The extended essay is a required component of the International Baccalaureate® (IB) Diploma Programme (DP).
It is an independent, self-directed piece of research, finishing with a 4,000-word paper.
What is the significance of the extended essay?
The extended essay provides:
- practical preparation for undergraduate research
- an opportunity for students to investigate a topic of special interest to them, which is also related to one of the student's six DP subjects.
Through the research process for the extended essay, students develop skills in:
- formulating an appropriate research question
- engaging in a personal exploration of the topic
- communicating ideas
- developing an argument.
Participation in this process develops the capacity to analyse, synthesize and evaluate knowledge.
An extended essay can also be undertaken in world studies, where students carry out an in-depth interdisciplinary study of an issue of contemporary global significance, across two IB diploma disciplines.
How is study of the extended essay structured?
Students are supported throughout the process of researching and writing the extended essay, with advice and guidance from a supervisor who is usually a teacher at the school.
The IB recommends that students follow the completion of the written essay with a short, concluding interview with their supervisor. This is known as viva voce.
The extended essay and interview can be a valuable stimulus for discussion in countries where interviews are required prior to acceptance for employment or for a place at university.
How is the extended essay assessed?
All extended essays are externally assessed by examiners appointed by the IB. They are marked on a scale from 0 to 36.
The score a student receives relates to a band. The bands are:
- A – work of an excellent standard.
- B – work of a good standard.
- C –work of a satisfactory standard.
- D – work of a mediocre standard.
- E – work of an elementary standard.
Find out how points awarded for the extended essay contribute to a student’s overall diploma score.
IB Extended Essay (General) Tips
As the title implies, this is more of a overview or guideline to understanding the IB Extended Essay process. These general tips are just to get you ready for what you’ll be going through.
Let me just add a disclaimer though. The IB Extended Essay process can be GRUELING. The EE is literally the core of what the International Baccalaureate is all about. It’s one of the many reasons why some IB students, wrongly, turn their noses down on A level students or students studying any other high school curriculum.
Also, a lot of these general tips are from personal experience so trust me, they’re relevant. I did a Physics EE but I won’t get into those specifics unless some of you folks would like me to.
Don’t Do Your Extended Essay All In One Day
Seriously. Don’t even think about it.
There is ABSOLUTELY no point in trying to do this. You’ll just waste a draft session with your IB supervisor who will tear it to pieces. No valuable feedback there.
I mean if it hasn’t already been emphasized by your EE coordinator then it’s a good first IB Extended Essay tip. Take it from me, you need to try your best for your first draft.
The number of meetings you’ll have with your EE supervisor may vary per school. Therefore, you don’t want to be wasting time with a piece of work you know is crap.
Even your spectacular 100 word per minute typing speed won’t save you if you’ve no clue what you’re writing about. 6000 words in one hour sounds impressive but only if you’re writing irrelevant gibberish.
Your EE supervisor will probably be able to tell if your EE has been done in one night. Don’t underestimate them. They already have other students to teach and they’re being assigned to you. Make it worth their time so you can get valuable feedback from them. Speaking of which, on to my next point.
IB Extended Essay Feedback Can Be Brutal. Don’t Be Afraid Of It
As much as you’ll be proud of your first or second draft, the feedback from your supervisor will be harsh. If it’s not harsh then either you’re a genius or your supervisor is too lax.
Let me tell you a quick story.
My Physics EE first draft was metaphorically, and nearly literally, torn to shreds by my Physics teacher who was my EE supervisor.
By torn, I mean devastated, destroyed, burned, shredded, and any other emphatic verb I can use there that symbolizes violence. It was soul crushing. There was hardly anything he liked about it. He made me feel absolutely horrible.
Not going to lie, I was very upset afterwards. In all honesty, it probably wasn’t a very good draft for a reason I’m going to talk about in the next tip.
So what did I do? How did I get over it? Well when you’re in the IB Extended Essay process, you can either pull yourself together or cry for days and fail the whole thing.
Being able to take constructive critical feedback is important and a key part of a good essay.
Seriously, my final draft could have been a mess. Luckily, my supervisor did a fine job ensuring it wasn’t. My final draft got a C but it was damn good compared to my first draft if I do say so myself.
Moral of the story? Take your harsh feedback in stride. The harsher, the better. Sure it’ll feel bad for a while. Then again, once you’d recovered, it’s back to work to create a better draft.
Your supervisor isn’t there to make you feel hopeless. It’s a sort of ‘good cop’, ‘bad cop’ thing.
So just remember to expect harsh feedback. The harsher the better.
Do Some EFFECTIVE IB Extended Essay Research
This is the one thing I would have done SO much better if I was doing the EE again. I really didn’t do my own IB Extended Essay research well at all. It caused a lot of issues later on during the writing phase.
I was terrible at research. You’d think that since I did a Physics EE, my research would be intricate and accurate.
My research consisted of literally checking out any sources on the internet that vaguely related to my research topic.
I’d skim read through the source, bookmark it, and move on to the next source. Before you know it, I had around 30 sources or so of which around maybe 2 or 3 were actually useful. I had to go back into doing more research DURING my writing phase.
It ended up in me pulling an all nighter for my second draft. Luckily, it wasn’t too bad a second draft.
So my advice to you all is this. READ, READ, READ, and READ.
Don’t make my mistake. This is more of a personal thing but trust me, the research part is the MOST important part of the process.
Don’t be like me where I had to go back into researching because I was so lazy the first time. Keep a close track of your sources and WHY you think they’re relevant to your research topic.
So to summarize:
Be very careful with the research part of your EE process. It’s important not to get lazy here and skim read everything. Pay close attention to your source, what you’re reading, how it relates to your research topic, and how to apply it to your essay.
This tip is incredibly important. Get this tip right and the rest is cake.
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Posted by Rhys McKenna in General tips