Oral IA Criteria, unpacked

This page provides an overall introduction to the Oral IA Criteria used for marking.

Each individual criterion is dealt with in detail in the subordinate pages:

The analysis of each criterion is organised by bullet-point, in order to make the range of values as clear as possible. Note that:

  • the key operative descriptive terms are in red
  • I have added comments on the application of each set of descriptors, in blue
  • indicators are suggested - specific features of performance which may help to decide on mark bands.

HL and SL distinctions

The structure of the criteria is the same for both levels, but the wording and the implied values are slightly different in some aspects. Note the following:

Criterion A: Language ... there is mainly a 'one-step' difference between HL and SL - for example, under 'Grammar range', the wording of the SL 10-12 mark-band is the same as the HL 7-9 mark-band.

Criterion B1 Message - visual stimulus / literarty extract ... is largely the same at both levels, although there is some re-phrasing to respond to the fact that the task is different at each level (i.e. SL is based on a visual stimulus, HL on a literary extract). This means that the intellectual skills implied are slightly different. Also, reference to 'the target culture' is required at SL, but not at HL.

Criterion B2: Message - conversation ... the wording is identical at both levels.

Criterion C: Interactive skills—communication ... the wording is identical at both levels.

One-sheet Criteria

I have laid out the Criteria on a single sheet each for HL and SL, for ease of use during marking. Here they are...

  HL Oral Criteria one sheet 

  SL Oral Criteria one sheet 

Applying the Criteria

The Individual Interview has three sections: Part 1: Presentation, Part 2: Follow-up discussion and Part 3: General discussion. How should the criteria be applied in the three Parts?

Criterion A: Language ... should be applied throughout, to the language used in all three Parts.

Criterion B1 Message - visual stimulus / literary extract ... should only be applied to the Part 1 Presentation.

This means that the qualities of 'relevance' and 'development', which appear in both Criteria B1 and B2, could be marked differently if the performance is different in Parts 2 and 3. To illustrate, a student might do a good presentation and so receive a high mark for 'relevance' and 'development' under Crit.B1 ... but then deliver poorly explained ideas in Parts 2 & 3, and thus receive a lower mark for 'relevance' and 'development' under Crit.B2.

Criterion B2: Message - conversation ... should only be applied to Parts 2 & 3.

Criterion C: Interactive skills—communication ... should only be applied to Parts 2 & 3.

Remember that it is a basic principle of IB Criteria marking that each criterion should be considered as far as possible in isolation from the others - the mark in one should not influence the mark in another. To illustrate, a student could receive a low mark for language because of repeated flaws, but then receive a high mark for Criteria B1 & B2 because the ideas (once you've deciphered the faulty language) turn out to be very good.

Overlap in Crits.B1, B2 and C

There is some overlap in the wording of the three criteria concerned with message: particularly, with how students are expected to handle ideas. We have "observations and opinions" (crit.B1) ... "personal interpretations and/or attempts to engage" (B2) ... and "independent contributions" (C). These all sort of refer to the same idea: i.e. something like 'contributing imaginative ideas', rather than just summarising the obvious or predictable - but it is not completely clear what exact indicators are expected under the three criteria.

There is agreement among senior examiners about how these terms should be interpreted -

"observations and opinions" (Crit.B1) ... At HL - ideas which indicate thoughtful insight into the detailed wording of the extract: unfolding implied meaning in the extract. At SL - ideas which indicate thoughtful insight into what the image means: unfolding implied meaning in the image and explaining personal responses to the image's impact 

"personal interpretations and/or attempts to engage" (Crit.B2) ... ideas which are evidence of critical thinking about ideas which have emerged from the teacher's questions, or from the discussion of general ideas related to the literary text (HL) or the stimulus image (SL) - where "engage" means responding thoughtfully, even critically, to ideas suggested by the teacher.

"independent contributions" (Crit.C) ... ideas which respond actively to ideas within the questions of the teacher, most commonly by extending the subject through ideas which may be implicit but not explicit, or ideas which are loosely but creatively connected to the subject matter (which add something to the conversation)

Deciding on marks

To start with, notice that all of the criteria have a similar structure - each mark band has a 'headline descriptor' in bold (or overall definition of performance in that mark band), which is expanded with 'bullet points' (or more detailed definitions of aspects of that overall performance). For example:

Criterion A: Language

How successfully does the candidate command spoken language?  (Headline descriptor)

• To what extent is the vocabulary appropriate and varied?  (bullet point)

• To what extent are the grammatical structures varied?  (bullet point)

A marking procedure

There are no rigid rules about how the criteria should be used, but I would suggest that common good practice involves using the following procedure for each of the criteria in turn:

> Skim the headline descriptors and choose the one that fits best

This will suggest the likely mark band - although it is quite common to find yourself hovering between two headline descriptors, in which case you are going to have to do more checking of the bullet point descriptors in each.

> Check each of the bullet points under the chosen headline descriptor

Assess how well each of them fit to the student's performance.

  • If they all fit pretty well - then fine, you're definitely in the right mark band.
  • If, say, one of the descriptors doesn't fit too well, then check the equivalent bullet point in the mark band above or below, as seems appropriate - if that equivalent bullet point seems a better description, than that can be accomodated by awarding the top or bottom of the mark band, as appropriate.
  • If the bullet points mostly don't fit well, then perhaps you're going to have to think of another mark band, or make a tricky compromise between two mark bands, by perhaps awarding the very top of one or the very bottom of the other

> Choose the mark within the mark band range 

There is no fixed guidance about whether the higher or lower marks within a mark band should be chosen - so trust yourself and award the mark which seems most fair. As a crude rule of thumb and to avoid grade inflation, it may be best to award the lower mark if all the bullet point descriptors fit quite well ... and award the higher mark(s) to the extent that one or more of the descriptors fit particularly positively. 

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