Preparing for the English IOC

Of all the IAs that one could possibly do, I will testify to the fact that the IOC was the scariest for me. Yes. Worse than the French Individual Oral.

The IOC is split into two parts – a presentation (~10 minutes) on a text chosen by your teacher, and questions (~10 minutes) asked by your teacher on a particular text of his/her choice.

NB. This is referring to HL English.

The techniques you use to study for the IOC should be specific to each “section” of the IA (presentation and questions). Here are my top tips for doing the best you can in this internal assessment:

PRESENTATION: (this is literally an oral commentary, so if you are acing commentaries, this is exactly like it – but with a lot more signposting).

  1. Know your analysis for the text. Be very clear on what the text is about (the analysis) and be able to give your own personal insights into its deeper meaning (linking it back to the context if possible). Make sure you use plenty of quotes from the text to back your arguments and analysis up!
  2. Know the background information of the text. Contextual knowledge of the poet/author and how it influenced the meaning in the text is an essential part of the IOC and should take up the first 1-2 minutes of your presentation. You should also know how the text fits into the body of work.
  3. Do as many mock practices as you can. You can do this alone, in the privacy of your bedroom and away from embarrassment. Pick texts/poems out of a hat, give yourself the preparation time, annotate like crazy, then pick up your phone and record yourself giving the presentation (as if in the real thing). You can send this to your teacher to mark, and listen it back to yourself for things like unnecessary fillers “um” or any really long pauses. This is the best way to prepare yourself, especially if you are a nervous speaker. I regret not doing this more before my IOC.


  1. Know the general themes of the text (or at least, this is what I remember my teacher asking me about). This part isn’t as detailed as the presentation, and is definitely easier to handle. Learn quotes that back these themes up and have a good understanding of the text as a whole. This includes a very good understanding of the plot line.
  2. Utilise the resources your teacher gives you and listen in class. He/she will drop many hints in class as to what they are going to ask you (i.e. the stuff they repeat over and over) so this is a great way to prepare yourself for the questions to come.
  3. Again, do as many mock practices as you can. Practice with friends, request practices with your teacher, record questions on your phone and play them randomly, and give your answers to them. The aim of this is to have you feeling prepared and confident.


  1. Sound confident. Be confident. The IBO wants to know that you know what you are talking about, and is a great booster for your marks.
  2. Follow the rubric. Understand what the IB wants from you, and talk to your teacher about how you can achieve top marks in each of the bands.
  3. Stick to a structure in your presentation. This can be thematic or chronological, but you should always signpost and be very clear about what you will be talking about, and when. Usually, 3 main points is plenty.
  4. Be very clear in your answers. Don’t mumble and answer the question directly. If it helps to paraphrase the question first to give yourself time to think, this is okay, but don’t let it take up too much time.
  5. Prepare, prepare, prepare. The more you prepare, the better you will feel and the better you will fare on the day. I started preparing for my IOC at least 2 months in advance. Remember, even if you stuff it up, it is only 10-15% of your mark and it can be made up for!


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