, A) study poetry as one of their Part 4 texts?

2. Our school has two HL classes. Do they have to read the same texts? Or can these two teachers choose their own texts, as long as they are on the PLA?


David McIntyre 8 November 2016 - 08:35

Hi Jessica,

1. Yes. Poetry often works well, I think, for the IOC.

2. You may teach/study different texts. If you are referring (still) to part 4, then all texts must come from the PLA. Whilst it isn't my business as such, and there may be many good reasons for teaching different texts, I do feel that if there are only two HL classes it can be advantageous for teachers to reach compromise and collaborate around the teaching of the same texts.

Best regards,


Andrea Bernoth 10 November 2016 - 08:32

Dear David & Tim,

I'm new to the IBDP and have the added stress of being thrown into a class part way through the school year as I have only just arrived in the country and a decision was made to change the Language A and B for two students. I have a colleague who has told me that I should use three texts from the same genre for Part 4 HL. However, the information here suggests otherwise. Is this perhaps a confusion from the literature course requirements?

David McIntyre 10 November 2016 - 09:19

Hi Andrea,

There is no requirement whatsoever to use the same genre in part 4; you could, as long as a second genre is introduced in part 3.

Don't hesitate for further advice and support.


Sam Levien 29 November 2016 - 14:18

Hi David or Tim,

I have a very simple question. Is it possible/allowed to give students a copy of my own annotations on poems for the IOC as a revision tool?

Many thanks

Tim Pruzinsky 29 November 2016 - 23:18

Hi Sam,

Technically, yes.

I'd be worried that my students would think only my annotations are the "right" ones and that my way is the only the way to interpret the poem. On the other hand, I want to also show them how I annotate a poem, making my thinking visible, in order for them to understand the process.

With all that said, it's up to you how to teach Part 4 of the course and this approach does not interfere with the technicalities of administering the IOC.


Sam Levien 1 December 2016 - 13:57

Many thanks Tim. It is much appreciated.


Denise Villegas 1 January 2017 - 05:40

Hello Tim and David

I have a few technical questions. Are HL students required to complete and IOC based on a poem? Also regarding the selection of poems, I noticed that a lot of schools choose to focus on the work of a single poet. Is this a requirement? If it it isn't, would you consider it advisable to put together a collection using the work of various poets?

Thank you.


David McIntyre 2 January 2017 - 10:49

Hi Denise,

HL students can complete their IOC on any genre (as defined by the PLA). All Part 4 works must be selected from the PLA. This means that any poems used in the IOC must come from the works that you will find on the PLA. At HL, you must select three works. It is possible, at HL, to select one, two, or three poets (where the other genre would be included in Part 3). This means that you cannot construct an anthology of different poets.

I hope this helps.

Best regards,


Denise Villegas 3 January 2017 - 08:07

Thank you David. That makes things so much clearer.

Best Regards,

Kimberly Hirsch 20 January 2017 - 21:22

Hello Tim and David, Can you give me some advice for Part 4? For HL, we are going through 1984 and The Handmaid's Tale. I was wondering if you had a suggestion of an author of some short stories? I would rather not go into a full novel as our third selection. Also, how many short stories are considered a "collection"
Thank you so much for your time! This website is so helpful.
Much Joy,

Tim Pruzinsky 22 January 2017 - 11:52

Hi Kimberly,

5-10 short stories is what is listed in the PLA. I've used Edgar Allan Poe short stories before (albeit in a different part of the course) and liked them. I love Jhumpa Lahiri short stories - and since you still have a free choice open, that could work. I'd also look into Adichie's short stories. They might pair especially well with "The Handmaid's Tale."

And glad to hear you find the resources so helpful!


Carla Spenner 20 March 2017 - 04:07

Hi both,

We have decided this year to run our IOCs in year 12 rather than the final year.
Do students have to read out their candidate number on the IOC recording or can this just be labelled on their file name?
Our problem is that we don't receive candidate numbers until the students are in year 13 but we don't want this to stop us.

David McIntyre 20 March 2017 - 07:51

Hi Carla,

Candidate numbers are not required. The task should be done anonymously.

Best regards,


Carla Spenner 20 March 2017 - 08:16

Thanks so much David.

Denise Villegas 23 March 2017 - 12:42

Hi Tim & David
I was wondering if you could offer suggestions for Part 4 Critical study? We have just worked through The Great Gatsby and we are working on Carol Ann Duffy. Our school only offers English HL and a lot of the students are currently struggling to develop the requisite skills. I was hoping to work on a set of short stories for the last text as I do not think a full novel would work within our time constraints. Would that be a good idea?

Thank you for help!

Tim Pruzinsky 25 March 2017 - 05:37

Hi Denise,

I know some teachers use Adichie short stories ("The Thing Around Your Neck"). I also know a number of teachers who go down the nonfiction route and teach a selection of essays by Orwell.

Might I also suggest a short play or novel instead of short stories?

Because you have to teach 5-10 short stories (according to the PLA), and any one of them could appear on the IOC, I think it's harder to cover than a novel like "Things Fall Apart" or a play like "A Streetcar Named Desire." Both are on the shorter end, are accessible, and have enough passages that could be used for an IOC.


Denise Villegas 29 March 2017 - 03:49

Streetcar Named Desire sounds like a really good idea Tim. Much Thanks!

rwadubai 1 11 April 2017 - 01:21

Hello, I am going to be teaching T.S.Eliot's poetry and I would like some advice about the amount of poems required as one of the poems I wish to use is The Wasteland, which is 433 lines. The PLA states "A substantial section or the whole of a long poem (at least 600 lines) or 15–20 shorter poems". The poem doesn't fit the requirement of the former but I would like to assume that only a few additional poems would be needed in conjunction with it, say 4? Any advice/input would be much appreciated. Thank you

Tim Pruzinsky 11 April 2017 - 11:12

Hi Rwadubai 1,

Apologies...I'm not sure your name, so I've just gone by what shows up.

"The Wasteland" with a few shorter poems by Eliot (3-4) definitely meets the requirements. In other words, you're absolutely on the right track with your thinking!


Dione Smith 13 April 2017 - 13:09

Hi Tim, Your comments are invaluable. A question pls. For Part 4 SL I have chosen 'The Great Gatsby' and 'The Pit and the Pendulum' do I also need to chose another Poe short story. If so I'm tempted to scrap Poe and replace him with the poetry of either Seamus Heaney or TS Eliot. My part 3 works are 'Antigone' and 'The Handmaids Tale'. This is my first year teaching langlit and although I really like it, it's confusing. Without inthinking, I'd be toast.

David McIntyre 14 April 2017 - 00:17

Hi Dione,

The PLA suggests you study 5-10 short stories. This gives teachers a degree of autonomy. After all, how short or long is a short story?

I'm guessing you might be heading towards poetry. I have used Heaney's poetry in part 4. The students seem to enjoy their study, and the poems worked well for IOC assessment.

Hopefully, you're still not toast :)

Kind regards,


Justine Ehlers 4 May 2017 - 15:17

Hello! For one of my IOC texts, I would like to choose Simon Armitage's Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. It is a fantastic text for close reading - I have used it for A Level coursework. Armitage is on the PLA but I am a little worried because this text is strictly speaking a "translation" from the Middle English original poem. Is it still valid to do? And also (this is only my first year teaching the course - apologies for so many questions) - if my Part 3 and Part 4 texts are A Doll's House (translation, 19th century), Educating Rita (free choice), Armitage's Gawain, and The Great Gatsby (America rather than Europe), have I fulfilled all the various requirements? Thank you!

Tim Pruzinsky 5 May 2017 - 01:23

Hi Justine,

I am not familiar with the text, but everything I read about it makes it clear that this is a translation. That worries me. And that's why you've asked us the question. And yet, he's on the PLA and so is a valid author to use in Part 4. I genuinely don't have a confident answer on this one. However, you need certainty before teaching it.

I would ask IB Answers on the OCC. They will give you the final approval you seek. A simple question like "Can I teach Simon Armitage's Sir Gawain and the Green Knight in Part 4 of the IB Language and Literature course?" should suffice.

If the text is approved, then your syllabus looks good to go in terms of requirements: two time periods, two places, and two genres. it also looks like a lot of fun to teach!


David McIntyre 5 May 2017 - 02:30

You can, as Tim suggests, Justine, ask for absolute clarity from IB Answers, but I struggle to think this should be problematic. After all, it's question of modernising a (13th century? 14th century?) poem for a contemporary reader. However, since neither Tim nor I 'speak for' the IBO, caution suggests you get in touch with the movers and shakers.

Which reminds me... I haven't read this poem, although I seem to recall a funny anecdote about how Armitage was 'received' when, already commissioned to write the poem , he went to the British Library to see the original manuscript. The detail escapes me, but I imagine you can imagine what happened when the boy from Huddersfield travelled to London and asked to see the establishment's priceless document.



Justine Ehlers 5 May 2017 - 07:28

Thank you so much for your advice. I will ask IB Answers but am hoping that, since Armitage is on the PLA with no caveats, the poem will be acceptable. Certainly, the A Level board took David's view of its being a contemporary reworking rather than a straight translation, and so permitted it for coursework even though they don't allow us to use translated texts for that module.

I will let you know what they say!

I will have to look up the Armitage and the British Library anecdote!

Justine Ehlers 9 May 2017 - 08:53

Just to update - I have received a reply from IB Answers and they have decreed that Sir Gawain and the Green Knight counts as a translated text and therefore is not permissible. I am very disappointed, I must say, and feel that if we are not permitted to choose freely from a writer's entire body of work, that should be made clear on the PLA.

David McIntyre 10 May 2017 - 03:27

Hi Justine,

I don't wish to comment on the IB's decision, however I agree that greater clarity would help teachers.

For what it is worth, I recall, a few years ago, reading a section of a subject report where I found myself in strong disagreement. Through my IB coordinator, I expressed my disagreement and received, in return, a considered response. In other words, the response from IB Answers may be 'the last analysis, but you should not be put off making a counter-representation to the IB on this issue. You never know.

I guess Tim and I were right to urge caution, and I guess my optimism was misplaced.


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