Academic EE

Overview: What is the Extended Essay (EE)?

When you first start the IB, the Extended Essay (EE) seems like a massive obstacle that you have to overcome, but it doesn’t have to be! We’re here to break it all down and make it easier for you to understand 🙂

What is the EE in the diploma program?

To start, the EE is essentially a mini-thesis where you can write on any given topic as long as it fits your chosen subject’s guidelines. The essay has a maximum count of 4,000 words, with most successful essays hovering just under the limit. You will need to select a research question under your topic, conduct independent research, and write an essay of your findings.

What must the EE Include?

While the contents of an extended essay differ depending on the subject, you should follow a general outline:

  1. Title Page: Include your title, research question, subject, word count & personal code
  2. Contents Page: Label your subtopics and the page number in which they appear
  3. Introduction: Your motivation behind the EE & background information on your topic
  4. Body of the Essay: This is where it varies widely from student to student, so check out our subject-specific blogs for further advice
  5. Conclusion: Wrap up your findings
  6. References and Bibliography: Remember to add footnotes and in-text citations throughout your EE!!

What should you choose as your topic?

You can choose any topic as long as it is within an IB subject that you are taking in the diploma program. Alternatively, you could also take World Studies where you can work on an issue of global significance, across two IBDP disciplines. Use this chance to conduct further research on topics that you might be willing to pursue in university, whether it’s for your major or undergraduate research purposes. It is definitely possible to have your EE as a supplementary material to add to your university application, especially if it is one that you have spent effort on and relates to what you are planning to do in university.

Ideally, it would be best to take on a topic that there is detailed research on, and one that you can access resources for. There are many cases where students have attempted to research a topic that is either too theoretical or have little to no information, leading them to change their topic in the middle of their EE journey or achieving an unsatisfactory score due to lack of understanding of the topic. 

Who should you choose as a supervisor?

While some schools do not allow for students to choose their own EE supervisors, other schools do. In that case, try to find a teacher that a) is willing to help you—ready to take the time reading through your drafts and give you feedback— and b) is passionate in the topic you are choosing. After all, they are the ones who will be guiding you with your research and assess your EE progress. 

While you will only meet your supervisor for a total of 3-5 hours (at least according to the IBO, it’s usually more lenient), they can help you a lot in choosing a suitable research question and give you useful resources/ advice. 

What is the RPPF?

The RPPF is short for “Reflections on planning and progress form”, where you have to write a total of three reflections sessions. This must not exceed 500 words in total. Each one is done after a meeting session with your EE supervisor. It shows your progress throughout your EE journey, detailing your “initial” stage (~100 words), “interim” stage (~200 words), and “looking back” stage (~200 words). The “looking back” stage, or viva voce, is typically a 10-minute interview with your supervisor to help them write their report on your EE journey. This is also part of the RPPF and thus can factor into your grade.

While it may not seem important, this RPPF counts for ~19% of your final grade as part of Criterion E (6 marks out of 34)! So make sure to be concise yet coherent when writing your reflections. Don’t worry your reflections can be edited when you have finished writing your EE :))

How is the EE graded?

The extended essay is graded by IB examiners and ranges from a score of 0 to 34. These points come from a total of five criteria detailed below:

  • A: Focus and Method (6 points maximum)
  • B: Knowledge and Understanding (6 points maximum)
  • C: Critical Thinking (12 points maximum)
  • D: Presentation (4 points maximum)
  • E: Engagement (6 points maximum)

Here is an estimate of how the points translate to a letter grade:

Points AchievedGrade

How does the EE affect my final score?

The EE score is combined with the TOK score to add +3, +2, +1, or +0 points towards your final IB grade. The maximum grade you can get from getting all 7s in your subjects is 42 out of the 45 possible points . Thus to get a full score, you will have to get the additional +3 points from your TOK and EE grades. Below is a diagram by the IB to help you visualize the grading system:

          Picture from International School of Athens

Any other tips for the EE?

Choose a topic that you enjoy! You’ll be spending countless hours researching and analyzing your topic so you might as well choose something that you are interested in. If you have a topic that you are passionate about, you can always find a way to incorporate it into your extended essay.

Don’t choose a topic that is too broad or too narrow: If it is too narrow, you will have a hard time finding the right resources to write your EE and if it’s too broad, you would not be able to fit in all the details needed in your 4,000 word essay. Remember that 4,000 words isn’t a lot when you have to write a detailed analysis of your topic.

Make sure to start early: Yes, we cannot avoid procrastination, but try to start your EE early. There are many cases where the first topic does not work out, and students would have to pick a new, completely different topic to work on (based on personal experience :,) ) so be careful! You don’t have to be the first to submit your EE but make sure you are not the person finishing their EE just hours before the deadline.

Have a clear structure and flow: The IB loves structure! Make sure each sub-section is clear and ask your supervisor to make sure that others easily understand your draft.

I, along with the rest of the IBlieve team, sincerely wish you the best for your Extended Essay! Visit this website for the full IB guide on the EE! Good luck 🙂

You may also like…

  • Bryan’s guide on how to choose an EE topic is here
  • Bianca’s guide on how she chose her EE topic English Literature and Language is here
  • Nikki describes how she approached her EE here


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