In my last blog post in the series, I set about to demystify the IB. In the next few posts, I am going to delve a little deeper into the specific subject groups of the IB to give you a little more insight in what will be required of you, and also some advise on how to pick the right subjects for you, starting with your literature subjects!


As you may remember, there are 6 subject groups in the IB:


  • Studies in Language and Literature (group 1)
  • Language Acquisition (group 2)
  • Individuals and societies (group 3)
  • Science (group 4)
  • Mathematics (group 5)
  • Arts (group 6)


Today, we will be focusing on the first of these subject groups: Studies in Language and Literature.

What is it all about?


‘What does ‘studies in language and literature’ actually mean?’ is a question that I get asked frequently. Students often wonder which language they will actually be studying.


Simply put, you group 1 subject should be the language you are going to write your exams in. So for me, studying in the UK, I took English Literature as my exams were going to be in English. The point of group 1 subjects are not that you will be learning a new language, but rather developing and learning about a language you are already competent in.


If you are fluent in two or more languages, there is an opportunity take 2 different group 1 subjects. This means instead of taking one subject from group one, and one from group two (language aquision), you take two from group one. An example may be that you speak Spanish and English, so therefore take HL English Literature and HL Spanish Literature. This means you get a Bilingual Diploma (which is pretty darn cool).


What’s the point?


Another question I am frequently asked is ‘what’s the point in studying literature?’. Now, I studied English Literature at university, so realise that I am biased, but language and literature is super important to learn about.


Language, some argue, is what makes us human. Communication in written and spoken form is essential for life. The ability to be critical of language, therefore, which group 1 subjects teach you to be, is crucial. The analytical skills help you identify the nuances of language– why people use specific words, the purpose of their speech, the hidden meanings. Being able to identify when someone is being persuasive, biased or profession are key skills not just in the IB but in life.


Additionally, being able to read literature is a pleasure it itself. I know I am biased, but the IB strives to foster a love of literature in students, and I think this is really true. I can testify that you can be deeply affected by the texts you study, and remember them for a long time after you finish the diploma.

What different options are available to me?


There are three courses you can take in group 1, all focusing on literary texts (you cannot escape reading in this subject group!) but from slightly different angles.


The first is Literature A.


In this course, you focus solely on literary texts- poems, prose and plays. Higher Level (HL) and Standard Level (SL) are examined in the same, and you study the same topics. The major difference is that HL is more in depth, so you spend more hours on the texts, and you also study more texts.


The course structure looks like this:



It’s examined by 2 written exams, 1 piece of written coursework, 1 oral commentary and 1 presentation.


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What makes it so special?


When I took the IB from 2011-2013, this is the course I studied. On a personal level, what I thought was really special was the range of texts you got to study. From Shakespeare’s Othello to Persepolis, a graphic novel by Marjane Satrapi, you get to study so many different aspects of the subject.


Secondly, I loved that part of my assessment was through oral commentary. This is a little scary when you first start practicing, but the skills it gives you are amazing. Being able to confidently present and talk extensively on a text helped me know end at university, and now in my job as a motivational speaker for Lanterna.


Finally, I think the freedom you get to explore texts is second to none. You are not beholden to what a critic or what your teacher thinks, the IB is interested instead in your thoughts. A rarity. 


The second is Language and Literature A


This course focuses not just on literature, but also on non fiction texts and written in communication- from poetry to blog posts, political speeches to infomercials. You think more specifically about words and their placement in a sentence, as opposed to focusing solely on literary feature.


As with Literature A, HL and SL examined in the same way. There are 2 written exams, 1 piece of written coursework, 1 oral commentary and 1 presentation.


The modules you take are as follows:


Language in cultural context, focusing on the effect of culture and context on language and meaning.

Language and mass communication, looking at forms of communication in the media, such as newspapers, online articles, twitter etc.

Literature—texts and contexts, focusing on the historical, cultural and social contexts in which texts are written and received.

Literature—critical study, essentially a detailed study of literary works.


What makes it special?


As I said earlier, I took English Literature A. In light of this, I asked another of Lanterna’s stellar IB graduates, Sara what she thought was really awesome about the Language and Literature course:


‘I loved how you were introduced to the idea that language doesn’t have to be written in a book to be interesting. Instead, you got to consider how language can be used in marketing or politics. Also, I loved the we wrote own short stories, which allowed me both to use my own imagination, but also understand literature from the perspective on a author.’


Sounds pretty cool to me…


The final course is Literature and Performance

Only offered at SL, this course focuses on the fusion between literature and performance.


It’s examined by 2 exams, 1 piece of written coursework and a performance.


The structure of the course is as follows:



What makes it so special?


What I think is amazing about this course, from watching my friends study it at school, it how dynamic it is. One moment you are studying a text in depth, and then the next you are up and trying to recreate that text using physical theatre or puppetry.


It gives you amazing presentational and performance skills, and also a very different perspective on literature. Instead of thinking as ‘genre’ as a fixed entity, you get to appreciate the versatility of the literary form.

What more help?

If you are looking to get a head start on your IB, why not check out Lanterna’s Pre-IB summer courses? They are an amazing chance to get yourself prepared for next year! Click here for more details.

Read Part 3: Group 2 Subjects

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