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  • Writer's picturelaurawippell

How to Explore Professional Texts with your English B class (part 2)

Professional texts are not only an important part of the English B curriculum, but common text types our students are likely to be using in the workforce.

Last month I explored four different professional text types, and today I’m going to give you ideas on how to explore the remaining five:

  1. essays,

  2. questionnaires,

  3. surveys,

  4. reports,

  5. and a set of instructions.

But first, in case you missed last month, here’s an overview of professional texts, according to the English B guide:

Purpose: to transfer knowledge and logically present information 

Audience: recipient/s that have no personal relationship with the producer of the text, but are interested in receiving and understanding the message 

Functions: varies.  Can be to inform, instruct, explain, analyse, convince, interpret and evaluate.


Register: formal

Tone: varies.  Clear, professional, factual

Now, let’s get into the nitty gritty of how to explore each one in our classroom.  First up is essays.   

1 - Essays

Ouch. I’m going to be honest here - this was a text type I usually skipped as I ran out of time to teach it, and students are generally used to writing essays in other subjects.  It IS on the list of possible text types for Paper 1 though, so here are some ways you could cover it with minimal fuss and planning:

  • An essay could be taught in conjunction with an opinion column, which, for the record, the IB classifies not as a professional text, but a mass media text - check out my blog post next month for tips on those text types.  What you could do is give students an issue in context to write about (in Paper 1 style wording), and let them decide whether an essay or opinion column would be more appropriate.  Here’s a table comparing the two:


Opinion Column

Type of Text


Mass Media


To analyse, explore or discuss a topic

Discuss and explore a topic in a subjective, attention-grabbing manner


Educated and informed, with no personal relationship to writer

Large, undefined audience who are interested in the topic


Provide logical arguments and conclusions for a topic

Express ideas



Semi-formal to formal


Serious, objective

Will vary depending on topic - could be serious, provocative, humorous.  Subjective as opinion is given

To sum it up, give students an issue and let them decide if the approach needs to be more objective or subjective. You can give them clues in the instructions - e.g. ‘write a text in which you express your opinion’ would clearly be more geared towards an opinion column.

Another idea on how to explore essays in your classroom is to give your students a chance to write one towards the end of their Diploma, and use their essay as feedback on your teaching practices or the most enjoyable aspect of the course. Here are some possible essay questions:

  • The five prescribed themes were equally covered throughout the English B course. Discuss.

  • Discuss the positive and negative experiences you had in the leadup to your Individual Oral.

  • Compare and contrast your level of preparedness when taking Paper 2 reading vs Paper 2 listening.  

2 Questionnaires and 3 Surveys

One of the reasons I started writing this blog and making resources for teacher was to save you time. I'm going to do that here. While the guide outlines questionnaires and surveys as  professional text types, in the IBO’s Program Resource Centre you can find a published list of text types that would be included in the Paper 1 exam, and questionnaires and surveys are not on the list when I last checked.  For that reason, I didn’t ever cover them with my students.  Perhaps if you find yourself in the very unusual situation of having extra time that you don’t know how to fill (HA!) you could consider covering them then.  I know, I’m a comedian! Personally, I never had the time but I do want to leave that choice open for you to make.

4 Reports

Eek.  Official reports are another text type I often skipped over as I simply didn’t have time to cover them.  Once again, they are listed as possible text types to be covered in the Paper 1 HL, so if you do have time it is a good idea to cover them.  Reports exist to describe a particular situation in a professional way. Just like proposals, the information should be outlined in logical paragraphs with subheadings, but it’s not necessary to include a recommendation unless the instructions ask for one.

Here are two ideas for exploring reports:

1. Get your students out of the classroom and walking around the school, observing school facilities. What sort of conditions are the gardens, canteen and classrooms etc in? Ask them to write a report about the general condition of a particular building, its main use and areas of improvements for your school.

2. If you just want an activity that requires NO planning, check out this resource: a complete practice test for Paper 1.  A report is the correct choice of text type for Task 3.  

5 Set of Instructions

One of my all-time favourites!  I love this professional text as it can be applied to so many different contexts and your students should be familiar with it, if they’ve ever read a recipe or watched different reels, like ones for makeup application.  

This professional text is fairly easy to explain, as it’s simply a set of logical steps of something you have to do in order to achieve a desired outcome or resultHere are some different ideas for you on how to explore a set of instructions:

1. A classic activity!  Give your students a piece of paper and tell them to make a paper plane.  Once they have made it, get them to write down a set of instructions on how they did it.  At the end of the class be sure to get your students out of their seats to play a game where you test which paper planes flies the furthest! 

2. Once again you can refer back to the literary texts you are reading and get them to write a set of instructions about one of the following:

  1. How character X overcame situation Y.

  2. How to ‘be’ character X in 8 simple steps.

  3. How to survive in novel X if you found yourself in the book as a supporting character

I hope you found this overview helpful.  Now that we’ve finished with professional texts, next month I’ll be exploring the final category: mass media texts.  See you then and thanks for reading!  As always, I would love to hear your thoughts, feedback and teaching ideas below!


IBO (2019). Language B guide: First assessment 2020

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