Well, the key is to understand the criteria; I'll briefly explain how to score high marks in them. Criterion A: Understanding & comparison of the text (P1) / Response to the question (P2) This is quite straight-forward, but most difficult to attain high marks in. For paper 1, you should find as many aspects as you can to compare in detail, i.e. explain them as much as you can and give examples! Make sure the examiner will understand to what extent the aspect you mention is different or similar for both texts. Quote the part of the text that is relevant to the aspect and explain in what way it is relevant. If you cannot explain an aspect, don't even bother mentioning it - it'll just show the examiner that you do not understand that part of the text. For paper 2, make sure you understand the implications of the question! You should be aware of what the question wants from you - do not answer anything the question doesn't state! I'll give you an example using the May 2009 paper (I chose this): There was a question on paper 2 that asked how outsiders who struggle against rules or inflexible social systems illuminate themes in the texts. It was worded in such way that it was extremely tempting to only explain which outsiders struggle in what ways, leaving out the explanation as to how these characters enhance a certain theme. If you make a mistake like that, you are certain to lose quite a few marks in this criteria since you did not fully answer the question. Make sure that the novels you choose for a question are appropriate! For this example, dystopian novels like "Brave New World", "1984" and "The Handmaid's Tale" are extremely appropriate, whereas "The Great Gatsby" or "A Streetcar Named Desire" are not. Criterion B: Presentation It is very easy to score highly here. Basically, don't let your essay look like it was written by an idiot. Make an outline in beforehand, indicating what you are planning on talking about in every paragraph. You can then add arguments and examples to the point you're making in every paragraph, but this is not necessary. I, for example, left out my arguments and examples in my outlines and just made them up while I was writing. It is important to have an introduction with a thesis statement! It doesn't have to sound super-professional, but for paper 1, write a sentence about the topic common to both texts and in which aspects they differ. For paper 2, this obviously depends on the question you choose. Ensure to keep a balance between both texts (P1) and both novels/plays (P2) in every paragraph! Don't write four sentences about the first text and then only add one about the second. It is expected to use good transitions between paragraphs (e.g. "Another important aspect is ...") from HL students, so make sure you use those as well! Make sure you use words such as "however", "moreover" and "furthermore" to make your essay flow. It is also highly appropriate to use contrasting words/terms, such as "on the other hand". Do not make your paragraphs too long! If you have to, split it up into two paragraphs, but only at a point where it is appropriate! Lastly, have a conclusion that nicely sums up the points you are making. Even though it is not part of the assessment criteria, try to make your writing as clear as possible; if you have to cross out something, try to do it nicely. People (and thus examiners) tend to be (unconsciously) biased by the way something was written and is presented, so an essay that could easily score full marks could get less than what it deserves if it looks like the pen was leaking all over the place! Criterion C: Language How to score highly in this criterion is pretty obvious. Make sure you spell everything correctly and that you use correct grammar! Plan your essay in such way that you have 10-15 minutes at the end to read it again and eventually find and correct mistakes you made while writing it (I usually notice a missing word or a missing letter at the end of a word ). Your vocabulary is expected to be highly appropriate, i.e. if you have a broad vocabulary, make sure to use it! If the question asks about how the setting enhances understanding, use words/terms such as "dilapidated" or "urban decay" when talking about "1984", for example. Ensure that you do not keep repeating any words - e.g. do not use "moreover" in every sentence, as this will sound boring and monotone. Just keep practicing and eventually you'll get into the 7-band! I hope this was helpful; I followed all of this and kept getting 26-30 in all of my essays Good luck!