New IB English Curricula 2019

By Karin Chun Taite

(Head of Academics and English Literature tutor at The Edge Learning Center)

The International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO) has announced that it will be launching a new set of curricula for IB English A Literature and IB English A Language & Literature in 2019. The details have not all be settled, but here is what we know so far:

IB logo

1. When does it start?

The new curricula for IB Lit and IB Lang/Lit will first be taught in 2019. The first set of exams for these curricula will be in 2021.

2. Who is affected?

Students graduating the IB in 2021 will be the first cohort to go through the new curricula. Students taking the IB exams in 2018, 2019, and 2020 will still use the old curriculum.

3. How do the assessments change?

The current IB English curricula each have 5 major assessment components:

LiteratureLanguage & Literature 
Individual Oral Presentation (IOP)Further Oral Activities (FOAs)Internal Assessment
Individual Oral Commentary (IOC)Individual Oral Commentary (IOC)Internal Assessment
Written AssignmentWritten TasksExternal Assessment
Paper 1 ExamPaper 1 ExamExternal Assessment
Paper 2 ExamPaper 2 ExamExternal Assessment

Under the new IBO regulations, curricula undergoing revision are limited to 3 components for Standard Level (SL) students and 4 components for Higher Level (HL) students.

For English, the IBO is aiming to create more consistency between Lit and Lang/Lit curricula. This means both courses will use the same syllabus structure and assessment components, although the content covered will differ.

Here is what we know about the new assessment components:

Internal Assessment

In both curricula, the Internal Assessment (assessed by teachers in school) will change the most. The IBO is essentially combining the IOP and IOC into one Individual Oral Assessment.

The IOP is a 10-15 minute oral presentation on a text or a topic studied in class. The parameters are wide open, so almost any analytical, research, or creative presentation that shows textual understanding is acceptable as long as the teacher approves it.

The IOC is an oral commentary and discussion of specific texts studied in depth in class. Students receive an excerpt of a text and must, in 20 minutes, come up with an analysis which they then deliver orally to the teacher. This presentation is followed by a short discussion of the excerpt with the teacher. HL Lit students additionally must engage in a 10 minute discussion of one of their other IOC texts.

The new Individual Oral Assessment will still focus on close reading analysis of how texts create meaning but will also allow students to choose the excerpt(s) and the direction of analysis. The new oral assessment will require students to compare two texts. Students will also be encouraged to place their analysis and comparison in the context of a local or global issue in order to explore the relevance of texts to their own lives, communities, and global interests.

IOPIOCIndividual Oral Assessment
• choice of text• no choice of text• choice of text
• choice of line of inquiry• line of inquiry limited to close reading analysis• choice of line of inquiry
• some time in class to prepare• most preparation occurs outside class; 20 minutes to prepare on the day• some time in class to prepare
• broad scope (analysis, research, or creative interpretation)• narrow scope (close reading analysis)• combined scope: both close reading analysis and global contextualization
• comparative focus on 2 texts

Paper 1 Exam

Currently, the Paper 1 exam focuses on close reading analysis and argument construction in relation to an unseen text. Students are given a choice from a pair of unseen texts and then have 90 minutes (SL) or 120 minutes (HL) to write a close reading commentary essay. For Lit students, the choice is between a poem and a prose extract. For Lang/Lit SL students, the choice is between two non-literary texts (e.g. an article, an advertisement, a comic strip). Lang/Lit HL students choose between two pairs of texts and then must produce a comparative analysis of the two texts they have chosen.

In the new Paper 1 format, the focus will still be on close reading analysis of an unseen passage. However, the range of genres and text types eligible for analysis will increase; students may encounter any genre or text type. SL students will still have a choice between two possible texts, however now HL students will only be given one text on the assumption that they can analyze any unseen text. Lang/Lit HL students will not longer have to write a comparative analysis; their exam will be a one-passage commentary like all the other levels. Guiding questions will still be provided for SL students. There is a suggestion that the timing of the Paper 1 exam will change, but no details are currently available on that subject.

Lit Paper 1 (current)Lang/Lit Paper 1 (current)New Paper 1
• unseen text commentary• unseen text commentary• unseen text commentary
• SL/HL: choice between 2 texts
• text options only include prose and poetry
• SL: choice between 2 non-literary texts
• HL: choice between 2 pairs of texts for a comparative commentary
• SL: choice between 2 texts
• HL: only 1 text option given
• HL Lang/Lit: no more comparative analysis
• text options expanded to all genres or text types
• guiding questions for SL• guiding questions for SL• guiding questions for SL
90 min for SL; 120 min for HL90 min for SL; 120 min for HL• new timing arrangements?

Paper 2 Exam

According to the notes published by the IBO, Paper 2 is likely to change the least. No new details have been announced.

Written Coursework

The 3 assessment components for SL students are capped at the Individual Oral Assessment, the Paper 1, and the Paper 2 exams.

HL students must complete 4 assessment components. To that end, the IBO is introducing a written coursework element to HL courses. Details about the format of this assessment and what skills it will target have not yet been finalized, however.

A formative (ongoing) assessment tool the IBO will introduce is the Learner Journal. It will allow students an opportunity for self-assessment regarding their understanding and progress on texts and assignments. This document is intended to help inform both teachers’ practices and students’ learning.

4. Why are these changes happening?

The IBO re-evaluates each of its Diploma Program curricula on a 7-year schedule in order to update courses with the newest teaching and subject material as well as to respond to comments from schools. The key reasons for the 2019 changes are as follows:

Flexibility: In the current English curricula, each assessment component is tied to a specific category of texts, which means it is difficult for teachers and students to make connections across the textual categories. E.g. Lit students study their Part 3 texts in preparation for the Paper 2 exam; they will not use those texts for any other assessment or make connections between those texts and Part 1, 2, or 4 texts. The IBO is eliminating this direct correspondence between assessments and parts of the syllabus to enable students and teachers more flexibility in creating connections. As a result, the hope is that students will have greater choice in selecting their lines of inquiry when investigating the texts.

Consistency: The new changes bring the Lit and Lang/Lit curricula into greater alignment with each other, creating a better consistency between the two syllabi.

Global Relevance: Currently, only the Lang/Lit curriculum places significant emphasis on understanding textual meanings in the context of the societal circumstances influencing the production and reception of the text. Moving both curricula towards a focus on meaning in its cultural context encourages students to consider the relevance of their studies to their lives and to the global community.

Student Stress: Based on feedback from schools, parents, and students that raised concerns about student stress levels, the IBO has reduced the number of assessment components. The aim is to reduce student stress while simultaneously maintaining opportunities to cover the skill sets required of advanced English learning.

5. What’s coming next?

The IBO will publish the formal Subject Guide for the new Lit and Lang/Lit curricula in 2019. There will also be workshops and seminars held for teachers in 2019 to prepare them for the upcoming changes. Meanwhile, here at The Edge, we’ll keep an eye on developments and let you know as more information becomes available.

To read the official IBO documents currently available, look here and here.

 Read more from Karin in her previous blog “Avoid These Common Mistakes to Stay Ahead of IB English”

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