Every IB English Past Paper Available: Free and Official


In this article, I cover IB English Literature SL/HL, IB English Language and Literature SL/HL, and IB Literature and Performance SL exams. These are the core language A options for English speakers.

The IB English exams are essay based tests that require you to either a) analyze texts provided on the exam, or b) write analytical essays based on the books, poems, and other literature you've studied throughout the semester. That means one of the best ways to prepare for the exam is checking out past essays to see what writers did right...and where they got off track.

But where can you find IB English past papers, free and paid? Don't worry: we'll help you find past papers to study with and talk about how you can get the most out of these past papers during your study time.

feature image source: Books Stack Book Store Of/Pixabay



These past papers are free as a bird (or birds, in this case).


Where to Find Free IB English Past Papers: Official Resources

The IB has been cracking down on illegally uploaded past papers for the past few years, so a lot of previous sources are no longer available. IB has however, uploaded a few official past exams that you can view for free online. Below are links to the official IB English Past Papers provided by the IBO.


Since these are officially distributed by the IBO, these are the papers and exams you should use as a starting point as you study for your test. You need REAL IB English past papers to get realistic practice.



Where to Find Free IB English Past Papers: Unofficial Resources

Like we mentioned earlier, the IBO has been cracking down on unofficial English HL/SL papers online. However, there are still a few places where you can find past papers that have been uploaded by other users. 

One big caveat: these resources are unvetted, which means the quality of the papers is all over the place. Only use these resources after you've worked with—and studied!—the official papers above. And of course: do not plagiarize the ideas in any of the unofficial papers you find! 



This student-led initiative allows users to contribute past papers and other study resources to a free repository online. There are quite a few free English A SL/HL papers available on the site. You'll have to navigate a kind of clunky file interface to find them, but once you do, you'll have many free, unofficial papers to peruse. 


Reddit.com's IBO Subreddit

By searching the subreddit, you'll be able to find user-uploaded paper examples for the English IB exam. You'll have to sift through individual threads, but with some elbow grease, you'll find more free and unofficial English A SL/HL papers here. 



These papers aren't free...but if you're looking for high quality study resources beyond the official IBO ones above, these fit the bill.


Where to Find Paid IB English Past Papers

The only safe and reliable place to buy IB English past papers is from the IBO at the Follet IB Store. There are tons of scams floating around, so we don't recommend you purchase past IB English papers from anywhere else!

The IBO sells past IB English Literature SL papers, IB English Literature HL papers, IB English Language and Literature SL papers, IB English Language and Literature HL papers, and IB Literature and Performance SL papers from 2013 onward.

The site is somewhat hard to navigate, but using the search bar several times got me where I wanted to be eventually.



You're already giving maximum effort. Now maximize your outcomes! 


How to Get the Most of Each Past Paper

One complete test will take you 3 hours for SL or 4 hours for HL. If you are going to invest that much time, you need to be maximizing your learning. To do so, follow these rules.


Rule 1: Build up Your Endurance

The IBO used to split the English exam up over two days, so you would take one essay each day. As of 2021 that's no longer the case, meaning you'll have to take the full exam in one sitting. 

Here's what that means for you: you'll be doing lots of analyzing, writing, and thinking on test day. That can be exhausting! To make sure you have the energy you'll need to succeed, start building up your mental endurance now. 

The best way to do that is to have real-time practice sessions. On a weekend, set aside the three to four hours you'll have on test day, then write sample essays based on the writing prompts from past papers.  This will help you get a sense for what test day will be like, and you'll be able to optimize your writing process so you don't run out of time. 


Rule 2: Time Yourself

You need to get used to the timing. Here is the time allowed:

English Literature SL

  • Paper 1 (Guided Textual Analysis)—1 hour 15 minutes
  • Paper 2 (Comparative Essay)—1 hour 45 minutes

English Literature HL

  • Paper 1 (Guided Textual Analysis)—2 hours 15 minutes
  • Paper 2 (Comparative Essay)—1 hour 45 minutes
  • Students will also submit a pre-written essay that's 1200 to 1500 words long. 

English Language and Literature SL

  • Paper 1 (Guided Textual Analysis)—1 hour 15 minutes
  • Paper 2 (Comparative Essay)—1 hour 45 minutes

English Language and Literature HL

  • Paper 1 (Guided Textual Analysis)—2 hours 15 minutes
  • Paper 2 (Comparative Essay)—1 hour 45 minutes
  • Students will also submit a pre-written essay that's 1200 to 1500 words long. 

Literature and Performance SL

  • Paper 1 (Issues in Dramatizing a Novel)—1 hour 30 minutes
  • Paper 2 (Comparative Essay)—1 hour 30 minutes
  • Students will also submit an essay that critically analyzes a work and said student's performance of that work


Make sure you stick to this exact timing. Don't give yourself any extra time. Otherwise, you will not be prepared for the pacing of the actual test.



Research to Action / Flickr, used under CC BY-SA 2.0


Rule 3: Review With the Mark Scheme

After completing your full test, review your answers. You must review to learn from your errors and not make them on the actual test. And that means going over your essays with a critical eye. 

Take an hour to review. While this may seem like you are wasting time that you could be spending on other practice, it's not. You need to emphasize the quality of your practice and no the quantity of practice. I'd rather you take two practice tests with good review than eight tests with no review.

You may also consider giving your practice essays to your English teacher or other qualified mentor to review. They can give you additional insights that will help you improve your analytical and writing skills before test day! 


What's Next?

Want more tips for IB English? Then check out our complete IB English study guide for all the info you need.

Impatient to get your IB scores? Learn when IB results and scores come out.

Did you know that you can take some IB classes online? Check out our complete guide to online IB courses, including which classes you can take online and if you can get an online IB diploma.



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About the Author
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Dora Seigel

As an SAT/ACT tutor, Dora has guided many students to test prep success. She loves watching students succeed and is committed to helping you get there. Dora received a full-tuition merit based scholarship to University of Southern California. She graduated magna cum laude and scored in the 99th percentile on the ACT. She is also passionate about acting, writing, and photography.

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