How to Write a Visual Text Analysis Essay in the IB DP Paper 1?


The International Baccalaureate Diploma Program (IBDP) is one of the four high-quality two-year IB courses offered to students in the age group 16-19 years from all over the world. This program aims to develop students physically, intellectually, emotionally, and ethically, on completion of which students are awarded a worldwide recognized Diploma. This two-year course is offered in the last two years of high school to students who wish to attend a top-notch university anywhere in the world.

Students pursuing this DP program study six subjects and three core elements and take their examinations at the end of the two years. There are six subject groups, and the students opt for one subject from each of the groups. Arts is one of the subject groups – if the students do not want this subject group, they are allowed to pick an extra subject from the one of other five groups. The IBDP is further divided into Standard Level (SL) and Higher Level (HL). And the students take three, but not more than four from the HLs and the remaining from the SLs. Apart from these sib subjects, IBDP requires the students to successfully complete three core elements of the DP program–Theory of Knowledge (TOK), Extended Essay (EE), and Creativity, Activity and Service (CAS).

  • TOK is assessed through an oral presentation and a 1600-word essay
  • EE is an independent piece of study which ends with a 4000 worded essay
  • CAS enhances the students’ personal and interpersonal learning. Though this task is not assessed, the participation and successful completion of the activity is mandatory

The maximum score for each subject is 7 and the core elements score is 3. Hence the maximum score for the IB DP is 45.


Subject Group: Language and Literature

The students opt for at least one subject from the subject group – Language and Literature.

This subject group offers a broad range of texts, and the students grow to appreciate a language’s complexity, wealth, and subtleties in a variety of contexts. There are three different courses under this group

  • Language A: Literature(SL and HL) which is available in 55 languages
  • Language A: Language and Literature (SL and HL) which is available in 17 languages
  • Literature and Performance (SL) which is by default available in English

Through the studies in Language and Literature, the DP aims to develop student’s lifelong interest in language and literature, and the love for the richness in human expression.


Assessment Model for Language A: Language and Literature

Type of Assessment Format of assessment Time Duration SL Time Duration HL Weighting of final grades SL Weighting of final grades HL
Paper 1 – Guided textual analysis Guided analysis of unseen non-literary passage/passages from different text types 1.25 hours 2.25 hours 35% 35%
Paper 2 – Comparative Essay Comparative essay based on two literary works written in response to a choice of one out of the four questions 1.75 hours 1.75 hours 35% 25%
HL Essay Written course work component, 1200 -1500 worded essay on one literary work or a non-literary body of work studied 20%
Individual Oral Prepared oral response on the way one literary work and a non-literary body of work studied approached a common global issue 30% 20%

Let us explore the Guided textual analysis component of paper 1

Here the texts can be presented in various forms in the examinations. One type is the visual texts– non-fiction, textbooks, advertisements, posters, comic strips, cartoons, web pages, editorials, magazines, social campaigns, and more.


Guidelines for Writing an Effective Visual Text Analysis

There are 3 steps that form a foundation for writing an effective visual text analysis as you develop your ideas into writing.

  • Describe
  • Respond
  • Analyze


Describing the Subject

Simply describing the text is an important part of the analysis writing. It gives a definition of your subject and gives a clear picture of what you are trying to convey. Make sure to write only what you see and avoid interpretations. While describing you may want to pay attention to

  • Objects and shapes
  • Colors and shading
  • Foreground and Background
  • People and places
  • Arrangement of elements on the page


Responding to the Subject

Responding basically is drawing a reaction from what you observe in the visual text. You can look at the answers to the following questions to get a clearer picture for responding

What is your initial gut reaction?

What does the text make you think?

Does the text make you feel like doing something?

Does the text remind you of anything that you have seen, heard, or read before?


Analyzing the Subject

This step will depict how the text’s various elements convey meaning and accomplish the purpose. Here you will be actually using your rhetorical writing skills to persuade or impress by analyzing the audience, purpose, and context of the subject.


Putting All Together

Writing the introduction –This is where you first come in contact with the reader. You need to have all the arguments laid out clearly, your thesis statement, and any relevant background information. The main points of the introduction will summarize to

  • Facts about the visual text
  • Use the hook statement to kindle the reader’s interest in the text
  • Describe the visual text to the readers
  • Inform the reader on why the visual text was taken/written
  • Your thesis statement to justify why the text is worth describing
  • Summarize your arguments


Writing the Body of the Analysis

You need to write clearly and coherently, to justify your arguments effectively. The body of the essay should present the evidence or relevant examples to justify your argument. It should be arranged like one argument per paragraph. Each paragraph needs to use the different elements of the visual text – color, image, and text.


Write the Conclusion

A good conclusion should summarize the main theme and relate back to the introduction. This section presents your new idea or insights gained through your analysis of the text. Also, the conclusion needs to iterate your thesis statement in different wordings. Points for the conclusion section:

  • Do not add any new ideas in the section
  • Reiterate the thesis statement
  • Summarize your arguments
  • Present your final argument
  • Use this as the last chance to persuade/impress your reader’s


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What is a visual text analysis essay?

A Visual text analysis essay is an essay that analyzes a visual text, such as a photograph, painting, or video. It examines the visual elements of the text, such as color, composition, and symbolism, as well as the context in which the text was created.

How is a visual text analysis essay is different from a traditional essay?

A visual text analysis essay is different from a traditional essay in that it focuses on a visual text rather than a written text. It requires a different set of analytical skills, such as the ability to analyze visual elements and the context in which the text is created.

What are some tips for analyzing a visual text for IB DP Paper 1?

Some tips for analyzing a visual text for IB DP Paper 1 include identifying the visual elements of the text, such as color, and symbolism, as well as considering the context in which the text was created. It is also important to develop a clear thesis statement and provide evidence to support your analysis.

How do I structure a visual text analysis essay?

A visual text analysis essay typically includes an introduction that provides background information on the text and a thesis statement that outlines the argument. The body of the essay provides evidence to support your analysis, and the conclusion should summarize your main points and restate your thesis.

What are some common visual elements to analyze in a visual text?

Some common visual elements to analyze in a visual text include color, composition, symbolism, contrast, and perspective. These elements can be used to convey meaning and add depth to the visual text.

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