Paper 2 Exam

On this page we will look at ways to approach the paper 2 exam. This will be useful for your mid/end of year exams and of course for the real paper 2 exam at the end of IB2

Know Thy Texts

The most important part of the exam is to know the texts. You need to be able to think on your feet as you don’t know specifically what kinds of things the exam questions will ask you! Re-read the texts; Review notes and practice!

The Questions

A typical paper 2 question goes something like:

There is no literature without conflict.” How and to what effect is conflict used in two or three works you have studied? (2006 SL Paper 2)

Step 1: What are the various aspects of this question? Highlight them.

Now consider the texts you have to work with. Try to answer the question for each text so that you are clear which texts work best. If poetry is an option keep your selection small; choose 1 or 2 poems to focus on.

Step 2: What is the conflict of each of the texts you have to work with?

At this point you will want to have a pretty clear idea which texts you will use to answer the question.

Step 3: Look at the various aspects you highlighted in step 1. Outline how each of these aspects might be treated in relation to the text. Does the text support the statement or refute it?

Now you should have a clear idea what you intend to write about.

Step 4: Start Planning All exam papers should begin with a plan. You cannot expect to write a cohesive response if you don’t know where you are going with your response.

Literary Features

Criterion C is clearly looking for you knowledge and interpretation of literary features. As often as possible look for ways in which you can support your ideas with these features.

Task: For each point you make, try to tie a literary feature that supports your thoughts.


Now that you are clear about what you intend to write about, you must focus on exactly how you intend on structuring your points. Given that paper 2 asks for you to cover 2 texts, it lends itself to a lot of comparison. You can also add plenty of transitions like “this is also evident in [text 2] where…” to add cohesion to your thoughts.  Although there are plenty of ways to structure an essay, I recommend structuring your ideas around ideas rather then texts. What does this mean? Quite simply:

  • Introduction
  • Idea 1 – compared or contrasted in both texts
  • Idea 2 – compared or contrasted in both texts
  • etc.
  • Concluding thoughts.
You will notice that this structure is much the same as the world literature 1 essay structure. It is important to remember that at each idea, you answer all aspects of the question. In the case of the conflict question above, you would want describe how conflict is used and explain the effect of the conflict either on the audience or on the development of some aspect of the text.
Task: Choose 1 of the questions you have worked on so far. Plan how you would structure your essay.

UPDATE: 2012 IB2 Mock Exam Preparation


  • The Merchant of Venice – Check out the Review Guide here
  • Poetry of Donne and Frost
  • Frankenstein
You will have a variety of general literature questions to choose from given that your three texts are from 3 different genres.

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