Elena Grigorovici, IB Ambassador of English at IB Wave.
Language B – Language acquisition main focus
Language B is an additional language acquisition course designed for students with some previous learning of that language. This may be studied at either SL or HL.
The main focus of this course is on language acquisition and development of language skills through the study and use of a range of written and spoken material.
Such material will extend from everyday oral exchanges to literary texts and will be related to the culture concerned.
SL and HL are differentiated by the recommended number of teaching hours, the depth of syllabus coverage, the study of literature at HL, and the level of difficulty and demands of assessment and assessment criteria.
Language B - Themes
There are five prescribed themes which are common to the syllabuses of language B which provide not only relevant contexts for study at all levels of language acquisition in the DP but also opportunities for students to communicate about matters of personal, local or national, and global interest.
The five prescribed themes for both the standard and higher level IB courses are:
- Identities – the nature of the self and what it is to be human.
- Experiences – the stories of the events, experiences and journeys that shape our lives.
- Human ingenuity – the ways in which human creativity and innovation affect our world.
- Social organisation – the ways in which groups of people organise themselves, or are organised, through common systems or interests.
- Sharing the planet – the challenges and opportunities faced by individuals and communities in the modern world.
The themes allow students to compare the target language and culture(s) to other languages and cultures with which they are familiar.
The themes also provide opportunities for students to make connections to other disciplinary areas in the DP.
In addition, the study of two literary works originally written in the target language is a requirement at HL in language B.
HL students are expected to understand fundamental elements of the literary works studied, such as themes, plot and characters.
In the Internal Assessment, Part 3, the teacher asks general questions about the student’s interests, which can focus on one of the Themes mentioned above.
Language B - Language acquisition: New perspectives
According to the latest DP subject updates, the proposal for the nearest future is the IB DP language acquisition pilot study which aims to improve the oral proficiency by using computer-adaptive assessment and formative feedback.
It is meant to be a small-scale pilot study which is currently recruiting schools which offer French B SL, Spanish B SL and Mandarin B SL.
It is mainly focused on teacher’s feedback tools and strategies which are meant to assist in providing feedback after student oral/interactive activities.
On the other hand, students will receive post-activity reflective engagements.
English B- Higher Level: Tips for a better assessment
The externally assessed material requires students to show their productive skills through a written task as well listening and reading comprehension tasks that are all based on the five themes above.
The Internal Assessment is assessed through an oral recording where students will need to engage in a conversation with the teacher.
SL students will discuss an unseen visual stimulus but HL students will need to discuss an extract from one of the literary works they have studied in class.
We are still following the subject guide launched in 2020
Paper 1: Productive skills 25% (externally assessed)
For the writing exam (which takes an hour and thirty minutes) students are meant to write one writing exercise of 450-600 words from a choice of three each from a different theme and text type choice.
At HL, the nature of the tasks is more demanding than at SL, and the responses require both the use of more complex language and structures as well as more fully developed analysis, evaluation, synthesis and interpretation skills.
This difference between SL and HL is also reflected in the assessment criteria which, at HL, take as their starting point the middle bands of the SL criteria and proceed upward from there.
Paper 2 Receptive skills 50% (externally assessed)
This part is called Paper 2 but is actually viewed as two separate papers, Listening and Reading.
Individual oral assessment (IA) : 25% (internally assessed, externally moderated by IB)
The IA (Internal Assessment) takes between twelve to fifteen minutes, it focuses on a conversation with the teacher, based on an extract from one of the literary works studied in class, followed by discussion based on one or more of the themes from the IB syllabus.
It should be taken into account that Criterion A applies to all parts.
Criterion B1 applies to the presentation only.
Criterion B2 and Criterion C apply to both Part 2 follow-up discussion, and Part 3 general discussion.
There are no set penalties for an oral exam that lasts less than the minimum length of time and the examiner should apply the criteria in the normal way.
The impact of a short oral exam on the final marks awarded depends on how short it is, and the range of language, quality of the ideas and level of interaction the student demonstrates in that time.
If an oral is notably shorter than the minimum length of time, (e.g. 10 mins for B HL), it’s unlikely that the student will have answered the teacher’s questions in sufficient breadth and depth (criterion B2), nor demonstrate the ability to sustain their participation in the conversation (criterion C) to achieve maximum marks.
However, examiners should not look to automatically mark shorter oral exams lower than longer ones.
IA -Timing during the exam
The timings given for each part of the IA are approximate. Once the maximum 15 minutes has elapsed, examiners should allow the student to complete their sentence then stop listening, and the assessment must be based on what the student has said up to that point.
If the presentation is unduly long, and the amount of time given to discussion is limited, then it may result in lower marks for Criterion B2 and C.
IA- Pauses, rephrasing and repetition
Pauses, rephrasing and repetition are all a natural part of speaking, so students will not be marked down automatically in such cases.
Instead, IB examiners should take a holistic view as to whether these characteristics affect communication, or reflect a lack in command of language, and apply the criteria accordingly.
IA- Generic aspects
If the student gives a presentation on the whole literary text, rather than the extract, it is important to know that it is fine for students to give a brief introduction to the work as a whole to give context to the extract they are presenting on, the presentation must focus specifically to the content of the extract.
Presentations on generic aspects of a literary work, or those in the style of a “book review” that do not directly focus on the content of the extract is not the object of this assessment.
In such presentations, the response may score a maximum of 2 in Criterion B1, if the observations and opinions presented are effectively developed and supported by reference to the work (if not the extract).
If observations and opinions are not well developed or supported, a lower mark should be considered including the award of a 0, if the response does not meet the descriptors in the 1-2 mark band.
There is no doubt the information and the tips presented above will give you a better view of the English B HL requirements, and will encourage you to adopt the best strategy to improve your performance and IB results.
If you want to find out more IB tips, stay tuned for our blog updates.