Individual Oral Commentary – The Rules


At Standard Level You Must:

·         Individually give a 10 minute oral presentation on a 20-30 line extract from one of the two texts you have studied in this part of the course

·         You will be expected to talk for around 8 minutes and answer questions for 2 minutes



At Higher Level You Must:

·         Individually give a 10 minute oral presentation on a poem or a 20-30 line extract from a poem

·         You will be expected to talk for around 8 minutes and answer questions for 2 minutes

·         This will be followed by a 10 minute ‘informed discussion’ on one of the other two texts that you have studied in this part of the course



Further Details:

·         Your oral will be on a poem (HL) or an extract of the text (SL) that we have studied in class

·         You will not know which poem or text or extract you will get in advance of the oral

·         At HL you will not know which text the informed discussion will be about until we start that section of the oral

·         Immediately before your oral you will be given a 20 minute preparation time in which to read the poem / extract and plan what you will say in your oral

·         There will be two guiding questions at the bottom of the extract to help give you things to think about and, although you should at least touch on these points in your oral, they should not have to be treated as questions which you must answer



The Formal Oral Commentary is meant to assess your ability to:

·         Develop a personal / individual understanding of the thoughts, feelings or ideas conveyed by the author in the poem / extract you have been given

·         Comment, in detail, on the way the literary choices made by the author and the effect that these may have on the reader – you should consider features such as diction, tone, imagery, symbols, structure, etc

·         Structure an oral presentation in a clear, sensible and logical fashion

·         Use language appropriate to a formal oral situation

·         Work under high pressure time constraints

·         For HL students the discussion section of the oral is meant to asses your understanding of the second text and your ability to respond to questions about this text in an informed and persuasive manner




·         One of the sections of the mark scheme where it is easiest to score highly is the organisation section. Using Organising Principles to structure your oral and making sure you follow the steps laid out in the step by step guide is a good way of making sure you gain good marks in this section.

·         In order to demonstrate excellent understanding of the poem or extract, you will need to go beyond the immediate extract you have been given. At SL level you will need to situate your extract in context and show that you know not only where this extract occurs in the text (i.e. what happens before and what happens after) but also how this extract contributes to ideas that have been developed so far, introduces a new theme, represents the first use of a particularly significant symbol, represents a dramatic climax or shows a character in a light that we have not previously seen. At HL, you will need to show an understanding of how this poem reflects (or contrasts with) the style or the concerns of other poems that we have studied by Plath. At both HL and SL level you may also want to comment on any relevant social / political / cultural or autobiographical context and how understanding this context can help to illuminate the text you have been given or allow us to see it in a different light.

·         When examining the writer’s choices you need to really examine in detail the literary features of the text and comment on the effect that they have on the reader / audience. Commenting on a wide range of literary features (sounds, rhythm, structure, enjambment, etc…) not just on the connotations of the words used and how all of these different kinds of features work together to create an effect will help you gain good marks.

·         An extract will be duplicated a random number of times among you, so just because someone else gets a certain extract it does not mean that it will not come up for you.