The Secrets of Success in the IB Language B SL Oral

May 26, 2023

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Tom Brodie
ManageBac Curriculum Coordinator

“I still remember my first French language oral 30 years later as one of the most traumatic and distressing experiences of my life. Suddenly placed on a chair in a room, with only me and my French teacher. Very quickly running out of things to say! The energy and enthusiasm drained from my body. To such an extent I still recall her finishing it in English by saying, “You might as well go as you have nothing else to say.” I couldn’t actually stand up as my legs didn’t work anymore! I failed and got an E. Luckily it was a practice and I worked hard and got a B in the real thing and now I live in French speaking Switzerland and my children are completely bi-lingual. They help me out when I get stuck now! I wish I had the support of this blog by experienced language teacher, Loreto Alonso, to help me back then…”

What are the challenges of the IB language orals?

The pressure Tom describes is one that has been echoed by many IB language students over the years. Being scared of speaking or presenting in front of people is one of the most common anxieties around, and doing it in another language can be even more intimidating. Anxiety is normal in this situation. Students don’t want to fail or sound stupid. So, let us start this blog with a reminder to be kind, be gentle and be prepared!

In my experience, aside from nerves, the biggest challenge in the IA is having students connect the visual stimulus to the target culture. Students will be assigned two visual stimuli (photos, ads, poster etc.) on two of the themes studied in class (SL). They prepare a short presentation in which they should:

  1. Describe the visual stimulus briefly
  2. Relate the visual stimulus to the theme
  3. Develop the presentation based on the theme depicted on the stimulus
  4. Give their opinion on the topic
  5. Connect the visual stimulus to the target culture
Criterion B1: Message – visual stimulus
How relevant are the ideas to the selected stimulus?

  • How well does the candidate engage with the stimulus in the presentation?
  • How well are the ideas linked to the target culture(s)?

source : Language B Guide, p48, IBO, 2021. (highlighting authors)

Students have to link the stimulus to the target culture during the presentation without being prompted by the teacher. Students often know this but forget to do it in the moment. They will then score a maximum of 3 points out of 6 in criteria B1, which is why it is so important to prepare them for this.

The other oral marks are based on the use of language, structures and vocabulary; content of the conversation; and interactive skills in the conversation between the student and teacher. This last point is another key area of challenge. Some students tend to wait for the teacher to prompt them all the time rather than engaging in a spontaneous conversation. It ends up being an interrogation, rather than a natural conversation. How can we help our students elaborate on their answers? How can we give them the skills so that when they are under the pressure of an examination situation they utilise them?

Top Tips for the Language B IA oral for teachers

Before the IA

  • Make sure you provide plenty of opportunities for students to have the same kind of experience that they will encounter in the exam (presentations using visual stimuli, open conversations on the themes, recorded presentations etc.)
  • Provide cultural information on all the themes studied in class and practise with students on how to make the cultural link
  • Practise embedding sentence stems that make links to the culture of the language
  • Encourage students to research and journal cultural information on the different themes
  • Ensure the students are familiar with the assessment criteria

During the IA

  • Make the student feel relaxed and comfortable
  • Provide clear visual stimuli, related to the topics studied in class, that allow students to make cultural connections
  • Ask open-ended questions on opinions rather than on content
  • Adjust the questions to the student’s knowledge and level of language

Top Tips for students during the Language B IA Oral

During the 15-minute preparation time

  • Pick a visual stimulus on a topic you are familiar with (theme, content, vocabulary)
  • Make sure you have enough information on the target culture to connect it with the visual stimulus – remembering to use the sentence stems practiced in class
  • Write down the ideas in the order that you will present them
  • Organise your time well

During the presentation

  • Talk loudly and clearly
  • Make sure your presentation is around 3 to 4 minutes long
  • Make sure you cover all the points in your notes
  • Make sure you connect the visual stimulus to the target culture

During the conversation

  • Make sure you elaborate when you answer a question
  • Take the initiative
  • Show enthusiasm
  • Ask for clarification if you do not understand something
  • If you do not have information about what you have been asked, just say it and the teacher will change the question

You can find some videos related to the IA (for teachers requires IB Login)
The Language B Teacher Support Material (for teachers requires IB Login) also has more support.
Within the subject page I have placed these and further help and resources.


About the Author

loreto alonso

Loreto Alonso
Spanish B Subject Leader

Loreto Alonso is the Subject Leader responsible for our ManageBac Spanish B Subject Page. ManageBac Subject Pages offer a collection of curated, subject-specific resources to support best practices in teaching and learning. You can access Subject Pages via your ManageBac account – check in regularly for new materials, advice and ideas.