• A comprehensive guide to English B assessment
  • Paper 1 : Productive skills - writing - how to handle the writing tasks and how the marking criteria should be applied
  • Paper 2 - Receptive skills: reading & listening - a survey of questions and techniques, for both sections of the paper
  • Oral Internal Assessment - ideas about how the Individual Interview should be handled, and about how it should be marked
  • Extended Essay - detailed advice on how to proceed, both for the Teacher / Supervisor, and for the student
  • Marking criteria - advice on how to apply them, with detailed commentary on complex aspects
  • Suggested 'Advice to Students' for each component
  • Marked samples both to indicate marking standards, and to discuss tricky evaluation issues
  • An Anatomy of Errors - surveying how problems with language may be accurately analysed and evaluated
  • Details about Grade Boundaries - the system by which marks are converted in the IB 1-7 Grades

    Assessing language, teaching language

    Assessing language competence is a profoundly difficult business. It's also a very big business - how many English Language tests alone are produced every year? The vast majority of these actually test Language Incompetence - they check a student's use of the language system, count the mistakes, subtract these from the total number of marks available - and there's your answer.

    But what about Language Competence? The problem is how one defines 'competence'. Everyone would agree that some people are more competent at using the language than others - but how do you recognise competence ? What are the indicators that could lead to an accurate, objective analysis? How do you quantify such indicators? Can you quantify them?

    Seventeen years of involvement with the IB's examination system (seven of them as Deputy Chief Examiner of English B) have convinced me that there are no easy answers to such questions. However, these years have also convinced me that there are answers - provisional, hesitant, fragmentary, perhaps, but workable; and that the IB, for all its occasional errors and flaws, genuinely strives to assess Language Competence and not just Language Incompetence.

    This section of the site aims to discuss all of these issues, and in the process give guidance to teachers of English B in how to carry out efficient, accurate assessment of students.

    Teaching for the exam?

    No, I'm not suggesting that. All of the rest of the site is concerned with teaching language and intelligent thinking without specific reference to final assessment - because language and thinking skills are valuable in themselves, whether or not the student sits a exam in the end. However, the English B exams quite justifiably and sensibly test abilities in language and the handling of ideas which are important. An analysis of the Criteria for the Orals and Paper 2 can provide valuable indications to essential skills, so paying attention to what the IB tests can aid us in deciding what needs to be taught.

    Assessment components

    Paper 1 : Productive skills - writing The language competence required here is the ability to combine command of the language system with an understanding of forms and conventions, in order to express effectively developed and organised ideas.

    Teaching writing skills has a whole section devoted to it -   - covered both Text types and Communicative purposes

    Paper 2 - Receptive skills: reading & listening Language competence in Texthandling means the capacity to demonstrate understanding of not just overall basic meaning, but also of details of some subtlety.

    Teaching reading skills is principally dealt with under the Literature section, but many of the skills suggested there are clearly of relevance to performing well in Texthandling.

    Oral Internal Assessment Language competence here involves command of the language system, fluency and intonation, and, most significantly, the ability to maintain a coherent conversation.

    Teaching oral skills is covered in several other areas of the site, such as Social skills and Activities & Tasks

    Extended essay The particular aspect of language competence required for the 4000 words of the Extended essay is to do with handling length - clear structure, methodical explanation, and coherence of style and expression.

    Teaching the Extended Essay is not something that many English B teachers usually have to deal with - there simply aren't that many essays in English B - but when you need help in advising a student about the EE, you really need it! I particularly offer advice about choosing the right topic and approach, since this is the crucial stage in counselling the student - if you get this right, the actual writing of the Essay will be fairly straightforward.

    Selected Pages


    Paper 2 Listening 30 August 2020

    The Listening Comprehension component has been removed from Paper 2 for the three exam sessions stated above. This is because...


    Orals: what's expected? 26 July 2020

    The procedure for the Oral Individual Interview, introduced by the 2018 Subject Guide, was put into practice for the first...


    Cat.2 clarified 5 June 2020

    The Coordinators Notes of September 2013 contained a clear statement defining what is, and what is not, acceptable as a...


    An excellent EE 16 October 2016

    The Extended Essay that provides the basis for this page was awarded an A. This means that it pretty well fulfilled the...

    Paper 1 16 September 2021

    Remember, here is the basic specification of the Paper 1 :-Writing paper (Paper 1 / Assessment 1)SL - 1 hr 15 min (for 250-400...

    Revising for the exam 27 March 2021

    You will have developed your skills in language and thinking by practising during the course - by reading and listening...

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