Whether you’re a student who’s trying to decide which subjects to take or a parent who’s trying to understand what your child is studying, this post is for you! We’re going to break down exactly what the difference between Literature vs. Language & Literature in the IB. We’ve broken them down in 3 different levels of detail. Check them out below!

In a Sentence

Literature focuses on the analysis of literary works and how authors convey ideas whereas Language & Literature also looks at non-literary works like advertisements, music lyrics, or political propaganda.

In a Paragraph

Literature (Lit) and Language & Literature (Lang&Lit) are two different English A courses offered by the IB, with slightly different focuses. In Lit, students spend their two years in the IB studying 9 (SL) or 13 (HL) works chosen by the teacher. Lang&Lit students study 4 (SL) or 6 (HL) works, but they need not be novels – they can be long poems, short stories, novellas, etc.. Your grade in both subjects is determined by an exam consisting of two papers, an oral presentation relating to excerpts from the works you’ve studied, and (as an HL student) a 1200-1500 word essay on one of the works studied.

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In Depth

The focus of IB Literature is literary texts, learning about approaches to textual criticism, the nature of literature, and the relationship between literature and the wider world. The works you are required to study comes from a set of 3 different types of works: works in translation, works originally in the language studied, and free choice texts (from the prescribed reading list or elsewhere). The texts are typically decided by the Literature teacher, but they may ask for input from students so as to choose texts that are of interest to them. 

Your exam in IB Literature consists of 2 papers (Paper 1 and Paper 2). Paper 1 requires you to write an analysis of passages from different literary forms whilst Paper 2 is a comparative essay in which you choose one question out of 4 and answer it using two of the works you studied as your foundation. In addition, you have the IO (Individual Oral) in which you give a 10 minute (plus 5 minutes for questions) response, with reference to your works studied, to the following prompt: “Examine the ways in which the global issue of your choice is presented through the content and form of two of the works that you have studied”. As an HL student, you also write a 1200-1500 word essay one one work studied throughout the course.

In IB Language & Literature, students look at the world of literature, but they also study a wide range of non-literary texts from a variety of media. By examining how English is used across different literary forms students investigate language and how it affects our everyday life, identity, and culture. The syllabus outlines 3 main components that must be covered, each of equal importance: 

  • Readers, writers and texts
  • Time and space
  • Intertextuality: connecting texts

You are then assessed in a similar way to IB Literature students, as your exam consists of 2 papers where the first is a textual analysis while the second is a comparative essay. Students also do a 15 minute oral presentation relating to the following prompt: “Examine the ways in which the global issue of your choice is presented through the content and form of two of the texts that you have studied”. HL students are also expected to submit an essay on a non-literary text, literary text, or collection of non-literary texts by one author of 1200-1500 words. 

Overall, the two courses work very similarly in structure, but the day-to-day as a student may look completely different due to the completely different focuses. The choice between Lit and Lang&Lit may not be an easy one, so you may want to speak with a tutor to hear what they have to say!