Although there is no one way to guarantee a 7 on the individual oral commentary, some of the following tips help to ease the nerves and keep focus on the purpose of the task.
- Most importantly, we recommend you hold a round of mock orals in your school before conducting the real exam. This will help create a sense of confidence, and you will understand the practicalities involved in running such as exam. You will need two rooms and timetable that allows one student to prepare while the other is being tested. Remember that the final exam is the one that counts. Students cannot choose to have their mocks count for internal assessment.
- Often times, students do not know how to organize their IOC, because they do not understand whom they are talking to. Are they speaking to an examiner, their teacher or a voice-recording device? Tell students they are giving their IOC to an old friend who has come across an extract from a work they have read. This will help them take a ‘zoom-in’ approach, starting with the more basic elements of the text and becoming more detailed. (At the same time be careful to avoid an informal register with this tip.)
- Use the ‘Big 5’ as an organizing principle for the textual analysis. This will give the students focus, starting from the bigger contextual picture to a more detailed analysis of literary features. Be careful however that this does not lead to the students sounding like they are going through a checklist. The 'Big 5' in brief:
1 - Audience / purpose
2 - Theme / content
3 - Tone / mood
4 - Stylistic devices
5 - Structure
- One you have explored the bigger picture of a text and placed it within its context, you will want to 'zoom in' and look at the literary features in detail, commenting on their effects on their target audience. When analyzing poetry, you can focus on the various levels of sound and structure. Here are 5 levels of analysis:
1 - Letter level (alliteration / consonance / onomatopoeia)
2 - Syllable level (iambs / trochee / etc.)
3 - Verse level (pentameter / trimeter / etc.)
4 - Stanza (quatrain / heroic couplet / etc.)
5 - Poem structure (English sonnet / Italian sonnet / ballad / etc.)
6 - Finally, one could explore conceptual devices such as imagery, metaphor and other forms of figurative speech.
- Have an introduction and conclusion, with a guiding idea (usually a theme) around which the IOC is focused. The Point / Illustrate / Explain (PIE) method is also recommended. Like paragraphs in an essay, IOCs can contain topic sentences that support a thesis, or main idea.
- It is not enough to simply include literary terms, concepts and devices. One must explain why authors have employed certain devices. This requires a degree of interpretation that goes beyond summation. Students need to consider the how as well as the what.
- Students should speak in the present tense about the literary text that they are discussing. While the author may no longer live, the work lives on and carries meaning now, today.