The IO is, for the majority of IB students, the most daunting assessment in the IB.
For those not familiar with the structure of the IOC, it involves an 8 minute oral commentary (like paper 1 but oral rather than written) on a poetry passage of approximately 30 lines, followed by 2 minutes of questions regarding this same passage. This is the same for English SL and HL students. However, after the oral commentary is complete and SL students are free to leave, HL students are then required to engage in a 10 minute discussion with their teacher on one of two texts they have studied in class. Sound difficult? That's right, it is.
So what preparation strategies did the English HL tutors at The Seven Solution use to achieve high marks for their IOC?
Preparing for the Oral Commentary1: Pay attention in class when analysing the poems! If you take detailed notes on the poems in class and ask questions to the teacher if there are any sections you do not understand or have neglected, this will make the final stages of your IOC preparation a lot easier. Listening to class discussions on the poems will also significantly reduce the chances of you getting to a specific part of a poem and having absolutely no prepared notes or analysis (not good if you get this extract in the final IOC!).
2: Next, print out a clean copy of each poem, with the poem centred on the page and well spaced out. This allows you to make your final written annotations of the poem (using a range of sources, i.e. your class notes, your own interpretation, your friends' interpretations and the internet) on a clean sheet which is easy to read and revise. Additionally, placing the poems in the centre of the page will enable you to annotate all around the passage, and use all of the space on the page (very important for dense passages with detailed analysis).
3: Revise and learn these annotations until you can accurately reproduce them from memory. When preparing for my IOC, I made sure that if I was given a blank copy of a poetry extract (like in the actual IOC), I would be able to recall at least 90% of the notes I had pre-prepared and revised. This meant that on the day of the IOC, I wasted less time having to analyse the poem and consider meaning and techniques, and thus had more time to spend preparing and structuring my oral response.
4: Practice your 8 minute oral commentaries! This is the part that most students neglect or avoid completely, due to the fear of realising how under-prepared they are, or because of their reluctance to listen to themselves on recording (everyone has a funny voice when recorded, don't worry!). Everyone struggles for the first few oral commentaries, but after a period of time, you get over the hurdle of speaking anxiety, and you actually reach the stage where it is harder to speak for less than 8 minutes than it is to make up the 8 minute time period. Listening to yourself speak out load also helps you to identify repetitive words or phrases (for me the words/phrases were: this suggests, wonder, and capacity of nature to ...), improving your ability to succinctly and eloquently convey your ideas of the passage.
Preparing for the Text Discussion1: Read each text at least twice! For me, the first reading was in class when studying the book as a group, while the second reading took place in the weeks leading up to the IOC. Reading the text a second time allowed me to pick up on some of the complex issues that I missed during my first reading when I was too busy focusing on the plot and not the broader themes and conventions.
2: Have a good set of notes! We have 30 + pages of detailed textual analysis for Hamlet and Saturday available here at The Seven Solution. If these aren't your texts, I would recommend structuring your notes around the following headings: (1) plot analysis, (2) structure, (3) context (author context and wider social and cultural context), (4) character analysis, (5) thematic / symbol analysis. This aims to give you a broad and holistic understanding of the novels, whilst also giving you the freedom to link in all aspects of the texts during your discussion.
3: Revise these notes! There's no use having a perfect set of notes if you don't understand and know them well. I made a conscious effort to revise my notes for each of the two texts at least 5 times before the final IOC, to ensure I had a thorough understanding of all the conventions of the texts, and could also recite certain quotes to support my answers.
4: Practice a discussion with a friend. This formed the basis for the week leading up to the IOC for me. I would meet with a friend (sometimes on FaceTime/Skype), and we would simply ask each other questions on the texts. We had a list of practice questions we were given in class, but once we'd exhausted these, we simply made them up on the spot. They don't have to be perfect; just enough to allow your partner to practice responding to oral questions and showing their knowledge of the texts in oral form.
I hope these short tips will help you in preparing for your upcoming IOC! If you would like more specific advice or tutoring, feel free to e-mail us (email@example.com) and we'll set something up.