The Extended Essay is a cause of worry for many IB students, but it doesn’t have to be! Get pumped up for writing your Extended Essay and get all the tools you need to succeed here.
I’m assuming that if you’re reading this, you’re an IB student preparing to write your Extended Essay. If you’re interested in the IB programme and could be an IB student in the future, you should start by reading our introductory IB articles, such as our explanation of the IB programme and our comprehensive look at the IB curriculum.

The Extended Essay: What Is It in the IB Diploma Program?

To get your IB Diploma, you must complete a mini-thesis called an IB Extended Essay (EE) under the guidance of an IB adviser (an IB instructor at your school) (learn more about the major IB Diploma requirements in our guide). I will go into detail about how the EE will affect your Diploma later on in this piece.

The Extended Essay requires you to choose a subject of your own interest, undertake original research, and report your results in an essay. The actual essay is rather lengthy; the maximum is 4,000 words, but the best writings tend to get close to that.

Keep in mind that this essay must meet the criteria of a “formal piece of academic writing,” in order to get credit from the IB; in other words, you must do research and properly reference your sources.

It’s important to incorporate these elements in your IB Extended Essay:

Includes: • Title Page • Table of Contents

The parts of an essay include the introduction, the body, the conclusion, and the list of works cited or referenced.

Furthermore, your research topic must be related to one of the six recognised DP categories, or IB subject areas.

Group 1: Linguistics and Literary Studies; Group 2: Second Language Learning

Division Three: People and Societies

Classes 4, 5, and 6: the Natural and Social Sciences, Mathematics, and the Arts

Following the determination of your subject area and prospective research topic, you will need to choose your adviser, who is often an IB teacher at your school (though you can also find one online). This individual will guide your research and facilitate the reflection sessions required for your Extended Essay.

As part of your EE supervision, the IB now requires a “reflection process” in 2018. The IB calls these meetings with your supervisor “reflection sessions.” and you’ll need to have at least three of them to satisfy this criterion. Participation in these conferences is not only required but also counts toward the EE’s and your research’s official evaluation.

The International Baccalaureate states that these gatherings are meant to “provide an opportunity for students to reflect on their engagement with the research process.” Meetings like this allow your supervisor to provide input, challenge your current line of thinking, and prompt you to assess your research methods.

A viva voce is a brief interview between you and your adviser lasting about 10 to 15 minutes that serves as the last reflection session. This step occurs at the conclusion of your EE and is meant to assist your advisor in composing the report that will be used to determine your final EE grade.

The following will be discussed during your oral examination:

Your own personal analysis of the project’s triumphs and tribulations; a check for plagiarism and misconduct

  • Your analysis of the lessons you’ve picked up during the EE procedure

After you have finished your Extended Essay and received feedback from your supervisor, you will submit both to the IB for grading. In a minute, we’ll talk about how to evaluate anything.

Topic Suggestions for the IB Extended Essay

As long as your topic fits into one of the aforementioned categories, you are free to write about anything you choose.

Since there are so many different IB courses available, it shouldn’t be too difficult to choose a topic that is relevant to one of them (theatre, film, Spanish, French, mathematics, biology, etc.).

Please find an extensive essay with a variety of possible themes attached.

Studying the Age and Gender Impact on Human Retinal Photoreceptor Cells

To what extent is recrystallization an effective purification technique for ethyl aminobenzoate (benzocaine), and how does reflux time affect yield and purity?

  • English: Jane Austen’s Use of Nature in Emma, an Analysis

The Impact of Geography on the Academic Success of Indigenous High School Students in Queensland, Australia

Mathematics: Alhazen’s Billiard Problem; Art: Is Luc Tuymans a Political Painter?

The sheer breadth of available options suggests that you have much leeway in making your subject selection. If there are infinite possibilities, how do you decide?

IB Extended Essay: Six Crucial Pointers

Here are six guidelines to follow while you write your IB DP Extended Essay. Adhere to them, and you should obtain a good grade.

To begin, choose a topic that interests you.

When writing an essay, it’s important that you have a genuine interest in the subject you’re covering. Since I have always had a special place in my heart for British theatre, I decided to focus my Extended Essay on a change that occurred in British theatre after World War II. (You may count me as a #TheatreNerd.)

Anyone interested in earning an IB Diploma should give the required Extended Essay plenty of thought and effort. Thanks to a merit scholarship, I was able to attend the USC School of Dramatic Arts for free. I really believe that my Extended Essay had a role in securing my scholarship since I talked so enthusiastically about it during my interview.

But how can you zero down on something that really excites you? The first step is to consider which courses you find most rewarding and why. Did you choose math as a major because you like finding solutions? Or maybe you find literary analysis enjoyable, which explains why you find English so rewarding.

Remember that there is no “wrong” option when it comes to picking a subject for your Extended Essay. You won’t automatically receive better grades if you write about science, and you won’t automatically fail if you write about the social sciences. Your final mark will be based on the quality of your work, not the subject area you choose to investigate.

The next step, after settling on a general theme, is to put pen to paper and come up with more particular ideas. In the book, what did you like reading the most? Did you use mechanics or astrophysics? Explain what it was about the book that resonated with you. Do you have a specific area of interest? It’s worth it, in my opinion, to devote at least a few hours to this kind of creative thinking.

Finally, if you’re having trouble deciding what to study, consider anything that will aid you in your intended field of study or future profession. In this manner, your Extended Essay may serve as a talking point in future college application essays while also preparing you for future academic endeavours.

Method Two: Pick a Subject That’s Just Right

There is a nuanced difference between being too wide and being too narrow. The topic you choose should be narrow enough to allow you to develop your ideas in depth over the course of four thousand words, yet broad enough to be interesting.

There isn’t enough to say about World War II to fill a book. Also, you shouldn’t waste your time researching what kind of soup soldiers were fed behind enemy lines since you won’t have enough to say to fill four thousand words. However, you might discuss how the Nazis’ triumphs and failures on the front, such as the utilisation of seized industries and prison labour in Eastern Europe to enhance output, had a direct impact on the circumstances in German POW camps and the food given. It may be argued that too much emphasis has been placed on WWII military history, but you get the idea.

If you’re having trouble coming up with a subject that is neither too wide nor too limited, I recommend attempting to think of anything that can be compared to something else. You’ll quickly notice a common theme within the following collection of example essays: the usage of comparisons to support the major claims being made.

In my EE, I also made a parallel to demonstrate a shift in British theatre by comparing Harold Pinter’s Party Time with John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger. The sweet spot is topics that compare at least two works of literature (plays, novels, etc.). If you take the time to carefully examine each component, you’ll be more equipped to draw meaningful conclusions when comparing them to one another. Your paper’s thesis will emerge from the manner in which you compare and contrast these elements.

The most important factor in selecting a comparative subject is the relevance of the comparison. To show the shift in British theatre, I contrasted two plays, but you might also look at the impact of climate on lightning bug mating habits or regional dialects on employment opportunities. The idea is that you may narrow your subject and strengthen your case by drawing parallels between the two.

Even said, comparisons are not the only game in town if you want an A on your EE. Spend 30 minutes doing some basic research and discover how much information is out there if, after brainstorming, you choose a non-comparison-based subject and are still confused if your topic is too wide or limited.

You may have chosen a subject that is too wide if there are more than one thousand works (books, essays, or documentaries) about it. However, your subject may be too specific if there are just two books that touch on it. Your adviser is there to help you, so if you have any questions, be sure to ask them. Referring back to the subject of counsel…

Third, get a consultant who is well-versed in your area of study.

Make a shortlist of your top three adviser candidates if you are still undecided. The next step is to make a list of the benefits and drawbacks of each option.

My favourite teacher, Mr. Green, is a great example; we have a lot of interests and have a lot of fun together, yet he teaches English. I’d want to do an experiment for my EE that directly compares the efficiency of electric vehicles made in the United States to those made in other countries.

Once upon a time, a year ago, I had Ms. White. My experience in her physics lesson was quite positive. Of the contrary to Mr. Green, Ms. White was available to assist me in developing my experiment.

I think Ms. White is a better match for me than Mr. Green as an adviser, given my research interests and requirements (even though I like him a lot).

My point is this: your favourite instructor is not always the best person to ask to be your adviser. If they teach a different topic, they might be an obstacle. If you need help with an EE on English literature, for instance, don’t go to your biology professor.

Of course there may be special cases. The best person to ask is your instructor, especially if they are enthusiastic and well-versed in the field (as my English teacher was in the field of theatre). You should weigh your alternatives carefully before making a decision. Since my high school lacked a dedicated theatrical instructor, I had to settle with a more general adviser.

Get the rundown on what is expected of you from your high school administration before you contact a teacher about being your advisor. Having your IB Extended Essay adviser sign an Agreement Form is a requirement at certain IB high schools.

If you are unsure whether or not you need to fill out any documentation, be sure to check with your IB coordinator. If your school requires a signed paperwork, be sure to bring it with you when you seek a teacher to be your EE adviser.

#4 Find a Mentor who will Drive You to Excel

Some instructors may assign you to read draughts because they are obligated to, but they may lack enthusiasm for the task and provide you with just little criticism. If you want a teacher who will read your essay several times and provide detailed feedback, go with them. Without being forced to improve my Extended Essay draught, I would not have achieved the grade I did.

Consult a professor you already know from a course or an extracurricular activity. Do not approach a professor with whom you have no prior relationship. If a teacher is familiar with you, they will know what to look for in your work, where you need to make improvements, and how to motivate you to perform at your best.

Keep in mind that your supervisor’s evaluation counts toward your EE rating as well. More so than a supervisor who doesn’t know you well and isn’t deeply engaged in your research process, a meeting with someone who challenges you to perform better—and you really heed their advice—will result in glowing recommendations.

Keep in mind that advisers on the IB may only provide advice and ideas, not harsh criticism. There is no way your instructor can assist you with completing your EE. According to the IB, the ideal amount of time spent on the EE by the supervisor with the applicant is between two and three hours.

Make sure your essay has a logical progression by following tip number five.

When it comes to structure, the IB is all about it. The structure of your EE should have an introduction (one to two double-spaced pages), a research question or focus (i.e., what you’re looking into), a body, and a conclusion (about one double-spaced page). There is no use in writing an essay if the structure is muddled.

Your EE’s body should include mostly of original content. Eighteen pages is a good length range to aim for (again, depending on your topic). You may separate your body into many sections. If you were making a comparison, say between two novels, you could divide your body into thirds, with the first third representing your analysis of Novel A, the second of Novel B, and the third representing your comparison of the two novels.

If you’re using the scientific method to conduct an experiment or analyse data, like in this EE, then your EE body should have a clear structure that follows the steps of the scientific method: you should introduce the research question, describe the methodology you used, present the data, analyse the data, explain any uncertainties, and then draw a conclusion or assess the experiment’s success.

Writing Tip #6: Don’t Put It Off!

You can’t simply sit down for a week and write a four-thousand-word essay and expect to earn an A on it. Numerous articles (and, depending on your topic, maybe even books and plays!) will be required reading. Consequently, you should go right into your investigation.

The Extended Essay submission date varies widely across institutions. It varies by institution, but many colleges like to receive them by the end of your senior year in November. The due date will be communicated to you by the school. If your IB coordinator hasn’t brought it up by the time you’re a junior in February, you should definitely inquire about it.

At some high schools, students are given a schedule that specifies when they need to choose a subject, when they should meet with their adviser, and when various revisions of their work are due. Obviously, not all educational institutions have this policy. Whether you aren’t sure if you’re on track, check in with your IB coordinator.

Please see my suggested EE schedule below. This is a lot of work ahead of schedule (believe me, I remember how difficult this process was!) but it will save you a lot of stress and pain in the long run:

  • Junior year, in January or February, decide on a research subject (or at least your top three options).

When you are a junior in high school, in the month of February, you should ask a teacher to serve as your EE adviser. If they say no, ask other people until you find one who says yes. For advice on finding an EE adviser, see my earlier comments.

In April/May of your junior year, you should provide your EE adviser an overview of your project and a bibliography of prospective research sources (at least seven to ten). Discuss your rough draught with your EE adviser at your next meeting.

  • The summer between your junior and senior year is a great time to write your first complete manuscript. I know, I know—no one likes to work over the summer—but believe me, this will save you so much stress in the autumn when you are completing college applications and internal examinations for your IB subjects.

Since you probably won’t be able to fit all you want to say into 4,000 clear words on the first try, you should have this first full draught finished so you can go on to the subsequent draughts. Get this initial draught in tip-top form to minimise the number of changes you’ll have to complete while juggling schoolwork, extracurricular activities, and college applications.

  • During your senior year, in August/September, submit a rough copy of your EE to your adviser for evaluation. Make an effort to improve your essay by embracing their suggestions. Ask them to review one more draught before the final version if they have many recommendations for change.
  • In September/October of your senior year, submit a revised EE to your adviser and review their comments. Strive to make the greatest possible final draught.

Schedule your viva voce between November and February of your senior year. Make sure your school has two copies of your final manuscript before submitting it to the IB. Your final grade will not be made available until after you have graduated.

Keep in mind that you and your adviser will need to plan a pair of additional introspective meetings halfway between each of these checkpoints. (During these sessions, your instructors will make notes on this same form, which will subsequently be sent to the IB.)

You should schedule them when your supervisor provides input on your draughts, but that decision is ultimately theirs to make. Don’t forget to carry them out!

How Do Teachers Evaluate the IB Extended Essay?

Examiners selected by the IB use a scale of 0-34 to assign grades to Extended Essays. There are five factors that will go towards your final grade. The IB guide to extended essays will explain the criteria for grading an EE in further detail.

Criteria A: Areas of Attention and Approach (6 points maximum)

  1. Criteria for Evaluation: Acquired Information and Comprehending Complex Material (6 points maximum)

Criteria C: Analytical and Evaluative Skills (12 points maximum)

Presentation (Criteria D) (4 points maximum)

  • Criteria E: Active Participation (6 points maximum)

The final letter grade for your EE will be based on how well you do across all of these factors. In order to graduate with an IB Diploma, you need to get a D or above in all of your required courses.

The IB makes it clear that graders are not translating point totals into grades; rather, they are utilising qualitative grade descriptions to evaluate your overall score on the Extended Essay. Descriptions of each grade may be found on page 103.

This is a tentative conversion of the EE point values into letter grades based on prior scoring practises. This is simply a rough approximation; to really grasp what the graders are looking for, you should read and digest the grade descriptions.