IB English Blog Language/Literature v. Literature

My name is Cara, and I’m an English Language and Literature tutor at The Edge Learning Center. Choosing your IB subjects can be daunting, grueling, and stressful. Choosing which English route to take can be equally intimidating.

i. So, what are the two courses?

The IB programme offers either Language and Literature (Lang/Lit) or just Literature (Lit).

ii. How are they different?

The essential differences between the IB English Lang/Lit and Lit courses tend to cause many of my students confusion and puzzlement. However they deliberate, the question, “but which one should I choose” tends to rear its head and cause confusion.

Great Gatsby, OthelloRead more from Cara on “How to tackle creative writing.” 

Let me help you break it down.

In simple terms, Literature is precisely about what its name implies. If you take Lit, you will be analysing literary works and learning how authors convey their abstract ideas through their texts. You will study big literary works like The Great Gatsby, the poetry of John Keats, and Othello.

As for Lang/Lit, in a sense, it is much more grounded in the real world. Out of the texts you will study, half will be looked at with a fully literary perspective, whilst the other half will be based on language in a non literary context. Text types may include Kanye West rap lyrics, fashion advertisements, and political propaganda.

The core aspect which both courses share is that each of the 4 parts studied integrate and fuse together to support the development of analytical and argumentative skills. These are fundamental skills which you will go on to develop at university and in later life.

Key features which will be developed in both courses include: (**Taken from the IB website)

Language and Literature (Lang/Lit) v. Literature (Lit)

Fundamental breakdowns:

  1. Curriculum overview:

IB English Curriculum overview

Higher level v. Standard level

When it comes to choosing your IB courses, you will also have to consider the differences between the Higher and Standard Levels. Generally, the difference between the two is a greater amount of content covered and greater difficulty in questions in the Higher Level. The marking scheme is the same for both; however, the examination times differ. Expectations between the two levels also differ in scope, as higher level students are expected to demonstrate the various elements of the grade descriptors across a greater body of knowledge, understanding and skills. 

Your choice will also depend on your other IB choices. You are allowed to choose 6 subjects from 6 different groups. 3 must be Higher Level and the other 3 Standard Level.

For a more detailed breakdown, consult the table below:

Language and literature table break down


In basic terms, the Lang/Lit programme analyses both nonfiction and fiction text types. Studying different text types in context leads to a wider understanding of the culture that produced the text.

The course looks at language in a non literary context. Here are some examples of the type of questions you’ll be asking yourself: How can language be used as a way of resistance? How is culture present in languages? How is public opinion shaped? How can language be used to inform? Empower? Oppress? How does language change over time?

Language and Literature


  • Critical literacy
    The heart of the course is to understand how meaning is conveyed through different stylistic devices and structural conventions.
  • Communication
    Facility with self expression, group interaction, and critical analysis.
  • Appreciation of culture
    Deeper awareness of cultural values contributing to the meaning of a text, which is always dependant on its context.


Language/Literature assessment


The Lit programme focuses primarily upon the writer’s point of view. Choosing Literature will help you to develop sophisticated reading skills as well as develop the ability to place literary texts in their wider intellectual and historical contexts.

The course looks at building upon pre existing analytical skills learnt in iGCSE Literature or MYP. Analysing literary works is the foundation of the course. Learning to close read the cultural context of both the reader and the author and breaking down preconceived notions are key. In short, the Lit course is focused upon the ideas and the message that the author wants to convey.


  • Literary criticism
    The development of an appropriate rhetoric for a personal engagement with literary conversation.
  • Literary judgements
    Developing independent judgements to support the ideas of literary criticism.
  • Deepening literacy
    Creating a better understanding of the rules of literature, but also its purpose and its aims as an art form.

Literature assessment

Whichever route you take, the IB English curriculum will allow you to strengthen the critical processes by which you analyse and judge texts by learning about literary form and techniques, considering the relationship between text and context, and studying the development of the English language.

Practice, hard work, and time management are essential disciplines that the IB will teach you, and that I can nurture.

Come and join me and let me help you engage with your English.

Chat with me