Hire a tutor
IB Language ab initio IA: Guidance

IB Language ab initio IA: Guidance

5 min Read|February 02 2024
|Written by:

Charles Whitehouse


The International Baccalaureate (IB) program offers a variety of assessments for students, including Internal Assessments (IAs), which are pieces of coursework marked by students’ teachers. The Language ab initio Internal Assessment is an individual oral assessment which makes up 25% of a student’s grade.

Language ab initio is a subject, only available at Standard Level, which students start with no or very little knowledge of the target language. There are many different languages offered by the IB. These include French, German, and Spanish. The most popular ab initio languages to study are Spanish and French.

In this article, we will cover everything you need to know about the IB Language ab initio IA, including preparing for likely topics and responding to the visual stimuli on the day.

What is the Language ab initio IA?

The Language ab initio IA is an oral assessment, consisting of a conversation with a teacher, during which the student demonstrates their ability to use the target language in a variety of situations. It is based on themes which students study in class: identities, experiences, human ingenuity, social organization, sharing the planet.

The student will be presented with two visual stimuli, and can pick one to prepare a presentation about. The student will have 15 minutes of preparation, during which they can make brief working notes. The stimuli will likely be a photo, poster, illustration or advertisement, taken from the target language’s culture.

They will then have 1-2 minutes to present on the extract. The student should briefly describe the picture to the teacher, and then relate it to the relevant theme from the course. This should be specific to the picture, and not just be a general, pre-prepared presentation on the theme in general.

This will be followed by a 3-4 minute follow-up discussion, expanding on the theme discussed during the presentation. The student should engage in an authentic discussion on a topic related to the extract, and should demonstrate understanding and appreciation of the target language culture(s).

The assessment will conclude with a 3-4 minute general discussion on at least one additional syllabus. The student should interpret and evaluate ideas and engage in authentic conversation.

This totals a 7-10 minute oral assessment. The assessment is intended to assess the student’s ability to understand and use the language to successfully interact with another person.

IB Language ab initio Guide

Structure of the assessment. Source: IB Language ab initio Guide

What are the assessment criteria?

The IB sets out these skills which are being tested:

  • communicate clearly and effectively in a range of contexts and for a variety of purposes
  • understand and use language appropriate to a range of interpersonal and/or intercultural contexts and audiences
  • understand and use language to express and respond to a range of ideas with fluency and accuracy
  • identify, organize and present ideas on a range of topics
  • understand, analyse and reflect within the context of presentation and conversation.

Criterion A: Language (12 marks)

To score highly, the student should demonstrate an effective and mostly accurate command of the language. Vocabulary should be varied and appropriate, with a variety of basic and more complex grammatical structures. Pronunciation and intonation should be consistent and clear.

Criterion B1: Message - visual stimulus (6 marks)

The presentation should be consistently relevant to the stimulus, drawing on explicit and implicit details, with a clear link to the target culture.

Criterion B2: Message - conversation (6 marks)

The student’s responses to the teacher should be relevant to the question, show development, be appropriate, developed, be broad in scope and depth, and attempt to engage the teacher.

Criterion C: Interactive skills - communication (6 marks)

The student should demonstrate sustained comprehension and interaction.

Get expert help with the IB

The world's leading online IB tutoring provider trusted by students, parents, and schools globally.

4.92/5 based on480 reviews

What topics could the further discussion be about?

The five themes which the visual stimulus could relate to are: identities, experiences, human ingenuity, social organization, and sharing the planet. Your classwork will suggest what kind of topics relate to each of these themes. For example, you may study the environment, human rights, peace and conflict, equality, globalization, ethics, and/ or urban and rural environment as part of the Sharing the planet theme.

Have a look at our comprehensive set of IB Study Notes and IB Practice Questions, developed by expert IB teachers and examiners!

How can I score highly?

There are several key strategies that a student can use to score highly in the International Baccalaureate IA oral assessment. Even though you will only see the visual stimulus on the day of the assessment, there are steps you can take to prepare yourself.

First, it is important to thoroughly research and understand each possible topic which could come up, as this will demonstrate an understanding of the subject matter in response to the picture on the day. Practise making mind-maps of key vocabulary, learning a variety of grammatical structures, and familiarising yourself with the key debates or talking points of each topic.

Second, it is essential to practise for the oral presentation, including practicing speaking clearly and confidently and organising and delivering the information in a logical and coherent manner. Try talking into a voice recorder to hear how you sound. You could also ask your teacher for advice on how to improve your pronunciation. It could also be helpful to find a willing classmate to practise your conversational skills with!

Third, test yourself by giving yourself randomly selected photos to respond to, and see what you can remember when put on the spot. Then, keep track of what you miss out, and reflect this in your further practice.

Fourth, leveraging the expertise of an IB tutor can significantly enhance your preparation and performance for the IA oral assessment. This targeted support can build your confidence, improve your linguistic fluency, and equip you with the critical thinking skills needed to excel in the assessment, ultimately contributing to a higher score.

How can I develop my ab initio language skills generally?

Learning a new language from scratch can be challenging, but there are several effective methods that can help you achieve your goal. This will be a skill with you for life, not just for the IB, so try to enjoy the process!

One of the most important methods is immersion. By surrounding yourself with the language, whether through watching TV shows or movies, listening to music, or speaking with native speakers, you can learn the language quickly and naturally.

Repetition is another key method in language learning, repeating words, phrases, and grammar rules can help you memorise them and improve your fluency. Practice is also important when learning a new language, you should practise speaking, reading and writing as much as possible. Language learning apps and software like Duolingo, Babbel, Rosetta Stone can also be helpful in learning a new language.

Having a language exchange partner, who is a native speaker of the language, can also help you get the most out of your language learning experience. You may have other people who speak the language at your school, so you could ask to practise with them, or there are websites where you can chat with people from are native speakers.

Incorporating IB tutoring into your language learning strategy can greatly enhance your progress. An IB tutor who specializes in language education can provide structured lessons, personalized feedback, and a deeper understanding of linguistic nuances, complementing your immersion and practice efforts. This targeted support can be especially beneficial in the context of the IB's rigorous language requirements, helping you to not only grasp the language more effectively but also to meet the specific criteria and expectations of the IB curriculum.

Finally, it's important to set realistic goals and be consistent in your language learning efforts. It takes time and practice to become proficient in a new language, and is especially tricky while balancing the other demands of the IB. So, don't get discouraged if you make mistakes or struggle!

Need help from an expert?

4.92/5 based on480 reviews

The world’s top online tutoring provider trusted by students, parents, and schools globally.

Study and Practice for Free

Trusted by 100,000+ Students Worldwide

Achieve Top Grades in your Exams with our Free Resources.

Practice Questions, Study Notes, and Past Exam Papers for all Subjects!

Need Expert Help?

If you’re looking for assistance with your IB Language IA, get in touch with the TutorChase team and we’ll be able to provide you with an expert IB tutor. We’ll be there every step of the way!



Professional tutor and Cambridge University researcher

Charles Whitehouse

Written by: Charles Whitehouse

Oxford University - Masters Biochemistry

Charles scored 45/45 on the International Baccalaureate and has six years' experience tutoring IB and IGCSE students and advising them with their university applications. He studied a double integrated Masters at Magdalen College Oxford and has worked as a research scientist and strategy consultant.

Get Expert Help
background image

Hire a tutor

Please fill out the form and we'll find a tutor for you

Phone number (with country code)

Still have questions? Let’s get in touch.