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Prose Study: The Elephant Vanishes by Haruki Murakami

In these stories, a man sees his favourite elephant vanish overnight; a newlywed couple suffers attacks of hunger that drive them to hold up a McDonald’s; and a young woman discovers a little green monster who burrows up through her backyard and can read her thoughts. You never know what is going to happen in one of Murakami’s stories – or even which reality you’re going to find yourself lost inside.

Prose Study: Border Town by Shen Congwen

This short novel, written in 1934 by Shen Congwen (1902 – 1988), opens a window onto life in China before the communist revolution of 1945 – 1952. The setting is Fenghuang County, an idyllic rural area in the far west of Hunan Province. Here Cuicui lives with her grandfather, who operates a ferry boat across a river outside the small provincial town of Chadong. The boat connects the two ‘worlds’ of Shen’s story: his idealised countryside scene is tucked away in a forgotten part of the world, seemingly locked outside of time; but the town is a gateway to China’s interior lands and forces of modernity are slowly creeping towards their sleepy rural paradise…

Stereotyping Poverty

Find out about poverty myths, learn the social, political and economic reasons that trap people in poverty, and discover both texts that perpetuate false poverty stories, and progressive texts that call for a change in the social narrative about this modern taboo.

Those Cats are Good

Today’s sample response was written by a student, Helena Wang, under exam conditions. While it has been edited for clarity, the ideas and analysis points are hers. This answer contains many strengths; I’d like to draw your attention to the focus on tone of voice. Tone can be one of the hardest elements of a written text to interpret…

Politically Correct Language

One of the most difficult – but often the most crucial – elements of a text to analyse and understand is tone of voice. When listening to a speaker speak, tone can be conveyed in a variety of ways; voice inflection, emphasis, pace, volume, body language and more. When reading words on a page, you can’t hear the writer’s tone of voice. Nevertheless, tone is integral to meaning…

Fern Foray

Travel writing is a rich and varied category of writing with fluid genre boundaries. Extracts could range from an informative guidebook entry, to an online review advising people whether or not to take a particular trip, to a descriptive passage helping you visualise a faraway place, or an advert persuading you to sign up to a tour…

Disappearing Bees

In recent years, the category of general interest scientific writing has exploded in both quality and quantity. Fuelled by charismatic scientists – who also happen to be great speakers and writers – such as Michio Kaku, Brian Cox and Sabine Hossenfelder, and crossing media from books to television documentaries to podcasts, blogs, vlogs and video lectures, this genre actually has a long and distinguished history…

Telling the Time

This text was provided by the IB as an example of what kind of writing to expect in Paper 1, so it’s worth paying attention to. In the past, there have been several examples of something you might call ‘general interest scientific writing,’ whether the journey of a water molecule through the universe, an investigation into declining bee populations, or an article about robotics and artificial intelligence…