Core Skills

An introduction to core skills and objectives

The Language A: Literature course asks students to demonstrate a range of skills and aptitudes that test their ability to respond to literary works in various ways. The IB defines its core objectives in relation to these three main headings:

1. Knowledge and understanding

2. Analysis, synthesis and evaluation

3. Presentation and language skills

Pages 10-11 of the Subject Guide provide you with details of the ways these descriptors can be broken down.

Knowledge and understanding is present throughout each component of the course. In each of the assessment tasks, your students will be asked to demonstrate understanding of the various works they will have studied, and in the Written Assignment, the context/s in which they were written. Some tasks (such as the Written Assignment, the Individual Oral Presentation and the Paper 2 examination) are more likely to invite students to respond to elements that pervade the whole work, whereas others (such as Paper 1 and the Individual Oral Commentary) tend to focus attention on the details of particular extracts.

Analysis, Synthesis and Evaluation are terms referred to throughout the syllabus, and it is a good idea to make reference to them in your teaching as often as you can. As indicated by the Subject Guide, their presence is most keenly expected in the external assessment tasks, Paper 1 and Paper 2, as well as the Individual Oral Commentary. In each of these, students are expected to form judgments about the use and impact of elements of literary craft, and in so doing, demonstrate a capacity to think for themselves about the way they literary texts create meaning in different ways.

Presentation and Language skills are also tested in each of the components. Students need to talk and write in an appropriately formal register, as well as organise and present ideas in essays in a meaningful and purposeful way. Furthermore, in the Part 4 Individual Oral Presentation, one third of the marks are awarded for their ability to demonstrate effective oral presentation techniques that take into account task and the audience to whom they are talking.

Thinking Independently

In some respects, the first two strands owe a lot to generic ways of thinking as outlined by Benjamin Bloom in his Taxonomy of Thinking Skills(1956):



1. Knowledge

Recall/remember a series of facts or principles

2. Comprehension

Show understanding facts and ideas through précis, organisation, comparison or interpretation

3. Application

Problem solve e.g. apply knowledge of facts or ideas in new and different ways

4. Analysis

Break information down into component parts e.g. identify causes, explain effects

5. Synthesis

Bring information together by combining or comparing ideas or imagining situations in order to interpret or explain

6. Evaluation

Make judgments that demonstrate individual interpretive thinking

Moving your students into the upper levels, where for our course they are asked to make independent judgments about elements of style, or provide thematic ‘readings’ of particular works can take some time, and needs to be practised.

Throughout this site there are many references to ways of thinking about literature and one general principle you might like to adopt from the beginning is that talking about thinking and the different kinds of things that can be said about literary works – in other words from time to time making critical thinking an explicit focus in the classroom, can be a very constructive practice to adopt.

Selected Pages

The 12 step approach to any poem 8 July 2021

"You can’t write a poem out of emotion only, there must be insight."As well as sage advice for aspiring poets, Philip...

Revision ideas 12 April 2019

As the final IB exams are a yearly occurrence for teachers, it can be easy to forget that they come around just once in...

20 lesson starters... 5 February 2019

There can be little doubt that the opening few minutes of any lesson make a big difference to the quality of learning that...

Synonyms for analysis 17 January 2019

For many students, the challenge of the Literature course does not lie in reading, understanding or engaging with texts,...

An Introduction to Reader Response/TOK Lesson Plan 10 January 2019

The following lesson can be used as a way to introduce a core concept of the course - that reading as an activity involves...

The Language Criterion 23 November 2018

A question posted on this website asked for some guidance on the distinction between the level 4 and 5 descriptors for Language,...

All materials on this website are for the exclusive use of teachers and students at subscribing schools for the period of their subscription. Any unauthorised copying or posting of materials on other websites is an infringement of our copyright and could result in your account being blocked and legal action being taken against you.