SMASH LANG LIT: Learn the skills to excel at IB Lang Lit!
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smash paper 1!

SMASH THE three minute thesis! 

So, this thesis  your IB LangLit teacher has been talking about. What is it, what does it do – and how can you make your thesis smashing?

A thesis, essentially, is the argument which will shape your Paper 2 response. Pretty important, then. A thesis is the backbone of your Paper 2 response.  A thesis is you stamping your argument on the Paper 2 examiner’s forehead. A thesis is where you show the examiner how argumentative you really can be.

Sounds like it could take a long time to write, right?


It can take as little as three minutes. Carry on reading…

I tell my students to always be argumentative. Never, ever be obvious in  an opening thesis. If you are obvious, you are more more than likely narrating your literary texts and that is a killer. No-where in the exam marking criteria does it say “Very good at re-telling the story”. Do that, and there is no way you will be able to access marks to get at least a Level 5. 
be risky. Be challenging. You need to start your response with an idea that can be argued against. An argument that can be contested.

[BAD] Example:

“[author’s name] uses stylistic features to explore how an individual is oppressed by society.”

Wow, thanks for that. You just told me…well, something I already knew. Something I can’t exactly argue against. And something that isn’t particularly perceptive [don’t forget, that top-band key word is perceptive].

Where is the argument? Where is the risk? 

If you have ever written an opening thesis like the one above, then the Three Minute Thesis is for you.

The Three Minute Thesis is designed to do the following:

  • show the examiner that you are focused on answering the question (Criterion B)
  • show the examiner how well you understand how the texts’ context influenced their creation (Criterion A)
  • help you to structure a coherent argument, which can then be referred to throughout the response [Criterion D]
  • help you to include effective, well chosen vocabulary in your opening thesis [Criterion E]


Now I am not saying that I am going to give you the ideas to put into your thesis. That would be…well, pretty much impossible as there are hundreds of books on the PTL. What I can give you is a tried-and-tested structure* with which you can write your own coherent, argumentative thesis. I am giving you the frame – and it is a frame that my students use, and they have always got pretty great results!


Below is an example – written by one of my students –  of a thesis written using the Three Minute Thesis structure in an exam response. And yes, this was written in three minutes. The Paper 2 essay question was:

“Writers often use a character who is alienated from his or her culture or society in order to explore cultural or social values. Examine this idea with reference to at least two works studied.”

Both “Fahrenheit 451” and “The Stranger” examine the state of the alienated individual in society. However, whilst Fahrenheit 451 explores an individual who hypocritically rejects a social structure within which he once flourished, “The Stranger” examines how an individual is further alienated by a society of which he has never had any affection. “Fahrenheit 451” was written at a time when a fear of technology was embedded in society, and Ray Bradbury seeks to show how such “progression” can actually alienate. In contrast, “The Stranger” was written at a time when individuals sought to examine the human condition through existential theory, which influenced Camus in his writing. In order to successfully explore how both texts discuss the alienated individual in society, an analysis of social and political contextual factors such as post WWII paranoia and the philosophical exploration of the individual is essential.

BOOM. The student has established a couple of arguments, which were then referred to throughout the response. A pretty great way to start a Paper 2 answer!

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