Tips and Tricks for IB English Literature and Performance (Paper 2)

English Literature and Performance is a subject available in IB under both Group 1: studies in language and literature, and Group 6: the arts. It aims to explore the relation between literature and theatre. As a student of literature and performance, you are required to study a minimum of five texts. This blog focuses on the two poets and their poems you would be studying and the required assessment.


Paper 2 requires analytic comparison of poems by two poets. Throughout the two years of the Diploma Program, you will study two poets and about 5-6 poems written by each of them, a total of 10-12 poems. Your teacher may teach them to you in pairs, one poem by one author and one by another yet both related by their themes. These poets will have very different writing styles, yet you may find similarities in their use of particular literary devices. This paper requires a detailed analysis of both the poems in the context of the genres, cultures and the periods in which they were written.

Paper 2 has six generic questions to choose from since every school teacher can choose which two poets he/she wishes to teach. You are required to answer one of these questions in the form of an analytical essay. You cannot take any books in the exam hall for this paper and would need to know the words of the poems by heart. Your IB English tutor can explain this to you in detail if you are confused, however, here is a vague example:

For instance, you are studying Margaret Atwood and Robert Frost. Both have extremely different styles but some of their poems have similar themes. Their outlook and their approach to the theme can be similar or different and this is what the essay is all about. How has Atwood and Frost seen and written about particular themes, how do they differ and how are they similar in terms of their use of literary devices and structure. An example question would be how two poets have handled conflicts, both internal and external in their poems. You can see how vague and open ended the question is yet restricting you to poems with the idea of conflict in them. Choosing Half-hanged Mary by Atwood and The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost, you have to pick literary devices and discuss what effect they have and how they effectively portray conflict. You also have to explain what the poet means and whether the two poets have a different outlook to conflict. What kind of conflict is it? How does structure and form of the poem develop this idea of conflict? How are the two poems similar yet different or different yet similar? These are the few sub-questions that can help you write a good essay. However, most papers also always contain an even more generic question that requires you to discuss content and form, voice, structure etc. These questions can be applied to almost any set of two poems that have similar themes. Nevertheless, this does not mean that you should only study two poems. This is because these two poems may not have enough material for you to write about in context of their structure or voice etc. Tips and tricks further on by getting online IB tuition by Baccalaureate Classes tutors can help you identify and prepare smartly for your exam.

Do not hesitate to consult your IB English tutor to help you with analysis of the poems. You have 1 hour 30 minutes to write this essay and it comprises 20% of your final grade.


Criterion A: Knowledge and understanding of texts

This criterion is examining how well you know the poems you have studied. This is not only the words of the poem but also the meaning of the poem and the use of literary devices. You should be well informed of all the literary devices like sibilance, repetition, metaphors etc. and the structure of the poem including the hint of iambic pentameter etc. You should know what the themes are, what the poem means by every line and what effect does it have on the reader. Very importantly, you have to include references in your analysis. The more informed references and quotes from the poem you include in your answer, the better your answer is. However, the quotes must be relevant to the point you are trying to make, the subsequent analysis and must help you answer the question. This tells the examiner that you are extremely well informed of the poems you are analyzing. Discuss and analyze the poems with your IB online tutor to be able to write an informed analysis in your answer.

Criterion B: Response to the question

This criterion examines how well you have responded to the question. If the question is about conflict, have you linked all our analysis to the question and explicitly written how you are answering the question through your analysis? Hence, it is important to judge which question you should pick and which poems. Personal interpretations without using the word ‘I’ are also appreciated. You can include this by saying – ‘Another possible interpretation of this could be…’ or ‘this metaphor (any other literary device you are talking about) can also be interpreted as…’. However, discuss this interpretation with your IB English online tutor so that it is not ill-informed or does not suggest that you have not understood the poems. Since the paper requires a comparison between two poets, your response must include a sense of comparison always. If both poems use sibilance, then compare the effect of sibilance in the respective poems in relation to the question.

Criterion C: Appreciation of literary features

This criterion examines your knowledge and analysis of literary features. Though the other criteria depend on your analysis, this criterion focuses on it. You should have detailed analysis of at least 8-10 literary features in your essay in relation to the question. Your Online IB English tutor can help you with this. The analysis should be supported with good examples and quotes from the poems. Additionally, many students stray away from answering the question and start generally analyzing the poem as they write their answer. You must be careful that your analysis and explanation has direct, explicit and obvious links to the questions and answers it well.

Criterion D & E: Presentation and Formal use of language

Your essay should have an effective structure that contributes to answering the question you chose well. Supporting examples should be well integrated into the body of the essay. The use of language should be clear, varied, precise and concise. There should be no significant lapses in grammar, spelling and sentence construction. A wide vocabulary and varied idiom and style should be evident, and the choice of register should be effective for literary analysis. This will only be achieved with practice. Do not forget to get them checked and marked by your IB English tutor. Your IB tutor can not only give you detailed feedback but also give you insights and tips into making your writing more effective.


  • Before you enter the examination hall, your preparation of your exam should include a list of at least 3 pair of poems (3 of each poet) that are rich in literary features and can answer a wide range of questions. You should have an in-depth understanding of these poems and should have written answers comparing these pairs of poems at least twice before your final exams. You can discuss this list with your online IB English tutor.
  • To make sure these pairs of poems will help you answer at least one of the six questions, go through the last 10 years of past papers and check which question you would answer with which pair and how you would structure your answer. Do you have enough to write and fulfill the criteria? If you are confident that you can answer at least on question of each paper, then your list is perfect! If not, then you should in your IB tuition classes how to add poems to this list or change a pair and repeat this process.
  • Have an in-depth understanding of all literary features in these poems. You may not need to learn the long poems by heart if you can remember the words that have literary features to be used as reference quotes. Since questions are so generic, covering all literary features in your mind beforehand will help you form your essay easily to answer the question you choose without wasting any time during exam! If you are stuck and wish to discuss ideas and possibilities, your IB tutors can always help you preparing for final exams!
  • Practice makes perfect! Practice a lot of answers and get it marked by your teacher or IB tutor.
  • Personally as a student, I felt the PEEL method is the best and easiest way to structure your essay and fulfill at least the first three criteria. You can use this with alterations for other analytical essays in English. You can ask your IB tutor to explain this method in detail but here is a generic possible structure of your essay:
    • Introduction - Which poems by which poets. Why would these two poems help you answer the question? What have you understood of the question and how you plan to answer it? What are the main literary features you will discuss?
    • POINT (P) – Literary feature and what effect it has on the reader?
    • EVIDENCE (E) – Reference quotes from the poems.
    • EXPLAIN (E) – Explain why these reference quotes are an excellent example of the literary device. How and what effect they have on the meaning of the poem and the reader? What does it help you understand about the poet or the persona?
    • LINK (L) – Link to the question. How is your explanation leading to an answer to the question? Use synonyms of words used to explain your interpretation of the question in your introduction.
    • Conclusion – summarize your answer in a few sentences. Overall, how are the two poets similar or different?

Use the PEEL for each of the poems, one or two literary devices in one paragraph. Compare in your explanation how the use and effect is similar or different from the previous poem.

This is my guide to you, as a student of the English Literature and Performance. These tips and tricks worked for me and I hope they will get you 7 points in PAPER 2 as well. Baccalaureate Classes are always there to help you whenever you need it!

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