Useful Links (cribbed off sweetnsimple786, thanks!)
World Literature 1 Marking Criteria
World Literature 2 Marking Criteria
Other Links (posted by Julie)
Literary Analysis and Writing Technical Points
1. Learn how YOU work best
Unless you've sussed it out for yourself already, your aim throughout the two years of IB should be to establish how you best approach this sort of essay. Everybody prefers to deal with it differently and has their own style -- the ultimate aim for anybody is to produce an essay with a cohesive, well-supported argument, a sound structure, doesn't skip any major points and can be completed within the allotted time. Simple, right?
There are two major areas in which people differ. The first is planning. How much time do you personally need to plan? Some people like to invest a massive amount of their time into it (e.g. for a 2 hour paper at HL they might spend half an hour or more planning it) and some people much less time, for instance 5 or 10 minutes. Obviously some has to take place as you have to read the poem and formulate an argument; whether you then choose to go straight ahead and start writing (usually to maximise the amount you can write down and give yourself leeway to change things) or whether you like to plan out exactly what you're going to say when (to make sure you have a good structure and are focussed), it's not a big deal. You have to work out for yourself what the optimum sort of time is going to be.
The second area is the style in which you deal with the text. This can either be done by theme (and incidentally tends to pair well with somebody who plans a lot) in which major points of discussion are stuck into dedicated paragraphs, or line-by-line which is literally dealing with the text in a linear fashion and therefore tends to require a lot less forethought. Each of these has its weaknesses -- for the former you can easily find yourself spotting something you should've discussed earlier but will then need to break your structure in order to include. You're less likely to come across things as you're writing, can write comparatively 'shallow' essays (i.e. less deep analysis) and of course you do need to plan things like crazy. An acronym often related to this is SCASI (Setting/Character/Action/Style/Ideas), where you do roughly a section of your essay on each of those. Weaknesses related to the line-by-line are largely time management (you end up writing a lot more) and making sure you pick up on overarching themes as well as structuring it in a cohesive manner.
Use any practice commentaries you do to test these out! Which do you prefer? More importantly, with which of these methods/time distributions do you get the best results grades-wise? You might be at an extreme or somewhere in the middle, but you're going to have a style which suits you and it's extremely important you're secure and confident in your personal approach before you enter the exam. On a final note, a lot of teachers will tell you that there's only one way to write a commentary. This is wrong. I've seen 7s with good employment of both these styles and the examiners will reward essays which fulfil the marking criteria, not your teacher's favourite way of doing it.
2. Don't pick between poetry/prose in advance
This might seem reasonably obvious, but there is a considerable chance that the poem/prose which comes up will not be to your liking. With the poetry you might not understand it... and with the prose you might not really see what there is to write. There are exceptions to this rule, some people know what they're doing and can go for their favourite every time, but as a general rule if you don't know 100% that you are an exception (and you'll know, trust me!) my advice is to practice both. Don't pick prose or poetry prior to seeing what they are like, that's a pretty crazy tactic because you're taking away your own options!
3. Have a line of argument
This gives your essay purpose, direction and is something for you to constantly refer back to. It's easier to do an analysis if you treat the whole essay as building up the case for WHY your analysis is correct. Imagine that you've announced "this poem is about X and now I'm going to show you why". This way you'll analyse, you'll give examples and you'll have cohesion because your essay will keep returning to the same central points. At no point in the exam should you be sitting scratching your head wondering where on earth to go next. You have an introduction (your declaration and brief overview of why you believe X to be the case) and a conclusion (briefly how you believe you've proved it to be so). Excellent stuff, having a line of argument.
4. Make sure your argument makes sense
If I am correct, in the USA and some other places, they call an argument a thesis statement. Whatever. Call it what you like, it is extremely important that you project your own 'vision' or interpretation of the poetry/prose. What this does NOT under any circumstances mean is that you see one bit of a line, think "ooo I like that idea!" and start inventing things or deciding that the word 'interpretation' is some kind of arty excuse for making mystical-sounding comments. World Literature is an analytical subject at heart, and whilst there's no technical right and wrong in that several versions of something can be correct, there's definitely a wrong and the word for that is misinterpretation. You do not want to misinterpret the whole thing. Some people are lucky and will never misinterpret because it comes naturally to them; for other people, no worries, there is a litmus test. Decide what you think the main theme of the poem/prose is and then with your decision in mind, and prior to writing anything, go through the whole text and think at every point "does my interpretation DEFINITELY make sense in light of this section?". Sometimes you might find something contradictory -- for instance a note of joy in a poem which is otherwise quite depressing. In that case, your argument can no longer be that the whole poem is centred around bitterness (or whatever, I'm making this up) but rather you'll have to alter your argument to the poem being about the randomness of fate (because on reflection it turns out that the contrast between the depression and the joy makes this the message you receive). Clearly this is an invented example, but the point I'm trying to get at is that the former interpretation wouldn't fit the whole text. The second interpretation DOES fit the whole text. Always make sure that your main line of argument fits everything, or your entire essay will be out.
5. Use language you understand
Okay I'm not going to lie, some people say some really stupid things. If you don't know what a word means, don't know how a phrase is used (and this happens to some native speakers as well as non-native speakers) for the love of whatever higher being may or may not be out there… don't do it! Please. If you've been exposed to a lot of phrases around you in everyday life, and read a lot of books, you'll probably find this kind of thing like second nature to you, and you're very lucky. If not, please don't try and impress anybody. It's better to use straight forward sentences and make sure you're definitely getting your point across. You will not be rewarded for speaking with the kind of Elizabethan flourish which would've made Shakespeare proud of his handiwork. They're going to be more impressed by the whole thing making sense than by you using verbs in conjunction with the wrong prepositions etc.
6. PEE! Also go to the toilet before the exam.
I always assume everybody has heard of this; if you haven't, listen up! PEE is the best way to approach anything. Point, Example, Explanation! Live by the code of PEE and you should never make a crappy point (because if it's crappy hopefully you'll realise your explanation sucks and therefore not write it) and never make a point without explaining it (without that extra E, PEE just wouldn't be the amusing urination-based acronym we all know and love, would it?). To break it down with a (flippant) example:
Point --> Seamus Heaney (a poet) uses potato-based puns to enforce his love of potatoes
Example --> He says: "Without potatoes/I would not be rooted in this life" (yes this is made up)
Explanation --> The word "rooted" refers back both to the author's roots and also to the nature of potatoes themselves which are root vegetables. He also uses a very effective sentence structure to emphasise the significance of potatoes by making them the start of the phrase, the verb in the middle and then with "life" as the last word in the phrase, the stresses fall in such a way that the two seem linked…. etc etc etc. It's amazing what you can bull**** really
7. Manage your time wisely
Okay I mentioned this with planning earlier. Know when you're going to have done stuff by and keep an eye on the clock. An essay is not an essay without a conclusion and all of its contents, and these things cannot be put into place if you run out of time! When I used to do my A1 essays I went line-by-line and said more or less to leave 5 mins at the end to conclude have 5 mins at the start to plan and intend to be halfway through the poem by the time I got halfway through my time. Never failed to finish an essay with this (very non-technical but useful) tactic. Don't be caught out.
8. Make points, don't score points! (aka don't drop in literary features if you don't know what you're doing)
I wrote that mostly because it sounds catchy, but basically what I mean is that you should realise you get marks for making points. Not for using special words. Obviously you want to use some special words throughout (and by special words I mean the World Lit lingo: alliteration, metaphors, caesuras etc etc) but they should be coincidental with you making a point. I used to fit them in as part of the second E in my PEE. When explaining why my point was valid I would casually mention that it was mightily effective on account of the simile and so on. In other words, they can be slotted in casually.
What you should avoid is point scoring, which is kinda like name dropping only using special words. Just because you know a word to describe a literary feature and what it means, it doesn't mean it's always going to be there! The major victim of people trying to point score is "irony". In actual fact, irony is not all that pervasive in literature. It crops up every now and again, but not particularly frequently and definitely not in 80%+ of things. I'm not going to bother inventing a statistic for how often it does crop up, but just remember it's not everywhere. DO NOT say something is 'an example of irony' unless you
A) are sure it's definitely an example of irony and that you know what irony is
B) are willing to explain how it's an example and why this is effective
This goes for any special word. If you know something is effective but don't know the special word for it (and often there isn't one), there's no harm in explaining it out. It is better to do this than to invent things or to go out of your way to include literary features just for the sake of them being there! If something if effective, just explain why. You don't need a technical term for it every time, and if you see something you know the technical term for but it isn't really effective... don't go out of your way to mention it.
1. Look at past questions and use them to break down your texts for revision
If you look through past paper questions, you'll spot that the sorts of questions you receive will always be about generalised things. Off the top of my head, things like Setting, Character, Beginnings and Endings, Death, Love, Chronology etc. all tend to crop up with reassuring regularity. So, this is the way in which you should approach your texts when revising them. Remember that in the actual thing you'll come across one of these sorts of questions and you will either have to sit and think for the very first time of exactly how the minor characters influenced the play (...for example...) or you'll have handily thought of it all before.
Hopefully you'll agree that the second scenario is much better than the first. My advice is therefore to go through all of your texts and pick out the main points to do with these themes. Not only will you familiarise yourself with the texts in the process, but you should also find that a lot of the points can be easily recycled into your actual essay in the exam and that's the aim. Get a piece of paper, head it up with the theme you're looking at and then divide it into columns. Think of a point from one of the texts and simultaneously whether that same point can be made in another text -- i.e. compare and contrast. You might draw a blank, or you might think "well they DO mention the minor characters, but they play more of a role in narrating the life of the main characters than in providing any of the action..." = et voila, a contrast! That kind of thing.
2. Prepare all of your texts
Do not favouritise texts. You will note that the questions ask you to write about 2 or more of the works you have studied. So yes, technically you only have to learn about 2. What, however, if the question in the exam asks you about Death, and nobody dies in one of the texts. You'll be stuffed. Unless you can see forward in time to know what the question will be, don't do just 2 of the texts. Do all of them. Revising them isn't really very time-consuming or difficult, and at the end of the day you'll be able to make the best comparisons if you're able to choose the best texts to compare. Simple as.
3. Use the exam time as a guide to which texts to use
Again going back to the "only doing 2 texts" thing, there is NO optimum number of texts to do. You can get a 7 comparing 2 of them, and you can get a 7 comparing all 4 of them. Also 3. It depends on the question you get and how much you know to be able to write! Sometimes you'll be able to say a lot about 2 texts, sometimes you'll be able to say a little about all 4. Provided your answer is high quality and makes some good points, it'll be okay.
4. Avoid the format Text A. Text B. Text C. End.
This also applies to the World Lit essays: do not write everything about Love in Text A and then everything about Love in Text B. It is infinitely easier to make good points and score better if you follow the model: Point A about Love in Text A, Point A about Love in Text B. In other words, each paragraph(ish) should be a comparison of a specific point across the texts, and you should be constantly flitting between the two or more texts. This'll give you good structure and make your essay cohesive. It's similar to the line-of-argument thinking, really. Hopefully that makes sense.
5. Learn roughly 5 quotes per text (minimum)
You don't have the texts with you in the exams (unless your school is being super lax with the IB rules), however it is always good to
A) do some language analysis
B) show your amazing knowledge of the texts
Of course you can (and definitely should) show knowledge by explaining where your examples sit in context within the texts, how they're supported or repeated throughout the text and all that sort of thing which shows the examiner that you clearly know the text well, without quoting. However, quotes are important. I would recommend you learn 4-5 quotes per text. The reason for this number? Well it's random, however it should also be sufficient. Remember that YOU are in charge of putting them in, so for all the examiner knows, you might know every word of the whole book but have just chosen to put in 2 or 3 quotes -- you can show off what you know and totally skip on what you don't know by simply explaining it rather than quoting it. Consequently, you don't need to remember lots, and you can base some of your points around your quotes to make sure you nip them in. For this reason, your quotes need to be well-selected. I would recommend that you have quotes to convey the main themes, important things about the main characters, examples of the author's style if they have a distinctive style, and at least one quote which you can do a tiny bit of literary analysis on per text. You can find these by flicking through the books and just thinking of the most important things your teachers picked out in lessons, or you'll also find that sites like Sparknotes often contain 'key' quotes which you can use to inspire you. Picture them appearing in your essay and the points you'll make from them and it'll help you pick
They don't have to be long... even just 3 words long if it makes your point!
6. Make sure the essay has a sound, planned structure
In my experience, people rarely run out of time for this essay. There's no line-by-line version where you can ramble on to make your point, you'll have to structure it. Again you should practice how long this is going to take you, but you should do it a bit like Tip 1. Columns to compare points across as many texts as you're going to include. This shouldn't take you too long, but make sure you introduce with a mini line-of-argument, as in Paper 1 (it's a bit harder in Paper 2 so your introduction will probably just be some major generalising about the way in which the theme pops up in the texts) -- this'll also provide you with a way to conclude. Always think how to link the previous point to the next point so your essay flows well.
7. Remember what your texts are called and who wrote them...
It does not in any way shape or form help impress the examiner if you cannot get these right!! You'd be amazed what sorts of things you assume you know but will blank on in the exam, and the names of texts and authors are right up there with major things people forget. Part of this is due to the fact you'll be giving them all slang names by the end of studying them (e.g. 'Handmaids' instead of 'The Handmaid's Tale', and suddenly you'll be in the exam wondering who on earth wrote it, how many Ts there are in "At(t?)wood" and whether it was 'a' Handmaid's Tale or 'the' Handmaid's Tale or whether there was ever an extra word there at all). Really stupid things but you'll get stuck! Make sure you're spelling all of the titles, character and author's names right (don't assume you've been calling them the right name for 2 years, for instance many people reading The Outsider are very freaked that 'Mersault' has secretly been called 'Meursault' the whole time). This is the thing you will absolutely kick yourself for not getting right.
8. Always refer back to context and give examples
Show you know the texts! Without retelling the story, pop in a little bit of context with all your examples, and make sure you give an example (not necessarily quoted, remember, it can just be explained) for every point you make. Don't waste your time by going into insane detail, just make it subtly obvious you know the texts with context and examples.
9. How many paragraphs should my essay have??
Okay, lots of people ask this. The answer is AS MANY AS IT NEEDS. The reason for this is the intrinsic structure of your essay. You want each paragraph/section to be illustrating a new compare/contrast point. For instance, if the Question you're given is something like... "In the texts you have studied, what is the role of time?", you want to instantly come up with comparators/contrasts. E.g....
- in Long Day's Journey Into Night, the setting changes over time to show the passing of the day and the 'journey into night'
- in Waiting for Godot, the setting never changes to reflect how despite changing time, nothing actually changes
- in Long Day's Journey Into Night, the mother lives mentally in the past and regresses further and further as the play goes on
- in Waiting for Godot the characters are confused about the time and how long they've been there
(...and then obviously a lot more points!!)
Having done this you want to look at the points of comparison and contrast you've created. I would say that the points are
1. the way that time affects setting
2. the character's view of the passage of time
Et voila! 2 points and ~ 2 paragraphs.
Hopefully this illustrates the idea of the structure: your paragraphs/sections should represent your points, and your point should compare/contrast across all the texts you're using. In this way you end up with a good, well-structured essay that very tightly and neatly answers the question. Your points and ideas are very clear! This is, essentially, PEE again. Got to love PEE Really though, there's no point in doing X number of paragraphs as some optimum number. You'll have no idea how many points you're going to have and how many paragraphs your writing will take up until you've written it. Otherwise it's like saying that you're going somewhere nobody's ever been before, but nevertheless want somebody to advise you on the exact walking time. Just plain old bizarre.
1. Get your question right!
"Thesis statement" or question, whatever code name it goes under, it is absolutely absolutely essential it's right. You have several things to look at to get it 'right', and these are as follows
A) You will be able to write 1,500 words in answer to your question. WL essays are short and if it's not 1,450-1,500 words minimum I would suggest you've not set yourself a very good question or have failed to answer it thoroughly enough. You should be editing out minor words like crazy trying to trim it down, and definitely not stopping short of the mark.
B) You will be able to answer the question extremely thoroughly within 1,500 words. If you think "oh and I could've said that, too, but I ran out of space..." you didn't set yourself a very good question! Your question must be FULLY answered in the word count.
C) It will be a question! I personally think the phrase "thesis statement" can be misleading in terms of including the word statement. There should be no stating, narrating or retelling (unless it's part of briefly establishing context). You're trying to prove something by answering a task you've set yourself.
If you're having difficulty finding a question, I would suggest looking again at major themes and characters as you'll invariably find at least something to compare between those.
2. Thoroughly integrate the two texts
As with Paper 2 (Tip 4) make sure you constantly put one text against the other and do your best to avoid half your essay being about Text A and then half your essay being about Text B. You can't really do an analytical comparison that way, you end up just listing facts about 1 and facts about 2 -- if you're good you might be able to link Text B back every single time you spot an overlap, but that makes for difficult and messy reading and is generally not what you want to be doing if your aim is to impress.
3. Keep quotes short, simple and sweet
Definitely quote! Just remember that quotes take up your word count, so the more professional you are about integrating your quotes the better. Don't quote a whole sentence if the bit you want is only in part of it. If you can edit out/in words so it makes sense in the context of what you're writing, that not only shows that you are proficient at writing and will get you brownie points for that, but also saves your word count (yay). To show an example of quotes being integrated well and quotes being integrated less well, I shall give an example -- for instance, if the sentence in the book was
"Fred's tortured past was long behind him now"
A 'worse' version of this might be By saying 'Fred's tortured past was long behind him now', the author contrasts the fact that his past was bleak with the fact it happened a long time ago ....
A better version: Here Fred's past is described as "tortured" but the author also contrasts it with the fact that it is "long behind him now"
Not the best of examples but hopefully you can see that by chopping and changing, you can quote as part of your explanation rather than quoting something and then explaining it. In the long run it reads better, saves words and is generally more efficient.
4. SHOW your knowledge of the text
The best way to do this is by putting all of your examples in context. It's very important to appear to have a good working knowledge of whatever it is you're writing about and you should note that the IB specifies an appreciation of culture as one of its little keywords in the WL1 blurb. Although you should put all of the examples into the context of the novel/play/whatever itself, it's possibly worth putting some points of the novel in a more global context -- for instance if you were to pick out an example from Animal Farm with one of the pigs talking, you could extremely briefly mention the propaganda of Orwell's time and the message which he intends to convey through the character of the pigs being very relevant to its original readers. With Antigone or one of the Ancient Greek plays, pointing out how useful the Chorus is as a narrative technique given the mechanics of Greek theatres. This kind of thing is good because it shows you appreciate the style of the piece and also its original cultural context. Whatever you do do NOT go on about this for any longer than absolutely necessary. It's a World Literature piece, so any reference to non-WL stuff should be the tiniest of comments, but it's a good idea to nip in this sort of thing somewhere as it shows the examiner you appreciate a very large context to your understanding of the literature.
5. Take advantage of presenting the characters (added by Tilia)
Present the characters. Don't write "X eats a potato together with Y". Instead write "The 16-year-old protagonist X eats a potato together with his best friend and neighbour, the blonde Englishman Y". This is how you show knowledge of works, criterion B.
(And handily use hardly any of your word count in the process! Good tip or what?)
Literary features bucket list: a short list of essentials literary features you can add to... but it's definitely useful to know these ones!
Hopefully those're all helpful hints. Please feel free to post some of your own and I'll edit them into this thread with some credit -- only if they're decent, of course, although I'm sure they will be (so no "bring a pen" comments!) xP Or if you have constructive comments to make on the tips already up there, those are also welcome.