Top 10 Tips for the IB Chinese Individual Oral Commentary (IOC)


The 10 Widely Used Tips for the Individual Oral (IOC)

1. Know the format and what’s expected of you.

  • The individual oral commentary (IOC) is comprised of two sections: the presentation, which lasts for 3-4 minutes, and the discussion with the examiner, which lasts for 5-6 minutes.
  • Before your oral, you’ll be given 15 minutes preparation time.
  • For the presentation component, you will be given a choice of two pictures. You’re allowed to write up to 10 bullet points of notes to guide you during your presentation.
  • During your presentation, you’re required to briefly describe the picture you choose, link it back to the IB syllabus, and provide context to what is being shown.
  • The discussion involves the teacher asking the student a series of questions based on the presentation. The teacher may also introduce a topic from another part of the syllabus.
  • You are marked across two criteria: Criterion A assesses productive skills out of 10, Criterion B assesses interactive and receptive skills out of 10.

2. Prepare skeletons

  • Unfortunately, you won’t be able to prepare a script for every possible picture that could come up. The very nature of the exam is that you are given a picture you have never seen before, and therefore the oral assesses your ability to respond to new material. Instead, MeeOpp recommends creating skeletons for each of the syllabus topics with rough guidelines of what to include, should a picture from that topic come up. Thus, even if you can’t describe the picture, you’ll still have some content prepared to fall back on.
  • Preparing skeletons also helps to provide a rough idea of how to structure your presentation, preventing nervous stuttering and increasing coherency.

3. Practice, practice, practice!

  • Once you’ve created skeletons for each syllabus topic, practice conducting speeches on your own while recording yourself. You can do this by looking up pictures online, giving yourself 15 minutes to prepare, and then practice presenting for 3-4 minutes. This is a perfect way to help prepare you for the spontaneity of the picture you’ll get for your oral.
  • Play back your recordings and pay attention to any mistakes in intonation or disruptions in clarity. Focus on the words you have difficulty pronouncing, then practice speaking more quickly once you’re more comfortable with your content.
  • Get a second opinion! Ask your teacher to listen to your recordings and ask for constructive feedback on ways to improve.

4. Get multiple pictures and practice describing them

  • The pictures given to students will most like be ones they’ve never seen before. Nonetheless, students can still prepare for this spontaneity by looking up pictures corresponding to the syllabus topics on their own and practicing describing them. This will make them far less nervous when dealing with unfamiliar material in the exam.

5. Create a bank of possible questions

  • To prepare for the discussion part of the exam, create a list of questions you think your teacher may ask you for each syllabus topic, and then prepare brief responses to each.
  • Practice responding to each verbally so you can work on your intonation and to familiarise yourself with the tone of the exam.

6. Use a variety of sources

  • To help in writing your skeletons, it would do you good to read up on the topics of the IB syllabus either from the textbook, or from other sources.
  • For example, there are very specific words associated with Health or Environmental Degradation, and reading up can help you get familiar with these words to use in your oral.
  • This also helps you learn about new sentence structures and idioms you could potentially use to make your oral more effective in communicating the main message!

7. Practice with a friend

  • Practicing with a friend is a great way to emulate the environment of the individual oral while easing the terror of having to face the actual examiner. This can help you finetune your interactive skills as you work on engaging your friend and maintaining eye contact, and your friend can point out any issues while you’re at it!

8. Quality, not quantity

  • Avoid the trap of using more idioms and complex vocabulary than you can handle. While the IB does value a student’s ability to write and communicate with sophistication, what students fail to remember is that this assessor also values clarity. Use idioms and sentence structures that you are confident using.
  • Bear in mind that a well organised, concise and coherent speech will score much higher than a muddled-up speech made up of excessively complicated sentences.
  • Use idioms where appropriate – idioms can indeed enhance the effectiveness of your message, but only if you use them correctly.

9. Practice exam technique 

  • Though the 10 bullet points may seem minor at first, the synthesis of those points are crucial. Going into an exam hall can be a very daunting experience, and having something to fall back on prevents students from making errors out of nervousness.
  • With pictures you find online, practice synthesising your main ideas into bullet points and seeing which organisational system works for you. Therefore, by the time you get to the exam, you’ll know exactly what to include and how to structure your points to ensure a fluid speech.


  • A huge part of doing well in the individual oral is having faith in yourself. Trust yourself in knowing that you prepared as much as you possibly could, and nothing can catch you off guard. After all, it’s your moment to shine after weeks of hard work.

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