Hello all aspiring/current IB students!
You may have heard of Language and Literature before; perhaps you are considering taking it at HL or SL, or are currently face to face with this exciting hybrid in the IBDP. If you are looking for advice or tips about the LangLit experience, you’ve come to the right place! Having studied LangLit HL I assure you that this subject is extremely rewarding!
Language and Literature is taken by majority of students as a Group 1 subject. I chose the subject as it gave me the chance to study both literature texts, and the use of the English language in our daily lives – in advertisements, articles and even social media. It was also a refreshing break from my other HL subjects – Mathematics and Chemistry. (Note: Another senior Nicola wrote an article that showcases the IB Langlit syllabus so you can check it out for more detailed information!)
Some myths about Language and Literature
1. It’s the easy option – Lang Lit is definitely not a ‘free 7 points’ subject. Jam-packed with written tasks (our IAs), essays of different genres, lit texts and of course the most wonderful IOC, it is not for the faint hearted. That being said, it takes you on an extremely enjoyable and fulfilling journey across a spectrum of material – from understanding Shakespeare’s genius, to deciphering the hidden messages behind Sir Mix-a-lot’s Baby Got Back.
2. LangLit = No Lit – The subject is spread out pretty evenly between Language and Literature, and there is definitely no escaping essays or analysis. While there are less literature texts for LangLit than just Lit, we still go through at least four to six texts for exams and IOC. In my year they were The Great Gatsby, Wide Sargasso Sea, The Outsider, King Lear, I Know Why a Caged Bird Sings and a selection of Seamus Heaney’s poems. (They differ for HL and SL; however I think the 2016-2017 batch will cover Macbeth). You will inevitably have mixed responses towards each text, but that is really the fun of Lit! Whether you are captivated by the façade of romantic extravagance in the 1920s, or cannot fathom why potatoes make for such deep poetic inspiration, I’m sure you will learn to love some parts of each text (and burn with feministic fury over others).
3. You don’t actually have to read the texts – SparkNotes summaries may seem like your best friend at first, however you will soon realize that reading and knowing all the novels/poems is your best bet at acing this subject. It’s pretty important that you can quote within the context (knowing exactly where your quote is from) and how to explain it with reference to the whole plot! Furthermore, lessons are filled with analysis and discussions so coming unprepared for lessons will most probably see you facing the wrath of your teachers, who will definitely not be reading the text line by line during lessons.
Tips for your LangLit journey
Written Tasks (20% of grade)
For Language WTs, taking into account the rubrics, you can really do almost any topic – so pick something you are passionate about! As a die-hard Meryl Streep fan, I did a magazine article tracing her life, influence and career. You could do a movie or television review of your favourite programme, design your own feature in a tabloid magazine or draft a world-changing speech. It doesn’t hurt to read a couple of actual articles/reviews before writing your own, and you could even mimic a professional’s tone or format. Just ensure that you cite all your sources and make your content completely original. For Literature WTs, use your imagination to relate your task to your text. Take on the persona of one of the characters in a diary entry, write a hard hitting investigative newspaper article on a major event within the novel – the choice is yours!
It’s useful to remember that you have a couple of tries in Year 5 and Year 6 before you select your WT for submission, and you can’t repeat text types (e.g. If you did a newspaper article in Year 5, you aren’t encouraged to do another one in Year 6) so use the opportunity to explore and excel! For HL students, you submit either a Language WT or Literature WT, accompanied by a Critical Response Essay (If you submit a Lang WT, your CR must be Lit based and vice-versa). The CR is based on one of six questions found here. And you can use your literature texts or talk about a genre of language such as advertising. (Most people do Literature CRs based on my experience).
Further Oral Activity (FOA) (15% of grade)
Another great way for you to explore your original choice of topic that relates to the Language course! This time it’s a verbal presentation to your teacher and class (you can accompany it with power point slides or videos) but take note of the time limit. One useful tip is to use power point slides, but avoid memorising a script. Instead, write your prompts in point form and keep rehearsing so that you internalise your presentation. This assignment can be really exciting, especially since the topics of Language and Gender/Taboo/Popular Culture etc. can be readily explored in the media today and you can choose anything from hymns to rap songs.
Individual Oral Commentary (15% of grade)
It’s inescapable and inevitable – tears, frustrations and cries of pain culminate during the IOC season. Hopefully, however, it will all be followed by sheer joy, relief and pure thanksgiving. IOC is basically a Literature lucky draw and Russian roulette mixed into one. You study two (three for HL) texts in detail, but for the examination there will be only 10 envelopes to choose from, each containing a 40-line extract. The extracts can come from any part of the 2-3 texts that you studied. Keep in mind to:
- Know all the texts well (legends from generations of IB seniors have told of the dangers of ‘spotting’ the extracts)
- Don’t memorise! It is impossible to memorize scripts of analysis for all the extracts, so write down main points and study the explanations for them. After enough practice it will be less daunting!
- Practice and voice record! I found it very useful to voice record a full run of my practice IOCs. You never know the number of hesitations and grammar mistakes you make until you hear it for yourself!
- Keep calm and don’t panic: You have 10 minutes to prepare and write down your points before you record your verbal commentary. Use the time to think and analyse, even if you are unsure!
Paper 1 & 2
Combined, these make up 50% of your final LangLit grade! Of course, make sure to re-read all your texts and look at your notes. Try to think of your own original opinions during each paper, and include them to boost your response. Also consult your teachers frequently! Paper 1 is an unseen language text where you analyse (and compare for HL) non-literary text types (e.g. magazine articles, websites, book reviews and even recipes!). I prepared by making a list of all the possible text types and their features as well as the possible impact of language on audiences. Paper 2 is the Lit paper based on the novels you studied so preparation and doing practice essays is essential! Your Lit notes throughout the year will come in handy here.
That’s the end! It’s a lot to take in but you will be guided most of the way. Most importantly, don’t feel daunted by all the components and have fun! Pace yourself well and I’m sure you will enjoy it just like I did. God Bless and best of luck for your upcoming IB years!
Rachel Tan was from the graduating batch of 2015.