International Baccalaureate Extended Essay Categories

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The extended essay (EE) is a mandatory core component of the IB Diploma Programme. It is a research paper of up to 4000 words, giving students an opportunity to conduct independent research or investigation on a topic that interests them. Like the theory of knowledge (TOK) essay, TOK presentation, and participation in creativity, action, service activities, submitting an extended essay is a prerequisite for the award of the Diploma.

Recommended subjects[edit]

It is mandatory that the extended essay be taken from the field of one of the IB subjects being studied (e.g. the essay may be about a book that has not been studied as part of IB English).[1] However, the topic must not be too broad or too narrow as to make it difficult to write 4,000 words, and the general subject must be taught under the IB diploma program by one of the members of staff at the high school (so that there is someone with expertise able to help). The subject (not topic) on which the extended essay is written is recommended to be one that the candidate has formally studied, but this is not required. Also, the EE may not be written across different subjects – it must concentrate on one subject only, unless the student is writing under the World Studies topic. However, some subjects include several disciplines, with an emphasis towards one. An example is the subject Societies, which can include chemistry, biology, psychology, etc. generally with an emphasis toward one discipline.

Supervision[edit]

The supervisor provides the student with assistance in putting together their EE, including guiding them in finding a suitable research question and on how to acquire the necessary resources to complete the research (such as a specific resource material–often hard-to-find documents or books–or laboratory equipment). The supervisor may suggest improvements to a version of the EE, but must not be engaged in writing it. The IBO recommends that the supervisor spend approximately two to three hours in total with the candidate discussing the EE.

Assessment[edit]

Extended essays are marked by individuals named 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. A similar system is used for theory of knowledge and students can gain up to 3 points for the diploma based on the grades achieved for EE and TOK. A scores of E on either the extended essay or TOK essay revoked the eligibility of receiving the IB Diploma (EE Subject Guide p15).[2]

Theory of Knowledge
Extended Essay
ABCDE or N
A3321Failing Condition
B3211
C2110
D1100
E or NFailing Condition
Source: The diploma points matrix. May 2015 onwards[3]

References[edit]

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.

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