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Getting Cozy with the IBDP Extended Essay

This year I have taken on a new role at my school, that of Extended Essay coordinator and after only 3 months on the job I have learned so much! I have to say that while I thought I knew the Extended Essay well (especially from an IB Biology teacher's perspective) there is so much more to it and so much more variety in the possible topics than I thought.

What is the IBDP Extended Essay (EE)?

For anyone who is new to the world of the IB Diploma or those who haven't taken on the role of an EE advisor yet let me clarify purpose and key components of the EE. The extended essay is a 4000-word research essay in one of 27 different topics, all of which are related to an IB Diploma course. Students are required to complete the EE as part of the Core along with Theory of Knowledge (ToK) and CAS (Creativity, Activity & Service). It can add up to 3 additional points to the students' overall IB Diploma score, these points are determined by the score given to both the EE and TOK using the matrix you can find below.

The grade of "A" to "E" is determined by the IBO, this assessment is externally assessed based on five different criteria (see table below). So while advisors do not need to grade the EE, they should be familiar with the rubrics to give their advisees appropriate guidance. The role of EE advisor is an important one and provides both student and advisor with the opportunity to work closely together as the student undertakes this substantial research, critical thinking and writing task.

Supporting Your Students with the EE

Students can often find the Extended Essay very overwhelming, especially as it is just one more thing for them to work on in the IB Diploma, along with their six courses and the other two components of the Core (ToK & CAS). One of the best things that teachers, advisors and IB coordinators can do to support their students is to help break the task down into manageable chunks. At my school students begin the EE process a few months into their first year of the IB Diploma & they finish their second complete draft over the summer between the first and second years. Here are some useful checkpoints or chunks you can use to break this task down for your students:

  • Introducing the EE and outlining expectations

  • Brainstorming topics and research questions

  • Pairing up students and advisors

  • Submitting an essay outline and bibliography to advisors for feedback

  • Submitting the first 2500 words of the EE to advisors for feedback

  • Submitting a first complete draft (all 4000 words) to advisors for feedback

  • Submitting a final draft to advisors for feedback

  • Making any last-minute edits and changes to format based on advisor feedback, get a checklist to help with this process here

  • Submitting the EE to the IBO for assessment

Before I became the EE coordinator at my school I had no idea that there were 27 different topics for the EE, from Literature analysis to Film studies. Many of these topics are open to students who are not necessarily pursuing that particular course as part of their IB Diploma. For example, a student can write an EE in Dance, as long as they have substantial knowledge of dance which could be learned through years of dance instruction. Since the goal of the EE is critical thinking and analysis one of the best things you can do for your students is to make them aware of the plethora of topic choices which are available to them, so that they can pursue a challenging and interesting question that matters to them, these topic choices include:

  • 1 Studies in Language & Literature EE Topic (with 3 different categories)

  • 1 Language Acquisition EE Topic (with 3 different categories)

  • 10 Individuals & Societies EE Topics

  • 6 Science EE Topics

  • 1 Mathematics EE Topic (with 5 different categories)

  • 5 Arts EE Topics

  • 3 Interdisciplinary EE Topics

In order to better support my EE students I spent many hours creating a reference document which I then posted for students, parents and teachers on my EE group webpage and printed as posters for my school's EE fair. By going through the 376 page EE Guide published by the IBO I was able to create this 29 page document, which includes the topic title, group, an overview and sample research questions for each. This resource has helped to generate some exciting and new EE topics in our current Year 1 cohort, including EEs in Music, Math & Visual Arts! This resource is available for purchase in my TpT shop if you would like to access all 29 pages in two different colours and sizes.

Supporting EE Advisors

One of my main goals as part of my EE Coordinator role was to support teachers as they took on the role of EE advisor. There are many teachers at my school who are new to the IB Diploma or who have yet to have the opportunity to act as an advisor for an EE. I want to make this job easier for my colleagues in any way that I can, and one of the first ways in which I tried to support them was through the Viva Voce process.

For those of you who are not aware, the Viva Voce is the final reflection meeting between an EE student and their advisor, it happens after the EE is complete and is the third and final student reflection in the process. The IBO requires that schools submit an RRPF form along with each students' essay, this includes the three student reflections as well as a final statement from the advisor stating that they can confidently state that the essay is the students' original work. The Viva Voce is a celebration of the EE process, of the completion of a substantial task and an opportunity for the advisor to ask questions to help verify and better understand the students' final work. To reduce prep for my colleagues I put together a Viva Voce prompt list, which is available for free here.

Making the Most of the EE Experience

While the EE can seem daunting for both students and advisors it can be a very enjoyable process. As I tell my students they are very fortunate to be able to practice writing such a substantial research essay with the support of an advisor; that kind of 1:1 support will not be found in university and it should not be undervalued. For my colleagues I try to help us all to remember that we rarely get the opportunity to work in such a small group and really see our students growth over the course of such a complex task as this one. Some of my favourite teachable moments with students have occurred while discussing their EEs, making connections and asking tough questions while the student explores an area of personal interest.

I hope that this post was helpful for you! If you would like access to all of my EE resources for a bargain, you can find my Growing EE Bundle here. Enjoy the process and remember, to use the search function to find what you need in the PDF version of the EE Subject Guide!

Thanks for reading teachers, travelers & curious souls of all kinds.

The Roaming Scientist



Hi, thanks for stopping by!

I'm the kind of teacher who is always trying something new, new labs, new Apps, new scaffolds and even new countries to live and teach in. I'm looking forward to share what I learn with you all through my weekly blog posts. 

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