The IB Extended Essay is a 4,000-word thesis written under a supervision of an advisor and is a mandatory component of the IB Diploma. This essay, along with the TOK presentation, could give you up to 3 additional points toward your overall Diploma score.
Table Of Contents
How do I start my Extended Essay?
The best way to start an essay with a free-ended topic is to find an area of interest. What would you like to write about? Brainstorm if you have no ideas. Jam-write for 10 minutes straight without stopping or make a mind map of what you’re interested in. EssayPro has many good brainstorming tips here.
How do I Pick an IB Essay Topic
Pick a topic that’s one of your IB subjects or something that’s closely related to your hobbies or passions. In this stage, make sure your topic is broad, so you have room for exploration.
Now, this topic is too broad. It could be a novel or a Ph.D. dissertation. That’s no good; you need to narrow this topic down.
At this point, you should do some research on your topic and find out if you’re actually interested in it. If you find it boring, refer back to the brainstorming section.
How do I create a research question?
Now that you know more about your topic, ask questions that pique your interests as well as ones that you crave an answer for. This is essential for Criterion A (research question).
Here is an example of some good research questions or potential topics:
- Economics: How did College Board monopolize aptitude testing?
- Psychology: What affects did the Syrian refugee crisis have on the psyche of young Children?
- History: How did the Second Red Scare, lasting roughly from 1950 to 1956, heighten tensions between Russia and America during the Cold War.
- Chemistry: How does Iron sedimentation affect the water quality in West Africa?
- Biology: Do earlier school start times hinder children’s ability to learn?
- English: How has Albert Camus’ novel The Stranger been lost in translation?
- Math: What makes Euler’s Identity the most beautiful equation of all time?
- Film: How has Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho shaped the thriller genre?
How do I pick an Advisor?
Pick an Advisor that knows a lot about your topic. A biology teacher would not be great for your History EE.
Meeting with your advisor is not mandatory, however, it is a very good idea to do so. The more help you can get on this thing, the better.
When is a good time to start writing?
Start as soon as possible. Your life will be so much easier if you have your essay complete before Year II. If you’re overwhelmed during the school year, do your extended essay during the summer; your future you will thank you.
Now that you have your research question, build a paper outline around it. The introduction should contain your research query and your main argument, otherwise known as the thesis statement. The body is easiest to divide into three parts. The conclusion should restate your argument and summarize your findings. An outline should just be the notes of what you plan to state. Do not fiddle with the roman numerals; keep it clean with bullet points and short sentences.
At this stage, you should be reading through your primary sources and creating an annotated bibliography. This just means posting any relevant information that you plan to quote or use in your essay into a separate document and listing some points that you plan to address. Start your Works Cited page right away.
An extended essay cover page is easy, but an extremely important component of your essay. If you don’t follow the title page format of the IB closely, you might jeopardize your essay score. The title page is a standalone document with the title of your essay and your name centered. Include the name of your school and your IB number.
Your paper introduction should state your thesis and your research question. In order to get the highest benchmark for this section, you must present this: “The context of the research question is clearly demonstrated. The introduction clearly explains the significance of the topic and why it is worthy of investigation.” This last sentence is important. Don’t forget to state why your topic is important to study. This is a good tip for any essay; if something isn’t important, why would it be worth reading?
Essay Writing Advice From Our Professional Team
Jessie Pro Writer, from EssayPro
Writing a good extended essay is difficult, but if you are an IB student, you’ll know that those three extra points can really make a big difference. Remember that it's not as overwhelming as it sounds. Some people write a custom essay that’s 6,000 to 8,000 words long, while others will reach about 2800-3500 on their first draft. An important thing to keep in mind that 4,000 words is the maximum word count.
Personal writer advice is to start this as soon as possible. You will thank yourself in the second year if you already have your extended essay done. If word count is what you’re worried about, then you would probably want to write over 3,000 words, since a short essay might imply that the topic was not investigated thoroughly. However, some essay topics may require only 2,000 words to investigate them fully. As the article articulates and I want to reinforce: do not pick a subject that you don’t think you’ll like. It is of utmost importance that you genuinely enjoy what you’re writing about. The topic selection is wide enough; you can explore any IB class that exists. One constraint though is that you cannot do your essay in Theory of Knowledge. In gist, aim high and you will succeed!
Breaking down the IB Extended Essay criteria
Criterion A: Make sure your research question is “sharp and focused”. This is not a place to add snaz to your writing.
Criterion B: Restate your research question and state your thesis. Make sure to define exactly why your research query is important.
Criterion C: Use a wide range of primary, secondary, and tertiary sources. Don’t forget to work on that Works Cited page as you go.
Criterion D: Make sure you wholesomely understand what you’re writing about. Spend a lot of time reading your sources and learning things about your subject.
Criterion E: Your essay needs to flow logically and coherently. Stick to your outline, don’t go on tangents. Extra information that doesn’t answer your research topic will not grant you a better mark, it will only hinder the overall quality of your essay.
Criterion F: Analyze your information. Make connections throughout your essay. Don’t simply list factual information; no one wants to read that. In order to really hit those top scores, you need to elaborate on multiple aspects of the information you present.
Criterion G: Make sure your language is coherent and straight to the point. Avoid passive constructions and adverbs.
Criterion H: Your conclusion is very important; as mentioned before, you should restate your findings and include any unresolved questions you didn’t answer in your body paragraphs.
Criterion I: This criterion is the easiest to do and the easiest to mess up. After completing your essay, double and triple check that your “layout, organization, appearance and formal elements of the essay consistently follow a standard format.” Make sure you have the title page, table of contents, page numbers, illustrative material, quotations, documentation (including references, citations and bibliography) and appendices.
Criterion J: Your essay needs to be special. Throughout your essay and in your conclusion, demonstrate “intellectual initiative, depth of understanding and insight.” Be analytical and define why your topic is important. If you are interested in what you’re saying, most likely the reader will also be fond of your information.
IB students around the globe fear writing the Extended Essay, but it doesn't have to be a source of stress! In this article, I'll get you excited about writing your Extended Essay and provide you with the resources to get an A.
If you're reading this article, I assume you're an IB Student getting ready to write your Extended Essay. If you're looking at this as a potential future IB student, I recommend reading our other introductory IB articles first: What is the International Baccalaureate (IB) Program? and What is the IB Curriculum? What are IB Diploma Requirements?
Why Should You Trust My Advice?
I'm a recipient of an IB Diploma, and I happened to receive an A on my IB Extended Essay. If you don’t believe me, the proof is in the IBO pudding,
If you're confused by what this report means, EE is short for Extended Essay, and English A1 is the subject that my Extended Essay topic coordinated with. In layman’s terms, my IB Diploma was graded during May 2010, I wrote my Extended Essay in the English A1 category, and I received a grade A.
What Is the Extended Essay?
The IB Extended Essay (or EE) is a 4,000 word structured mini-thesis that you write under the supervision of an advisor (an IB teacher at your school), which counts towards your IB Diploma (to learn about all of the IB diploma requirements, check out our other article). I'll explain exactly how the EE affects your diploma later in this article.
For the Extended Essay, you choose a research question as a topic; this topic needs to be approved by IBO (which is not very difficult). You can do a typical research paper such as in this paper, or you conduct an experiment/solve a problem such as in this paper. Most schools allow you to pick your advisor (an IB teacher preferably at your school, although you can also get access to one at another school through the Pamoja Education). I'll explain how to pick your IB EE advisor below.
The IB Extended Essay must include:
- A cover page
- An abstract (one-page synopsis of your essay)
- A table of contents
- The 4,000-word essay (which will range from 10-20 pages depending on whether your topic requires illustrations such as an experiment would)
- A bibliography
What Should You Write About in Your Extended Essay?
You can technically write about anything, so long as the IBO approves it. However, you should choose a topic that falls into one of theIB Course Categories, (such as Theatre, Film, Spanish, French, Math, Biology, etc.) which shouldn’t be difficult because there are so many class subjects. Here is a range of sample topics with the attached extended essay:
You can see from how varied the topics are that you have a lot of freedom when it comes to picking a topic. So, how do you pick when the options are limitless? I will help you with that next:
6 Tips for Writing a Grade A Extended Essay
Below are the six key tips you need to follow to write an outstanding Extended Essay.
Tip #1: Write About Something You Enjoy
I love British theatre and ended up writing mine about a revolution in post-WWII British theatre #theatrenerd. I really encourage anyone who pursues an IB Diploma to take the Extended Essay seriously. I ended up receiving a full-tuition merit scholarship to USC’s School of Dramatic Arts program and in my interview for the scholarship, I spoke passionately about my Extended Essay. I genuinely think my Extended Essay helped me get my scholarship.
How do you find a topic you are passionate about? Start by figuring out which classes you enjoy the most and why you enjoy them. Do you like Math because you like to problem solve? Or do you enjoy English because you like to analyze texts?
Once you have figured out a general subject area such as Physics, you should brainstorm more specific topics by putting pen to paper. What was your favorite chapter you learned in that class? Was it astrophysics or mechanics? What did you like about that specific chapter? Is there something you want to learn more about? I recommend spending an hour on this type of brainstorming.
Tip #2: Chose a Topic That Is Not Too Broad or Too Narrow
This is a fine line. You need to write about something specific, but not so specific that you can’t write 4,000 words on it. You can’t write about WWII because that would be a book's worth of material. You don’t want to write about what type of soup prisoners of war received in POW camps because you probably can’t come up with 4000 words on it. However, you could possibly write about how the conditions in German POW camps were directly affected by the Nazis successes and failures. This may be too obvious of a topic, but you get my point.
If you're really stuck trying to find a not too broad or narrow topic, I recommend trying to brainstorm a topic that uses a comparison. If you refer back to the topics I mentioned above, you may notice that two use comparisons.
I also used comparison in my EE, comparing Harold Pinter's Party Time to John Osborne's Look Back in Anger in order to show a transition in British Theatre. Topics with comparisons of 2-3 plays/books/diets/etc. tend to be in the sweet spot of not too narrow or broad because you can analyze each portion and after doing in-depth analysis on each, you compare and explain the significance of the comparison. The key here is that the comparison needs to be significant. I compared two plays to show a transition in British Theatre.
Comparisons are not the only way to get a grade A EE. If after brainstorming, you pick a non-comparison based topic and you are still unsure if a topic is too broad or narrow, spend 30 minutes doing some basic research and see how much material is out there. If there are over 1,000 books/articles/documentaries out there on the exact topic, it may be too broad. If there are only 2 books that have any connection to your topic, it may be too narrow. If you are still unsure, ask your advisor! Speaking of advisors:
Don't get stuck with a narrow topic!
Tip #3: Choose an Advisor Who Is Familiar With Your Topic
If you are not certain of who you would like to be your advisor, I would start by creating a list of your top three choices. Next, create a list of pros and cons (I know this sounds tedious, but it really helps!).
For example, Mr. Green is my favorite teacher, and we get along really well, but he teaches English, and I want to conduct an experiment to compare the efficiency of American Hybrid Cars to Foreign Hybrid Cars. Ms. White teaches Physics, I had her a year ago, and she liked me. She could help me design my experiment. I am going to ask Ms. White!
Do NOT just ask your favorite teacher to be your advisor. They may be a hindrance to you if they teach another subject. I would not suggest asking your Biology teacher to guide you in writing your English EE.
EXCEPTION: If you have a teacher who is passionate and knowledgeable about your topic (as my English teacher was about my Theatre topic), you can ask that instructor. Consider all of your options first before you do. There was no theatre teacher at my school, so I could not find a theatre-specific advisor, but I chose the next best thing.
Some IB high schools require your IB Extended Essay advisor to sign an Agreement Form. Make sure you ask your IB coordinator if there is any required paperwork. IBO does not require any paperwork. If your school needs a Form signed, make sure you bring it with you when you ask a teacher to be your EE advisor.
Tip #4: Choose an Advisor Who Will Push You to Be Your Best
Some teachers may just take on students because they have to and may not be passionate about reading drafts and may not give you a lot of feedback. Choose a teacher who will take the time to read several drafts and give you extensive notes. I would not have gotten my A without being pushed to make the draft better.
Ask a teacher that you have experience with through class or an extracurricular activity. Do not ask a teacher that you have no connection to; a teacher who does not know you is unlikely to push you.
Note: The IBO only allows advisors to suggest improvements to the EE, but they may not be engaged in writing the EE. The IBO recommends that the supervisor spends approximately two to three hours in total with the candidate discussing the EE.
Tip #5: Make Sure Your Essay Has a Clear Structure and Flow
IB likes structure. Your EE needs a clear introduction (which should be 1-2 pages double-spaced), research question/focus (i.e. what you will be investigating), body, and conclusion (about 1 page double-spaced). An essay that has unclear or poor organization will be graded poorly. Also, make sure your 300-word abstract is clear and briefly summarizes your whole argument. An ambiguous abstract will make it more challenging for the reader to follow your essay’s argument and will also hurt the grading of your EE.
The body of your EE should make up the bulk of the essay. It should be about 8-18 pages double-spaced (again just depending on whether or not you include diagrams). Your body can be split into multiple parts. For example, if you are doing a comparison, you might have 1/3 of your body as Novel A Analysis, 1/3 as Novel B Analysis, and the last 1/3 as Comparison of Novel A and B Analysis.
If you are conducting an experiment or analyzing data such as in this EE, your EE body will have a clear and obvious parts following the scientific method: stating the research question, discussing your method, showing the data, analyzing the data, discussing uncertainties, and drawing a conclusion/evaluating the experiment.
Tip #6: Start Writing Sooner Rather Than Later!
You will not be able to crank out a 4,000-word essay in a week and get an A. You will be reading many, many articles (and, depending on your topic, possibly books, plays, and watching movies). Start the research possible as soon as possible.
Each school has a slightly different deadline for the Extended Essay. Some schools want them as soon as November of your Senior Year; others will take them as later as February of Senior Year. Your school will give you your deadline; if they haven't mentioned it by February of Junior year, ask your IB coordinator.
Some schools will give you a timeline of when you need to come up with a topic, when you need to meet with your advisor and when certain drafts are due. Not all schools do. Ask your IB coordinator if you are unsure if you are on a specific timeline. Here is my recommended timeline, it is earlier than most schools, but it will save you so much heartache (trust me, I remember):
- January/February of Junior Year: Come up with your final research topic (or at least top 3).
- February of Junior Year: Approach a teacher about being your EE advisor (if he or she says no, keep asking others until you find one - see my notes above on how to pick an EE advisor).
- April/May of Junior Year: Submit an outline of your EE and a bibliography of potential research sources (I recommend at least 7-10) to your EE advisor. Meet with your EE advisor to discuss your outline.
- Summer between Junior and Senior Year: Complete your first full draft over the summer between Junior and Senior Year! I know, I know no one wants to work during the summer, but trust me this will save you so much stress come the fall when you are busy with college applications and other IB internal assessments for your IB classes. You will want to have this first full draft done because you will want to complete a couple of draft cycles as you likely won’t be able to get everything you want to say into 4000 articulate words the first time. Try to get this first draft into the best possible shape you can, so that you do not have to work on too many revisions during the school year on top of your homework/college applications/work/extracurriculars/etc.
- August/September of Senior Year: Turn in your first draft of your EE to your advisor and receive feedback. Work on incorporating their feedback into your essay. If they have a lot of suggestions for improvement, ask if they will read one more draft before the final draft.
- September/October of Senior Year: Submit second draft of EE to your advisor (if necessary) and receive their feedback. Work on creating the best possible final draft.
- November-February of Senior Year: Submit two copies of your final draft to your school to be sent off to IBO. You likely will not get your grade until after you graduate.
The early bird DOES get the worm!
How’s the Extended Essay Graded?
Extended essays are marked by external assessors (examiners appointed by the IB) on a scale of 0 to 36. There are "general" and "subject-specific" criteria, at a ratio of 2:1 (24 possible marks for the general criteria and 12 marks for the subject-specific one). The total mark is converted into a grade from A to E, using the below parameters:
|Rubric Assessment Points Earned||Descriptor Letter|
|Grade 30 – 36||Excellent: A|
|25 – 29||Good: B|
|17 – 24||Satisfactory: C|
|9 – 16||Mediocre: D|
|0 - 8||Elementary: E|
Here is the typical breakdown of scores (from 2008):
% Awarded Grade
How Does the Extended Essay Grade Affect Your IB Diploma?
The Extended Essay grade is combined with your TOK (Theory of Knowledge) grade to determine how many points you get towards your IB Diploma. To learn about Theory of Knowledge or how many points you need to receive your IB Diploma, read our other articles on What is the International Baccalaureate (IB) Program? or IB Diploma Requirements. This diagram shows how the two scores are combined to determine how many points you receive for your IB diploma (3 being the most, 0 being the least).
So, let’s say you get an A on your EE and a B on TOK, you will get 3 points towards your diploma. Note: this chart is slightly outdated. Prior to the class of 2010, a diploma candidate could receive a failing grade in either the extended essay or theory of knowledge and still be awarded a diploma. However, as of 2014 (for the first examination in May 2015), a student who scores an E on either the extended essay or TOK essay will not be eligible to receive an IB diploma.
Sample Extended Essays
In case you want a little more guidance on how to get an A EE. Here are 50 Excellent (grade A) sample extended essays for your reading pleasure:
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