IB English Higher Level Essay (HLE) Explained


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hl literature essay example

In this guide, LitLearn students (and 2022 IB grads!) Lareina Shen and Saesha Grover share their wisdom on how to conquer the IB English Higher Level Essay (HLE). Lareina achieved an incredible IB44, and Saesha achieved the coveted IB7 in her IB English Literature HL, so you are in safe hands.

Here are the burning questions we’ll answer in the HLE Explained guide:

What is IB English HLE?

How do i choose my text for hle, how do i choose my line of inquiry for hle, how do i ensure my hle question has a good scope.

The HLE will make up 25% of your final IB English HL grade , and it is graded externally. You must choose your own line of inquiry (i.e. a question that you will answer in your HLE–more on this later).

The HL Essay (HLE) is a 1200-1500 word essay about a text studied in the IB English course. For Lang Lit, the work you choose to analyze can be literary or non-literary, but for IB English Literature the text must be literary.

Do NOT choose the “easiest” text. Life is always better when you do things you’re interested in, and that advice applies to the HLE, too. Choose the literary / non-literary work that interests you the most, so that you can (semi?)-enjoy the HLE planning and writing process.

You could start by thinking of a theme that you find particularly interesting and determining which text studied in class demonstrates this theme well.

The line of inquiry is the core question that you will answer in your essay. A quick example might be:

To what extent is masculinity undermined by the characterisation of Little Thomas?

Now, it’s your job to forge your destiny and come up with your own line of inquiry. But it’s not a complete free-for all! There are rules. The main rule is that your line of inquiry must fall under one of the 7 main concepts of IB English (see below for a quick summary).

This summary is vague, so let’s go in-depth on a couple of these concepts to really show you what you should be doing in the HLE.

Deep Dive: Identity

Identity is what makes you, YOU. Here are some questions the concern your own personal identity:

Now apply this same logic to characters within your text.

Let’s take a look at a concrete example of how we might choose evidence and quotes for a HLE on cultural identity. This example is based on a Vietnamese work in translation “Ru” by author Kim Thúy. For context, “Ru” is an autobiographical fictional account which explores Kim Thúy’s move from Vietnam to Canada as an immigrant and her consequent struggles. The structure of her novel is largely lyrical and poetic.

Let’s look at a section from her novel that may help us come up with an essay idea based on the concept of Identity. When she returns to Vietnam, she attends a restaurant, however this becomes a major awakening for her in terms of how she views her own personal identity. Kim narrates within her novel:

The first time I carried a briefcase, the first time I went to a restaurant school for young adults in Hanoi, wearing heels and a straight skirt, the waiter for my table didn’t understand why I was speaking Vietnamese with him. Page 77, Rú

This is a perfect quote for the Identity concept. Can you see why? Let’s think through it together…

Why would the waiter be confused if Kim, a “briefcase”-carrying individual in “heels” and a “straight skirt”, was speaking Vietnamese with him?

What does being “Vietnamese” look like to the waiter? Why does Kim not conform to his expectation? Was it perhaps due to what she was wearing?

Now, if we look at the section which follows this in the novel, we are able to see the impact this had on the character of Kim’s sense of identity.

the young waiter reminded me that I couldn’t have everything, that I no longer had the right to declare I was Vietnamese because I no longer had their fragility, their uncertainty, their fears. And he was right to remind me. Page 77, Rú

Here, we can clearly see that this character is now questioning her Vietnamese cultural identity. This is just one example that demonstrates the concept of Identity.

Deep Dive: Culture

Culture seems to be this confusing thing. Does it have to do with religion? Race? Beliefs? What does it mean? Does the monster from Frankenstein fit into a certain culture?

The easiest way to put it is this: Culture is the way someone lives. It is their “way of life.” Think of it as an umbrella term. “Culture” can include so many different things; the list just goes on, for example religion, values, customs, beliefs, cuisine, etc.

Now think, how would I form an essay from this concept?

Deep Dive: Creativity

It seems odd writing an essay about “creativity” because… like… how can anyone definitively say what ‘counts’ as being creative–or not? When I say the word creativity , I think of new inventions, or maybe those weird and wacky art installations living inside those ‘modern art’ museums. But hey, what’s creative to me might not be creative to you!

hl literature essay example

When formulating a HLE on the concept of creativity we have two main pointers for you. Look for:

Now, for this concept, let’s look at how we might select supportive evidence and quotations for a HLE on creativity within the narrative style of author Mary Shelley in “Frankenstein”. The narrative style uses epistolary narration . This is a narrative technique in which a story is told through letters. This was something that I found both interesting and recurring within Frankenstein, which I believe worked to create a personal touch within the novel.

Additionally, Mary Shelley allows different characters to narrate Frankenstein during different volumes. Let’s investigate this! I have written out different character profiles of the narrators below:

hl literature essay example

These 3 characters, each relate a part of the novel Frankenstein. This is an example of a creative authorial choice that allows us, as readers to explore different points of view within the text. This is just one example of a creative aspect of a text which you can analyze for your HLE.

Deep Dive: Representation

Representation is all about how something is portrayed, conveyed, shown, described, illustrated, depicted . There are many different things that can be ‘represented’ within a text, and it doesn’t have to be tangible.

For instance, you can look at how a belief, idea or attitude is depicted within a text through different characters or devices.

Again, let’s explore a concrete example to make things clear: this time the graphic novel “Persepolis”. We’ll consider an HLE on how a text represents the impact of political turmoil on society .

Chapter 10 of “Persepolis” highlights societal changes occurring due to the Iranian Revolution. The panels below list the authorial choices relevant to the negative representation of political change in a society. When looking at the techniques highlighted in the slides below, think about how you feel when you look at the panels below. Can you sense a more positive or negative feeling?

hl literature essay example

Cool, but what do we do to turn all this into an actual HL essay? Here is a sample response. The introduction might begin like this:

In the captivating graphic novel “Persepolis,” the author Marjane Satrapi explores the social and political impacts of the Iranian revolution. In particular, Satrapi conveys a disapproving viewpoint on political turmoil within the text. Throughout the graphic novel, Satrapi carefully represents how social isolation, hypocrisy and confusion is experienced by a young girl living in Tehran, as a result of political turmoil. Example HLE Introduction

Then, in a body paragraph, on one of the key ideas mentioned above, we could analyze the different literary techniques. For example, Panel 1 is a great representation of the experience of confusion in the midst of political turmoil:

Marji is the younger girl pictured in the panels above. While her parents appear quite concerned by the news on the TV, she appears to not be in full comprehension of the cause for their distress. This is demonstrated by the visual imagery and dialogue, in panel 7, for instance, if you observe the facial expressions by each of the characters. Example of analysis in body paragraph

This is just a short example from one particular text. To help you unpack any text, try look for the following when analyzing chapter to chapter:

Overall Brainstorming Tips

If you’re having trouble picking your text and line of inquiry, then use this simple 20-minute process to brainstorm potential questions for your HLE:

Choosing a question with good scope is extremely important, and it’s one of the biggest challenges in the HLE. Here’s why:

So, to help you get the balance just right , here are three examples of HLE questions, specifically for the concept of Identity which we mentioned in the table above (by the way, the example is a made-up novel for illustration purposes).

How to get a 7 on IB English HLE

There are many things that contribute to a 7 in your HLE and your IB English grade overall. But if we had to boil it down to one secret, one essential fact… then it’d have to be this: Get really good at analysis .

Analysis is the key to a 7 in IB English. It doesn’t matter if it’s Paper 1, Paper 2, HLE, IO… You must learn how to analyze quotes at a deep level, and structure your analysis in a way that flows and delights your teachers and examiners.

The first step of writing 7-level analysis is to choose the right quotes . Use the following rules of thumb when selecting quotes for your IB English Higher Level Essay:

You can start learning these skills for free inside Analysis Simplified , the simplest guide to a 7 in IB English.

Also, you’ll need to find good quotes for your text. Some good sources where you can find relevant quotes include Goodreads , SparkNotes , LitCharts , and Cliffnotes . Of course, you could just find quotes yourself directly–this will ensure your quotes are unique.

How do I write good analysis?

Explaining the ins-and-outs of writing amazing analysis is a bit too intense for this HLE guide. You can start learning all of this in Analysis Simplified –LitLearn’s flagship course that teaches you step-by-step how to write 7-level analysis in IB English, with short practice questions and real feedback on how you can improve your analysis responses.

Analysis Simplified helped Saesha improve immediately from a 6 to a 7 in IB English HL Literature. Check out her review.

hl literature essay example

Lareina joined Analysis Simplified in 2022 to sharpen her Paper 1 analysis. She loved the experience.

hl literature essay example

Understanding the IB English HLE rubric

An essential step to getting a high mark on the HL Essay is understanding the rubric! It is SO important that you know what IB English examiners are looking for when grading your essay, as this helps you to shape the content of your essay to match (or even exceed) their expectations.

The IB English HL Essay is graded out of 20 marks . There are 4 criteria, each worth 5 marks.

Use the checklist below to make sure you’re not making simple mistakes! Note that this is not the official marking criteria, and I strongly recommend that you reading the official rubric provided by your teacher.

Criterion A: Knowledge, understanding, and interpretation

Criterion B: Analysis and evaluation

Criterion C: Focus, organization, and development

Criterion D: Language

Here’s everything we discussed:

Good luck, and may the odds be ever in your favor 💪 

Jackson Huang

Jackson Huang


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hl literature essay example

Higher Level Essay

Whether you are an HL Literature student or HL Lang/Lit student, the HLE requires some special attention.  The good thing about this assessment is that it’s a processed – rather than on-demand – piece of writing.  This means you can take your time, put in the work, and produce something that you love and makes you proud.  Our students crush this assessment!  Use the same resources they do and enjoy your success.

Developing a Line of Inquiry and Thesis

The Line of Inquiry (LOI) and thesis are the cornerstone of the assessment, so don’t proceed until these are under control.  Sadly, many students get off to a poor start with this step, and this means they end up writing either a shallow essay or one that doesn’t really satisfy the requirements of the task.  These videos should help you unlock the task.

Start with a text you love and work toward developing a literary or linguistic perspective. Watch this video and start your pathway to success.

How To Write the Line of Inquiry

If the first method didn't work for you, please try another approach.

How to Write the Line of Inquiry (part 2)

Turn that LoI into a clear, precise, and insightful thesis statement that will drive the essay.

HLE Sample Thesis Statements and Writing

The HLE Complete Course from Start to Finish

We feel this is some of our best work.  Teachers and students around the world have commented that this HLE series gets the job done and results in some powerful writing that makes students proud.  Please take the time and work through the videos sequentially.  Work along side with us.  Let us guide you to HLE success!

Choose your text and write the LOI.

Student planning doc

Model Student planning doc

Time for brainstorming and outlining.

Student Organizer

Completed Sample Organizer

Master the intro and conclusion.

Sample Intro and Conclusion

Learn how to write strong HLE body paragraphs.

Sample Body Paragraphs

Learn to revise, edit, and polish the final product.

Final instructions before submission

Dave’s complete sample HLE

Some Sample Papers

Sometimes it’s easier to just look at a final product, break it down, and see how other students have approached the HLE.  That’s why Dave and Andrew selected some strong papers, highlighted them, and discussed their strengths and weaknesses.  We’ve examined tons of these things, so listen carefully.  Lots of tips and tricks in these videos to help you pick up some extra points and crack into that mark band you want and deserve.  Understand the task.  Work hard.  Defeat the HLE and allow yourself to beam with pride.  Go ahead, you’ve earned it.

You’ve probably noticed that Andrew and Dave love drama. Dialogue, stage directions, props…they’re amazing! Watch our student crush this HLE on Death and the Maiden by Dorfman. What can you steal from this essay in terms of ideas, organization, and overall approach? Document: HLE Student Sample – Drama

Poetry anyone? Andrew and Dave love poetry for the HLE. They are complete “mini works” with a clear beginning, middle, and end. They are rich in techniques. They are complex and have deep meaning. In short, they rock. Just remember that for the HLE, “short texts need friends.” Document: HLE Student Sample – Poetry

Looking For More Support?

Hey, nobody said this thing would be easy.  No worries.  We’ve got you covered.  Perhaps you want to see some more student writing?  Check.  We’ve got that.  Perhaps you want to know some key points to include?  Check.  We got that too.  You’re almost there!  Finish these last two videos, add some finishing touches to your work, and submit that baby in with pride and confidence.

So you watched the videos above but are still concerned about “showing deep thinking” on the HLE? It’s ok – we know this is tough. Check out this video to see several samples of how to build big thinking into your writing. Document: Showing Deep Thinking in the HLE

We know, we know. The content is overwhelming and it’s just too much at times. You just want the top ten tips for success? Fine. Here you go. But don’t forget to go back and watch the rest of these videos when you’re feeling more energy. They’re a set. Watch them all and ace the HLE.

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Top 8 Tips for Earning a Level 7 on the IB English HL Essay

Demands of the IB English HL Essay

3. Consolidate your Line of Argument in a Thesis Statement

5. Plan, Structure, and Research

6. write a first draft with citations.

What is the IB English HL Essay

The IB English HL Essay is usually written at the end of the first year of IB English in international schools and constitutes 25% of the IB English grade. For IB HL English Language & Literature, the source for the 1200-1500 word essay will be a non-literary or literary text studied in the course; for HL English Literature, this will be a literary text studied in the course.

This external assessment will be unlike any English essay students will have written so far, as it requires learners to develop their own question, argue in the framework of an academic essay, and use citations.

In this way, the scope and direction of the IB HL Essay for English can be quite hard for learners to understand and master. Candidates need to research literary commentary to supplement their arguments and create a polished piece of literary criticism based on significant literary or thematic elements studied in the IB English curriculum.

Even the process of constructing an essay title and narrowing down the scope of the essay is challenging in itself. When our IB English tutors teach our students, we first prioritise this conceptual foundation. 

Examples of Level IB English HL Essay Titles

Here are some examples of previous IB English HL Essay titles which have secured 7s: 

The Inversion of Social Construct in Primo Levi’s If This is a Man

Masculinity and Strength in Yukio Mishima’s The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea  

Alienated Masculinity in Katherine Mansfield’s The Garden Party and Other Stories 

IB English HL Essay Overview

Having written an IB English HL Essay ourselves (‘Written Assignment’, during our time), our private IB English tutors know that many IB English students will find it challenging to elevate their analysis to an essay of this length while staying laser-focused on the topic.

This kind of sophisticated analysis is required for a Level 7 in IB English HL, so we model how we tutor based on the learning style of the student to best refine their line of argument.

Here is a broad outline of how we would structure the IB HL English Essay research and writing process. It also serves as a good checklist to keep in mind when writing any high school essay, especially for the IB.

1. Carefully Consider the Source you Wish to Write About

This seems like an obvious point, but some candidates choose what they believe to be the easiest option (e.g. a text with more obvious discussion points), even if they do not particularly like the text. Though this may be a good option for some, we have seen students struggle with researching, writing, and perfecting an IB English HL essay on a text they ultimately are not interested in. This can affect the strength of the line of argument, and how convincing the essay is.

2. Decide on your Essay Topic by Brainstorming Wider Themes

By narrowing down the most significant themes of the source, it is much easier to settle on a suitable topic. This is usually quite challenging, and we advise students to turn to private IB English tutoring if they struggle with this.

Along with constructing a suitable essay question, consolidating a strong line of argument, i.e. thesis statement, is crucial for a 7 in any IB subject, especially English. This will form the foundation and direction of the essay.

4. Identify the Strongest Pieces of In-Text Evidence for your Argument

This is a generalised suggestion, and the specific evidence to use will differ depending on the source and question that each candidate chooses for their IB English HL Essay. Essentially, your main arguments must be supplemented by the strongest two to four pieces of in-text evidence. In the IB English HL Essay, these are the primers for your analytical insights.

This is the most important part of the essay writing process and the make-or-break moment for IB English HL Essay success. You should produce a coherent plan, with main points clearly supplemented with the strongest in-text evidence and references to broader literary commentary.

Following appropriate introductory, analytical (PEAL), and conclusion structures should be familiar at this point from other IB essays, even outside of English. The challenge is now to express yourself in formal and persuasive language, while referencing research appropriately.

The first draft of any essay will require heavy editing to ensure that it is structurally organised and well-executed. At BartyED, our private IB English tutors regularly advise students in this crucial stage of the IB English essay. Our support ranges from fixing the tone of an essay to cutting down words (almost all students end up with more words than they planned for).

8. Re-Write If Necessary

Depending on the quality of the essay, the final steps of completing the HL English Essay will be making the relevant edits and refining expression as per the IB English Essay mark scheme. All of the assessment criteria must be met, which can pose a considerable challenge in itself. 

Follow these steps, and with a good tutor, the HL English Essay is sure to be polished and high-level. Check out our website for more information about BartyED IB English tutoring programmes and frequently asked questions about the course. Or, contact a BartyED IB English tutor today to make sure you secure top marks for your coursework!

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IB English A Language and Literature: HL Essay Assessment Considerations

Please note:  The purpose of this information is to elaborate on the nature of the IB assessment task, define and explain the assessment criteria and their implications, share observed challenges in students’ submitted assessment work, and offer strategies and approaches for assessment preparation. 

This post is not meant to replace a reading of the IB Language A Subject Guides or the Teacher Support Materials available on MYIB.  Those resources should always be a first stop for teachers when checking the requirements of each assessment task and how the task should be facilitated. 

HL Essay Overview

Nature of the task.

Explanation of the task

Selection of work

Determining the topic (and line of inquiry)

What is the HL Essay Assessing?

Criterion a:  knowledge, understanding, and interpretation (5 marks), defined terms.

Activities and protocols that develop skills related to knowledge, understanding, and interpretation.

hl literature essay example

Formulating Interpretive Statements

This activity scaffolds the process of developing an “interpretive statement” in response to a text or work.  This is achieved through a sentence completion exercise […]

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hl literature essay example

Concept Formation

In this activity, students use small examples to establish what a concept is (and is not).  This inductive strategy works to give depth, ownership, and […]

hl literature essay example

Critical Lenses

Critical lenses help students engage with different perspectives with which to approach the reading and interpretation of a work.  Each lens contains questions that provoke […]

hl literature essay example

Journal Writing

Journal writing helps students develop important thinking skills.  There are the traditional approaches used in the younger years, like imagining a minor character’s point of […]

Criterion B:  Analysis and evaluation (5 marks)

Activities and protocols that develop skills related to analysis and evaluation

hl literature essay example

Why might this detail matter?

This activity gets students to think about the significance of minor details in a work.  These details can be used as evidence to form the […]

hl literature essay example

Ladder of Abstraction

This activity allows students to process the ways in which details from a work might represent larger abstract ideas. Process Divide students in groups of […]

hl literature essay example

Appoint a Devil’s Advocate

This protocol invites divergent thinking in a group and works to facilitate a culture where different ideas are viewed as collaborative rather than combative.  Preparation […]

hl literature essay example

This activity helps students visually see and appreciate the ways in which parts make up a whole.  One of the challenges many students have is […]

Criterion C:  Focus, organization, and development (5 marks)

Activities and protocols that develop skills related to organization and development

hl literature essay example

Generate, Sort, Connect, Elaborate: Concept Mapping IDEAS in a Work

This activity asks students to individually identify ideas and issues developed in a work and collaboratively connect and develop one another’s ideas.  This ultimately helps […]

hl literature essay example

Making a Précis

This activity guides students on how to distill a text into 100-200-word précis or summary.  This is a helpful skill for preparing a passage response […]

hl literature essay example

This protocol helps students consider which ideas, issues, and feelings are playing a significant role in shaping their personal response to a work. Process Give […]

hl literature essay example

Sort Card Activity

This activity helps students organize information and identify conceptual trends.  This activity models a process that students can use when planning their own essays and […]

hl literature essay example

Significant Quotes

Who said it?  What is the context? and Why is this quote significant? may seem like an archaic exercise in today’s educational landscape, but the […]

Criterion D:  Language (5 marks)

Activities and protocols that develop skills related to use of language

hl literature essay example

Interpretive Statement Wall

This protocol helps students develop revision skills by asking clarifying and critical questions about each other’s interpretive statements or thesis statements.  This helps students develop […]

hl literature essay example

Evaluating Thesis Statements

This activity helps students understand the role language plays in communicating specific and complex ideas in a thesis statement.  The approach invites active collaboration, and […]

hl literature essay example

Discussion Posts and Personalized Learning

This formative assessment gives students an opportunity to personalize their learning while engaging in collaborative discussion with their peers around their chosen text(s) or work. […]

hl literature essay example

This protocol helps students generate ideas in response to a work. Process Give students a writing task, asking them to identify one thing they think […]

[1] Language A: Language and Literature Guide, First assessment 2021 , IBO: 2019. pp. 42.

[2] To gain an understanding or confidence in evaluating analysis that is “appropriate for the discipline”, teachers may want to invest some time perusing scholarly articles written on works they teach or are familiar with using a database such as JSTOR or Ebscohost.  These titles and articles an also be shared with students as guides and exemplars.

[4] Ibid, pp. 45.

[5] Ibid, p. 42.

[6] Ibid, p. 43.

[7] A list of text types can be found on p. 22 of the Language A: Language and Literature Guide.  As mentioned in the guide, the list is not exhaustive.

[8] “Selection of work”. Language A: Language and Literature Guide, First assessment 2021 , IBO: 2019, p. 43.

[11] Language A: Language and Literature Guide, First assessment 2021 , IBO: 2019. p. 44.

[12] Definition:  a short statement of the main points.

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Higher Level Essay  ​ Weighting: 20% 

The Learner Portfolio and the Higher Level Essay

External Assessment: Higher Level ESSAY

Weighting - 20% .

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Call for essays: language and literature

Calling all Diploma Programme (DP) alumni! We are looking for graduates and students, like you, to help the IB create a sample set of essays for an upcoming new Study in language and literature courses: the higher level (HL) essay. We need sample HL essays in the following languages: English, Spanish, French, Chinese, Arabic, German, Japanese and Turkish covering 16 different topics!

Show off your writing and set an example for future IB students.  Submit a proposal  by 30 June 2018 (extended from May) to write an original 1,200-1,500-word essay on a topic you choose within the categories of language and literature, or just Literature (full details below). If your proposal is selected, completed essays will be awarded a USD 50 Amazon gift card. 


What is the HL essay?

The HL essay is a component that requires candidates to write a 1200-1500 word formal essay, following a line of inquiry of their own choice into one of the texts studied. HL Language A: language and literature candidates will have a choice between writing about a non-literary or literary text.

Why was it added to the course?

The development of the HL essay followed the elimination of both written tasks and the written assignment in Studies in language and literature courses. Without those components, there would no longer be written coursework targeting research, editing and citation skills that are of such importance for university courses.  The essay also differentiates further between SL and HL, asking HL candidates to demonstrate a deeper understanding of the nature of linguistic or literary study.

What topic should my essay discuss? (choose one from either)

Language and literature

Or  Literature

In what language should my essay be written?

We need essays in English, Spanish, French, Chinese, Arabic, German, Japanese and Turkish.

What is the deadline?

Submit your  proposal  no later than 30 June 2018, though earlier is recommended. We will review proposals on a rolling basis and contact you individually with additional details and a deadline for the final essay.

Why DP graduates?

We need creative and original examples to guide students; we know you have the skills to do this! Show off your writing and set an example for future IB students.  Submit a proposal  for an original 1,200-1,500-word essay on a topic you choose within either the categories of Language and literature, or just Literature. If your proposal is selected and you submit a completed essay, you may be eligible to receive a USD 50 Amazon gift card .

What concept should I use as a starting point for the essay?

To guide students in their choice of topic, we recommend using the seven central concepts in the course as a starting point for developing a line of inquiry. These concepts are listed here:

The representation of the identity of a particular character or group of characters in the work, or on the way in which the work relates to the identity of the writer

The representation of the culture of a particular place, institution or group of people, or on the way in which the work itself relates to a particular culture.

The representation of the individual or collective creativity, or lack of creativity, within the work, or on the way in which the work represents the creativity of the writer.


The representation of acts of communication, or failures in communication, in the work, or on the way in which the work itself represents an act of communication.


The representation of transformation or transformative acts in the work, or on the way in which the work itself is a transformative act either of other works through intertextual reference to them or of reality by means of a transformative effect on the reader’s identity, relationships, goals, values, and beliefs.


The representation of a particular perspective or perspectives within the work, or on the way in which the work represents the writer’s perspective.


The way in which the work represents different themes, attitudes and concepts, or in the extent to which literature can actually represent reality.

Questions or comments? Write to [email protected] .

About the IB

DP Language A Language and Literature

HL essay – the process

Check the Subject Guide and with your teacher for official information about the HL essay.

There are a number of different ways to develop an HL essay. Consider the following outline; it isn’t 100% comprehensive but it covers the key elements.

Preparing for the HL essay

Creating your HL essay

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hl literature essay example

One of the best ways to learn is by example. In order to become familiar with the expectations of the Higher Level Essay, you will want to look at how student work has been assessed in the past.Both poor and good samples are presented in these pages, so that you can learn from other students" experiences. We suggest you assess student work according to the criteria for the Higher Level Essay before you look at the examiner"s...

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IB English, the HL Essay: All You Need to Know

IB English, the HL Essay: All You Need to Know

Written By Our IB++Tutor Birgitte J.

What You Need to Know

hl literature essay example

The paper is externally assessed, meaning the final grade given is from the IB Examiner, not from your teacher. However, your teacher will give a predicted grade that is sent to the IB [3] .

Still need help?

Complete this form and we’ll match you with a Tutor to help you master your EE!

How to Approach the Essay

The essay requires you to construct a focused, analytical argument, examining the work from a broad literary or linguistic perspective. It also requires you to adhere to the formal framework of an academic essay, using citations and references.

Connection to the Learner Portfolio

The HL essay is based on the exploration you have engaged with in the Learner Portfolio [4] . In the lead-up to the drafting of the essay, you must decide which text to focus on for further investigation, and which topic to write about. In choosing the topic, you can consult the course’s seven central concepts. You can choose any text with the exception of the texts used for the Internal Assessment (the IO) or the Paper 2.

How to choose a text

Don’t wait until the last minute and talk with your teacher about the text you want to use and the focus you are considering. Write your ideas out to make sure your line of inquiry is focused and appropriate for an analytical argument of a paper of this length.

In the case of a collection of short stories, poems, song lyrics or any short literary text, you may choose to use just one literary text from the work. However, It may be necessary to use more than one literary text from the work chosen.

The Language and Literature course only *

In the case of short non-literary texts, it may be necessary to use more than one from the same text type by the same author, for example the same creative advertising agency, cartoonist, photographer or social media user. At least one of these texts must have been studied in class. (If using a text in translation it must be a professional and published translation).

Determining the Topic and the 7 Course Concepts

It’s helpful but not mandatory to start with the seven central concepts of the course in generating or determining a topic for the essay. The questions below are meant as starting points for the focus of the essay, not as complete lines of inquiry which should be more specific to the chosen text (see examples of lines of inquiry below).

Questions may include; How is identity represented in the text? How are the characters in the text representative of a group? How does the text reflect the identity of the writer?

Questions may include; How is an aspect of the text representative of a culture or a particular place? How is a group of people or an institution conveyed? How is the text representative of a cultural perspective?


Questions may include; How is the text representative of an individual or collective creativity, or lack of creativity? How is the text a reflection of the creativity of the writer?


How is communication or lack of communication conveyed in the text? How does the text itself communicate with the reader? How are aspects of communication illustrated through literary features?


How is change or development illustrated in the text? How are characters transformed through action, communication or events in the text? What is the relationship between transformation and the goals, values and beliefs conveyed in the text?


How is a perspective or different perspectives represented in the text? How is a shift in perspective portrayed? How is the writer’s perspective revealed through the text?


How does the text represent a particular theme or message? How are attitudes conveyed? In what way is reality or the world within the text represented?

IB English Language and Literature Guide examples of lines of inquiry

A Final Note on the Learner Portfolio and the HL Essay

The Learner Portfolio is not assessed but schools are required to keep it on file. It is intended to be a platform for reflecting on the texts studied, facilitating development of independent thinking. The reflections may include responses to cultural perspectives and values, inter-relationships and identities as it relates to topics and themes in the texts studied. The reflections may serve as a springboard for the line of inquiry in the HL essay. For example, you may keep a record of themes present, reflections on how particular passages within the texts reflect those themes, or how themes and passages convey one of the 7 central concepts.

[1] Paper 2 is cancelled for the 2022 cohort. No announcement has been made for the 2023 at the time this article was written.

[2] There are 3 IB English courses. The two most common are IB English A: Literature SL/HL, a course focused on literature (Poetry, drama, short stories and novels) and the IB English Language and Literature SL/HL course, focused on literature AND a variety of non-literary (non-fiction) text types.

[3] The examiner’s grade is independent from your teacher’s predicted grade.

[4] An individual collection of student work compiled during the course in which you explore and reflect on the texts throughout the course.

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As an HL student thinking about writing your HL Essay, you will need to make a choice between writing about a literary work or a non-literary work/non-literary body of work. Some of these terms may be confusing. A literary work includes things...

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Is Hamlet Insane

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Introduction William Shakespeare’s classic play “Hamlet” is a fascinating tragedy that involves madness, various means of cruel deception and frequent lies. Throughout the plot, the leading…

Revenge In Hamlet

Introduction In William Shakespeare’s play “Hamlet”, revenge is a key theme during the entire plot. It not only lays the groundwork for almost every scene, but…

Masculinity in Shakespeare’s Hamlet

Shakespeare’s Hamlet had its origin in the Elizabethan period, and hence, it is a reflection of England during that time. Therefore, a close examination of Shakespeare’s…

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A soldier protects the country and its citizens from external attack. A good soldier puts the needs of a country first before his, and is always…

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King Claudius criticizes Hamlet for his continued mourning over King…

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There is no doubt that Shakespeare has had the opportunity to influence or affect literature more than other writers in the history of humanity. Based on…

Historiography about William Shakespeare

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One of the primary theme that is evident in the play Hamlet is the difference that is present between incidents that occur in reality and things…

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The Age of Enlightenment, also referred to as the Age of Reason, dominated Europe between 1685 and 1815 (Gibbs 16). Age of Enlightenment discredited the value…

Conscience in Hamlet: King Claudius

It is inevitable that all humans experience guilty feelings. Guilt is also an old concept which can be traced to the origins of humans. Guilty feelings…

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Can I download a sample?

You may download our template essays on Hamlet for free, but do not submit them as yours.

To write or not to write? If you are like Hamlet, found yourself at the crossroads of the creative process, and are willing to succeed in education, your shield against bad marks is the EssayWriter database. Here you may find Hamlet essay examples that may satisfy the pickiest clients and assist in academic writing.

Hamlet Essay Examples: Problems & Solutions

Perhaps everyone heard about William Shakespeare and his tragedy “Hamlet.” The action takes place In Denmark, where prince Hamlet came after the death of his father-king. The father’s ghost appears to Hamlet, telling him he was killed by his brother Claudius who became the next king. Hamlet starts to think about revenge but hesitates. And everyone considers him mad. Finally, he was also poisoned after killing the new king.

Teachers usually assign literary analysis of the main character considering problems of overthinking, indecisiveness, and self-doubts. If you are going to write a  Hamlet research paper too, it is obligatory to perform a comprehensive overview of the characters and problems of the play.

Hamlet Paper: Writing Guideline

So, suppose you are indecisive like Hamlet and hesitate about your writing skills and good knowledge of English literature. In that case, it is better to rely on ready-made Hamlet essays stored in our collection.

Perfect Writing Requires Creativity

To write a masterpiece like Shakespear, you must be talented and well educated. But creativity is impossible without inspiration. So, searching for ideas for your Hamlet paper, skim our templates that reveal the topic from the traditional and the most unexpected sides.

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Do not count only on content in writing academic papers. For example, keep the proper structure and formatting requirements in your essay about Hamlet. Moreover, please do not dwell on boring and wor out topics. In our directory, a wide range of original and unusual topics engage readers from the first lines.

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Whatever essay you write, you need to immerse into the theme and provide reliable data. Even writing essays on literature, like a critical essay on Hamlet, it is crucial to be aware of all the studies of the play and reviews of literary critics. We did it in our samples so that you may pick some valuable and trustworthy data. In addition, a free bibliography in each paper is easy to find and apply.

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