<< Back to Exam Prep

IB Exam Paper 1, Sample #1

Write a commentary on one of the following:

  1. (a)

A country bus drew up below the church and a young man got out.  This he had to do carefully because he had a peg leg.[1]

     The roadway was asphalted blue.

     It was a summer day in England.  Rain clouds were amassed back of a church tower which stood on rising ground. As he looked up he noticed well those slits, built for defence, in the blood coloured brick.  Then he ran his eye with caution over cypresses and between gravestone. He might have been watching for a trap, who had lost his leg in France for not noticing the gun beneath a rose.

     For, climbing around and up these trees of mourning, was rose after rose, while, here and there, the spray overburdened by the mass of flower, a live wreath lay fallen on a wreath of stone, or on a box in marble colder than this day or onto frosted paper blooms which, under glass, marked each bed of earth wherein the dear departed encouraged life above in the green grass, in the cypresses and in those roses gay and bright which, as still as this dark afternoon, stared at whosoever looked, or hung their heads to droop, to grow stained, to die when their turn came.

     It was a time of war.  The young man in pink tweeds had been repatriated from a prisonersí camp on the other side.  Now, at the first opportunity, he was back.

     He had known the village this church stood over, but not well.  He had learned the walks before he turned soldier, though he had met few of those who lived by. The graveyard he had never entered.  But he came now to visit because someone he loved, a woman, who, above all at night, had been in his feelings when he was behind barbed wire, had been put there while he was away, and her name, of all names, was Rose.

     The bus, with its watching passengers, departed.  In the silence which followed he began to climb the path leading to those graves, when came a sudden upthrusting cackle of geese in a panic, the sound of which brought home to him a stack of faggots[2] he had seen blown high by a grenade, each stick separately stabbing the air in a frieze[3] which he had watched fall back, as an opened fan closes.  So, while the geese quietened, he felt what he had seen until the silence which followed, when he at once forgot.

     But there was left him an idea that he had been warned.

     Propping himself on his stick, he moved slowly up that path to the wicket gate between two larger cypresses.  He felt more than ever that he did not wish to be observed.  So he no longer watched the roses.  As if to do his best to become unseen, he kept his eyes on the gravel over which he was dragging the peg leg.

     For there was a bicycle bell, ringing closer and closer by the church, clustering spray upon spray of sound which wreathed the air much as those roses grew around the headstones, whence, so he felt, they narrowly regarded him

     Which caused him to stop dead when a boy of about six came, over the hill on a tricycle, past the porch; then, as the machine got up speed, he stood to one side, in spite of the gate still being closed between the two of them.  He sharply stared but, as he took in the childís fair head, he saw nothing, nothing was brought back.  He did not even feel a pang, as well he might if only he had known.

     Charley was irritated when the boy, after getting off to open the gate, and climbing onto his machine again, shrilly rang the bell as he dashed past.  Then the young man started slowly on his way once more.  And he forgot the boy who was gone, who spelled nothing to him.

     For Rose had died while he was in France, he said over and over under his breath.  She was dead, and he did not hear until he was a prisoner.  She had died, and this sort of sad garden was where they had put her without him, and, as he looked about while he leaned on the gate, he felt she must surely have come as a stranger when her time came, that if a personís nature is at all alive after he or she has gone, then she could never have imagined herself here nailed into a box, in total darkness, briar roots pushing down to the red hair of which she had been so proud and fond.  He could not even remember her saying that she had been in this churchyard, which was now the one place one could pay a call on Rose, whom he could call to mind, though never all over at one time, or at all clearly, crying, dear Rose, laughing, mad Rose, holding her baby, or, oh Rose, best of all in bed, her glorious locks abounding.

     Henry Green, the opening paragraphs of the novel Back (1946)


  1. (b)

Night Wind

Tonight the wind blows through

all the worlds I have known and

through all the lives I have led.

The wind blows in the trees,

deeper into each.

The wind blows forever,

strains like something

endlessly departing.

Restless, impatient,

it races without burden.


The night wind implores me through walls,

claims me inside buildings.

The night wind is an empire

in exodus, a deliverance

beside the dark shape of trees. Oaks

that wrestle the gusty twilight

under starry skies.


The wind takes

me in its giddy rush and

gathers me into a storm of longing,

rising on wings of darkness.

There is a music in the wind.

The thrum of guy wires[4]

of a thousand branches.

Muffled percussion

of banging doors, the

sibilous clamour of rushing leaves.


Above me the Milky Way

and leaping, striding, I am the

bloodrun of the atmosphere.

Racing with leaves and newspapers

down deserted streets,

over fields and playgrounds.


I pace the wind

through forests and beside highways.

Along oceans and rivers

the galeís mysterious, unspoken imperative

is a joyous delirium with

nothing at its end.


Christopher Dewdney, from Demon Pond (1984)


[1] peg leg: wooden leg

[2] faggots: a bundle of sticks tied together

[3] frieze: a painted or sculpted decoration

[4] guy wires: cables used in steadying masts or buildings