Part 4: A student guide

This page is written with the students in mind. It presents advice of the kind listed on the previous page but in a way that will hopefully make more sense to them.


Standing at the front of a classroom about to deliver a presentation can be a nerve racking thing - for teachers as well as students! And in some respects the Part 4 Individual Oral Presentation might feel more unnerving than the Part 2 Individual Oral Commentary because of the fact that you have an audience in front of you.

The notes below, which you can download and print by clicking the link at the bottom, are designed to make sure that you are fully prepared for the IOP, and to help do as well as possible in the final assessment. Do remember, however, that this is one area of the course over which you can have quite a lot of ownership, and as such is an opportunity for you to pursue an area of interest in a work you have particularly enjoyed. To that end, if you set about it in the right way, the Part 4 IOP can in fact be quite rewarding, perhaps even fun!


What is the Individual Oral Presentation?

The Individual Oral Presentation (IOP) is a task you will complete at the end of your study of the 3 Part 4 'Options' works. It take the form of a 10-15 minute presentation in which you explore an issue that has arisen out of the works studied, and in which you have taken a personal interest. The topic could be concerned with just one of the texts, or it could compare. You can choose which topic you want to speak about, as well as the format in which you want to present your ideas. It could take the form of a formal, critical approach, one that is more 'creative' - or a mixture of both. It is important to make sure that:

  • the topic is focused and specific, rather than general - and that you have an interest in it
  • you think carefully about how to present in a way that engages the attention of your audience

You will need to work alongside your teacher, who will provide you with advice, but you need to take ownership of the process all the way through - from selecting the topic, working on the presentation and the final delivery of it.

How do I come up with a topic?

As stated above, it is vital that you have an interest in the aspect you ultimately choose. As soon as you begin your study of Part 4 texts, therefore, keep a record of potential ideas somewhere in your notes. Something interesting may emerge from your own independent reading, from something your teacher or another student says, or something that emerges naturally from class discussion.

What kind of topics might I choose?

The answer to this is - almost anything, as long as it allows you to fulfil the assessment criteria in as effective a way as possible. Official suggestions from the IB are as follows:

  • the cultural setting of the work(s) and related issues
  • thematic focus
  • characterization

  • techniques and style

  • the author’s attitude to particular elements of the works (for example, character(s), subject matter)

  • the interpretation of particular elements from different perspectives.

(Literature A Subject Guide, p.57)


(More specific examples can be found on page 58 of the Subject Guide)

n practice this means that you should choose a topic closely connected to one or more of the works studied, which allows you to demonstrate 'knowledge and understanding' in as detailed and interesting a way possible. Here are some examples from past students:

Work Presentation focus
The Fall of the House of Usher, by Edgar Allan Poe An assessment of the way typically gothic elements are revealed through the presentation of Usher's house. The presentation made use of gothic architecture and painting.
I Know why the Caged Bird Sings,by Maya Angelou An extract from the student's autobiographical writing in which she explores the meaning of books in her life. This was used as a way to examine the importance of literature to the central character's development in the text.
One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest, by Ken Kesey A exploration of the personality, role and significance of the character of Nurse Ratched in both the novel and the film adaptation.
Selected Poems by Tony Harrison An investigation into the use of irony in Harrison's poetry, including a pastiche of the author's work.
The Road by Cormac Mcarthy Question: in what ways is natural setting important to the presentation of the relationship between the father and the son. Comparisons were made with screen shots from the film version.
No Exit, J P Sartre Using 3 paintings as points of reference, a presentation that explored the importance of the motif of eyes to the play.
The Wasp Factory, Iain Banks A performed monologue, written from the point of view of Frank's father, in which he 'explains' his treatment of Frank. This was accompanied with an analysis of their relationship and its development in the novel.
Maus, Art Spiegelman A defense of the novel against the charge that it is not a 'literary' work.
Short Stories, Gabriel Garcia Marquez The evolution of Magic Realism as a genre, and its presentation in 2 of Marquez's short stories. References were made to both visual art and music.
Various Hypertext Novels In what ways is the subject of time presented in the form of 3 hypertext novels? An 'interactive' presentation.

How should I go about preparing?

As with any extended piece of work, whether oral or written, it is crucial that you set about the process in a careful, methodical and detailed manner. As suggested approach is as follows

Stage one: choose a topic

As stated above, the topic needs to be one in which you feel personally engaged, not least because if you are interested in it then it is likely your audience will be too. Make sure the topic is associated directly with the text, even if you are choosing to talk about something biographical or contextual because you need to be able to demonstrate detailed 'knowledge and understanding' of the work in question - not only, for example, the period in which it was written.

Furthermore, make sure that the topic allows you to 'say' something about the work. It is important that skills of analysis, interpretation and/or evaluation are present in the presentation. If it amounts to nothing more than a 'description' of a character or theme then you are obviously not going to do very well. Some students find it appropriate to set themselves a question, a bit like an essay, so that there is something for them to argue.

Stage two: research

Once your topic is decided, ideally in consultation with your teacher, you need to set about making notes. This will probably involve:

  • re-reading the work, looking out for anything that is relevant to the chosen topic. You can pick out important events or moments, helpful quotations and write down points of analysis
  • doing any necessary research e.g. into the literary, historical or cultural context of the work
  • reading book reviews or (perhaps) secondary criticism that provide you with alternative ways of seeing it
  • (perhaps) exploring associated art work, or music
  • (perhaps) exploring film, television or radio clips

Stage three: decide on a format

As you make your notes on the topic, give thought to the way in which you think it would be best to present your ideas. Students often gravitate towards PowerPoint, or an equivalent but it may not be the most effective means of exploring your topic, nor of engaging your audience. Remember that one third of the marks are awarded for your presentation skills, so you want to give as much thought to the format as you do the content. You may wish to consider, therefore, the role that could be played by any of the following:

  • elements of drama, such as a dramatic monologue, role play, costume or symbolic props
  • the use of images - whether famous paintings, photographs or art work you have made yourself
  • speeches
  • your own creative writing
  • reference to film or television clips
  • the use of music

It is important to think of the topic first, and then the format. It may be, for example, that you happen to be a good actor, but this does not necessarily mean that a dramatic performance is the best way of exploring your idea. However, equally, the automatic use of PowerPoint is something to be resisted unless you are confident that you can make use of it in an appropriately and effective manner. This means, essentially, not including lots of text and as much as possible using it as a visual aid to the content you will deliver orally. The focal point for the presentation should be you, not the screen.

Do remember that if you choose to include a more 'creative' element, make sure that you accompany it with a more formal analysis that explores, among other things the intention behind the creative segment.

Stage four: develop a plan

Once you have decided on the topic and the way in which you intend to present it, you will need to give considerable time to the organisation and development of your ideas. Remember that you have between 10-15 minutes and you want to make sure of a couple of things:

  • that there is a sense of development, not just a repetition of one or two core ideas
  • that the time allocated to each section takes into account the most effective way to engage and sustain the interest of the audience

It is also important to make clear the point/s you want to make in each section. This means that your points should not amount to a description or explanation only, but an analysis, interpretation and evaluation of the material. To this end, you may find it helpful top download this pro-forma planning document, which will help you organise your ideas, structure them and clarify the points you intend to make.

Stage 5: delivery!

You are always in a good position to recognise the hallmarks of successful presentations because you encounter them very frequently. Whether from principals, teachers, or students students, you will probably be sat in front of someone delivering information when you are at school on a daily basis. For this reason, you will know that good presentation technique comprises of the following kinds of elements:

  • maintaining eye contact: there are few things less engaging than a talk given by someone who does not look at you
  • knowing your material: if you read verbatim from a sheet or if you learn your talk off by heart, you will automatically adopt a rather artificial register that, once again, will detach you from your audience. The best practice is to know your material well, but use notes that keep you on track. When in doubt, turn your speech into bullet points, not written in complete sentences. This will make you do a little more work on the day, but will almost certainly improve the sense of engagement with the people you are talking to.
  • talking at an appropriate pace: nerves often result in people speeding up and someimes being hard to follow. Take deep breaths before you start to talk, take time to let points sink in with your audience by including judicious pauses, and above all, ensure that what you are saying makes sense.

How will I be marked?

If you do not know where to find the assessment criteria, ask your teacher for a copy. There are three bands, each marked out of 10:

A: Knowledge and Understanding

  • How much knowledge and understanding does the student show of the work(s) used in the presentation?


B: Presentation

  • How much attention has been given to making the delivery effective and appropriate to the presentation?
  • To what extent are strategies used to interest the audience (for example, audibility, eye contact, gesture, effective use of supporting material)?

C: Language

  • How clear and appropriate is the language?

  • How well is the register and style suited to the choice of presentation? (“Register” refers, in this context, to the student’s use of elements such as vocabulary, tone, sentence structure and terminology appropriate to the presentation.)

To download a copy of these notes, click here.

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