Individual Oral Commentary


You should find a fairly “deep” meaning, which comes from a close reading of the text

Although IOC is often framed like a Paper 1, you are expected to take things a lot deeper, as you have the time to study the poems and texts in some level of depth. Since your burden is a lot deeper, you should ensure that you read and annotate each text thoroughly, several times, well before your IOC is due.

Often your deeper reading will be based on an overarching theme or motif, which you can argue for using evidence from the text. It is often good to approach the text in your own way - you should perhaps find a theme or motif you are deeply interested in (so long as the text allows for this).

At my IB school, we used Denise Levertov’s poetry, which is commonly seen as “Post-Modern” (Whatever that means). Some common themes/motifs in Levertov’s style of poetry seems to be

- Metapoetry (Poetry about the poetic or artistic process itself)
- Social Criticism (Especially on aspects of capitalism, the meritocracy, and warfare)
- Search for Divinity (Including profoundly theological imagery and diction)


To read closely, annotate

It might be helpful to colour code when you underline using one of those multicoloured pens, as things can get quite messy. A method my teacher gave me when you annotate is to

1. Look for repetition (any repeated words, images or ideas are deliberately chosen to stand out)
2. Look for relationships between different elements (The speaker, subject, and images within the play often show some relation between each other, which informs us about each. For instance, in Jacob’s Ladder, the relationship between the man and the stairway informs us both about the man and the stairway.
3. Look for anomalies (anything that is unexpected often leads you to a deeper theme or motif, as the poet has chosen to deliberately break a pattern. For instance, in Jacob’s Ladder, the poem is about Jacob going up a ladder for most of the poem, until the last line says, “the poem ascends”, which is profoundly anomalous. We understand then, that the man might represent poetry itself)

Whilst you use this method, I would recommend that you also take note of any poetic devices you can find - not just the common literary devices such as metaphors and similes, but also the devices used in poetry such as enjambment, caesura etc, as knowledge of these smaller details enables you to show off your knowledge and understanding.


Since the IB’s expectations are high for your IOC, you really need to invest time to practise.

Very much unlike the IOP, the IOC is recorded and sent to the IB for moderation. In the IOP, your teacher might be slightly more on your side. By contrast, in the IOC, the IB selects a random sample to students to “moderate” (they mark your teacher’s marking and lower, raise or keep your teacher’s grades for your entire class). This means that teachers expect a lot more from you. Also, it’s worth noting that your IOP grades are also often moderated.

In this context, it is vital that you actually practise for your IOC. I would recommend the following steps

1. Using your annotated poem, try to talk for 8 minutes about the poem, recording yourself on your phone
2. Repeat this recording, until you are comfortable enough to share your IOC recording with someone else (such as your teacher or a close friend)
3. Ask someone who you feel is capable of giving you feedback to listen to your practice IOC
4. Use this feedback to record your IOC again.