10 Expert Tips – Paper 1 Language and Literature

By Robyn Goyette

(IB English A: Language and Literature, IB English A: Literature Tutor at The Edge Learning Center)

IB English Paper 1

Got a 4 and want a 6? Got a 6 and can’t seem to achieve that elusive 7? Grab the examiner’s attention with these 10 expert tips designed to get you that higher score on your IB English Paper 1.

Tip #1 The introduction

Go beyond the requirements. Write your introduction with 8 essentials in mind:

  • text type & content
  • writer & context
  • purpose & audience
  • tone & message

Example Introduction

This is a 3-panel advert (text type) about homelessness in Britain (content), published by Crisis at Christmas, the national charity for single homeless people (writer), in The Guardian Newspaper, a few weeks before Christmas, during an economic downturn (context). Through a confident, compassionate yet urgent tone (tone), Crisis appeals (purpose) to citizens’ rational, emotional, and ethical sides (audience) for donations to help support single homeless people during the inclement gift-giving season (message).

Tip #2 Context

Show off your critical thinking skills. Give the internal context, where the text is published, and the external context, what’s going on in the world at the time:

Internal context (hints at the target audience)

  • The Guardian Newspaper
  • Britain

External context (hints at the writer’s message)

  • a few weeks before Christmas
  • during an economic downturn

Tip #3 Tone

State the writer’s attitude and how it changes:

  • a confident, compassionate yet urgent tone
    • ‘confident’ conveys authority
    • ‘compassionate’ conveys benevolence
    • ‘urgent’ evokes a call to action

Tip #4 The Body

Use the 8 essentials as topics for your body paragraphs:

Topic 1 – text type & content
Topic 2 – writer & context
Topic 3 – purpose & audience
Topic 4 – tone & message

Tip #5 The Point

State the topics in the 1st sentence of each paragraph:

Topic 3 – Purpose & Audience
The purpose is to appeal for donations from
UK citizens.

Topic 4 – Writer & Context
Crisis at Christmas, a national charity for single homeless people, published their ad in a popular broadsheet, a few days before Christmas, during an economic downturn.

Tip #6 Analysis

Expand your topics using PEEL paragraphing (point, evidence, explain, link):

Topic 2 – Writer & Context

Top half of the paragraph

P → The writer’s ethos is . . .

E → This is evident in . . .

E → The effect of this is . . .

L → The purpose of this . . .

Bottom half of the paragraph

P → The context is . . .

E → This is evident in . . .

E → The effect of this is . . .

L → The purpose of this . . .

Tip #7 Evidence

Pull evidence directly from the text. Look for these structural features and stylistic devices:

  • Structure: layout, font, color, image, perspective
  • Style: syntax, diction, imagery, sonic features

Tip #8 Explain

Explain each piece of evidence in 3 ways to thoroughly develop your analysis:

  • explain the linguistics, then
  • explain the reader’s reaction, then
  • explain the writer’s intention.

Tip #9 Link

Voice the connection between the reader’s reaction and the writer’s intention:

  • At the bottom of the second panel, titled “A place for John”, John’s image hovers over the shape of a castle wall. Obvious to UK readers is the allusion to Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”, a well-known English drama, about a King who appeals to his son to save his soul, yet his son’s inability to act causes the father eternal suffering. Through analogy, Crisis calls readers to action by evoking their guilt, reminding them that if they fail to donate, their inaction will add to the suffering of another human being.

Tip #10 The Conclusion

Comment on the ad’s effectiveness:

  • The effectiveness of the ad is in the way Crisis structured the text type. Each panel focuses on a different persuasive technique, the first appealing to the reader’s rational side, the second to the reader’s compassionate side, and the third to the reader’s ethical side, making the appeal wider in scope and covering a larger demographic.

Comment on the ad’s implicit message:

  • Britain is a multicultural nation, and homelessness affects all demographics, yet Crisis chose John, an older, white male as the face of their campaign. Moreover, the language of the ad makes no mention of other age groups, ethnicities, genders nor family dynamics, perhaps indicating that homelessness becomes an urgent issue when it affects the dominant social group.

Comment on the ad’s global issue:

  • There is irony in the ad. On the one hand, its structure and style are effective in appealing to a wide demographic, yet, on the other, they also serve as an example of how media has the potential to shape our thoughts, attitudes, and behaviour. In this case, only the dominant group’s lives seem to matter, a global value further impacting the integrity of marginalized groups.

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