The extended essay at a glance

The extended essay is an in-depth study of a focused topic chosen from the list of available Diploma Programme subjects for the session in question. This is normally one of the student’s six chosen subjects for those taking the IB diploma, or a subject that a course student has a background in. It is intended to promote academic research and writing skills, providing students with an opportunity to engage in personal research in a topic of their own choice, under the guidance of a supervisor (an appropriately qualified member of staff within the school). This leads to a major piece of formally presented, structured writing, in which ideas and findings are communicated in a reasoned and coherent manner, appropriate to the subject chosen. It is mandatory that all students undertake three reflection sessions with their supervisor, which includes a short, concluding interview, or viva voce, with their supervisor following the completion of the extended essay. An assessment of this reflection process is made under criterion E (Engagement) using the Reflections on planning and progress form. The extended essay is assessed against common criteria, interpreted in ways appropriate to each subject.

Key features of the extended essay

  • The extended essay is compulsory for all students taking the Diploma Programme and is an option for course students.
  • A student must achieve a D grade or higher to be awarded the Diploma.
  • The extended essay is externally assessed and, in combination with the grade for theory of knowledge, contributes up to three points to the total score for the IB Diploma.
  • The extended essay process helps prepare students for success at university and in other pathways beyond the Diploma Programme.
  • When choosing a subject for the extended essay, students must consult the list of available Diploma Programme subjects published in the Diploma Programme Assessment procedures for the session in question. The extended essay is a piece of independent research on a topic chosen by the student in consultation with a supervisor in the school.
  • It is presented as a formal piece of sustained academic writing containing no more than 4,000 words accompanied by a reflection form of no more than 500 words.
  • It is the result of approximately 40 hours of work by the student.
  • Students are supported by a supervision process recommended to be 3–5 hours, which includes three mandatory reflection sessions.
  • The third and final mandatory reflection session is the viva voce, which is a concluding interview with the supervising teacher.


The aims of the extended essay are for students to:

  • engage in independent research with intellectual initiative and rigour
  • develop research, thinking, self-management and communication skills
  • reflect on what has been learned throughout the research and writing process.

Assessment objectives

In working on the extended essay, students are expected to achieve the following assessment objectives.

Knowledge and understanding
  • To demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the topic chosen and the research question posed.
  • To demonstrate knowledge and understanding of subject specific terminology and/or concepts.
  • To demonstrate knowledge and understanding of relevant and/or appropriate research sources and/or methods used to gather information.

Application and analysis
  • To select and apply research that is relevant and appropriate to the research question.
  • To analyse the research effectively and focus on the research question.

Synthesis and evaluation
  • To be able to discuss the research in terms of a clear and coherent reasoned argument in relation to the research question.
  • To be able to critically evaluate the arguments presented in the essay.
  • To be able to reflect on and evaluate the research process.

A variety of (research) skills
  • To be able to present information in an appropriate academic format.
  • To understand and demonstrate academic integrity.

Required Action by Students

Step 1: Choose a subject

Choose a subject from the available extended essay list. MICs students can conduct the EE study in the following subjects:

  • English A: Literature
  • French B
  • Economics
  • Business and Management
  • Geography
  • Information Technology in Global Society (ITGS)
  • Environmental Systems and Societies
  • History
  • Global Politics
  • Physics
  • Chemistry
  • Biology
  • Computer Science
  • Mathematics
  • Visual Arts
  • Step 2: Choose a topic
    Students are encouraged to choose a topic from the selected subject above. The topic should be something that the student is personally interested in.

    Step 3: Educate Yourself

    To be able to write an excellent EE, students are adviced to read the following documents:

    1. IB Extended Essay Subject Guides (First Examination, June 2018)
    2. IB Assessment Criteria
    3. IB Ethical Guidelines
    • Observe the regulations with regard to the extended essay, including the IB’s ethical guidelines.
    • Read and understand the subject-specific requirements for the subject in which you intend to complete your extended essay, including the interpretation of the assessment criteria.
    • Meet all internal deadlines.
    • Understand concepts related to academic honesty, including plagiarism and collusion, for example, and ensure that you have acknowledged all sources of information and ideas in a consistent manner. This also includes understanding the implications of the General regulations: Diploma Programme should there be a breach of these.
    • Understand concepts related to academic honesty, including plagiarism and collusion, for example, and ensure that you have acknowledged all sources of information and ideas in a consistent manner. This also includes understanding the implications of the General regulations: Diploma Programme should there be a breach of these.
    • Attend three mandatory reflection sessions with your supervisor, the last of which is the viva voce.
    • Record your reflections on the Reflections on planning and progress form for submission as part of the assessment of criterion E (engagement).
    Role of the student

    As the extended essay is an important component of the Diploma Programme, and a substantial piece of work, students need to ensure that they understand the expectations of the task and manage their time and workload effectively. The following suggestions are given as guidance to help with the process.

    Students are strongly recommended to:

    • develop a Researcher’s reflection space as a planning tool
    • use the Researcher’s reflection space to prepare for reflection sessions
    • share excerpts from the Researcher’s reflection space with the supervisor during the reflection sessions
    • choose a subject, followed by a topic, and then think carefully about the research question for their essay
    • plan how, when and where they will find material and sources for their essay before deciding on the final topic and research question
    • plan a schedule for both the researching and writing of their extended essay, including extra time for delays and unforeseen problems
    • record sources as their research progresses using their Researcher’s reflection space rather than trying to reconstruct a list at the end
    • make the most of their supervision and reflection sessions by arriving prepared to discuss their work
    • have a clear structure for the essay before beginning to write check and proofread the final version of their extended essay
    • make sure that the version they submit for assessment is the final version with all sources correctly and consistently referenced
    • ensure that all requirements are met.

    Reflection in the extended essay

    Student reflection in the extended essay is a critical evaluation of the decision-making process. It demonstrates the evolution and discovery of conceptual understandings as they relate to the research question and sources. Reflection demonstrates the rationale for decisions made and the skills and understandings developed, as well as the authenticity and intellectual initiative of the student voice. Effective reflection highlights the journey the student has taken to engage in an intellectual and personal process as well as how it has changed him or her as a learner and affected the final essay.

    As a part of the extended essay, students will be expected to show evidence of intellectual growth, critical and personal development, intellectual initiative and creativity. This should be facilitated by the use of the Researcher’s reflection space. The most successful students will be able to show an appreciation that learning is complex and that they are able to consider their actions and ideas in response to challenges that they may experience during the research process.

    The depth of reflection will demonstrate that the student has constructively engaged with the learning process. Such engagement provides evidence that the student has grown as a learner as a result of his or her experience. More importantly, it demonstrates the skills that have been learned.

    These skills may include:

    • critical thinking
    • decision-making
    • general research
    • planning
    • referencing and citations
    • specific research methodology
    • time management.

    Reflection must be documented on the Reflections on planning and progress form and is explicitly assessed under assessment criterion E (engagement).

    This page has been created to assist MICS IBDP students to understand and familiarize themselves with the IB Extended Essay (EE). The primary aim is to provide a step-by-step approach in completing the EE.

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