Oral IA Criteria, unpacked
Here are the Oral IA Criteria 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
HL and SL distinctions - In 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 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.
The wording of Criterion B2: Message—conversation is identical at both levels.
The wording of Criterion C: Interactive skills—communication is identical at both levels.
I have laid out the Criteria on a single sheet each for HL and SL, for ease of use during marking. Here they are...
Criterion A: Language
SL & HL (as indicated)
Headline: Command of the language
(Wording the same for all mark-bands at both levels)
- Command of the language is limited.
- Command of the language is partially effective.
- Command of the language is effective and mostly accurate.
- Command of the language is mostly accurate and very effective.
The most significant word here is "effective", and I think we can take this to mean 'effective communication' - in other words, how well does one understand what meaning is intended?
But perhaps the meaning of 'well' changes as one moves up the levels of performance? Thus...
- at the lower end of the scale, 'effective' depends on how easily one can work out what meaning is intended, or how much of an 'effort of translation' one has to make
- at the upper end of the scale, 'effective' depends on how rich or complex or subtle is the meaning conveyed - are there nuances or implications or irony, for example?
- Vocabulary is sometimes appropriate to the task. (SL 1-3 + HL 1-3)
- Vocabulary is appropriate to the task. (SL 4-6) Vocabulary is generally appropriate to the task and varied. (HL 4-6)
- Vocabulary is appropriate to the task and varied. (SL 7-9) Vocabulary is appropriate to the task and varied, including the use of idiomatic expressions. (SL 10-12 + HL 7-9)
- Vocabulary is appropriate to the task and nuanced and varied in a manner that enhances the message, including the purposeful use of idiomatic expressions. (HL 10-12)
Or, to present this in table-format :-
|1-3||Vocabulary is sometimes appropriate to the task.||Vocabulary is sometimes appropriate to the task.|
|4-6||Vocabulary is appropriate to the task.||Vocabulary is generally appropriate to the task and varied.|
|7-9||Vocabulary is appropriate to the task and varied.||Vocabulary is appropriate to the task and varied, including the use of idiomatic expressions.|
|10-12||Vocabulary is appropriate to the task and varied, including the use of idiomatic expressions.||Vocabulary is appropriate to the task and nuanced and varied in a manner that enhances the message, including the purposeful use of idiomatic expressions.|
- Basic grammatical structures are used. (SL 1-3)
- Some basic grammatical structures are used with some attempts to use more complex structures. (SL 4-6 + HL 1-3)
- A variety of basic and (some HL) more complex grammatical structures is used. (SL 7-9 + HL 4-6)
- A variety of basic and more complex grammatical structures is used effectively. (SL 10-12 + HL 7-9)
- A variety of basic and more complex grammatical structures is used selectively in order to enhance communication. (HL 10-12)
Or, to present this in table-format :-
|1-3||Basic grammatical structures are used.||Some basic grammatical structures are used with some attempts to use more complex structures.|
|4-6||Some basic grammatical structures are used with some attempts to use more complex structures.||A variety of basic and some more complex grammatical structures is used|
|7-9||A variety of basic and more complex grammatical structures is used||A variety of basic and more complex grammatical structures is used effectively.|
|10-12||A variety of basic and more complex grammatical structures is used effectively.||A variety of basic and more complex grammatical structures is used selectively in order to enhance communication.|
There are two factors here - the basic/complex continuum; and the 'used' continuum (i.e. from "attempts" to "selectively")
- basic/complex - but which sorts of grammar structure do we place where in this continuum?
- 'used' - the emphasis here is on "how skilfully or competently are different types of grammar used?"
(Wording the same for all mark-bands at both levels)
- Language contains errors in basic structures. Errors interfere with communication.
- Language is mostly accurate for basic structures but errors occur in more complex structures. Errors at times interfere with communication.
- Language is mostly accurate. Occasional errors in basic and in complex grammatical structures do not interfere with communication
- Language is mostly accurate. Minor errors in more complex grammatical structures do not interfere with communication.
Two interpretations are significant here:
- there is an assumption here that learning a language proceeds in a methodical sequence from 'basic' to 'complex', and that errors are neatly eliminated in that progression. This is observably not always so - some learners may handle complex structures well, but still display errors in poorly-grasped basics. Accordingly, one may sometimes have to negotiate between mark-bands and come to a compromise mark.
- the term 'interfere with communication' is important, and the sequence here is fairly clear. Privately, I would add the qualifier 'significantly' to the 7-9 mark-band - as in 'do not interfere significantly'
Pronunciation & intonation
(some relationship between SL & HL, but not very clear)
|1-3||Pronunciation and intonation are influenced by other language(s). Mispronunciations are recurrent and interfere with communication.||Pronunciation and intonation are generally clear but sometimes interfere with communication.|
|4-6||Pronunciation and intonation are influenced by other language(s) but mispronunciations do not often interfere with communication.||Pronunciation and intonation are generally clear.|
Pronunciation and intonation are easy to understand.
|Pronunciation and intonation are mostly clear and do not interfere with communication|
|10-12||Pronunciation and intonation are easy to understand and help to convey meaning.||Pronunciation and intonation are very clear and enhance communication|
Notice the two elements here:-
- the factor of "influenced by other languages" - this should not be seen as accent as such, but rather details of the sounds of other languages which directly affect proper pronunciation of English (e.g. l/r distinction). In fact, such problems may occur at any level of language, not just at the lower SL levels: there may be small residual flaws in pronunciation even in students with an otherwise faultless production of English. Such small flaws will only lower the mark slightly within, say, the top mark band.
- the emphasis on 'not interfering with communication' - the key value judgement is how easily the listener understands.
Criterion B1: Message – visual stimulus / literary extract
(distinction between SL and HL exists but is rather blurred)
Linkage to target culture
Note that 'linkage to target culture' is expected at SL, but is not expected at HL. This indicates that at SL students should explicitly explain what the visual stimulus may tell us about some aspect of the target culture; while at HL, the literary extract is the central 'target culture' subject matter in itself (which may of course include some reference to the background target culture if that is what the extract includes ... this marked under the 'Content' bullet point concerning "observations and opinions".)
Criterion B2: Message – conversation
SL & HL
Answering the questions
- The candidate consistently struggles to address the questions.
- The candidate’s responses are mostly relevant to the questions.
- The candidate’s responses are consistently relevant to the questions and show some development.
Note the top descriptor - the reference to 'development' means that the indicator will be how full the answers are, how much the student contributes beyond a simple relevant response.
‘appropriate’ + developed ?
- Some responses are appropriate and are rarely developed.
- Most responses are appropriate and some are developed.
- Responses are consistently appropriate and developed.
What difference might there be between 'appropriate' here, and 'relevant' in the headline bullet point above? Well, not a lot really ... though it may help to consider 'relevant' as concerning a response which fits vaguely with the general subject area, while 'appropriate' concerns whether the response actually contributes something concrete to moving the conversation forward.
(To illustrate, in response to the question "What do you think about racism?", the response "Well, it involves race" would be relevant but not much use; whereas the response "Well, it seems to cause a lot of problems" would be appropriate because it sets out to explore what is obviously a controversial area. And it should not need saying that 'appropriate' should not be taken to mean 'politically correct'!)
‘scope & depth’
- Responses are limited in scope and depth.
- Responses are mostly broad in scope and depth.
- Responses are broad in scope and depth including personal interpretations and/or attempts to engage the interlocutor.
Notice particularly that the top band refers to "personal interpretations" and "engage the interlocutor" - these suggest that the rather generalised concepts of "scope and depth" may be interpreted along the lines of how lively and stimulating the ideas are and/or how much the student interacts actively with the interlocutor's ideas (e.g. asking questions back in order to clarify the initial question, or disagreeing).
Criterion C: Interactive skills - communication
SL & HL
Comprehension and interaction
- Comprehension and interaction are limited.
- Comprehension and interaction are mostly sustained.
- Comprehension and interaction are consistently sustained.
In summary, this bullet point comes down to how much the student contributes to the flow of the conversation - whether the student understands the other person's questions and ideas in the first place, and then how much they have to contribute.
Nature of responses
- The candidate provides limited responses in the target language.
- The candidate provides responses in the target language and mostly demonstrates comprehension.
- The candidate provides responses in the target language and demonstrates comprehension.
Not perhaps the most helpful of bullet points, this... One would absolutely expect that a Language B student knew enough about the target language to respond in English (although I once heard one who didn't... but that's another story!); and if the student can respond, this would usually indicate some degree of comprehension. Still, the top two descriptors must apply, even if they don't discriminate much.
- Participation is limited. Most questions must be repeated and/or rephrased.
- Participation is mostly sustained.
- Participation is sustained with some independent contributions.
Effectively, this is a re-phrasing of the headline descriptor. Note the reference to "independent contributions" - an indicator of good performance is the degree to which a student can take an active role in the conversation, introducing new directions and unexpected ideas.