Making the grade – revising English A and Language B subjects

The first exams on the new English A courses were the IB’s May 2013 exams. Data from that exam session showed that schools had been changing the English A subjects they had chosen for their students. There had been a slight drift from the old “A1 HL” to A: Language & literature HL, but a massive swing from “A1 SL” to A: Language and literature SL.

Nevertheless, the grades achieved for English A variants were still disappointing. While 33 Language A subjects achieved average points scores of 6.0 or more, the average grade for English A: Literature HL was 4.78 and the other three English A courses only just exceeded 5.0. Looking at the top grades, while 10.7% of students studying languages other than English achieved a ‘7’, the proportion for English A was 3.8%.

Schools have many theories as to why English A grades are – in general – lower than those for other Language A subjects. Here at OSC, we are less likely to wonder why and more likely to be offering courses to help English A students improve their grades.

During our IBDP Exam Revision Courses, we run separate classes for the four different English A subjects – Literature HL, Literature SL, Language & literature HL and Language & literature SL. The teachers we have booked are experts in their respective subjects – many are examiners and a significant proportion also train other teachers.

How do they manage to support students who have read diverse texts in different schools? The answer is experience. With this experience, they can provide valid guidance and appropriate samples to show how to tackle the different unseen texts for Paper 1. Time management skills and essay-writing strategies are also developed.

For Paper 2, they are skilled in taking into account the different genres and texts that each individual student has studied. Sessions draw out key contextual knowledge, show how to form thesis statements and then demonstrate how these statements can be used to structure an essay. Across both papers, their experience as teachers, examiners and/or workshop leaders guides students to develop more effective revision and examination techniques.

What about other languages? Unfortunately, OSC is not able to offer Revision Courses for minority Language A subjects (the Statistical Bulletin shows subjects with as few as 10 students worldwide), but we can offer them for German A. We also run highly effective classes in Language B – English B, French B and Spanish B. Once again, the key to our success is the vast experience of the teachers. Although English B grades are typically strong (for example, 26% of students taking English B SL in May 2013 scored a ‘7’), those for French B and Spanish B are weaker. Attending a short, sharp, intensive Revision Course can make the difference between a 3 or a 4, between a 6 or a 7.

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