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IB Review for Oral Commentary
Exam Year 2017
What to Expect
1. You will have 20 minutes to prepare your commentary with the passage.
2. Then, you will write the time you began on your paper to keep track of it.
3. Remember, you must speak non-stop for 10 minutes. I will then ask questions to round
out your commentary (5 minutes). They will help you earn more credit for exploring parts
of the passage not fully covered or expanding on connections you made.
4. I will tape record your commentary.
5. I will be taking notes during your commentary to write down all that you say.
The Day of Your Commentary
1. You may miss ONLY the class period prior to your commentary. During this time, you
need to be on campus either relaxing or studying.
2. You do not have to turn in ANY HOMEWORK the day of your commentary or take any
reading quizzes.
3. Make sure you are in the front lobby at least TEN MINUTES PRIOR to your
appointment. You do not have to bring anything with you. I will have everything you
need. 
 Your preparation time will take place in the viewing room.
 Your commentary will take place in the viewing room.
 Be in Mrs. Biela’s office when it is time for your appointment. I will come greet you
when it is time for you to begin your prep time.
 When it is time for your preparation, you will be set up in the viewing room with noise
canceling headphones. I will give you your passage along with paper and a pen. You will
have twenty minutes to prepare for your commentary.
 After the twenty minutes, I will ask you to stop preparing and come to the other end of the
viewing room.
 There will be a digital clock and tape recorder next to you.
 Right before pressing record, I will write two times on your paper—the time when you
have talked for ten minutes and the end-time for question and answer. That will mark
your goal.
 We will let the tape record for 10 seconds before you begin.
 Then, you will state your name and candidate number.
 Jump right into your introduction and commentary.
 Look at the clock to see when you need to conclude your commentary. You will want to
begin your conclusion at nine minutes.
IMPORTANT: You may NOT discuss what passage you received with other students. This is
considered academic dishonesty. When everyone has completed their commentary, you may
discuss but not before.
What to Consider— During your 20 minute prep. time:
1. Address the following details:
WHO is speaking?
WHAT? WHY? situation, purpose
WHERE? WHEN? setting
PATTERNS? structure, form
TENSION? contrasts, conflicts, ironies
SO WHAT? dominant effect
2. Address connections to other poems/parts of the work.
3. Analyze Literary Structure and Devices:
Prose Passage:
a. Narrator
i. Dramatized?
ii. Undramatized?
b. Narrative Distance—Degree of distance between…
i. Author and narrator
ii. Narrator and characters
iii. Character A and Character B
c. Levels of Narrative
i. Objective
ii. Commentary
iii. Colored narrative
iv. Dialogue or monologue
d. Character traits/personality/character
e. Morals/values of character
Rhyme and meter
Enjambment, sound devices
Diction Imagery Syntax
Fig Lang: metaphor/simile,
symbolism, paradox, allusion
irony, other tropes
Narrative Pace
Point of View—Levels of narrative:
 Dramatized: 1st Person
 Undramatized: 3rd Person
 Colored by Character’s Thoughts
Diction (tone)—detail—imagery—figurative language (metaphor/simile, allusion, irony,
symbol, personification, etc.)—syntax
Suggestions for Organizing the Commentary
Write an outline on the passage to keep you on track during the commentary
Intro: Begin with the major issues in the passage/poem that appear in the whole work or the
poet’s body of works.
Thesis: dominant effect of the passage as it relates to those issues
Body: Base structure on the passage’s structure, pattern of imagery, etc.
Support with specific references to and explanations of the passage
Analyze literary devices
IF a particular part of the passage connects to another poem or another part of the
work, make the connection here.
Conclusion: Completely define dominant effect based upon preceding analysis
Make big connections (supported with specifics) to the rest of the work or other
poems by the poet.
End with the meaning of the whole work, or the poet’s body of work, as this
passage reveals it or connects to it.
After having annotated the text given to you, make statements in which you “…comment about the theme
and the ways the author uses elements such as structure, tone, images, and other stylistic devices to
communicate his/her purpose.”
Dominant Effect should be your thesis about the passage.
Structuring the essay: Find the pattern of the poem/passage and structure around it.
Try to find all the faults of the connection you’ve made. What doesn’t it account for?
What evidence does it leave out?
Remember that the passage doesn’t have to resolve ambiguities or tension, though it may;
it may be about an ambiguity or tension that you simply want to appreciate rather than
Topic sentence = relates to thesis
Example from text
Analysis of how it relates to thesis
Study Notes
1. Novel/short stories by Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises, The Snows of Kilimanjaro, A Clean
Well-Lighted Place, Hills Like White Elephants
Suggested study route:
Show awareness that these are Modernist texts and fit into the genre of the “Lost
Make an outline of the plot events/scenes
Note roles of different characters and their internal and external conflicts
Write a statement of meaning for the works as a whole (consider moral and tone)
Make a list of major themes
Consider the primary symbols, images, allusions, patterns/motifs, and the nature of
dialogue in each of the texts (consider the “Iceberg Theory”)
2. Novel/short stories by Kate Chopin, The Awakening, The Storm, The Story of an Hour
Suggested study route:
Review the cultural context of the author Make an outline of the plot events
Note roles of different characters
Write a statement of meaning for the works as a whole (consider the moral and tone)
Make a list of major themes
Make sure to know the general progression of the parts of the novels and stories (what
happens when)
3. Poems by John Donne
Suggested study route:
Review the cultural context of the author (Donne- 17th century Metaphysical poet).
Re-read the poems from the poetry packet.
Write a statement of meaning for each (i. e. what is the overall meaning, impression of the
Note major images/devices and what each poem is about.
List major motifs, repeated themes for each author.
Things to Remember Based on IB’s Suggestions for Success
Pulled from the IB subject guide:
Students are expected to demonstrate their ability to communicate in a sustained and organized
The commentary should not be a series of unconnected points concerning the text.
Students are expected to use a register appropriate to the commentary.
During the commentary students must focus only on the text. If the text is an extract from a novel,
for example, the relationship to the whole text or other works by the writer should be mentioned
only when relevant.
Students should not use this activity as an opportunity to discuss everything they know about the
larger text. They are encouraged to integrate responses to the guiding questions into the
Pulled from the IB Subject Report for 2005:
“The best commentaries achieved coherence with a clear central thesis that was systematically developed
through thematic or structural approaches.”
“The few best commentaries were effective and engaging, detailed, even occasionally original. They were
a pleasure to listen to, and they had obviously been a pleasure for the candidates to deliver.”
“Recall that context can and should also include character revelation, thematic development, the interplay
of imagery, changes in tone, and so on.”
“The best candidates succinctly compared the treatment of themes, imagery and tone in the poems they
were given with other specific examples by the same writer (or other writers, when the “work” included
two or more writers).”
Grade Equivalents
Total of 30 Points
1: 0-5
2: 6-10
3: 11-13
4: 14-16
5: 17-20
6: 21-23
7: 24-30