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 47

Anthony Bigornia 14 August 2017 - 23:16

Hi Tim and David,

I'm considering exploring the work by Martin Luther King Jr. Now according to the definition, you need 5-8 essays or 10-15 letters. What I am wondering is if the transcript of a speech would fit into either of these molds.



Tim Pruzinsky 15 August 2017 - 01:06

Hi Anthony,

If I understand your question, it is "how does the IB categorize MLK Jr's speeches - or any speeches - in the PLA"? I have to imagine that his speeches "count" towards the total number of works needed to be studied. I would put it under "letters" to be on the safe side since it is a bit nebulous.


Petrina McGregor 15 August 2017 - 11:54

During last academic year (2016 - 2017), our IBDP1 Language A: English Lang and Lit (HL) classes were divided into two groups. For Part 4 of the course, the two teachers taught a different text. Both taught Gatsby; but one teacher taught 1984.

Staffing has meant that the two HL classes have now been combined. When it comes to the IOC, does it matter about the disparity in the texts that have been taught? Can they be examined as two different groups?

Tim Pruzinsky 16 August 2017 - 04:24

Hi Petrina,

If I understand your question, you have a group of Year 2 HL students that are now in your class, but studied different Part 4 texts because they were in different classes last year.

For the IOC, that won't be a problem. Examine the students on the texts they read/studied. Student A would be examined from a pool of extracts from Duffy, Fitzgerald, and Orwell. Student B would be examined from Duffy, Fitzgerald, and Williams. These are only examples of texts, of course.

It will mean some creative teaching on your part in terms of reviewing the texts before the IOC, but it won't be a problem with the IB.


Petrina McGregor 16 August 2017 - 12:58

Dear Tim, thank you. This comes as an enormous relief as I was having visions of frantic Saturday catch-up sessions. As for creative teaching in terms of reviewing texts - it should be fun.

elizabeth smith 17 August 2017 - 21:07

Dear Tim
I am teaching the IB Diploma Course for the first time so please forgive me if my questions seem rather basic. I have taken over from a teacher who taught the following texts for part 3: Disgrace and A Dolls House . I do believe if they are higher level students then they need a further text? For Part 4 the students have only studied one text Lucy. Am I correct in believing they have to study a further one ( if they are standard level) and two if they are higher level? I also don't understand why they have to study so many texts when only one out of the three is chosen for their individual oral commentary.

Tim Pruzinsky 18 August 2017 - 00:57

Hi Elizabeth,

Welcome to the course! It can be exciting once you set it up in a way that works for you. It's a bit more daunting to take over from someone else, but that's why we are here. Please do feel comfortable - always - to ask us questions on the site.

You will need to teach 1 more text for Part 3. It can be free choice at HL since you've hit the other requirements. Think of a contextually rich text that you like and have taught before. Also think about what pairs well with the other two texts. It will make your life easier this time around.

For Part 4, you will need two more at HL and one more at SL. They will have to come from the PLA. Maybe poetry at HL? Again, since you are new to the course, and taking over a course, I would suggest you teach texts you like and know well.

As for the IOC, the idea is that students will study all three Part 4 texts in depth, but they will only be assessed on one. To run 3 IOCs for each text is logistically impossible, and so that is why they aren't assessed on all three. And to have students read just 1 text would mean the course lacks the depth and breadth expected at IB.

I hope that explains the rationale behind the IOC and helps you sort out your syllabus. I would teach the Part 4 texts first, complete the IOC, and then move to the Part 3 text since they will have to do the IOC before their Paper 2 exam in May.

And again, please do ask any follow-up questions about this or anything else. David and I are here to help and support!


elizabeth smith 20 August 2017 - 09:29

Dear Tim

I am going to study a selection of poems by Sylvia Plath for the IOC. Am I correct in believing that 5 to 10 poems will suffice as long as each poem is over 44 lines ?

Many thanks


Tim Pruzinsky 20 August 2017 - 09:50

Hi Elizabeth,

The PLA states that you need to study 15-20 poems. As for the IOC, the poems should be 30-40 lines in length, and no more than 40 lines total. You can study poems that are longer, but for the assessment itself, 30-40 lines is what's stated.

In terms of the number of poems selected for possible inclusion in the IOC, it will depend on the number of students in your cohort. At HL, you'll want an equal number of extracts/poems from all three texts.

I hope that clarifies some things, but do ask if you have any more questions.


elizabeth smith 21 August 2017 - 11:12

Dear Tim

This is really clear.

Thank you.



Patrick Kariku 23 August 2017 - 06:34

Hi Tim,

I'm new to the IB course this year (and taking over from someone else). Quick question re: WT2:
- we MUST submit 2 x WT2 for each HL student, correct? One from Part 3, one from Part 4?

Thanks in advance!
Sadie (logged in on a colleague's account :) )

Tim Pruzinsky 23 August 2017 - 07:29

Hi Sadie,

For HL, you submit one WT1 (from Part 3/4 OR Part 1/2) and one WT2 (from the opposite Part of the course of WT1).

So, student A can submit a WT1 from Part 2 of the course and a WT2 from Part 4. Student B can submit a WT1 from Part 3 of the course and a WT2 from Part 1.

In other words, one must come from "language" and one must come from "literature." I hope that sorts you out on that end.


GIOVANNI TOVAR 28 September 2017 - 10:42

Dear Colleagues,

It is mandatory to choose poetry in part 3 or 4? if so, the IOC gotta be based on this ?



Tim Pruzinsky 28 September 2017 - 15:11

Hi Giovanni,

No, it is not mandatory to teach poetry in Part 3 or 4. You must have 2 genres, at a minimum. Those genres are up to you. As long as your Part 4 (IOC texts) come from the PLA, they can be any genre.

At HL, a poem often appears on the Paper 1 exam and so many teachers do teach poetry in Part 4. As well, many teachers find poetry works well for the IOC. However, there is no requirement to teach poetry.


Sumathy Velusamy 2 November 2017 - 08:07

Hai Everyone,
Can anyone tell me whether A Modest Proposal alone can be taken as a work in the part 4 section


Tim Pruzinsky 2 November 2017 - 23:32

Hi Sumathy,

Swift is on the PLA for prose nonfiction; therefore, you can teach 5-8 Swift essays (including "A Modest Proposal"). However, do know that for the IOC, students will need to get extracts from several Swift essays - in addition to the other texts - and not just this one. The students should not know the extracts beforehand either.


Matthew James 13 November 2017 - 05:52

Hi both,

Was wondering about my SL choices of texts for Part 3 and Part 4 (not confirmed yet - want your thoughts first!)

I'm thinking Part 3 texts
Miss Julie

Part 4 texts (IOC)
Duffy poetry (World's Wife)
Dylan Thomas (Under Milk Wood)

Across these choices I have (at least) two genres, two eras, two countries - my worry is that all the writing is European. Does this matter? Also, for future planning, does Dylan Thomas count as a different country to English writers or do Welsh/Scottish/English writers all come under a British umbrella?

Janice Carey 11 December 2017 - 14:55

I am planning on using short stories by Alice Munro and am trying to figure out how many. Does the length of the stories matter? Hers are rather long and I would like to cover the minimum. Is that 5 or 10?

Tim Pruzinsky 11 December 2017 - 23:59

Hi Janice,

The PLA states 5-10 short stories and they do this for the exact reason you state: some writers have long short stories and others are quite short. This allows teachers to make a professional judgement as to how many short stories are appropriate within that range.


VSA English 16 March 2018 - 01:14

Hi Tim,

I am also considering the short stories of Alice Munro. However, do they need to all come from the same publication, or can it be a selection of short stories, as much of her work has been featured in The New Yorker and other publications? Any feedback would be great. Thanks! Jaime Walls

Tim Pruzinsky 16 March 2018 - 04:30

Hi Jaime,

As long as you have 5-10 short stories by the same author, they can come from any collection (or publication). So, pick the Munro stories you like and go from there!


Lorilie Mendoza 8 January 2018 - 15:58

Hi Tim. This is my first time to teach this course. Can you please give me a suggestion as to what topics (different genres) to teach in part 4. I need it so badly. I cannot access the OCC to search for the PLA. I think i'm lost...Thank you so much in advance....



Lorilie Mendoza 8 January 2018 - 16:03

Hi Tim. Another question, is it only one author for poetry and/or short stories? Can you please give me some list of authors? I've lost all my files from the usb where i saved my IB DOCS...

Thanks again,

David McIntyre 9 January 2018 - 09:01

Hi Lorilie,

I don't think we can really provide you with this. You NEED to have access to the PLA and the PLT. We cannot (i.e. it breaks copyright law) reproduce it hear. Since your Part 4 works must come from the PLA, and you must consider genre, period, and place (defined by the PLA) for your course as a whole, you need to get access to these documents. The good news is that these documents are readily available on the IB's websites for teachers, and your IB coordinator can (i.e. is responsible) get you log in access.

For poetry and short stories, you need to consider one work/one writer.

Kind regards,


Lorilie Mendoza 10 January 2018 - 01:13

Hi David,
I understand. We're just waiting for the email from IB to access the website. The OCC has also been closed and we need new details to access it.
Thank you..



Tim Pruzinsky 10 January 2018 - 02:47

Hi Lori,

You will have to ask your IB Coordinator for access to "My IB." It is their new portal and only your IB Coordinator or someone of that authority at your school can provide you with it.

It sounds like it is coming, and you are in the process of getting it. In the meantime, a quick google search (PLA IB) will also come up with their pre-publication PLA. It's close to the real thing and you can use it to give you a head start. From there, we can assist once you've made your text choices.


Ma Luisa Castro 10 January 2018 - 14:38

Hi, Tim and David.

Is it acceptable to do two poetry for HL in Part 4? I am thinking of studying the poems of Sylvia Plath and Seamus Heaney. The other literary text is Hamlet.

Please let me know whether I am still missing out on the requirements in terms of the literary texts covered in Part 3 and 4 . We did:

Part 3
The boy who harnessed the Wind (free choice)
If this Is a Man (PLT )
1984 (PLA)

Part 4

Sylvia Plath poems
Seamus Heaney poems

Tim Pruzinsky 10 January 2018 - 23:56

Hi Ma Luisa,

Everything looks in order. You can study 2 poets (if you study them as separate texts), which you have. Do know that students will have to study between 30-40 poems between the two poets + Hamlet.

You hit the time period, place, and genre requirements and so all is good in the eyes of the IB.


Ma Luisa Castro 14 January 2018 - 03:53

Thanks, Tim. I am relieved! Thanks for the help. another clarification for the poems. do all the 15 poems have to be more that 40 lines , or I can have shorter poems from the selection?

Tim Pruzinsky 14 January 2018 - 23:28

Hi Ma Luisa,

The 15 poems you study - per author - can be of varying lengths (shorter and longer than 40 lines), but you should have no more than 40 lines of poetry for the IOC itself. The might be a complete poem or it might be a portion of a poem. Both are okay.


Johnney Prichard 12 March 2018 - 03:45

I am teaching a very limited SL level class. WE have already done The Outsider, but I am not sure what to pick for their part 4. Usually, I teach nature poetry, Heaney, Hughes and Frost , but am looking for a novel to complement this. Any suggestions?

David McIntyre 12 March 2018 - 08:49

Hi Johnney,

Can you clarify your question a little, please.

I am not sure if you are suggesting that, at different times, you have taught Heaney, Hughes, and Frost. You may not teach them as a 'work' of nature poets. That is, the PLA defines a work, and each work must be that of an individual poet. Thus, potentially, you could study both Heaney and Frost at SL, assuming both are on the PLA. You could also study a novel, but then you would only be able to study one of the poets.

As I say, perhaps you could clarify so that we can best advise you.



brian crocker 13 March 2018 - 17:22

Hello Tim and David.

This is my first time teaching the course. I taught Part 1 in the fall and I'm in the middle of teaching Part 4 currently. I'm a bit confused on Part 4 requirements: We read "The Things They Carried." Do my other two selections (HL) have to be from a different "time period"? What constitutes "time period"? I was thinking of reading "A Streetcar Named Desire" and follow with poetry by Seamus Heaney. Are these three acceptable? Could you clarify the time period/genre/place requirements?

Thanks you so much!

David McIntyre 14 March 2018 - 09:24

Hi Brian,

The periods, places, and genre prescriptions are across both Parts 3 and 4, taken together. Your Part 4 works must be taken from the PLA, and it is the PLA that defines period (i.e. century).

In short, when selecting texts, you need to use both the PLA and the PLT in conjunction with the course study guide.

Let me know, please, if you remain uncertain.

Best regards,


brian crocker 14 March 2018 - 11:14


Thank you so much for your response. I'm still uncertain. For Part 4, do all three selections at HL need to be from different time periods (centuries)? Or from different places?

Thanks again.

David McIntyre 14 March 2018 - 13:12

No :)

You could, for example, have 3 (late) 20th century American novels as your Part 4 choice(s) as long as all the works are selected from the PLA. Given that kind of choice, you would need to have a second genre, period, and place represented in your Part 3 choice(s).

Clear or not?

Don't worry, Brian, it can be confusing at first, and we want to help you.


brian crocker 14 March 2018 - 14:11

Thank you so much David! This clears it up for me.

Christine Helyer 16 March 2018 - 10:19

Dear David, Tim,

I would like to look at Conrad (Heart of Darkness) as a HL text for Part 4. Although he is on the PLA, I wanted to check whether this book is considered to be of substantial length to look at alone, or whether we would need to explore something alongside this. Thank you for your help,

Tim Pruzinsky 17 March 2018 - 01:39

Hi Chrissie,

There is so much ambiguity around novellas versus novels. Most often, IB Answers says it is okay. So, go for it as a stand alone text! It's so dense and complex and reads much slower than many other novels that I don't see it as a problem.


Christine Helyer 20 March 2018 - 11:37

Thanks Tim - that's good news!


Anne LaGrand 19 March 2018 - 17:25

HI Tim and David - This is my first year teaching IBHL, so I need a little advice. One of our prescribed texts (not chosen by me) is Master Harold and the Boys. I'm having a little trouble finding enough to flesh out the unit. It's such a short play, that it only took us about 3 days to read, and we've covered most the historical context, and the themes in the play seem relatively straight-forward, so I am finding it difficult to find enough for an in-depth study. Any suggestions? I was thinking of looking at the degree of segregation and discrimination that still exists today in South Africa, and compare that to the US. I think that would be interesting and certainly relevant, but I'm not sure whether that would be too tangential. I know that not everything in the course has to relate directly to the final exams, but by this time in the year, I feel like I shouldn't be straying too far off course. Any thoughts or suggestions on this?
Also - our 3 texts for Part 3 are: 1984, Master Harold and the Boys and Candide. Does Candide stand alone as a text, or is it considered a novella and therefore we need something more? (Please tell me no.) Also - do you have any suggestions regarding thematic connections? Certainly there's oppression, conflict, and perhaps utopia / dystopia to some degree, but I'm not seeing much other than that. Thanks so much for your help.

Tim Pruzinsky 20 March 2018 - 00:53

Hi Anne,

For more in-depth study, I would look at drama specific techniques in the play including the use of sound (music as well), blocking, motifs such as dancing, set design and staging (especially of the flashback into Hally's childhood). Knowing and understanding these techniques, especially in connection to the characters, themes, and conflicts will heighten their understanding of the play and deepen your unit.

As for your other questions, "Candide" is listed on the PLT as a novel, so you are fine there. For thematic connections, I would get the students to think about them. Issues about power come to mind, government suppression, and artistic means or ways of overcoming oppression (satire versus realistic depictions) to name a few. But I bet they can come up with more. You could perhaps start with getting students - in one word - to describe the text - and use those words, and connections between them to find similarities and differences to create thematic statements about the texts.

But I would also argue that the Paper 2 question will dictate the response - and that response might not be a thematic one per se.


Anne LaGrand 20 March 2018 - 16:38

Thank you so much for this. (And certainly the news about Candide is a huge relief.) This will be helpful in fleshing out MHSTB. Thanks again.

Kimberly Kim 23 March 2018 - 18:53

Hi Tim and David,

One of my students is completing written task 2 (answering a question) about one of Eavan Boland's poems we studied in class. He wants to use 2 of her poems to answer her question, but I felt like, since it's a critical study (part 4) he should stick with one poem. Is he correct to use 2, or am I correct that he needs to focus on one for written task 2?

Thanks for your help with this.

Kim Kim
Sacramento Teacher

Tim Pruzinsky 26 March 2018 - 00:41

Hi Kim,

Technically, you both are correct. He can use one or more poems to answer the question. However, it's only 1000 words, and like you, I would absolutely advise him to try to write the essay using one if he can. Some students can't though, and that's okay too.


Laura Callen 28 March 2018 - 15:09

Tim, Does this work
Part 3: Handmaid's Tale & Chronicle of a Death Foretold
Part 4: Hamlet & selected poetry of Langston Hughes

Tim Pruzinsky 29 March 2018 - 00:58

Hi Laura,

I'm assuming this is for a SL class. If so, you have selected texts from the PLA or PLT as needed. You have hit the time period, genre, and place requirement as well. In the eyes of the IB, this syllabus is good to go!


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