One of the reservations/hesitations/uncertainties candidates in the IB Language A English program often suffer from is a lack of clarity about what voice or angle they should take in completing the written components.  Whether in commentary or in essay exercises, you are expected to:

TAKE a stance, a position.

ASSEMBLE  your supporting details or evidence.

MAKE  your case.

There are many ways of describing this process, many different terms that are used.  But they all boil down to the ART of PERSUASION.    And these three points apply to commentary and they apply to essays.

In a commentary, you will want to make some proposal about the meaning, the ‘about’ of a poem or passage, and more importantly, how it works.  This is your stance or position.  Almost always, your will refine that position, develop, possibly even modify it significantly as you compose your commentary.  You may find earlier assumptions were not entirely correct.  That’s fine, but you need to start somewhere. And you need to make assertions and support them with detail.  You don’t want to re-describe or paraphrase; you want to argue for your understanding of the material, of the choices both of content and style made by the writer, and prove that you have said some valid things

In an essay, you may find you are on more familiar ground.  Still, a critical essay about literature or other writing demands, again, that you can argue for an interpretation of the writing as you see it.  You want to avoid re-description; you want to persuade your audience, an examiner, that you have some of your own ideas about what you have read and that you can support them with detail. You essentially want to argue that the choices about style and content that the author has made have worked; you can even express some well-considered reservations about those choices, again supporting them with detail.

Just remember:

What are you hearing in the writing?

How has the writer made you hear things in this way?

Argue for both of these by using detail from the writing.