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Extended Essay
International Baccalaureate Magnet Program Main Page
Additional Pages:
CAS
Commonly Asked Questions
Curricular Overview
Curriculum Scope and Sequence
Extended Essay
The IB Learner Profile K-12
Theory of Knowledge (TOK)

Nature of the extended essay

The extended essay is an in-depth study of a focused topic chosen from the list of approved Diploma Program subjects—normally one of the student’s six chosen subjects for the IB diploma. It is intended to promote high-level research and writing skills, intellectual discovery and creativity. It provides students with an opportunity to engage in personal research in a topic of their own choice, under the guidance of a supervisor (a teacher in 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 recommended that completion of the written essay is followed by a short, concluding interview, or viva voce, with the supervisor.

The extended essay is assessed against common criteria, interpreted in ways appropriate to each subject.

The extended essay is:

·         compulsory for all Diploma Program students

·         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

·         a piece of independent research/investigation on a topic chosen by the student in cooperation with a supervisor in the school

·         chosen from the list of approved Diploma Program subjects, published in the Handbook of procedures for the Diploma Program

·         presented as a formal piece of scholarship containing no more than 4,000 words

·         the result of approximately 40 hours of work by the student

·         concluded with a short interview, or viva voce, with the supervising teacher (recommended).

In the Diploma Program, the extended essay is the prime example of a piece of work where the student has the opportunity to show knowledge, understanding and enthusiasm about a topic of his or her choice. In those countries where it is the norm for interviews to be required prior to acceptance for employment or for a place at university, the extended essay has often proved to be a valuable stimulus for discussion.

The extended essay and the IB learner profile

The learning involved in researching and writing the extended essay is closely aligned with the development of many of the characteristics described in the IB learner profile. Students are, to a large extent, responsible for their own independent learning, through which they acquire and communicate in-depth knowledge and understanding. The research process necessarily involves intellectual risk-taking and extensive reflection; open-mindedness, balance and fairness are key prerequisites for a good extended essay. Students and teachers familiar with the IB Middle Years Program (MYP) will find that the extended essay is a natural progression from the MYP personal project.

Relationship to theory of knowledge

Whichever subject is chosen, the extended essay shares with the theory of knowledge (TOK) course a concern with interpreting and evaluating evidence, and constructing reasoned arguments. Where the two differ is in the emphasis placed on the research process and its formal outcomes. These aspects are of primary importance in the extended essay but are given much less weight in TOK: in the Theory of knowledge guide (updated November 2008) the section describing the TOK assessment tasks states that “neither the [TOK] essay nor the presentation is primarily a research exercise”. At a more abstract level, both TOK and the extended essay promote reflection on the nature of knowledge and on how new knowledge is produced.

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