Writing a commentary or essay on a text you’ve never read before in exam conditions can be daunting, but with the proper approach to it, you can ace your way through it with little to no stress!

Before the exam

  • Familiarise yourself with how we read and find meaning in any text.
    • What are the effects of different types of structure, narration, rhythm, action, diction, sound, setting, characterisation, figurative language, tone, atmosphere, imagery, subject, themes, ideas, etc.
    • Knowing the common devices authors use to create meaning allows you to identify them more easily in any given text.
  • Practice, practice, practice!
    • Find any past exam papers available, even if they are for a different type of certificate, and practice them under exam conditions.
    • Take excerpts out of a random book and practice, whether it be from a library, or your own personal collection.
    • The more you practice critically analysing a text, the easier it will become. If you don’t have the time to sit down and write out a complete essay, even planning how you would structure your essay and the ideas you would discuss is beneficial. This really cannot be over stressed, the more you write on unseen texts, the more comfortable you will be tackling another in a serious exam situation.
    • If the essay must be handwritten, this will also give you an opportunity to ensure your handwriting is legible and you are used to writing for prolonged periods of time.
  • Compare ideas in a group.
    • I always find working in groups for English to be highly effective. By discussing a text with a group of friends, someone will probably express an idea you had not considered before and you’ll be more open for alternate interpretations and more likely to recognise them in your own time
  • Critique your past essays.
    • Whether they were prepared or unprepared essays, identify areas where you need to work on to improve your essay writing.
    • Recognise your strengths as well and make an effort to try and include them in all your future essays!

During the exam

  • Read the text several times.
    • Before reading it, look for anything that immediately sticks out. For poetry, is there a distinctive shape? For prose, how is the text separated - one block of text, or several paragraphs?
    • Your first read should simply be for initial impressions. Is there anything that strikes you as important? What is the main idea of the text after only reading it once? What is its tone? 
    • The second reading should be for content. What ideas are at the forefront? What is the author trying to communicate? Underline and note aspects in the text about this. Colour-coding your annotations can be helpful here!
    • In your third reading, you should start noting the style. What stylistic features are prominent? There will likely be a lot on imagery, syntax, diction, structure, etc. Focus on the most important ones and their impact. Is there more to it than meets the eye?
  • Deconstruct the question if you are given one so you fully understand what it is asking you to do.
    • Probably stating the obvious, but it is so important to understand what the question is asking you to write about. Understanding the question can mean the difference between a standard essay and an amazing one
    • Don’t just identify a familiar word in the question and use it to write about whatever you want. Make sure what you’re going to write about addresses all parts to the question. If you’re asked to write about how and to what effect something has had an impact on the reader, don’t just write about how; you must write about to what effect as well! I usually underline the most important parts of the question so I don’t forget to write about them. 
    • Define relevant key terms that are important to the question. How is a character made interesting? What is meant by unreliable? Try to subtly integrate these into your introduction.
  • Plan your essay.
    • An examiner will usually be able to tell the difference between a planned and unplanned essay. Planning gives your essay structure, coherence, and makes it easy to follow
    • You can take a linear structure, addressing aspects of the text line by line. Alternatively, you can take a conceptual approach - discussing narration in one paragraph, imagery in another, etc. In my experience, the conceptual approach usually scores higher, however it is really up to the text you are analysing and what you are comfortable writing with!
    • If you aren’t given any prompts or a guiding question, make sure your argument is really clearly outlined in your introduction, or else you’ll leave the examiner guessing as to what you’re writing about.
    • Make sure to include important quotes and examples in your plan so you don’t leave them out when you write it.
    • If you are stuck as to what your line of argument should be, I usually like to address how various techniques are used effectively to communicate the theme. It’s a general and open ended question that will fit any kind of text, so long as you identify the techniques and devices!
  • Essay must-haves:
    • Include a macro sentence as the first sentence of your introduction. Draw the reader in with a statement that broadly covers the ideas you are going to cover. 
    • Every paragraph must start with a topic sentence and end with a concluding sentence that links it back to the aim of your essay. This also ensures that you actually address what you set out to talk about.
    • Integrate quotes and examples smoothly into your arguments. Small phrases and individual words especially give your arguments concrete evidence, and allow you to work the detail of the text.
  • Proof-read your completed essay.
    • There is nothing worse than to come across a simple grammatical mistake that was overlooked in a really well organised and argued essay. Try to read your essay through twice before handing it up to try and identify these stupid mistakes we all make under pressure. 

Sorry for such a long post! This turned out a lot longer and more in-depth than I thought it would be, but hopefully it will be helpful to those of you who have any unprepared texts to tackle. Let me know if anything is unclear or if you have any questions here :) xx

Essay Writing Masterpost

i know writing essays is difficult so i compiled this list of tips to help you. hope this helps <3 


Essay Structure:

Sentence Construction:


btw i also recommend buying “The Elements of Style” by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White. it’s a really useful book for grammar and sentence construction. 

June 12th {25/100}

Day 25 of my 100 days of productivity! I have to read 1984 and Persepolis by the end of the summer break. Even though summer break is still a few weeks away, I’m starting the books now in hopes that I’ll actually manage to finish them by the start of the school year. One good thing is that I know there is an audiobook for the 1984 and there is a movie for Persepolis :) 


15:33 | 18/10/15 Finally completed by mind map on the Handmaid’s Tale! Not too happy with how it turned out, it was really difficult to succinctly write about all the topics I wanted to and I didn’t even find the space to write about the style. Maybe I’ll make a separate map for that. Only one more map to write and then I’m done with these full mind maps for English! Starting to feel prepared for the comparative essay exam in November!

  • ib student:hey im going to my IB classes
  • ib student:ugh my IB textbook is SO heavy
  • ib student:ugh, im taking 7 IB classes
  • ib student:IB
  • ib student:listen to me
  • ib student:look at me
  • ib student:why are you not taking IB what are you doing with your life
  • ib student:college applications are so stressful
  • ib student:you dont have to do an english commentary ?
  • ib student:I only understand the French I need
  • ib student:Im in IB , I dont have classes with peasants
  • ib student:IB is harder than AP, therefore Im smarter than you
  • ib student:what is AP ?
  • ib student:i had to study so much last night for my IB tests
  • ib student:You dont have to do your HI, EE , or TOK ?
  • ib student:wow you're only taking IB-certificate?
  • ib student:The month of May? Id rather volunteer for hunger games
  • ib student:IM SMART
  • ib student:IB

April 4th {6/100}

Day 6 of my 100 days of productivity! So today I finally managed to get to one of the most dreaded tasks I have for spring break… READING. I should have finished The Great Gatsby weeks ago, but procrastinated to a whole new level and left it until now. Don’t be fooled by the headphones in this pic, hinting towards me reading whilst listening to music, I assure you I don’t. Not that listening to music while reading is a bad thing! Some people actually find it helpful in being able to concentrate better. But for me, it just further distracts me and overall doesn’t help. What I’m actually getting at is what I am listening to. I always listen to the audiobooks for anything I’m reading (if they are available) or have my computer read stuff out to me. I listen to the book and read at the same time. For anyone with dyslexia, or just anyone who finds it particularly difficult to read, I would 100% advise you to do this. 

I’m working on a post right now that summarises how to get your computer to read stuff out loud to you, because I FEEL YOU, I REALLY DO. I know how frustrating it can get, and found it so incredibly helpful myself. 

Essay things: 69 Words to use after “The poet/writer/author can...”
  1. attempt to show
  2. advance the idea/plot
  3. avoid
  4. allude
  5. anticipate the reader
  6. argue
  7. associate
  8. appeal to
  9. build up a picture
  10. borrow images/phrases/ideas
  11. bring out
  12. conclude
  13. claim
  14. clarify
  15. comment upon
  16. consider
  17. capture
  18. concentrate on
  19. characterise
  20. contrast
  21. confine him/herself
  22. conceive of something as
  23. compare/make comparisons
  24. confront us with
  25. create
  26. disarm us
  27. describe/depict
  28. draw our attention to
  29. demonstrate
  30. develop an idea
  31. dwell on an idea
  32. explain
  33. exemplify
  34. expand an image
  35. elaborate
  36. evoke an atmosphere
  37. explore
  38. exploit the gullibility of the reader
  39. extend our understanding
  40. examine
  41. fill in details
  42. fix our attention on
  43. focus on
  44. fuse together
  45. give an impression of
  46. give an edge to
  47. give vividness to
  48. give immediacy to
  49. highlight
  50. introduce an idea
  51. illustrate
  52. invoke
  53. imply
  54. linger on
  55. lead us to an awareness
  56. maintain suspense
  57. make a point
  58. make an appeal to
  59. present a picture/image/idea
  60. produce an effect
  61. pinpoint
  62. reveal 
  63. recreate an experience
  64. remind us of
  65. set the stage
  66. state
  67. structure
  68. trace
  69. use subterfuge

12:23 | 28/10/2015 Transferring history notes into a mind map is such a good form of procrastinating other subjects I need to revise! Six more days until my first English exam though, so getting really stuck into comparison essays and unseen commentaries. After that, I need to prepare for hell week with physics, maths, chem, and history exams all in the same week!

IB Internal Assessments, Written Tasks and other coursework

I was clearing out IB related stuff from my computer (should’ve done so ages ago lol) but I just couldn’t let go of some of the work I spent not hours and days, but weeks and months on. I decided to upload the final versions of the work on Scribd and link them here for any IB students that would like to see a pro’s work  are stuck and want some help on getting started.

My HLs:

  • Biology:
  1. IA: Osmosis (The effect of increasing sucrose concentration on the mass of potato chips)
  2. IA: Enzymes and Inhibition (The effect of copper (II) sulphate on the activity of catalase.)
  • Chemistry:
  1. IA: Energetics (Calculating the enthalpy of combustion for the first five alcohols.)
  2. IA: Kinetics (To determine whether H+ ions in HCl act as a catalyst in the reaction between hydrochloric acid and sodium thiosulfate.)
  • English A: Language and Literature
  1. WT 1: Language and Culture (A blog post discussing Palestinian identity, resistance and other themes that was made in response to an “Israeli hummus” ad.)
  2. WT 2: How and why is a social group presented in a particular way? (An essay on the piece of crap that is Conrad’s Heart of Darkness)
  3. WT 1: Language and Mass Communication (not sent, it’s a talk show script discussing feminism, first ever work in IB so wasn’t my best)
  4. Further Oral Activity (Lang and Culture)  (Prezi about tobacco advertising past and present. My partner and I did most of the work verbally so it may not be very helpful but this was fun)
  5. Further Oral Activity (Lang and Media) (Hated doing this so so much. The god-awful Madeleine McCann case that our school in Oman made us analyze for no reason)
  6. Individual oral was on Carol Ann Duffy's Havisham but I don’t have a copy of that.

My SLs

  • Economics:
  1. Microeconomics commentary (market failure in relation to cigarette consumption, specifically negative externalities of consumption and whether tobacco tax works as a possible solution)
  2. Macroeconomics commentary (discusses the causes and some solutions to recent unemployment in Spain)
  3. International economics commentary (tariffs and protectionism, evaluation, other solutions, etc)
  • Français B: 
  1. Travail écrit (un appel basé sur des articles est des chansons concernant la thème de violence aux femmes et la resistance feministe)
  2. Orale individuel sur les adverse effets de tabagisme et orale interactif sur l'identité Omanaise mais ceux-ci ne sont pas disponibles
  • Mathematics:
  1. Exploration (using differential calculus to model the spread of epidemics, FUN)


  • Extended Essay in Biology (Research Question: To what extent is Miswak more effective than toothpaste in reducing certain colonies of oral bacteria, as observed by inoculation of pre and post usage oral swabs? ~ Spent over a 100 solid hours on this excruciating task. 2 marks off an A but it was still worth it.) 
  • Theory of Knowledge
  1. Essay (response to prescribed title no. 5 in May 2014 examinations:“The historian’s task is to understand the past; the human scientist, by contrast, is looking to change the future.” To what extent is this true in these areas of knowledge.)
  2. Presentation (Main knowledge issue: To what extent do prejudice and belief play into people’s resistance of new scientific knowledge?~ got 20/20 with my brilliant partner ildoctora like hell yeah but most of the work was done verbally so idk if this is any help. Pro tip tho: don’t write too much on presentations)
  • CAS evaluations
  1. Model United Nations (creativity)
  2. Sailing (action)
  3. Tutoring (mostly service)


Please note:

  • None of this work is perfect. I got 6s and 7s in most of these but undoubtedly there are hundreds of other approaches you could take (and should take).
  • This is intended to be used as a guide or as a way to help you plan your work. If you take out chunks of text or ideas directly it would be considered plagiarism (everyone knows this but just putting it out here)
  • This was written/presented in line with the specific requirements of the syllabi up to 2014 examinations. The IA criteria change often, make sure you use the subject guide for the examinations in your year. (Subject guide is your best friend tbh. It’s a better aid than myself, other IB students and even your teachers.)

You can send me a message if you have any queries regarding this or other IB stuff and I’d be happy to help if I can.


Taehyung is sitting in front of the Icarus Painting by Bruegel before he jumps off the tower. 

In case you don’t know the story, Icarus was a boy who had wings made out of wax and his father told him not to fly too close to the sea or too close to the sun. Icarus being caught in his excitement flew too close to the sun that his wings started to melt and he plummeted into the sea, only to drown because his wings made it difficult to swim. 

 And who was constantly seen thrashing in water?

Taehyung. Remember the RUN MV? CAUSE I DO. 

and what did I find out? Henry Murray proposed the term Icarus complex, someone with a fascination of water and fire and is fond of heights. Along with some far fetched imaginary cognition. And perpetual adolescence also known as “eternal boy”

And what is one of their MV’s? FIRE. 

Who was seen constantly climbing high places and jumping off of them? Kim Taehyung. 

Who keeps seeing people who may not actually even really be there? Kim Seokjin. 

And who are forever young? BTS. 

BOOM. I can die peacefully now.

 In all seriousness, V is Icarus a fallen angel (aka Max Demian), and Seokjin is the Prodigal Son (aka Sinclair) who has been corrupted by the fallen angel. and the rest of Bangtan are angels, because what’s an MV without the telling of the War In Heaven, where good fights evil. 

If anyone wants to add on you can!


14:59 | 3/11/15 1 exam down, 14 more to go! Feeling really confident about today’s exam, now I’m just going over beginnings and endings and the mind maps of the four novels I’ve made recently for paper 2 tomorrow. Blueberries are probably my favourite fruit to have while studying; they’re delicious, easy to prepare, and clean to eat! Thinking positively for tomorrow’s exam.