Farewell to the IOC!

Saturday 12 October 2019

Goodbye or good riddance?

It is clear from some of the questions we have been getting, that many of you are preparing for the final ever round of IOCs.  For some of you this may be the last of hundreds you have done over the years; for others it will be the first and last time you have run this assessment.   

As we prepare to say goodbye to the IOC, there will be some mixed feelings: some teachers have grown to love it, seeing it as a sort of old and faithful hound that’s been by their side for years, flawed and doddery perhaps, but reassuringly familiar and dependable; others are shaking in excited anticipation of that moment when they can press stop on that last ever recording and crack open the champagne, waving goodbye to a time-consuming assessment that created a great deal of pressure and stress for teachers and students. 


Whichever view you take, it is of course important that the students taking this last ever set of IOCs are given the same level of support in their preparation as all those who have gone before.  To that end, and as a kind of nostalgic farewell, here are our top ten tips for taking the IOC:

10 Tips for Taking the IOC

  1. Have a plan for the 20 minutes:  while you don’t know which text or extract you are going to receive, you should know how you are going to use your 20 minutes in the preparation room.  This will be different for different people but might be something like: 5 minutes read through with initial annotations; 10 minutes close annotation and brainstorming of key ideas; 5 minutes structuring and colour coding the text. 
  2. Have a controlling idea:  be clear about what is most important in the text and be ready to identify one central idea that will direct your commentary; this will be your thesis or line of argument.  This should connect the most striking elements of HOW the text is written with the most significant EFFECTS created. 
  3. Have a clear structure:  before you go to deliver your commentary, you need to know your route through the text.  It could be a linear approach which follows the development of the passage where you organise the sections of your commentary around the points at which there is some kind of shift - of subject, action, theme, stanza, atmosphere and tone etc. If you choose this approach, be careful not to lapse into paraphrase of description.  Or you could take a conceptual approach which is organised around the identification of particular features of content and style. If you choose this approach, make sure your structure is logical and remember to focus directly on the text and try to avoid repetition.
  4. Use colour: many students use different colours to highlight the parts of the text they will use for their different ideas; this approach can be very effective as it helps students find the relevant quotations quickly while they are delivering their commentary.  
  5. Signpost your approach:  don’t assume your listener knows how you are approaching and structuring your commentary.  Be explicit and use first person (e.g. "First I will be talking about….then I will move on to my second main point which is….finally, I will be exploring how…")  Signpost these ideas at the start as you outline your approach and throughout as you move from one idea to the next.
  6. Know the time: practice timekeeping - as well as a mock or practice IOC, you should practice delivering 8 minute commentaries on a variety of extracts so you have a good sense of what the time feels like and how to best break it down (e.g. 1 minute introduction, 2 minutes per idea, 1 minute conclusion).  Once in the commentary, keep an eye on the time and pace yourself so that you cover all of your most important ideas.
  7. Pause and think: if you need to pause, do so; if you need to correct yourself, do so.  It is good to show you are thinking while doing your commentary, rather than just speaking at 100mph without considering what you are saying.  If you lose your way, don’t panic. Just pause, retrace your steps, go back to your plan and pick up the thread, or move on to your next idea.
  8. Stay rooted in the text: remember this part of the course is called ‘Detailed Study’ so do not move away from close study of the text for any length of time. Highlight literary aspects as much as you can but remember that it is not an exercise in ʻfeature spottingʼ. Marks are awarded for exploration of the impact of literary features or the way they shape the meaning of the extract. 
  9. Get to the text quickly in the HL Discussion: you may be asked a fairly broad question and it is your job to get to specifics in the text as quickly as possible. As above, stay rooted in the text and remember this part of the course is called ‘Detailed Study’. Aim to get to a specific example in your second or third response and try and refer to a range of specific parts of the text throughout the discussion. 
  10. Go for depth rather than length in the HL discussion: aim to be incisive and concise - you want to show you know the text in detail and hopefully have a sophisticated appreciation, but remember you are also assessed at how well you answer questions.  Therefore, you want to make sure you have the opportunity to answer several different questions, not just one or two.  Don’t ramble - once you have answered, stop and let your teacher ask another question. 

We wish all students and teachers all the best as they prepare and take the final ever IOC examinations.   


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