• 20 mins preparation on a 20-30 line extract from one of your texts
  • HL: Oral Commentary (8 mins) and questions (2 mins) on poetry followed by discussion on another text (10 mins). Recorded.
  • SL: Oral Commentary (8 mins) and questions (2 mins) on one text. Recorded.

What will the Oral Commentary ask me to do?

For the oral commentary, you will be required to analyse an extract, chosen by the teacher, from one of the Part 2 works studied.  You will have 20 minutes preparation time (under exam conditions) and are expected to talk about the extract (always poetry for HL) for 8 minutes followed by 2 minutes of teacher questions. HL pupils then have a 10 minute discussion on one of the two remaining texts.  It happens outside class time, one-to-one with your teacher and is recorded.


Suggested Structure for Commentary:

  • 1 minute intro: Context of extract – Overview – Significance of extract – Structure to your commentary
  • 6 minute body: 3 x 2-minute sections: (e.g.) themes, character, language, imagery….
  • 1 minute conclusion: Personal response. Overall importance and interest of extract


Key Skills:

  1. Speaking with clarity and coherence
  2. Exploring a text in a structured way
  3. Using vocabulary to show insight and engagement



·         Structure could be much better from all.  Say “Guiding Question” – show how you will be addressing them but do this briskly, concisely, precisely. Signpost. Signpost. Signpost.

·         A bit of preamble is great as long as it takes no more than 30 secs and (i) gives an overview of your ‘take’ on the poem “This is a meditation on the inevitability of death which focuses on X in order to foreground y …” (ii) puts the poem (v briefly) in context – VITAL if it is an extract.

·         Don’t lead with quotations. 

·         Embed quotations. So many of you start quoting at the beginning of a line as if it’s the start of a sentence – shows a deep misunderstanding of the poem and the rules of engagement for poetry.

·         Be more precise and concise. Be more precise and concise. Be more precise and concise.

·         Use technical terms (far more) and answer the questions HOW and WHY.

·         Tackle the hard bits of the poems. Be tentative if necessary.

·         Ensure coverage of every stanza.

·         Get to 8 mins and then stop (with a 10ish second thoughtful and relevant conclusion pulling together strings).

·         But if you don’t (quite get to 8), let me ask you questions rather than repeating what you’ve already said.

·         Look at your annotations – did they help you? What could you do better?

·         Sound as if you love  the poem – be enthusiastic.

·         Actively interrogate the text during the IOC

·         Know the poems better. You have a week.  Make it work.  Do the hard work.




·         This was either easily the strongest or easily the weakest section of your various IOCs.

·         The difference was simple: where people knew the texts they were often brilliant; where they didn’t they were often poor. Conclusion: know the texts. Do the work.

·         Learn a few quotations (would be – and was yesterday – very impressive) but fundamentally just know the text.

·         Engage in the discussion and enjoy it.  The discussions that went best were genuinely enjoyable (for me too).