Text type expectations

What should we be teaching our students about the text types required under the new Subject Guide (2018, for first assessment in 2020)? To put it another way, how will they be expected to handle each text type in Paper 1: Productive skills - writing? Basically, what instructions do we give the students ... what plans do we provide them, so that they can construct something that will fly ?

Command of text types is assessed principally under Criterion C: Conceptual understanding (see the page Writing criteria, unpacked ). This criterion includes the following general areas:

  • context, audience, purpose - normally, as set out in the question
  • register and tone - generally implied by the norm in the type of text, but may be altered by the nature of the task
  • conventions - the standard techniques of format, address, rhetoric, structure, etc

The task involves a "choice of text type" which demonstrates "appropriate" understanding, and handling, of the general areas. So, students have to be taught how these general areas apply to each of the text types - and then how to adapt the general characteristics of each text type to the particular requirements of each specific task / question.

This page sets out to provide brief summary notes about the likely expectations of how Conceptual understandings should be applied to each text type included in the IB-specified list of text types for exams (see the page Exam list of text types ).

NOTE

Everything in this page is 'work in progress'. We will not begin to be sure how the handling of text types will be marked until after the first exam session in May 2020. So, the ideas proposed in this page are carefully considered inferences - but they remain personal interpretations.

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Key text types, listed

Click on the required text type in the list below in order to jump to the summary of expectations

Article (newspaper, magazine)

Blog

Brochure, leaflet, pamphlet

Diary (private) / journal

Email / letter

Essay

Interview

News report

Opinion column / letter to the editor

Personal statement / cover letter

Proposal

Report (official)

Review

Set of instructions, guidelines

Social media posting / online forums

Speech, presentation, debate

Article (newspaper, magazine) 

context, audience, purpose -

* the context of the article will usually be set out briefly in the question: e.g the background to the subject matter of the article

* the audience will usually be indicated by where the article will be published: e.g. 'your school magazine'

* the fundamental purpose of any article is to inform or to report - but we may also include 'interest', 'explore', 'study'. Note that strong opinions or attitudes would probably not be expected - such purposes would probably come under 'opinion column' (qv)

register and tone -

* will have a semi-formal to formal register

* will have a tone appropriate to task e.g. suitably serious

conventions -

* will have a relevant headline/title

* will have an introduction intended to catch the readers’ attention

* will use techniques that engage and interest readers e.g. direct address

Blog 

context, audience, purpose -

* the context will usually be set out in the question e.g. the issue which is to inspire the blog entry

* the audience may be assumed to be people interested in the subject matter OR (youngish?) internet-interested people

* the generic purpose of blogs is to interest / entertain / amuse / be provocative & stimulating - in general, NOT solemn

register and tone -

* will use a semi-formal to informal register

* the usual tone will be personal - chatty, direct and unpretentious

conventions -

* will have an interesting, catchy title for the entry

* will include first person statement and/or narration

* will seek to engage the reader, eg through direct address, a lively and interesting style etc

* will use 'typical blog techniques' e.g. a provocative closing statement, leading to an invitation to comment / response

Brochure, leaflet, pamphlet 

context, audience, purpose -

* the context will usually be set out in the question e.g. the problem to which the pamphlet is going to propose a solution

* the audience will usually be pretty clearly defined by how context and purpose are linked e.g. if the context is the need for healthy exercise among young people and the purpose is to promote a new sports centre, the audience will be... young people (who may or may not be interested in exercise!)

* the basic purpose of these text types is publicity - and this can be divided broadly into 'inform' (e.g. health information) and 'promote' (e.g. selling something)... although typically both elements are required in different proportions

register and tone -

* will use a semi-formal to formal register

* the tone will tend to be simple and direct - i.e. to convey the sense of honest address

conventions -

* will have an engaging title, which attracts attention

* will have a short introduction and a conclusion

* will identify ideas with format techniques such as sub-headings, bullet points, numbering etc

* will include practical aspects of the brochure like “contact us”, or “a phone number and/or an email address”.

NOTE: Graphic design as such is not marked

Diary (private) / journal 

context, audience, purpose -

* the overall context may be assumed to be the writer's own life - but the question will probably set some particular situation around which the entry should be invented e.g. 'you have had an argument with a good friend'. (In exams, whether or not the "writer's own life" is the student's real one, or is completely invented, does not matter at all - it merely has to be credible.)

* the question of 'audience' is the key distinction perceived by IB between 'diary' and 'journal' - a diary is assumed to be essentially private i.e. written for the author's eyes only; whereas a journal may be written for possibly public reading (e.g. a scientist's journal of experiments and data-collection).

* the purpose will generally be to 'record' some experiences of personal significance - but what sorts of experiences are required will be indicated in the question. One way of stating the distinction between the two text types is that a diary is anecdotal (dealing with intimate personal feelings) while a journal is intellectual (dealing with personal reactions to more public concepts and arguments).

register and tone -

* will use a generally informal register

* the tone will be personal, frank and open - e.g. emotions may be described clearly and with feeling

conventions -

* will include the date and/or day

* will use first person narration

* will have a closing statement to round off the entry

* will avoid self-evident explanatory phrases or sentences, e.g. will use “I saw Alicia”, not “I saw Alicia, my best friend”

E-mail / letter 

Email

context, audience, purpose -

* the question will usually describe a background situation, which the writer wishes to communicate to...

* ... a specified friend / acquaintance (note that e-mail tasks usually require individual communication with one person only, as opposed to some kind of general message to a collective audience)

* the purpose will usually be to express and explore personal attitudes and experience: usually of the writer, but perhaps involving advice to the reader

register and tone -

* will adopt a consistently informal register

* will adopt a lively, engaging tone and style, perhaps with some “youth-speak” eg “I’m good”, “Can’t wait” etc

conventions -

* will maintain clear sense of address to a specific person

* will have an appropriate opening salutation

* will have an appropriate closing salutation.

Formal Letter

context, audience, purpose -

* the question will usually provide the context - a background situation, which causes some kind of issue, about which the writer wishes to communicate some significant idea

* the audience will be identified, but may well not be known personally (in contrast with the usual audience of an e-mail) - the letter is likely to be addressed to a post or administrative position, rather than a known individual (as exemplified by the use of 'Dear Sir/Madam')

* the purpose will usually be to present an argument or state a position, most probably about some general social procedure or system - to illustrate, #1: complaining about poor service in a shop; or #2: suggesting how the Town Hall can serve the public better. The writer may have personal emotions to express, but these are subordinated to the impersonal technique of objective, convincing argument

register and tone -

* will adopt a consistently formal register

* will adopt a suitably serious and respectful tone

conventions -

* will clearly identify the recipient (by name, and/or address, and/or role/title etc.)

* will have a date (and sender’s address)

* will have opening and closing salutations

Essay 

context, audience, purpose -

* in relation to an essay, the term 'context' may involve two elements: the general area to be discussed, and/or how the essay has been set. These may be combined (e.g. "Your English teacher has shown a video about the dangers fof online gaming, and has set an essay about the subject..."), and may include the actual title of the essay (e.g. "The dangers of online gaming are much exaggerated. Discuss"). If no title is given, the student should make one up, thus defining clearly what the essay is about.

* the audience is assumed to be educated and informed, and capable of understanding sophisticated language

* the purpose will usually be to analyse / explore / discuss the topic, as required by the question - so students should pay close attention to the 'action verbs' in the task

register and tone -

* will adopt a semi-formal to formal register

* will have an appropriately serious tone

conventions -

* will have a relevant title

* will use techniques that enable the reader to follow the arguments easily, e.g. methodical structure using cohesive devices

* will have a distinct introduction and conclusion

Interview 

(It is assumed that for English B tasks, the expected type of interview will be the Embedded, not the Transcribed)

context, audience, purpose -

* the context of any interview task will usually involve who is to be interviewed, and why... and the combination of these will usually indicate the angle that the interview should take. To illustrate: "a famous musician visiting your town... interview because former student of your school... so, how did school influence his/her career?"

* the task will normally indicate where the interview is to be published, and this will define (to some extent) the audience e.g. "in your school magazine" will suggest a different audience to "a well-known online music magazine".

* as with 'Article' (qv), the prime purpose of an interview is to inform or report - but good interviews manage also to explore or even probe: we want to discover something intriguing and personal about the person interviewed, don't we?

register and tone -

* will adopt a semi-formal to formal register

* the tone should express interest in the person interviewed, and probably respect, even fascination - after all, why interview someone who is not worth the effort?

conventions -

* will have a relevant headline/title

* will have an introduction and a conclusion

* will use a style aimed at involving and interesting the reader

* will refer to the interview, including direct quotations;

NOTE: interview tasks will usually not be a verbatim transcript - but this has not been ruled out by IB

News report 

context, audience, purpose -

* in a way, the 'context' of a news report is actually the point of a news report, its main content - a news report describes and explains the very context that makes it necessary. In exams, the task will describe some kind of general context or situation, and the student will have to invent the specific story and concrete details

* as with most Media text types, where the report is going to be published will define the expected audience - the more 'serious' the publication venue, the more sophisticated the audience should be assumed to be

* evidently, the prime purpose of a news report is to inform, factually and objectively - although almost always there will be some subjective valuation, indicating why the facts of the story are of importance

register and tone -

* will have a semi-formal to formal register

* will have a generally impersonal tone, and use a neutral/objective style (eg presenting ideas without personal opinion of the writer)

conventions -

* will have a title/headline

* will have an introduction and conclusion

* will have a clearly structured layout (eg sub-headings, short brief paragraphs/sections, etc)

Opinion column / letter to the editor 

Opinion column

context, audience, purpose -

* the question will usually provide the context - a general situation, which results some kind of issue, on which the writer chooses to take a particular stance or judgement

* the audience will be defined by the publication context - but can also be assumed be reasonably informed about the issue in question, and to have the developed intelligence and the language skills to be able to handle quite complex argument

* the purpose of such columns is to discuss in a provocative and stimulating way - and explore the issue in some depth

register and tone -

* will have a semi-formal to formal register

* will have a tone appropriate to task e.g. suitably serious... or possibly, provocative and amusing, depending on the approach to the task required, or taken

conventions -

* will have a relevant headline/title

* will probably use first-person statement, but not necessarily

* will have an introduction intended to catch the readers’ attention

* will use techniques that engage and interest readers e.g. direct address

Letter to the Editor

context, audience, purpose -

* the question will usually provide the context: typically, that the the Editor has published something with which the writer of the letter strongly agrees/disagrees

* the principal audience is the Editor, to whom the letter should be clearly addressed. However, there is an assumption that the letter may be published, and so the letter may also be written so as to be persuasive to the general reader

* the prime purpose of such a Letter is to present the writer's particular, personal point of view - as persuasively and convincingly as possible, and probably in contrast to other controversial points of view

register and tone -

* will adopt a semi-formal to formal register

* will adopt an appropriately serious tone

conventions -

* will refer to the original article/issue raised

* will set out to give interesting opinions in an engaging style

* will include a greeting and a closing salutation

Personal statement / cover letter 

Personal statement

context, audience, purpose -

* A 'personal statement' is understood to be a specific type of essay generally requested of an applicant (e.g. a student applying to university / scholarship / programme; or a professional for a job). The subject matter, and approach to be taken, will be given in the task - typically, to discuss personal responses to a particular moral situation, or to write something generally autobiographical

* as with any essay, the audience is assumed to be educated and informed, and capable of understanding sophisticated language

* the purpose is actually to display clear thinking and effective argument, in order to impress and be successful in the application. In order to impress, one should simply write a convincing Essay (qv) or a stimulating Opinion Column (qv), depending on the requirements of the actual task

register and tone -

* will adopt a semi-formal to formal register

* will have an appropriately serious tone

conventions -

* will have a relevant title

* will use techniques that enable the reader to follow the arguments easily, e.g. methodical structure using cohesive devices

* will have a distinct introduction and conclusion

Cover letter

context, audience, purpose -

* the question / task will explain the context - i.e. what needs to be 'covered' and why.

* as with the Formal Letter, the audience will be identified, but may well not be known personally - the letter is most likely to be addressed to a post or administrative position, rather than a known individual (as exemplified by the use of 'Dear Sir/Madam')

* presumably, the purpose is to introduce other enclosed or attached materials, and to relate them to whatever is the overall purpose of the correspondence (... but all this seems to require an improbable amount of invention, in my view! How likely is this text type?)

register and tone -

* will adopt a consistently formal register

* will adopt a suitably serious and respectful tone

conventions -

* will clearly identify the recipient (by name, and/or address, and/or role/title etc.)

* will have a date (and sender’s address)

* will have opening and closing salutations

Proposal 

context, audience, purpose -

* the context will be explained in the question - at least, the basic background, since the main content of the proposal itself will be what the student will have to invent, based on that basic background

* the audience will, again, be specified in the question - i.e. the specific person or group of people to whom the proposal is to be addressed. Close attention should be paid to the target audience, since a key feature of a good proposal is that it is adjusted to appeal to the intended recipients

* the purpose will be defined by the context, very largely - typically, a problem exists, and so the purpose of the proposal is to solve the problem. In order to do this, a good proposal needs to be (1) relevant; (2) practical; and (3) attractive - all those aspects need to be included.

register and tone -

* will be expressed in a formal register, with perhaps semi-formal touches

* will have a tone which aims to be objectively authoritative, but also subjectively enthusiastic

conventions -

* will use a style aimed to persuade a specified audience

* will have a title which summarises the overall subject

* will have an introduction and a conclusion

* will set out the text clearly using features such as headings, short clear paragraphs, sections identified by letters/numbers/bullets, insetting etc.

NOTE:  the proposal may be presented within the framework of a letter / email - provided the features above are present.

Report (official) 

context, audience, purpose -

* the basic context will be explained in the question - and the student will then have to invent the details of the report, expanding on the basic background provided.

* the audience will, again, be specified in the question i.e. the specific person or group of people who have asked for the report. Ideally, information should be given in the question about why the report is needed, and what kind of information is expected.

* the fundamental purpose is to provide an objective, reliable account of some situation or event - methodically, clearly and efficiently. Personal and subjective reactions would not be considered appropriate.

register and tone -

* will adopt a generally formal register

* will have a tone which aims to be impersonally authoritative

conventions -

* will use a neutral/objective style (eg presents ideas and facts plainly)

* will have a title

* will have a clearly structured layout (eg a clear introduction, sub-headings, short brief paragraphs/sections, etc)

* will have a conclusion; or a recommendation if this has been required.

Review 

context, audience, purpose -

* the question is likely to propose a general context (e.g."a recently released film... which you love / hate...") - but the review itself should contain informative context (invented) about the specific subject of the review

* the audience will usually be decided by where the article will be published: e.g. 'your school magazine'

* the prime purpose of a review is to stimulate interest ... then to inform ... and finally to offer some kind of judgement (although this is likely to be a continuation of the purpose of stimulating interest)

register and tone -

* will adopt a semi-formal register

* will use a tone and style intended to engage the reader

conventions -

* will include the name of the reviewer

* will have an attractive, catchy title

* will have a short introduction and a clear conclusion

Set of instructions, guidelines 

context, audience, purpose -

* the question will set up a context that requires telling people exactly what to do in precisely which circumstances: such a context will probably be fairly commonplace, but will require thoughtful and detailed analysis of what is required

* the audience will be specified in the task, but is likely to be the Average family - competent in language and understanding, but not necessarily very sophisticated

* the purpose of both of these text types is the same: to analyse behaviour in a given situation, in order to break it down into clear and detailed advice - with the difference that the 'set of instructions' will follow a step-by-step sequence, whereas guidelines will attempt to give a coherent overview of more generalised advice

register and tone -

* will adopt a semi-formal register

* will adopt a tone which is direct, clear and supportive

conventions -

* will directly address the intended audience

* will have a clear and focused heading / title

* will include a short introduction and conclusion

* will set out the guidelines clearly, using techniques such as bullets, sub-headings, numbering, etc

Social media posting / online forums 

context, audience, purpose -

* the question will set up a context by explaining what sort of social media or what sort of online forum is involved - this will probably mean defining some sort of 'special interests' forum, concerned with a particular subject area

* the audience is likely to be specified by the kind of media/forum. If this is a special interest forum, it may be assumed that the audience is informed and familiar with subject-specific terminology ....  otherwise, one assumes that the audience will be the Average Internaut - competent in language and understanding, but not necessarily very sophisticated

* it would seem that the purpose of these two text types will be very similar: to make a public, online statement about one's personal stance / attitude / knowledge AND/OR to respond to / comment on other people's postings

register and tone -

* will adopt an informal to semi-formal register

* will adopt a tone which is lively and personal, direct and clear

conventions -

* will include first person statement and/or narration

* will seek to engage the reader, eg through direct address, a lively and interesting style etc

* will use 'typical forum techniques' e.g. references to other postings; comments about other members of the forum; etc

NOTE: do not worry that most forum postings are short: for the purpose of exam tasks, write as many words as is required by the exam rules, whether this is realistic or not. IN ADDITION: tasks will most probably not require writing a 'dialogue' between several different posts - but this has not been ruled out by IB.

Speech, presentation, debate 

context, audience, purpose -

* the context will describe a situation in which a particular type of message is to be communicated orally - this situation will not only specify the type of audience, but also the expected behaviour of the audience (e.g. whether the audience expects simply to be informed, or to be challenged, or required to make a choice...etc). The subject matter, and how it is best presented, will also be influenced by this general context

* the audience can generally be assumed to be reasonably educated and informed, and capable of understanding sophisticated language (unless some particular audience is specified in the task)

* the purpose of the text will be some mixture of 'inform' and 'persuade' (with perhaps a good dash of 'amuse & entertain' for rhetorical purposes!)

register and tone -

* will use a semi-formal to informal register

* will have an appropriately serious tone

conventions -

* will address the audience and keep contact with them throughout (eg use of “we” and “you” etc)

* will set out to catch the audience’s attention at the beginning, and leave a clear impression at the end

* will include elements of speech rhetoric eg rhetorical questions, repetition etc.

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