Paper Two

HL External Assessments, first examinations 2021


HL Paper 2: Comparative essay (1 hour 45 minutes)

The paper consists of four general questions. In response to one question, students write a comparative essay based on two works studied in the course. (30 marks) 25%


SL Paper 2: Comparative essay (1 hour 45 minutes)

The paper consists of four general questions. In response to one question, students write a comparative essay based on two works studied in the course. (30 marks) 35%


The only difference between HL and SL is that HL Paper 2 is weighted less at 25% while SL Paper 2 is weighted at 25%.

Paper 2: Comparative essay

Duration: 1 hour 45 minutes

Weighting: 25%


  • Paper 2 contains four questions of a general nature which require students to write a comparative essay referring to two works studied during the course. Students are required to answer one question only.
  • The format of paper 2 and the four questions are the same for both SL and HL students, and for both the literature and language and literature courses. The assessment criteria will also be shared by both levels and both courses.
  • The essay is written under examination conditions, without access to the studied works. Students will be expected to compare and contrast two of the works studied in relation to the question chosen. Attention should be paid to the relevance of the argument to the question chosen and to the appropriateness of the works selected by the student to address the question. Students are expected to make detailed reference to the works in their answer, but they are not expected to include quotations from them.
  • Given the open and flexible nature of the course, potentially any work studied can be used by students for paper 2. It is highly recommended, however, that three of the works studied should be preselected by students in preparation for this paper, either individually or in conjunction and in consultation with the teacher. This will make it more manageable for students, at the moment of the exam, to select both the essay question and the two works to answer it with.
  • Under no circumstances can students use for paper 2 a work that has been already used for another assessment component, be it the internal assessment for both SL and HL, or the HL essay for HL.
  • The paper is assessed according to the assessment criteria published in this guide. The maximum mark for paper 2 is 30.


The learner portfolio and paper 2

  • The learner portfolio is not specifically assessed but it is an important tool in helping students prepare for formal assessment. It provides a place for students to practice and develop the skills necessary for performing successfully in paper 2.
  • In relation to the preparation of paper 2, the learner portfolio provides an opportunity for students to:
    • group the works studied according to a common theme or issue and explore their similarities and differences
    • develop an awareness of the differences between literary forms, and of the bearing these differences may have on how different works approach one theme or issue
    • consider which combinations of works might be the most productive ones to address the variety of questions they might encounter in the actual paper
    • inquire into the connections between the works studied and the areas of exploration of the course to gain an awareness of the multiplicity of lenses that can be used when studying a work and the essay questions that these might potentially lead to compare their successive practices of paper 2 to the first one they have done and monitor the evolution of their overall performance in the paper.


Excerpt from Language A: language and literature guide, first examinations 2021