Written Task 1 Ib English Hl Essay

What types of texts score well as written task 1s? The answer to this question depends on the course content that you are writing about. For example, diary entries tend to score well when based on a literary work from Parts 3 or 4, but they perform poorly when based on a topic from Parts 1 or 2. There are certain pitfalls that you can avoid by selecting a text type carefully. At the same time, you can take advantage of certain ‘recipes for success’. See the table below for more guidance or see the activity in the Unit 7.2 on  selecting text types.

Parts 1 and 2

Parts 3 and 4

Diary / journals

Not recommended. The problem: Your understanding of a topic is difficult to  demonstrate through your understanding of an individual.

Diary entries allow you to show the development of a character from a play or novel. This text type has potential.


Yes, these can work well. However keep in mind that content matters. Simply getting the rhetorical devices right is not enough (see Chocolate Biscuits)

These also have potential, depending on the literary work. Is there a reason why a character would give a speech?

Opinion column

Warning: Columns are not persuasive essays. These are popular, but results are not excellent.

Columns on a literary text are not common.

News article

Challenging. The problem is plagiarism. It’s difficult to write the news when the news is often used as a stimulus source for Parts 1 and 2.

Yes. This is often a recipe for success. Some events in a novel are ‘newsworthy’. Remember to show your understanding and knowledge of the literary work.


These can work very well in response to an article. Example: “Mr. Murdoch, The Sun writes X, Y and Z about you. What is your response?”

Find a reason why a character might be interviewed and this text type might work. But it is not a common recipe.

Letter to
the editor

Excellent idea. Find a controversial article and write one or more responses to it from multiple perspectives, referring to the language of the original article

This is rarely an appropriate text type for demonstrating one’s understanding of a literary work

Personal letter

Not recommended. The problem is the hypothetical nature of this letter. Who are you? To whom would you write?

Yes. This is a popular recipe for success. What would one character say to another?


Challenging. Reports on non-literary phenomena are written all the time, but for different purposes. Who’s your target audience?

Police reports on criminal events in literary texts have been written by students before varying levels of success.


Not recommended. The problem with brochures is their superficial nature. They consist of bullet-points, short sentences and pictures.

Not recommended for the previously mentioned reasons. 

Short fiction

Not recommended. In Parts 1 and 2 your knowledge of a topic is not best represented through fictional characters. 

If you are thinking of writing a missing chapter from a novel, be sure to be in the spirit of the author, as you are assessed on your understanding of the text. These are not the most successful tasks.

In brief, as you select a text type, ask yourself: ‘Will this text type allow me to demonstrate my knowledge of a text or topic sufficiently?’ To use a metaphor: ‘On what chassis will you build your vehicle?’ You would not build a truck on a Fiat chassis, nor would you build a Fiat on a truck chassis. After all, you want your task to go somewhere. 


  1. From the above mentioned text types, which ones would you find easiest to write? What makes you say this?
  2. As a group, select one of the text types above. What do you know about this text type? List 4-5 defining structural features.
  3. Think of a Part 1 or 2 topic. Which text type would allow you to show your understanding of this topic if you were to write a written task on it? Share your ideas as a class.
  4. Think of a Part 3 or 4 text. Which text type would allow you to show your understanding of this topic if you were to write a written task on it? Share your ideas as a class.

The written task 1 can be tricky. With so much freedom, there can be many pitfalls. The requirements ask you to imitate a writing style or construct a specific type of text. Here are some of the common pitfalls that students often fall into, followed by three tips on how to avoid them.

Although there is no one guaranteed recipe for a successful written task 1, you can avoid these 'pitfalls' by including all of the following ingredients:

  • Text type - If you write a speech, your speech should look and sound like a speech. If you write a letter to the editor, it should look and sound like a letter to the editor. In other words, each type of text has its own set of stylistic and structural conventions. Ask yourself what characteristics define the type of text you plan to write. If you're not sure about these conventions, see the pages that define text types in the resource section of this Subject Site.

  • Primary source - Your written task should be rooted in a primary source. If you are writing about a literary work for Part 3 or 4, the poem, novel or play is the primary source. Your task should reflect your understanding of it. For the non-literary parts of the syllabus, be sure you comment on a primary text. If you looked at the representation of women in advertising, comment on an actual ad. If you looked at a political campaign, focus on one ad, website or poster. 

  • Secondary source - Since the written task is not an essay, you are not asked to give your personal opinion on a subject matter or literary text. Instead, you are expected to be knowledgeable on the subject matter or the literary text. Even the best opinion columns inform readers to a great extent. You want to prove to the examiner that you have understood the course work and you have done your homework! This can also be achieved through the rationale, where applicable terms and concepts can be explained. Find secondary sources that comment on the texts you have worked on. For example, if you read an article about John Fowles and existentialism, this may inspire you to write a missing chapter to his novel, The Collector. If you explored women in advertising, you will want to find some statistics or articles on the effects of these ads on women. 

  • Here is a draft of a written task 1 that a student wrote. It has multiple problems and requires help. Answer the following questions before reading the feedback.

    Column on the advantages of being fat

    ‘Don’t you want to lose weight some day’?  Is the question I was asked about weekly. And then I replied with my happiest voice; No! The they gave me this kind of look like, okay, you must be crazy. And yes I am. There are so many advantages of being fat. Lets start by shopping. Sale. The thing I like best, and so handy when you’re fat, because almost 70% of all the woman are skinny, at least skinny to fit in the most common sizes. So all the big sizes are left over. How nice. So there I was, standing at the H&M, at the sale-corner. Nothing but big sizes. So as a child in a toy shop I started grabbing the things I liked and made my way to the fitting room. It was rather crowdie over there so I accepted the fact that I had to wait for some minutes. I heard the sound of an opening door and saw a skinny girl coming outside, at a glance she saw me and then continued looking in the mirror. Her friend, waiting for her, said she looked pretty and the girl asked her friend ‘don’t I look fat in this dress?’ No it’s lovely’ she replied. I laughed. I never had those kind of problems. For I already accepted the fact that I was fat, and it would never disappoint me when shopping. When the girls left I went in to the fitting room and started to change. This dress was lovely, I took another look in the mirror, turned around and smiled. Shopping is great, after like half an hour I was ready, with about 9 dresses hanging over my arm I made my way to the pay desk. Only 50 pounds for 9 dresses. Good job, I thought. As happy as I was I walked  to the bus stop I realized I was just in time because the bus was about to leave. I hastened myself to get inside the bus, and lucky as I was, there was one seat left over, a seat for 2, just for me. The whole trip no one came to sit next to me, for they probably thought they wouldn’t have enough space, sitting next to 1.5 person. Life is great, and so you see, being fat is too! (:



    First of all, this written task falls into is the pitfall of not reflecting course content. It is not clear what was studied in class from this piece. If the student studied obesity, its causes and effects, then this needs to be made clear. Where does the statistic on the percentage of skinny women (70%) come from? Are overweight people really happy for the reasons suggested in this column? If so, explain where this is supported.

    Secondly, this opinion column sounds very informal, using words such as 'like' and the emoticon '(:'. Columns often contain something that is newsworthy and relevant to the target audience. The context of this text is not self evident.

    Finally, this text must refer to another text or texts. If the student read an article about obesity, then she could explain its significance. It is suggested that this student start all over again with a completely new idea and set of texts. She may want to see the lesson on anorexia and the sample written task on the portrayal of women in the media.

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