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Extended Essay Tips (from an IB Examiner)

3 Min Read
November 03, 2022

The Extended Essay (EE), a 4,000-word independent research paper, is a mandatory component of the IB Diploma Programme that gives IB students the chance to explore topics related to one of their DP subjects. Though it's known to keep many IB students awake at night, the EE can be broken down into a manageable, doable process. Read on to know Extended Essay tips and tricks that can help you excel from Paul Edison, an IB examiner and ALL-in mentor!

Extended Essay Tips #1: 

Find the right supervisor 

A great supervisor can not only help with finding the right topic but also cheer you on when your experiment fails for the sixth time. They will be able to point you in the right direction when you're stuck, and they can help evaluate whether or not your argument is critical. 

Your supervisor does not have to work at your school or even be your subject teacher. Sometimes, when given a choice between an overloaded supervisor with subject expertise and a smart, sympathetic supervisor with a manageable workload without the subject knowledge, the latter is the one who will be able to help you progress the most.  

Extended Essay Tips #2: 

Do a feasibility study

Doing a thorough feasibility study before committing to your RQ will save you so much time. Make sure there are enough secondary sources out there that would help deepen your analysis before you choose to analyze that exotic foreign film. Before you commit to building your own energy reactor, make sure your school lab has the proper tools and materials to support your endeavor. Prior on conducting a massive city-wide survey on the impact of social media on teenage girls' slang, make sure there's actually a noticeable linguistic shift. 

Spending an hour or two on feasibility studies might save you dozens of hours of research dead-ends and heartbreaks. 

Extended Essay Tips #3:

Synthesize, not summarize! 

Well, obviously you'd have to do both. But so often I see students do nothing more than paraphrasing various experts from their secondary sources. 

In other words, don't do this: 

Professor A said that Jane Austen only appears in public at night, and Professor B said that Jane Austen is afraid of garlic and silver crucifix. Therefore, Jane Austen only appears at night and is afraid of garlic and silver objects. 

Instead, do this: 

Professor A said that Jane Austen only appears in public at night, and Professor B said that Jane Austen is afraid of garlic and silver crucifix.  This strongly suggests that Jane Austen is actually a vampire. 


Extended Essay Tips #4:

Keep track of your secondary sources

Even as you read through journals and articles, it will be very tempting to just jot down quotes and leave the citation for a later date. Do NOT do this. Otherwise, you might find yourself having to find the source of a particularly useful quote in the pile of 40-50 different sources. 

Extended Essay Tips #5:

Don't sleep on your Reflection! 

Seriously, so many students think that the reflection is just a formality. It isn't! If you look at the rubric, you'll see that Criterion E is entirely graded based on your three Reflection entries. These 500 words will determine almost 1/5th of your total score! 


Bonus Tip: 

Dive deep into the rubrics

For every subject, there's a specific way to interpret the rubric. Make sure you know what the examiners are looking for. Otherwise, you might think your essay is really strong while it's not actually meeting the criteria.


Questioning how to write your IB Extended Essay is a common thing. With its complexity, many IB students find themselves puzzled and sometimes overwhelmed as well. Nevertheless, the Extended Essay can be one of the most rewarding experiences with enough preparation, planning and supervision. You got this!


Facing some struggles with your Extended Essay? Fear not, ALL-in is here for you!

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