IB English Paper 2 Drama: Genre Conventions and Terminology

By Karin Chun Taite

(Head of Academics and English Literature tutor at The Edge Learning Center)

Ok, IB seniors, it’s that time of the year again, when we’re hastily digesting Paper 2 texts and sorting out the intricate patterns in which they connect to each other in preparation for that big comparative essay known as the IB English Paper 2 exam.

IB English Paper 2 preparation is stressful for a number of reasons.

  • You need to know your texts inside and out (kind of like how you did for your IOC texts).
  • You need to understand how your texts talk to each other both thematically and mechanically across a wide range of potential essay topics.
  • You need to get enough practice analyzing essay prompts and (quickly!) constructing comparative arguments in response to them that you don’t stall on the exam day.
  • You need to practice writing actual Paper 2 essays so that you can confidently deliver a well-written, sophisticated argument within the time limit.

Funny student with many books

It’s a lot to work on!

With all this to focus on, sometimes some of the basics of genre study get left by the wayside. However, IB English Paper 2 is, before all else, a genre exam, which means you need at least a working competence with the conventions of whatever genre your school has chosen for its Paper 2 texts.

One of the most commonly chosen Paper 2 genres is DRAMA. This is partly because plays tend to be short and make for faster reading while still containing enough complexity to satisfy a wide range of essay questions. Drama also has some very distinct genre conventions that are easy to pick out once you’ve learned to identify them.

To help supplement the analytical work you’re doing in school, it’s a good idea to take charge of your own learning and educate yourself as to the basic genre conventions of your Paper 2 texts.

time to be proactive

Your essays will improve dramatically in terms of sophistication and precision if you can:

  • refer specifically to the practical and theoretical conventions of the genre
  • use appropriate terminology accurately in context

Luckily for us, the Crash Course video series has just started a weekly theatre course delving into the nature of drama and the specifics of individual dramatic subgenres (the third episode is about tragedy, for example). Here’s the first episode, addressing some of the origins and definitions of drama:

Crash Course Theatre 1

Another source of useful information about dramatic conventions is a well-written glossary of dramatic terminology. These are available both online and in textbooks, but two pretty decent ones are available below:

Take charge of your life! Learning happens everywhere! Go out and find some!

Go Learn Something

Related Blog: Avoid These Common Mistakes to Stay Ahead of IB English


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The Edge Learning Center is Hong Kong’s premier Test Preparation, Academic Tutoring, and Admissions Consulting services provider. Founded in 2008, The Edge has helped thousands of students improve their ACT and SAT scores as well as their IB and AP grades. The AC team has just finished off another successful EA/ED period in which student gained early acceptance to schools such as Stanford, University of Chicago, Brown, and more! Check out the rest of our 2018 EA/ED Admissions Results!