WT1 Tips

The written task 1 can be tricky. With so much freedom, there can be many pitfalls. The requirements ask you to imitate a writing style or construct a specific type of text. Here are some of the common pitfalls that students often fall into, followed by three tips on how to avoid them.

The common pitfalls

  • The written task is not an essay writing assignment. Unfortunately, many 'opinion columns' and 'blogs' end up sounding like essays.

  • The context of the text is not clear. If you write an opinion column, ask yourself how it is characteristic of an opinion column from a specific newspaper or magazine. Who does it target?

  • The content of the task has nothing to do with course content. For example, a brochure warning against the health dangers of bulimia, does not reflect course work that explored the role of advertising in shaping young women's sense of beauty.

The right ingredients

Although there is no one guaranteed recipe for a successful written task 1, you can avoid these 'pitfalls' by including all of the following ingredients:

  1. Text type - If you write a speech, your speech should look and sound like a speech. If you write a letter to the editor, it should look and sound like a letter to the editor. In other words, each type of text has its own set of stylistic and structural conventions. Ask yourself what characteristics define the type of text you plan to write. If you're not sure about these conventions, see the pages that define text types in the resource section of this Subject Site.

  2. Primary source - Your written task should be rooted in a primary source. If you are writing about a literary work for Part 3 or 4, the poem, novel or play is the primary source. Your task should reflect your understanding of it. For the non-literary parts of the syllabus, be sure you comment on a primary text. If you looked at the representation of women in advertising, comment on an actual ad. If you looked at a political campaign, focus on one ad, website or poster. 

  3. Secondary source - Since the written task is not an essay, you are not asked to give your personal opinion on a subject matter or literary text. Instead, you are expected to be knowledgeable on the subject matter or the literary text. Even the best opinion columns inform readers to a great extent. You want to prove to the examiner that you have understood the course work and you have done your homework! This can also be achieved through the rationale, where applicable terms and concepts can be explained. Find secondary sources that comment on the texts you have worked on. For example, if you read an article about John Fowles and existentialism, this may inspire you to write a missing chapter to his novel, The Collector. If you explored women in advertising, you will want to find some statistics or articles on the effects of these ads on women. 


Here is a draft of a written task 1 that a student wrote. It has multiple problems and requires help. Answer the following questions before reading the feedback.

  1. Which pitfalls has the student fallen into?
  2. How could the 'three right ingredients' be used to steer this student in the right direction?
  3. Look at the page on opinion columns in the reference section of this Subject Site. According to this definition, there are six defining characteristics of a opinion columns: voice, newsworthiness, call to action, humor, hard facts and logos. Where do you see evidence of these in the column below? How could these characteristics be added to the task to make it more successful?

Column on the advantages of being fat

‘Don’t you want to lose weight some day’?  Is the question I was asked about weekly. And then I replied with my happiest voice; No! The they gave me this kind of look like, okay, you must be crazy. And yes I am. There are so many advantages of being fat. Lets start by shopping. Sale. The thing I like best, and so handy when you’re fat, because almost 70% of all the woman are skinny, at least skinny to fit in the most common sizes. So all the big sizes are left over. How nice. So there I was, standing at the H&M, at the sale-corner. Nothing but big sizes. So as a child in a toy shop I started grabbing the things I liked and made my way to the fitting room. It was rather crowdie over there so I accepted the fact that I had to wait for some minutes. I heard the sound of an opening door and saw a skinny girl coming outside, at a glance she saw me and then continued looking in the mirror. Her friend, waiting for her, said she looked pretty and the girl asked her friend ‘don’t I look fat in this dress?’ No it’s lovely’ she replied. I laughed. I never had those kind of problems. For I already accepted the fact that I was fat, and it would never disappoint me when shopping. When the girls left I went in to the fitting room and started to change. This dress was lovely, I took another look in the mirror, turned around and smiled. Shopping is great, after like half an hour I was ready, with about 9 dresses hanging over my arm I made my way to the pay desk. Only 50 pounds for 9 dresses. Good job, I thought. As happy as I was I walked  to the bus stop I realized I was just in time because the bus was about to leave. I hastened myself to get inside the bus, and lucky as I was, there was one seat left over, a seat for 2, just for me. The whole trip no one came to sit next to me, for they probably thought they wouldn’t have enough space, sitting next to 1.5 person. Life is great, and so you see, being fat is too! (:


First of all, this written task falls into is the pitfall of not reflecting course content. It is not clear what was studied in class from this piece. If the student studied obesity, its causes and effects, then this needs to be made clear. Where does the statistic on the percentage of skinny women (70%) come from? Are overweight people really happy for the reasons suggested in this column? If so, explain where this is supported.

Secondly, this opinion column sounds very informal, using words such as 'like' and the emoticon '(:'. Columns often contain something that is newsworthy and relevant to the target audience. The context of this text is not self evident.

Finally, this text must refer to another text or texts. If the student read an article about obesity, then she could explain its significance. It is suggested that this student start all over again with a completely new idea and set of texts. She may want to see the lesson on anorexia and the sample written task on the portrayal of women in the media.

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Comments 46

George Van Pelt 25 January 2017 - 04:49

My goodness, this is a popular (read: "problematic") assessment!

Tim and David, my question is slightly more specific than some of those above, and I am interested in hearing your perspective.

During our study of Part 2 of the course, two students centered on a creative writing project of film reviews, where they took aesthetic and critical stances somewhat at odds to one another, and wrote back-and-forth reviews in "response" to the other "critic" about popular films. The students are curious if they can develop their writing into a Written Task 1.

I have suggested that this may bring up academic honesty issues. But they each meet the basic requirements (rationale, word length, etc.) independently of the other. I have suggested to them that they refrain from using the other's text in the body of their task, but refer to it in the rationale and then cite it in their bibliography.

To me, there is nothing explicit in the course guide that prohibits such an assignment, and it seems to align nicely with the Part 2 learning outcomes and the aims of Written Task 1...but I'm hesitant about submitting them. What do you think?

Thanks in advance,

Tim Pruzinsky 25 January 2017 - 06:11

Hi George,

I think I understand the situation, but I am not 100% sure I get it. Let me try to summarize.

This WT1 comes from Part 2 of the course. I'm not 100% sure the learning objective it matches or what exactly you studied, but I'm sure they do and said so in the rationale.

The two students went back and forth in an authentic manner responding to each other. Let me now try to work in the hypothetical to get to the crux of the matter. Both student A and student B wrote their first "review" taking different stances. Then, they responded to each other in review #2. If that's not right, please correct me.

I think what makes more sense is to have this published online. In that format, comments are allowed, and Student A could create a comment that would replicate the general idea, but not the exact words or even the exact counterclaim or counterargument.

From that comment section, two things could happen. One, the writer could respond back in the comment section. That happens on blogs often enough.

The second option is to write another review in response to several comments posted. In op-eds in the NYTimes, for example, I sometimes see Kristof write a 2nd op-ed (or even 8th in his series on white privilege) based on the comments he receives.

What's key here - and what you've pointed out - is the academic honesty issue. They need to make sure, and you'll need to check - that the "comment" section is their own work, ideas, and so on. If so, I see no issue.

And while I do think the WT1 does present problems and can be problematic, I am a huge cheerleader of it because of the (more) authentic and real world writing experiences it provides for our students in comparison to exam writing. Others may disagree, and I'm okay with that. I like that the problems are complex and interesting.


George Van Pelt 26 January 2017 - 08:52

Tim, thank you. That's really helpful.

This assignment was, in fact, done originally online as we examined mass media and how writing on the internet (and its "shareability") contributes to aesthetic (or, taken further, ideological) divides. So these two students, as they worked on this, contrived their critical "personalities" so that they would intentionally be at odds with one another.

Now, they're interested in the possibility of submitting these as Written Tasks.

My advice has been to "hide" the other student's writing, the writing they were responding to, but to include it as a link. This makes the task itself slightly less engaging, as a reader can't see the "back-and-forth" banter they establish, but I thought it successfully negotiated the academic honesty concern.

From your response, it sounds like it would be acceptable for submission. As we are making those final decisions, I'll relate your feedback.

Please let me know if this requires further clarification, or if you would recommend against submitting this as a final task.

Thanks again,

Tim Pruzinsky 26 January 2017 - 23:33

Hi George,

Yes, I think this solves the academic honesty issue, which was the most pressing. It's always unfortunate when the demands of assessment and examining do not allow for students to submit something like this. What you've done sounds authentic, real, and engaging.

As long as the WT1 makes sense without the "other" text, and as long as the counter-claims made in the "other" text can be inferred, I think it's okay: it's all their own work, it connects explicitly to the learning objectives, and it demonstrates knowledge of the text type.


Ann Nordin 27 January 2017 - 09:56

Dear Tim,

One of my students wonders whether reference links should be included within the word count of the rationale.

Thank you for helping me out,

Tim Pruzinsky 28 January 2017 - 08:23

Hi Ann,

Technically, in-text citations are not counted toward the overall word count. So, in this case, if the student references the text let's say using MLA in-text citation style, it wouldn't count. Of course, s/he would need to have a Works Cited for it.

If the student has just plunked the reference link in the rationale and it flows as part of the sentence, I think it would count. In other words, it depends on how formal the student references the link. And know that any acceptable referencing system is okay.


Nathan McGee 13 February 2017 - 10:13

I have a student who wants to do a WT1 for part 1 imagining a comment section conversation on a youtube video. I have a question about the text though. Does a message board/comment section itself count as a text or is each post a text in this instance? In short, could the WT1 be a series of message board posts or would he only be allowed two posts/comments?

David McIntyre 14 February 2017 - 04:51

Hi Nathan,

This is fine. A series of posts could, I imagine, function as an effective WT.

Best regards,


Nathan McGee 17 February 2017 - 10:11

Thanks David!

Tyler Andrews 1 March 2017 - 17:54


How would you best label the "text type" where students rewrite a novel scene or short story scene in the perspective of a minor character or another major character from a novel/short story?

What about a "text type" where the student creates an additional scene to a text (novel, short story, play)?

Tyler Andrews 1 March 2017 - 18:21

In one of the HL WT1 samples provided by this site, a student submitted a piece which added onto a scene in Things Fall Apart. This was called a "pastiche" by the site, but not by the student in his/her rationale. Should I have my students use the term "pastiche" where it is appropriate. But, if the students are writing a scene in a different character's perspective rather than a third person perspective, per se, then what would the term be?

Tim Pruzinsky 1 March 2017 - 23:37

Hi Tyler,

If the student is writing in the style of the author or imitating him/her, I would have them call it a pastiche. If the student is writing in the perspective of another character, I would have them name it "an additional scene from the novel in (or from) x's perspective."

As you rightly noted, even if a student doesn't name it "correctly," it doesn't matter in this instance. As long as the student explains what they did with real clarity, that's what the examiner wants in the rationale.


Gabriela Del Pozo 9 March 2017 - 21:30

Hi! A student of mine wrote a personal diary as his Written Task 1. He uses different font sizes and colors in order to add effect and make it more realistic. Is this allowed? Or should he keep only one Font type, size, and color?

Tim Pruzinsky 9 March 2017 - 23:22

Hi Gabriela,

This is absolutely allowed for WT1! In fact, many teachers encourage it although it is not compulsory.


Gabriela Del Pozo 20 March 2017 - 18:51

Hi Tim! A student of mine wants to use the TV series Grey's Anatomy as a primary source to create a memoir. My question is: Can a tv show be used as primary source?

Tim Pruzinsky 21 March 2017 - 13:09

Hi Gabriela,

Yes, a TV show can be used as a primary source. I'm just not sure the connection to course content here, and so make sure s/he clearly connects to Part 1 or 2.


Annabel Greve Kristensen 26 April 2017 - 09:14


I have a student who wants to write a WT1 which is a blog written by Tom Robinson from 'To Kill a Mockingbird'. Might she be penalised because blogs were obviously not around at the time the novel is set?


Tim Pruzinsky 26 April 2017 - 13:50

Hi Annabel,

Students who create blogs - from the perspective of a character - face this all the time. I don't see it as an issue. However, I do think she needs to acknowledge that fact in the rationale (briefly) and justify why is was still a relevant text type to use and how it connected to her purpose/audience.

I'm also guessing that this is coming from Part 3 of the course and is your Free Choice text as Harper Lee isn't on the PLA. I say that only because those course details will help the student set up the context of the WT1 as well as the learning objectives from that part of the course. All of this is good information to include in the rationale.


John Richardson 2 May 2017 - 20:34

For WT1, can a student write a short story in response to a text? Would "short story" be an acceptable text type?

Tim Pruzinsky 3 May 2017 - 04:04

Hi John,

Yes, a short story is an "acceptable" text type. I'm unable to say if it's appropriate for the purpose the student wants to achieve or if the text type is the right one in terms of showing their knowledge + understanding. However, students may write a short story for a WT1.


Nicola Prestano 30 May 2017 - 09:01

Hi John & Tim,

My students are working on developing a WT1 based on Chronicle of a Death Foretold from Part 3: Literature /Texts & Contexts. I had a student ask me if a comic strip could work for a WT1 if he created it from the perspective of a minor character in the story. I am inclined to say this would work, but I want to be certain before I give him the ok. It is my first year teaching DP L&L, so your feedback would be really helpful!

Tim Pruzinsky 30 May 2017 - 10:14

Hi Nicola,

Technically, it is okay. But the student must create a comic strip that includes 800-1000 words! That's a huge comic strip and a ton of time will be spent drawing rather than writing. I don't think it is time well spent, but I don't know the student, the context, or the exact situation. It's your call. Let the student know the parameters and see what he decides. Of course, he will have to create/write more WTs in the future, and so it's okay to fail sometimes as this might not get sent to the IB.


Andrea Marchosky 30 May 2017 - 16:41

Hello! I have been trying to open the links for the "text types" however the link seems to be down. Can someone please send it to me?
Thank you!

David McIntyre 31 May 2017 - 06:49

Hi Andrea,

You are right. This links seems broken. Sorry.

I actually don't know what this page looks like, or would look like. You can certainly find a non-exhaustive list of texts types in the study guide.

I worry a little about listing the 'features' of a text type. In part this is because I don't think all texts are equally conventionalised, and to assume so risks considerable simplification (which is not to suggest that model texts are useless; they need not be, and are frequently useful in teaching).

I wonder if a better project for InThinking - one that is longer term, takes time to develop, but may not assist you now (sorry!) - is to develop, where it is possible and useful, pages that, in a detailed fashion, deconstruct the key features of more conventionalised text types.

In the meantime, I will work to fix the links if possible, and apologise for the inconvenience.


Franklin Delano 17 June 2017 - 21:30

Hi David and Tim,
I have a student who has proposed in her WT1 Rationale to write in response to Duffy's poems and Chopin's short stories. She hasn't been successful in explaining her intentions, but it did bring up the question whether or not it is permitted to use two different author's work (we have studied them both for Part 4) as primary texts for the WT1. I would discourage students from doing this, but just wanted to know the rules, so I could be accurate when discussion options with students.
Miranda Lutyens

Franklin Delano 17 June 2017 - 21:31

ooops. authors' works!

David McIntyre 19 June 2017 - 03:30

Hi Miranda,

This would be in theory fine, and in practice probably awful.

Like you, I would discourage this practice. My opening gambit would go something like this: "This isn't permitted. You can't do it. Please choose one or the other".

I hope this helps,


Santiago Ordoñez 25 August 2017 - 14:02

I understand that WT1 is not a persuasive essay, however, the threshold between analysis, originality/creativity is still something I struggle with... for example, If a student wishes to interview A. Camus in order to explore through the author´s answers how his life (internal, external context) influenced the novel "The Stranger" (Part 3), might this be considered as a "hidden essay / implicit essay" type of production?
Up to what extent can the text type include an implicit and even explicit literary analysis?
Many thanks!

Tim Pruzinsky 27 August 2017 - 03:02

Hi Santiago,

There can be both implicit and explicit literary analysis in WT1. But it cannot look or feel like an essay. When I read an interview in "The Paris Review," it is more often than not very intellectual and analytical. But it's an interview. It looks and feels like one. There aren't topic sentences or thesis statements. There isn't a formal conclusion. Yet, the questions and the answers are of a higher order; there is a personal warmth and expression to them; there is an openness to discussing ideas and moving from topic to topic. These aren't features, per se, of an essay.

As for your student, I would tell him or her to pursue the interview with Camus. I would also direct him to model his interview from "The Paris Review" or another magazine (Time, Newsweek, Rolling Stone...).


Tracy Radbone 6 September 2017 - 04:44

Hello there Can you confirm whether the 2MB limit on the size of the electronic file submitted to IBO is still accurate? I have seen another file size sent by my DP Coordinator for Word and PDF files.

Tim Pruzinsky 6 September 2017 - 05:14

Hi Tracy,

You'll have to ask your IB Coordinator. We try to keep it under 2MB and always use pdf files. From my knowledge, we as a school keep to that limit for English. However, if s/he has been able to send larger sized documents, and the system still works, I don't see why you can't do it.


Tracy Radbone 7 September 2017 - 07:59

Thanks Tim
One more question - on WT1 - what if the primary text is a tweet - very small - could it be a collection of tweets on the same topic by the same person/world leader? I believe that I have read on here about memes being discouraged for the same reason. Am I correct? Or would an article which discusses the tweets of a certain person be a better primary text? Many thanks and thank you also for prompt, practical help on this website.

Tim Pruzinsky 7 September 2017 - 11:25

Hi Tracy,

If a student can write a substantial WT1 from a tweet, I don't see why not. Most likely though, the primary texts, and plural in this case, will be the initial tweet + subsequent discussion, analysis, and/or critique of it. Because the topic might be gender stereotyping, for example, a tweet that is misogynistic and then a Guardian opinion editorial about it seem to go hand in hand.


Anthony Sweeney 8 September 2017 - 04:46

Just a quick question, with the form that must be uploaded with the Tasks- It's okay if the information is handwritten? As the download is a PDF, i don't see any other alternative but I just want to make sure before I start uploading next week.

Tim Pruzinsky 8 September 2017 - 07:41

Hi Anthony,

I assume you can, but we have always typed our information into the PDF. The IB allows you to do so (sometimes, in Google Chrome, it can be a pain to download, save, then open and type). We find Firefox works easier and faster for this form.

For example, I share the form with students electronically. They then fill it out in class by typing in their answers into the pdf. I do it in class so they don't screw it up. They then save it according to my instructions for easy upload in a shared folder (Last Name, First Name, Coversheet). From there, I can upload the WT's and the Coversheet without an issue and no handwriting is needed.

I hope that helps explain the process we use at my current school.


Anthony Sweeney 11 September 2017 - 01:44

Thanks for the reply. Yes, after playing with the pdf I was able to type into it.

Tracy Radbone 16 September 2017 - 11:15

Good afternoon
Could you clarify something, regarding whether images added to make the text in WT1 look authentic (such as an online publication) count towards word count if they contain words?
Many thanks

Tim Pruzinsky 17 September 2017 - 04:14

Hi Tracy,

This is a tough one. I tell my students that if they create a blog, for example, all the auxiliary words count. It's part of being a blog and looking like the text. However, your example is an image they have not produced. They will cite it of course. That image they've used also contains words. I think in this case, because it is not their own work, and because the image is more central/important than the language, I wouldn't count it. On the other hand, if it central to the blog/online publication, and it is being used for analysis, I would count it like I would count a quotation from a novel.


Kristie Newton 22 September 2017 - 06:14


I have a student who is interested in submitting a rewriting of various nursery rhymes in different jargon, for example Little Bo Peep as a legal case. She has approached me with this idea and I'm not sure if it is appropriate since it is a rewrite of a preexisting text. She has explained her idea and discussed how jargon can exclude people from different things (nursery rhymes are understandable by most, but when rewritten in legal they could exclude) Would this be something she could do?



Tim Pruzinsky 22 September 2017 - 06:57

Hi Kristie,

Wow! What a creative and interesting idea. Because students write multiple written tasks (4 at HL and 3 at SL), I would encourage the student to explore this option.

However, when it comes time to send them, I don't think I would suggest putting this one forth. Your concern is my concern: I worry about it because she is re-writing an original text. How much of it would be her own work and words and how much of it would be the original? I don't know and you won't until you see it.

However, it sounds fascinating, connects to what you have been teaching, and fits for Part 1 of the course. All of that seems to suggest she could move forward with it. I would wait to make further decisions (about sending it to the IB) based on what she produces.


Fiona Rhodes 27 September 2017 - 13:44

Hi David/Tim
I hope all is well. We have a new member of staff who has been focusing on different text types for IB1. Some students have produced excellent pieces. Can we use a piece of travel writing for part two WT1?

Tim Pruzinsky 28 September 2017 - 01:18

Hi Fiona,

Any text type is theoretically okay to submit to the IB for WT1. The key is that is demonstrates an understanding of course objectives and content that you studied. This is central to criterion B.

As long as the rationale makes it clear what was studied and why this comes from Part 2 of the course, as well as what objectives were achieved, I think you can proceed with enthusiasm.


Sarah Norman 13 October 2017 - 09:54

Hi both,

I am designing a two year plan for my school and I have a couple of questions.

1. Are students allowed to choose a text in translation for their primary text upon which to base their Written Task One (part 1 or 2), for example a speech by the Pope, originally in Polish and then translated into English?
2. I know that the guide states that any text type is available, but, in your opinion does that extend to, for example, writing a drama piece about the language and gender material studied in part 1?
3. Does it matter if more than one of the Written Tasks completed is on language and gender as long as what is handed in meets the rubric i.e. from parts 1/2 and parts 3/4? In addition to this, do you know if, say for HL the student needs in their folder a written task from part 1, part 2, part 3 and part 4 (i.e. one for each separate part) as long as one submitted task is on part 1/2 and one submitted task is on part 3/4. I am a little confused because the guide says, for SL: 'The content of each task must relate to a different part of the course. Therefore, at least one task must relate to part 1 or part 2, and at least one task must be based on a literary text from part 3 or part 4.'

Thank you again, both, for your help.


Tim Pruzinsky 14 October 2017 - 05:55

Hi Sarah,

Let's see if I can help provide some clarity.

1. I wouldn't. I have been advising against this for a while as the assessment tasks should be based on texts originally written in the target language (English in this case). The IB is not crystal clear about this and that's been an issue.

2. I think that's okay. A script or a screenplay that deals with material studied in Part 1 is creative and could be quite insightful. I say proceed with that one.

3. HL is a bit different from SL in this regard. At HL, I think it's okay to write a WT1 and a WT2 about the same content or literature text studied in class.

What you need to do is provide variety across the whole program. I wouldn't do this again with Part 2 of the course and never give students an opportunity to write from Part 1 or 3. That seems against the spirit of things. Give them opportunities and variety from the content you've studied. At HL, do remember that you must submit one WT from the language portion of the course (Part 1 or 2) and one WT from the literature portion of the course (Part 3 or 4). This balance is non-negotiable.

Finally, at SL, I don't think it's appropriate to write two WT1s from the same part.


Sarah Norman 16 October 2017 - 07:45

Great, thanks so much Tim. That is really helpful.

When you say 'I wouldn't do this again with Part 2 of the course and never give students an opportunity to write from Part 1 or 3', here I assume you mean that I should give students the opportunity to write from Parts 1 and 3 as well?

Thanks again, this forum really is very helpful!


David McIntyre 18 October 2017 - 08:51

Hi Sarah,

Tim is on holiday. I won't presume to speak for him, and will allow him to respond when he returns home.



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