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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
Your completed Extended Essay will then sent to the IBO to be graded (I will go into more detail on grading below). 



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 – 36Excellent: A
25 – 29Good: B
17 – 24Satisfactory: C
9 – 16Mediocre: D
0 - 8Elementary: E

Here is the typical breakdown of scores (from 2008):

% Awarded Grade






Extended Essay






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:  


What’s Next?

Trying to figure out what extracurricular you should do? Learn more about participating in Science Olympiad, starting a club, doing volunteer work, and joining Student Government. 

Studying for the SAT? Check out our complete guide to the SAT. Taking the SAT in the next month? Check out our guide to cramming. 

Not sure where you want to go to college? Check out our guide to finding your target school. Also, figure out your target SAT score or target ACT score.


Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points? We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download it for free now:


August 30, 2017     Introductory Meeting during Junior Seminar / Research Skills Lab class

  • Introduction to the Extended Essay and Senior Project

Fall, 2017     Junior Seminar/Research Skills Lab class time devoted to:

  • Introduction to WSA Library EE Guide, and IB documents:
    • IB Assessment Criteria for the EE
    • Relevant EE Subject Guide(s), including the World Studies Guide
    • IB's ethical guidelines related to academic honesty, citing and referencing, and (if applicable to your subject and topic) research and fieldwork, and use of animals)
  • Introduction to EE assessment criteria
  • Research methods, referencing skills, literature review skills
  • Generating research questions

October 2-6, 2017     Individual check-in meetings with EE Coordinator

  • Scheduled during Junior Seminar class
  • Be prepared to answer these questions:
    • Have you chosen an IB subject area of research, or do you know the two subjects your would choose for a World Studies Extended Essay?   
    • What IB subject area do you see this research fitting in to?
    • What sparked your interest in this subject area?
    • What background reading have you done so far?
    • How are you planning on organizing your research, notes, ideas, etc. so that you'll be able to access them when you're ready to write?
    • Do you have a provisional research question that will fit in with your chosen subject?
    • What are the next steps in conducting your research?

November 28, 2017

DUE:  By 8:20 AM on 11/28/2017 to Susan Trower 

'Student Undertaking Contract' signed by both student and parent

DUE:  'Proposed Subject and Topic Form' signed by student; Include one or two proposals, each with:

EE subject, or WSEE theme and two IB subjects

Specific topic area or research question

Rationale for choosing this topic area

DUE:  Feasibility and Viability Report - one report for each EE proposal - each with:

5 - 10 sources

Correctly referenced in chosen citation style

Five of the sources must have at least two notes each; notes must include:

Summary of key points, bullet points of themes, ideas, research, etc.

Quotes as appropriate, page numbers, new references, paths of investigation, etc.

Headings with any information from the source that relates to the EE topic / research question

Summary of key points, bullet points of themes, ideas, research, etc.

Notes may be submitted using the Notecards feature in NoodleTools

Goal is to prove viability of proposed research question

December 14, 2017     Extended Essay supervisors assigned

January 16 - 25, 2018

Schedule appointment with supervisor and meet for first time (Initial Reflection Session)

As preparation for their first advisory session, students should be prepared to discuss the following:

  1. Criteria:  you should go over the subject-specific assessment criteria 
  2. Research question: work with your supervisor to narrow your topic/question down to a manageable scope (capable of being covered in 4,000 words); investigate the viability of your topic; if you have a wildly interesting but impractical question:  be prepared to heed the advice of your supervisor; know that it's up to you, and your supervisor will not prescribe or create a research question for you
  3. Exemplars:  ask for exemplars in your chosen subject from the EE coordinator or your supervisor.
  4. Library:  Be sure to check with the WSA Librarian for help in getting access to publications or online journals that would apply to your topic.
  5. Structure: Work with your supervisor to devise a plan as t how your research question could be structured or go to the session with a proposed structure you have in mind for review (chapter headings, for instance.)  MindMap® of ideas, flow charts, and other models could prove useful here to help you visualize your structure at this early stage.
  6. Time Management: If you are finding it difficult to plan your time due to other assessment pressures or extra-curricular demands, then it may be useful to speak to your supervisor with regards to creating a structured research timeline or more specific timetable to help you to see exactly what is required and when.

January 29, 2018

DUE:   'Research Readiness Form' to Susan Trower, signed by both student and supervisor

  • Turned in by 3:30 PM on 1/29/2018
  • Worth 50 points towards Spring Semester EE grade
  • Late form = 0 points

DUE:   First reflection (150-175 words) to Susan Trower via email

  • Emailed reflection must arrive by 3:30 PM on 1/29/2018
  • Worth 50 points towards Spring Semester EE grade
  • Late reflection = 0 points

February - March, 2018     Meet with supervisor at least two more times (10-20 minute sessions)

  • Things to be prepared to discuss with your supervisor:
    • Passivity - If you haven't done as much as you had hoped for since your first meeting, discuss the reasons and causes for this with your supervisor and ways to overcome or avoid this in future sessions.
    • Reading - Discuss your reading and/or research.  What have you found out?  Any surprises? Any useful lines of thought or approaches to the question?
    • Notes - Do you have a workable note-taking system in place?
    • Essay plan - Go over how to best structure your essay.
    • Exemplars - Try marking up a pre-existing essay with the assessment criteria, then go over this with your supervisor.  This will allow you to write with the assessment criteria firmly in mind.
    • Time-management - Be prepared to adjust your normal routines to accommodate any delays or issues with your EE so far. Sticking to deadlines will ensure you get this done!
    • Writing - Commit to getting started on your writing!
    • Research question - Tweaking  at this point is OK, but not big changes to your topic area or question.
  • Continue to use your RRS (Researcher's reflection space) to record reflections on what you are reading, writing and thinking

April 9-13, 2018   Meet with supervisor to discuss:

  • Completion of planned reading and/or research (Is further reading and/or research needed?)
  • Challenges encountered in EE process
  • EE presentation to Supervisors and Class of 2020 on May 1

April 16, 2018

DUE:   'Writing Readiness Form' to Susan Trower, signed by both student and supervisor, by 3:30 PM on 4/16/2018

  • Worth 50 points towards Spring Semester EE grade
  • Late form = 0 points

May 1, 2018

Extended Essay Presentations to Supervisors and Class of 2020

  • PowerPoint presentation, 8-10 slides, 5 minutes
  • Presentation of your most up-to-date findings and research
  • Scheduled during Advocacy and All School meeting time in two groups; one in the Conference Room and one in Parke 2
  • Includes:
    • Subject and research question
    • Background (what your EE is about)
    • Research conducted so far
    • Planned research for the summer
    • Working outline of the final contents page
    • Detailed summary of one or two chapters or sections
    • Problems encountered / solutions found
    • Bibliography, accurately referenced with chosen citation style
  • Worth 100 points towards Spring Semester EE grade
  • No presentation = 0 points

May 1, 2018

DUE: Student brings signed 'Extended Essay Progress Check Form' to be completed by supervisor after the presentation.

  • Worth 50 points towards Spring Semester EE grade
  • Late form = 0 points

June 1, 2018

DUE: 5 pages of writing due to Supervisor and Susan Trower

  • Emailed document must arrive by 3:30 PM on 6/01/2018
  • Worth 100 points towards Spring Semester EE grade
  • Late paper = 0 points
  • Options:
    • 5 pages of 'Body' of paper, based on the essay outline presented to EE Supervisors and the Class of 2020 on May 1, OR
    • 5 pages of writing total, comprised of paragraphs analyzing the information from at least 5 of the primary and/or secondary sources to be used for the paper.  For this approach, Eric Bright's worksheets for analysis of historical primary and secondary sources can be used to help with deciding how to structure the writing.

June 4 - 7, 2018     Meet with Supervisor to discuss:

  • Quality of preliminary writing submitted on June 1
  • EE assessment criteria (Students would benefit from reading Chapter 7. Assessment [maximizing marks], in Oxford Extended Essay Course Companion, by Kosta Lekanides, ISBN 9780198377764, before this meeting)
  • Summer plans for completing writing on the EE

June - August, 2018     Students write first draft of their Extended Essay

Summer Break

September 4, 2018

DUE: First 10 pages of draft due to Supervisor and Susan Trower

  • Emailed document must arrive by 3:30 PM on 9/4/2018
  • Worth 100 points towards Fall Semester EE grade
  • Late paper = 0 points

September 10-14, 2018


Meeting with Supervisor regarding quality of preliminary draft (no editing)

As preparation for the interim reflection session, students should have:

  1. attempted to refine a focused and appropriate research question
  2. significantly deepened their research and recorded pertinent evidence, information or data in the Researcher’s reflection space
  3. reviewed and consolidated the methodologies they are using
  4. formulated arguments based on the evidence that they have collected
  5. added to the working bibliography for their research.

September 17, 2018

DUE:   Interim reflection (150-175 words) due to Susan Trower via email

  • Emailed reflection must arrive by 3:30 PM on 9/17/2018
  • Worth 50 points towards Fall Semester EE grade
  • Late reflection = 0 points

October 22, 2018

DUE: Complete draft due to Susan Trower by 3:30 PM

  • Two (2) printed copies and an emailed digital copy required by 3:30 PM on 10/22/2018
  • Draft must conform to IB Formal Presentation Guidelines as provided to Candidate
    • Required components: Title Page, Table of Contents, Introduction, Body of Paper, Conclusion, Works Cited (NOTE: do NOT include an Abstract)
    • Required Format: Arial font, 12 point font size, double-spaced text, numbered pages, indented paragraphs, appropriate margins (1" on all sides is acceptable)
    • Acceptable file type: DOC or DOCX
  • Worth 100 points towards Fall Semester EE grade
  • Late paper = 0 points

Week of October 29 - November 2, 2018

Mandatory draft (revision) conference with supervisor

  • Scheduled by student in advance at discretion of Supervisor     
  • Set aside minimum of one hour for meeting

December 3, 2018

FINAL COPY DUE to Susan Trower by 3:30 PM

  • Emailed digital copy required by 3:30 PM on 12/3/2018
  • Final copy must conform to IB Formal Presentation Guidelines as provided to Candidate (see note above)
  • Worth 100 points towards Fall Semester EE grade
  • Late paper = 0 points

December 3-7, 2018


Final session with supervisor, scheduled by student in advance at discretion of Supervisor

Students should bring the following to this session:

  • extracts from their Researcher's Reflection Space (RRS) that illustrate how they have grown as learners through the process of reflection
  • a willingness to share their personal experience and to discuss the skills and development of conceptual understandings that they have acquired through the completion of the extended essay.

December 10, 2018

DUE:   Final reflection (150-175 words) due to Susan Trower via email

  • Emailed reflection must arrive by 3:30 PM on 12/10/2018
  • Worth 50 points towards Fall Semester EE grade
  • Late reflection = 0 points

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