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IB English Language and Literature, one of the most studied courses from among various subject groups (there are 6 groups altogether), is offered as part of Studies in Language and Literature (Group 1) and focuses on study of both literary and non-literary texts.

While the course is designed to help students develop an appreciation for the language’s intricacies through textual analysis, it is also meant to enable them to express their own ideas distinctly both on paper and in spoken English in a wide variety of styles, registers and contexts. The course is offered at Standard Level (SL) and Higher Level (HL).

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Overview of IB English Language & Literature

The course comprises four elements – two relate to the study of language and two to the study of literature. The structure of the course demands that a certain number of texts be read in translation by both SL and HL students. These texts are chosen to represent a variety of views and milieus to help contribute to the development of the students’ global perspective.

  • Part 1 covers range of topics to enhance students’ understanding of language in specific cultural contexts.
  • Part 2 is related to language used in mass communication.
  • Part 3 needs students to evaluate literary texts in the contexts in which they were written and read.
  • Part 4 involves critical study of literature.

Through these essential components, the course aims to expose students to various ways in which language choices, text types, literary forms and contextual elements all effect meaning.

Part 1 and Part 2Fewer topics are covered at SL than at HL level for these two partsMore topics are covered at HL than at SL level for these two parts
Part 3Includes study of two works. One of the works is a text in translation from prescribed literature in translation (PLT) listIncludes study three works. 1 or 2 of these works are texts in translation from the prescribed literature in translation (PLT) list
Part 4Constitutes study of two works chosen from the prescribed list of authors (PLA)Constitutes study of three works chosen from the prescribed list of authors (PLA)

Curriculum Review

IB English Language and Literature syllabus is carefully designed to encourage students to engage with a variety of text types, from different periods and styles, and understand the constructed nature of meanings created by the language through its relationship with different perspectives and cultural contexts.

  • HL students read 6 works and SL students read 4 works from a representative selection of literary genres, periods and settings. Some of the texts are studied in translation – HL students read 1-2 works in translation, while SL students read one work in translation.
  • HL and SL students study and learn to critically analyse a range of non-literary texts
  • The recommended number of class hours for HL students is 240, while standard level study requires a minimum of 150 class hours.
  • Students learn to interpret a variety of texts by paying attention to the features of specific text types and literary forms including elements of literary, stylistic, rhetorical, visual, and performance work.

Objectives of IB English Language and Literature Curriculum

  • Allow students to think conceptually about literary and non-literary works
  • Encourage students to assess how the writer’s choice of language, structure, style and technique create meaning and influence readers
  • Get the students to efficiently support their critical analyses and ideas with solid and relevant examples
  • Help students evaluate relationships among different texts and present the comparative analyses in clear, logical, and persuasive ways
  • Develop students’ writing and speaking skills – skills to express their ideas effectively both in written and oral format

Standard Level (SL) vs Higher Level (HL)

IB English Language and Literature assessment includes external and internal exams at both SL and HL levels.

Standard Level

The external assessment which accounts for 70% of the final grade includes Paper 1 (Textual analysis) and Paper 2 (comparative essay). The internal assessment, on the other hand, comprises individual oral (IO) assessment based on one literary and one non-literary text. The IO is worth 30% overall.

Higher Level

The external assessment comprising Paper 1 (textual analysis), Paper 2 (comparative essay) and a Written Task (based on literary texts studied) makes up 80% of the final grade. The internal assessment includes individual oral (IO) response based on one literary text and one non-literary text and represents 20% of the final grade.


% refers to weightage towards final grade

Standard Level (SL)

External Assessment – 3 hours, 70%

  • Paper 1 – 1 hour 15 minutes, 35%
    Students analyse and respond to one of the two non-literary texts, each of which comes furnished with a guiding question.
  • Paper 2 – 1 hour 45 minutes, 35%
    Students pick 1 out of the 4 questions designed to elicit a comparative response/ essay based on the two works that they studied over the IB English course.

Internal Assessment – 15 minutes, 30%

  • Students prepare a 10 minutes oral response related to one literary text and one non-literary text in connection on with a global issue of choice.
  • 5 minutes of Q&A session with the teacher focusing on a common global issue

Higher Level (HL)

External Assessment – 4 hours, 80%

  • Paper 1 – 2 hour 15 minutes, 35%
    Students analyse and respond to two non-literary excerpts from different text types; the texts come furnished with guiding questions. Students write about two different text types individually rather than comparatively.
  • Paper 2 – 1 hour 45 minutes, 25%
    Students pick 1 out of 4 questions designed to elicit a comparative response/ essay based on the two works that they studied over the IB English course.
  • Essay – Written Coursework, 20%
    Consists of generating a 1200 – 1500 word essay based on one literary work or a non-literary body of work studied

Internal Assessment – 15 minutes, 20%

  • Students prepare a 10 minutes oral response related to one literary text and one non-literary text in connection on with a global issue of choice.
  • 5 minutes of Q&A session with the teacher focusing on a common global issue

Expert's Opinion

  • IB English Language and Literature course does not follow a very rigid curriculum, and the schools (international) in Singapore are given the freedom to choose what works they want to incorporate in the syllabi for the course. However, the works need be selected from a list of prescribed authors and a list of prescribed literature in translation from IBO.
  • While the reading list may vary from one school to another, the focus is always on including a range of oral, written, creative and analytical activities, designed to motivate students to respond in different ways to the texts, topics and concepts studied in school.
  • All International schools in Singapore offer IB Language and Literature at both SL and HL.
  • One common question asked is how English Language and Literature different from IB English Literature. Well, unlike IB English Language and Literature, which focusses on a large variety of both literary and non-literary texts, IB English Literature curriculum only includes literary texts. Most of the popular International schools in Singapore, such as United World College, Tanglin Trust School, St. Joseph’s International School, etc. offer both IB English Language and Literature different and IB English Literature at SL as well as HL.

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