What is the IB Extended Essay? A Detailed Explanation

For students completing their IB Diploma Programme, there are multiple requirements that must be fulfilled prior to graduation from the program and being rewarded the IB Diploma. Out of these series of requirements that must be fulfilled for completion of the program, students are required to successfully complete something called an extended essay.As a mandatory component of the IB Diploma Programme, the extended essay (IB EE) is a standard research paper than consists of approximately 4,000 words.

You'll need access to plenty of books for your IB EE

The information contained in the research paper must be completely and independently researched by the student in one appropriate topic that they find of particular interest. Consideration of the topic requires thoughtful contemplation as the subject must be related to a topic that is studied under the IB Diploma program.

Upon completion of the IB extended essay, the submission and assessment follows. Examiners that are appointed by an IB related board act as assessors, or scorers, and provide a score ranging from 0 to 36. The scores are provided based on a series of criteria that may consist of general material or more subject specific material. Each research paper has the potential to score a possible 24 marks in general criteria and 12 marks in the more subject specific criteria.

After marks are awarded based on their relevance and performance in consideration of the proposed criteria, the marks are combined and a letter score, ranging from A to E is granted to each paper. This letter grade is then combined with scores and marks from other required components of the IB Diploma awarding program. In other words, the letter grade that results from the IB EE is combined with the scores from other components required for the granting of the IB diploma. In any case, if any particular student receives an E on the extended essay (the lowest grade possible), they will no longer be eligible to receive the IB Diploma, regardless of their scoring in the other associated components.

In addition to understanding the assessment process of the extended essay, it is significant to understand the structure surrounding the administration of the IB EE as it relates to the granting of the diploma in the IB Diploma Programme. As outlined by the programme, a supervisor from a student’s school provides guidance for the diploma-seeking student in regards to the essay.

A supervisor may facilitate and ease the process of determining a suitable research question, provide advice or assistance locating specific research resources and materials, or suggest improvements to early versions of a particular IB EE. The supervisor’s guidance may be more general in nature, or be more specific by targeting questions posed by the students themselves. For each student, it is advised that the supervisor dedicate approximately 3 hours of guidance.

The purpose of the IB Diploma extended essay has roots relating to the IB learner profile. By requiring students to complete the research and related essay, they are intrinsically encouraged to activate their capacities for independent research, thus developing the necessary research, communication, creative and critical thinking skills.

What’s more, students proactively participate and gain experience in an organized process of research that is intended to fuel a personal intellectual revolution that sparks their interest and excitement. More specifically speaking on their IB Learner Profiles: what is required of the students when successfully and effectively completing their extended essay closely correlates to what is envisioned for their general development as a student through the IB Diploma Programme. Each of these aims goes back to the student being actively responsible (and independently so) for their learning and for the creation of a final expansive essay.

Through this essay, it is desired that the students will gain immense amounts of in-depth knowledge that will aid in their understanding. In addition to this, the research essay is designed to instigate reflection, intellectual curiosity, and risk-taking that will further grow the student on an intellectual basis. Each of these characteristics manifested directly aligns with the mold that is envisioned for the learner profile under the IB Diploma Programme.

In regards to the theory of knowledge (TOK), the IB Diploma Programme extended essay can be found relatable. As with the theory of knowledge course, students completing the extended essay are required to access evidence and formulate knowledgeable and informed argument. Both the students studying under the TOK programme and the IB Diploma programme are encouraged to pursue and recognize the importance of knowledge and growing their own personal instances of it.

Where someone will find variance with the IB Diploma Programme structure, however, is in regards to the emphasis that is placed on the research process itself. Designers of the IB Diploma Programme find significant experience (on behalf of the students) in the research aspect of the extended essay.

With this programme, unlike with TOK, students are prompted and required to take full advantage of research-oriented resources while striving to create a final product that is reflective of the research that they have completed throughout the course of the extended essay project.

What’s more, the extended essay may place an emphasis on international dimensions. Always encouraging students to utilize a plethora of resources from a range of reputable sources, some subjects chosen by the students may also require that students answer questions that must be considered from a cross-cultural standpoint. Where this might not be required, per say, some students may opt to include it in their content as a way to pursue this cross-cultural dimensional aspect. 

Prompting independent investigation and thoughtful research, students that are required to complete the extended essay gain insight and experience that is highlighted by this required research and related essay. With further significance rooted in the preparation it provides for their university-level educational experiences, students will learn to construct an intelligent, thought-provoking question that causes them to thoughtfully explore the particular topic and its potential answers. By gaining ample material and appropriate information, each student will gain valuable skill in communicating their ideas and answering the posed questions.

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