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

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!

María Lourdes Padilla Othick 22 July 2017 - 16:00

My students truly enjoyed short stories by Ernest Hemingway.

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.


John Cheesman 12 September 2017 - 15:57

I have used Streetcar a few times and I wonder what passages others have used for their commentaries. Also--how do you count 40 lines for the passage in the script? Does "STELLA [sharply]:" count as a line? Do any stage directions count? If you retype the script instead of photocopying from the book, how does this affect the line count?

Tim Pruzinsky 13 September 2017 - 07:06

Hi John,

For counting the lines, there is no set system required by the IB. Some teachers photocopy the page of the text and then number it from there. Some re-type it themselves (usually allowing for more text). Some even shrink the font size. It's really endless how many people do different things. I would argue do what works best for you and your students, while also not taking advantage or trying to skirt around the rules.

Stage directions do count and the example you gave does count as a line (there's a lot to analyze there in terms of tone, characterization, conflict...).

As for the passage people use, I don't teach "Streetcar" and so I'm of little help in that regard. I do know that you want "meaty" or important passages that allow students to be successful in the exam.


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.


sebastian wierny 12 July 2017 - 08:46

Hell David and Tim,

Could I have your thoughts and comments on the following choice of texts?

(I decided to scrap "Don Quixote" given that I just read that the recommended allocated time is 25 hours (25x45 min periods in my case) for part 3 SL, and 20 hours for HL. There is no way that I can cover the two parts of the book in that short amount of time).


1) Crime and Punishment-PLT (SL)

2) Lolita (Nabokov)-PLA (SL)

3) Waiting for Godot-PLA (HL)


1) The Tempest (Shakespeare)-PLA (SL)

2) Robert Browning's poetry-PLA (SL)

3) What genre would you include here based on my other choices? (HL) (any particular texts that you could recommend?)



David McIntyre 12 July 2017 - 16:57

Hi Sebastian,

As always, it is challenging to express a view without knowing your students or their circumstance. I guess that whilst many issues inform text choice, the (likely) response of students should be paramount. I think - and this is just my view - that students should leave the course with a sense that they have enjoyed it, that they have been challenged, and that they feel inclined to continue reading throughout their lives. If the effect of text choice is that students are turned off, feel disinclined to read on, and think that literature is esoteric, having nothing to do with them, then clearly the choice was inappropriate.

There is 'a lot of canonicity' in your selection, and potentially a lot to read. This is simply an observation, Sebastian, nothing more. You may like to consider, for example, a shorter contemporary novel or play as your third Part 4 choice (whilst keeping in mind that whatever you select must 'work' for the IOC). Also, note that students can sometimes feel it is easier to tackle poetry and (to a lesser extent) drama in the IOC; they may find prose more challenging.

My comments, I acknowledge are very broad brush, but I hope provide some food for thought.



sebastian wierny 12 July 2017 - 21:58

Hi David,

Thanks for the extremely useful comments. I think that the 'a lot of canonicity' observation is spot on... I would definitely need to include a more contemporary ('less canonical text') so that 16-17-year old students are not thrown off by the language and style. No idea which text to choose, as the ones that seem to be very popular, "The Road" for example, have very depressing topics. I will do my best to try to find, at least, one modern novel that is more accessible and teenage friendly ....

One more question: when you say that my text choices seem be "too much to read" are you referring to the actual length of the books I chose?

Would you by any chance, based on you experience, have a recommended number of pages (for novels) in relation to the allocated number of hours? (20-25 hours per text)
For example "Don Quixote" (which was my first choice) has approx. 1300 pages between the two parts. Thus, I decided to scrap it immediately when I took in consideration the number of hours devoted to teaching it.



David McIntyre 17 July 2017 - 18:53

Hi Sebastian,

I can only write from experience in responding: I am referring to the amount of reading - that is the cumulative amount. Whilst it's important not to be too instrumental, it is probably not worth the time (in my view) in only reading longer texts. There is no 'payback', I suggest, in terms of potential advantage in exams, and it may be said that the opposite is the case if too much time reading long works is at the cost of skills development. I am not hostile to longer works, of course, but you do need to balance with the long(er) with the short(er).

I also think you are right: Too much misery literature can be somewhat off-putting for younger readers (or anyone!). Best of luck in your quest for less depressing reading!

Kind regards,


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.


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