Unpacking guiding questions

Each Paper 1 stimulus text is accompanied by a 'guiding question'. Your Paper 1 response must answer this question. It can serve as your 'point of entry' into your analysis of the text. According to the IB's video Preparing students for Paper 1, students may choose their own 'point of entry'. However, the recommendation from many examiners and workshop leaders is to focus on the guiding question on the exam. What do guiding questions look like? See examples below and some tips on how to unpack them.  

Preparing students for Paper 1

Example guiding questions

  • Comment on how text and image work together to appeal to multiple audiences.
  • Explore how various features are used on this webpage to create an impression of Indian culture. 
  • Comment on how the writer develops an argument about the seriousness of climate change. 
  • Examine how the narrative voice is used to create a sense of immediacy whilst also attempting to involve the reader.
  • Notice

  • 'Comment', 'examine', and 'explore' actually ask you to ANALYSE by articulating a relationship between form and meaning and EVALUATE by stating how successful the text is at achieving its purpose (Criterion B)
  • Each question has both a specific and a general part, pertaining to either style or purpose. "Various features" = vague/general style. "To create an impression of Indian culture" = specific purpose.
  • Tips for unpacking guiding questions

    • Circle/underline the 'how' (style/form) part of the question and the 'what' and 'why' (purpose) parts of the question.  
    • Build a mind map around the guiding question. Branching out from the 'how' part with examples of 2-4 major stylistic features.
    • Branch out from the from the 'why' part of the question with key points about the meanings, messages and purposes of the text.
    • What is the most specific word in the guiding question? What is the most general word? Most likely, either the form or the purpose part of the question will be specific. Write a thesis statement that includes this word. 
    • Include words from the guiding question in your thesis statement (because it should answer the question)
    • Include words and phrases from the guiding question throughout your response, especially in the final sentences of each paragraph. 

    1. Take a previous exam stimulus text. Do not look at the IB's guiding question. Now try writing your own question to go with it. Reveal the IB's question and see how similar or different your question is in relation to the IB's question? Is yours too narrow or too broad? Or is it just write?

    2. Find a stimulus text that you think might be appropriate for a Paper 1 exam. It shouldn't be too long, too trite, too dense, too convoluted or too political (admittedly, Philpot Education breaks this last rule). See past papers for suggestions. Try writing a guiding question to accompany your text. Give it to a teacher or student to ask for feedback. Rewrite your question if necessary. Write your own response to your own Paper 1 stimulus text and guiding question. Ask a friend to write one too. Compare your responses. How are the 'points of entry' (responses to the guiding question) similar or different?


    Read a model response like this one and highlight all sentences and phrases that clearly address the guiding question. 

    Last modified: Monday, 30 May 2022, 2:03 PM