General feedback Educated essays (Westover)

Here are some points of feedback on your Educated essays. Keep in mind that this task was closely related to the final HL Essay you will have to submit next year as your IB Coursework.

-There was a good range of topics for exploration, mostly clearly defined and appropriately narrow in scope for the essay length
-There was a fairly good understanding of the application of a theory (in this case psychoanalytical theory) as a lens or framework
-Titles were often interesting and relevant, creating a sharp focus
-Some essays were ambitious in terms of their argument
-All of the above led to interesting explorations of the text

For improvement:

-While titles were argument-focused, most introductions needed work:
1. Start by introducing the text (who what where when). You can assume your reader (and IB examiner later) will have read the text, but you should still start by establishing these basic elements
2. Establish your framework or lens clearly in the introduction. In this case: which specific psychological features will your explore, and explain why. Where are you taking these concepts from (some of you did add this, but much later in the essay) and why is this approach relevant? Are you analysing a)characters b)the author or c)your reaction?
3. Make sure your main thesis is 100% clear in the introduction
4. If your reading is oppositional to the accepted reading or 'against the grain' (controversial) make sure you show an awareness of this in the introduction. (See the Filicide Grimm Tales essay, which does this).

-Don't confuse the text with the actual events in real life. In a memoir like this, our main portal to the events is the text itself. Your job was to analyse how this text is constructed, with a focus on the narrator and the characters. Make sure you show a clarity and awareness about that distinction throughout. Real people depicted in a published memoir are characters; you didn't meet them in person or base your arguments on real life interviews.
-Related: you needed to use the present tense throughout in almost all cases, since we are writing about the text; using the past tense suggests you are writing about the real individuals, not the characters.
-Also related: I did not see enough of a focus on narrative perspective.

-Arguments in essays should be transparent from the beginning; avoid a 'slow unveiling' approach as that can be confusing.
-Use argument-based topic sentences to start paragraphs and indicate each paragraph's focus and how it relates to your thesis (helps build your case).
-Related to this: there was some dependence on plot summary in the main body paragraphs without direct relation to the argument


Here is an example of an introduction that showed a fairly clear focus on a specific argument, and gave an indication of the context of using psychoanalysis:

Psychological criticism of Tara’s character in Educated by Tara Westover: what are the factors that led Tara to entering a dissociative state during the parking lot incident in chapter 22?

There is an incident in chapter 22 where Tara is attacked by her brother Shawn in the parking lot of the shop in Franklin in which Tara enters a dissociative state inorder to maintain control over the pain inflicted upon her. In this essay I will argue that Tara developed a range of dissociative defenses to manage the emotional experience of pain, using the lens of psychological criticism. Key factors in my investigation are pain and suffering, which are recurring themes in Tara’s life. She worked with scrap metal under dangerous conditions alongside her father and fell victim to the physical and verbal abuse of Shawn, her brother. Tara also observed her father being consumed by his own mania, due to his bipolar disorder. She also experienced multiple car accidents when returning home from Arizona. These various traumas had a significant impact on Tara’s emotional experience of pain and her subsequent management of it.

The student did not clearly introduce the work first, and also needed to justify such a strong focus on a specific incident, but the argument and essay's direction were clear.

M22 English LLSLHL advice after mocks

Here are some thoughts to consider after the IO mock exam experience:

-Your mock IO grade does not determine 45%(SL) or 25%(HL) of your IB Predicted Grade!
-Most understood the nature of the task, which was to explore all four elements in a balanced way, with a focus on your Global Issue
-Global Issues were generally well-defined. Don't use single words to define the Global Issue though
-Use the IB outline document; don't change it
-Extract lines need to be numbered and images captioned
-Use no more than 3 stills for a visual text
-I will collect PDFs next time instead of Google templates
-Don't make last minute changes and hand your documents in on time; you want to avoid unnecessary stress, as this makes it harder for me to focus on what you are saying
-Related to that, use the Global Issue and extracts in your document, submitted at least a week before the exam; changing this on the day creates confusion
-Extracts should never exceed 40 lines
-Some extracts were really short (15 lines). This was usually not advantageous
-Don't over-prepare; this creates a stilted and strange delivery and makes it harder to follow your arguments.
-Over-rehearsed orals lose marks (C & D)
-Leave room for spontaneity, which is more persuasive
-Making eye contact is up to the individual; I'm fine either way
-Use your outline
-Don't write whole sentences in your outline; reading out sentences will cost marks
-Practice without additional notes
-Practice with another person and time yourself
-Be kind to your listener; use transitions and markers to indicate changes and sections within your talk
-The aim is to get to 10 minutes. Speaking for a shorter or longer amount will cost significant marks in criterion C
-Listen to your mp3 recording, identify which slang or informal words and phrases you use, and practice speaking without them
-Refer to line numbers in your extracts
-Avoid basing your entire argument on a secondary source (Joni Mitchell "Little Green", for ex.). Make sure you can justify the reading using the text itself
-Use technical terms but make sure you are using them correctly
-Study the Literature Work and Language Body of Work well; know titles and specifics; remember there has to be a balance.
-Build on your strengths

Educated responses - examples of good student writing

Here are some examples of interesting writing done by some of you on the memoir Educated. Your task was to take a psychological perspective on the events in the chapter "What We Whispered and What We Screamed" (ch. 22). This work was completed in February 2021.

These are just some of the examples of good writing I had pointed out in class. Work not copied here was harder to illustrate in a single paragraph, because my comments there were about the overall argument (Sofia, Poppy, Guillaume).

Good integration of short quotes (Ina):

After the event that occurred at the parking lot on page 194, Tara seemed to isolate the event entirely after she received apologies from Shane, which came to her surprise. She had written in her journal that it was a “misunderstanding” and that “If I’d asked him to stop, he would have”, in Shane’s defence, as if her denial would justify his actions as morally right. Meanwhile, only a day prior, she had written down a detailed account of what she remembered of the event, saying that she didn’t want to “hide behind hints and suggestions”. In her journal she had written about her recollection of the event as; “he was forcing me” and “it was like getting beaten by a zombie”. And her later on saying this event was a misunderstanding displays her feeling of powerlessness compared to her family, which she also elucidates on page 197 when she says in her opinion of the present day that “My life was narrated for me by others. Their voices are forceful, empathic, absolute.”

Good introduction and writing style (Luke):

Why is the Father supportive of Richard’s desire to go to college?

In chapter 22, What We Whispered and What We Screamed, Tara returns to Buck’s Peak to find Richard is studying for the ACT, and to her surprise her father is supporting him. This contradicts a defining characteristic of Gene Westover: relentless opposition to western institutions. This is why he pulled his kids out of school, why he does not take them to the hospital, why some of them do not have birth certificates, and this is why he has his family living this survivalist lifestyle preparing for the apocalypse or the day when the government comes for his family. He was not supportive of Tara wanting to go to school, he was paranoid of the communists and demons that run these systems and believed he had saved his children from being indoctrinated by Satan. Yet he is helping Richard prepare for the ACT. This contradicts what the reader understands about this character up to this point if we regard the ideology he has expressed in his lectures and his actions. However, if we pay attention to his motivations, qualities, and history and analyze him psychologically, we can make sense of his choice.

Strong argument in main body paragraph (Akanksha):

In this chapter, Shawn displays a clear act of displacement. This can be seen when he takes his anger on Richard and his father out on Tara. Shawn was obviously upset that his father was praising Richard for being a ‘genius’. This showed him that he was not unique, he was just another normal child. This angered Shawn. Instead of taking his anger out on his father, Shawn physically assaulted his sister in the parking lot of a store. It could be seen that he was not in the correct mind when Tara said, ‘It was like getting beaten by a zombie, I write, Like he couldn’t hear me’. This goes to show that even though he was physically hurting Tara, in his mind he was trying to hurt his father, or worse himself, for being a failure in life. This exemplifies that even though Shawn may seem like a harmful, threatening person, he is an exposed weakling, who cannot seem to take criticism well, and does not want to see others get praised or do well. This is an example of displacement, although, in this case, the feeling is going from calm to threatening, not the other way around.

How to set up your English journal using Listed

Listed is a blog publishing plugin for a free open source note-taking app called Standard Notes. I am currently writing this in Standard Notes. To find out more about what open source software is, please watch this short Youtube video: (What is open source software?)

Anything you write in Standard Notes is encrypted, unless of course you publish it to your blog; this means that even the Standard Notes developers themselves cannot access your notes, only you can. Losing your password and/or your author code might result in being locked out of your writings, so store those somewhere safe! I recommend using a password app like LastPass.

Follow these steps to set up and publish your own blog using Listed:

--------------------SETTING UP------------------------

  1. Either download Standard Notes or go the browser version and create a new free account: Record your account username and password somewhere for safekeeping.

  2. Go to and generate a new author code. Copy and paste this code. Store the code somewhere safe.

  3. Open your Standard Notes app or browser account and click on Extensions (bottom left).

  4. Click on Import Extension and paste in your author code; press the return button on your keyboard. Refresh Standard Notes (bottom right).

---------------PUBLISHING YOUR FIRST POST--------------

  1. Start a new note in Standard Notes by pressing the + symbol at the top. Write whatever comes to mind. You can use hashtag to create note categories.

  2. In your note, selection Actions - Listed - Settings.

    a. Choose a username/display name and scroll down to save. (If the save button doesn't work, someone already has that name and you'll need to change it to something else).
    b. Tick "Hide profile from homepage 'Recent Authors'" and save.

  3. In your note, select Actions - Listed - Publish to Blog. Once you've done that, you can go to Open Blog in the same list to see your published blog post

  4. Copy your blog's URL from your browser and send that to me, and to your classmates.

From this point on, you can just publish notes by clicking Actions - Listed - Publish to blog. You can always adjust your blog settings later, and you can edit posts by selecting Update Published Post.

You'll have noticed that the free version of Standard Notes has simple writing tools. URLs can't be hyperlinked (at least I don't know how yet) and images can't be inserted; however, I like this about the Listed blogs, because the focus is on your writing.

--------------OPTIONAL: COLLECT RSS FEED---------------

  1. In your blog, or in a classmate's blog, select Subscribe in the upper right-hand corner.

  2. Select 'RSS feed' (in blue) and copy that URL.

  3. Paste that URL into an rss reader on your phone, or a web reader like


Standard notes and Listed What is open source software? (Scroll down for ‘web’ version if don’t want to download) (generate author link)

In Standard Notes actions listed settings, untick publish to listed community
-no further extensions for free accounts (no folders, for example)


  1. Write test post and publish blog
  2. Actions - Listed - Open Blog
  3. Copy url and email this link to me; this will allow me to subscribe