While the Paper 2 essay only takes 1.5 hours at SL and 2 hours at HL, in fact you can spend hours preparing for it. Good preparation will ensure that every minute of the exam is used wisely. We recommend you see the ‘skills’ page for further explanation on how one develops the necessary skills. On this page, you will find an overview of tips that you can apply to the preparation process.
Read the instructions. So many candidates skip the instructions and go straight to the questions. The instructions on the Paper 2 exam draw your attention to the criteria that you will be assessed on. It helps to have these in the back of your mind as you respond to the question you choose to answer.
Remember that the Paper 2 exam is asking you to do three things. In fact, these correspond to the first three criteria. Try looking at good samples and with three different colors of highlighter pens, highlights examples of each of these three.
A) Be knowledgeable on the text and the context.
B) Do not forget to answer the question.
C) Remember to comment on the author’s use of language, style and structure.
Remember that there are 6 questions on the exam. Not all questions will lend themselves to the works you have read. What’s more, some questions are more criteria-focused than others. For example, a question such as, ‘Explain why your literary works are timeless’, will lend itself well to criterion A, where you must comment on the context in which works were written and received.
Practice writing outlines for questions that appeared on previous tests (or one of the Specimen Papers).
Do research on the time period when the work was written and the authors that you have studied for Part 3 works. Find 3-5 points from his/her life that may be relevant to the work you read.
Have you shown how well you read the novels? Try to write a little bit about these three things in the essay in order to score well on Criterion C:
A) Setting – How is it important to understanding the context?
B) Plot – Was there a twist, a climax, a conflict that was of particular importance?
C) Narrative technique – Who is telling the story? Why did the author choose to tell it this way?
At HL, ask yourself if you can do the works justice by writing about all 3 works. If you take such an approach, it is not recommended to compare and contrast all of them within unified paragraphs. If you decide to write about all 3 works, spend one or two paragraphs on each work, commenting on context, style and answering the question at hand.
Practice using the assessment criteria by examining both good and bad SAMPLES HERE: P2 Orwell, OBrien, Solzhenitsyn.
SAMPLE EXAM QUESTIONS – PAPER 2
Answer one essay question only. You must base your answer on at least two of the Part 3 works you have studied. You may include in your answer a discussion of a Part 2 work of the same genre if relevant. Answers which are not based on a discussion of at least two Part 3 works, will not score high marks.
(a) Discuss and compare the role of the speaker or persona in poems you have studied. You must refer closely to the work of two or three poets in your study and base your answer on a total of three or four poems.
(b) “The principal concern of poets is either to explain themselves to the world, or to explain the world to themselves.” Considering in detail how poets in your study convey their principal concerns, say to what extent you agree with the above statement. You must refer closely to the work of two or three poets in your study and base your answer on a total of three or four poems
Prose: The Novel and Short Story
(a) Acquiring material wealth or rejecting its attractions has often been the base upon which writers have developed interesting plots. Compare the ways the writers of two or three works you have studied have developed such motivations.
(b) “Make them laugh, make them cry, make them wait.”
Focusing on one of these demands for the writing of fiction, show how it emerges as a significant factor in creating interest in two or three works you have studied.
Prose: Other than the Novel and Short Story
(a) Compare how structure or organization has been used to shape meaning in two or three works you have studied.
(b) “Some writers cause readers to consider action; others simply want the readers to reflect.” In the light of this quotation, compare the ways in which the writers of two or three works in your study have influenced the attitudes of the reader to the issues they present.
(a) “Some works of literature are universal and timeless; others seem specific to one place and/or time.” In what ways do two or three works in your study explore this range of possibilities?
(b) A writer speaks of being “surprised by joy.” In two or three works you have studied, discuss some moments which have surprised and/or delighted you and consider the ways writers have achieved those particular effects.
(c) Using two or three of the works you have studied, discuss how and to what effect writers have used exaggeration as a literary device.
(d) Writers make many deliberate choices in the course of creating their works. Considering one or two stylistic aspects, compare the effectiveness of some choices writers have made in two or three works you have studied.