What is an Extended Essay? Requirements, Subjects, Reflections

July 18, 2023

extended essay

What is an Extended Essay? What does it require? Is it a mandatory assignment?

Clearly, we expect many questions to run in your mind if you’re just getting started with the IB diploma program – and especially the EE.

So in this post, we tell you everything you need to know about the Extended Essay. In short, if you’re looking for a comprehensive, detailed guide to IB Extended Essay, you’ve to the right place.

Key Takeaways

  • The Extended Essay, abbreviated as EE, is an individual project that requires self-directed research.
  • In an EE, you choose a topic, develop a research question, conduct independent research, and then write a report of your finding.
  • You’ll write an EE alongside other IB assignments, which are Internal Assessments at Standard and Higher Levels, and Theory of Knowledge essay and exhibition.

What is an Extended Essay?

The Extended Essay is an essential element of the IB diploma. We can define it as the individual assignment that gives you an opportunity to delve into a subject that captivates your interest.

As an obligatory requirement for all IB students, the Extended Essay necessitates a demonstration of your expertise in the chosen field beyond what you’ve learned in the classroom.

Keep in mind that your first year in the IB program is often the ideal time to start working on your Extended Essay.

Throughout this period, you will collaborate with a supervisor who will not only assist you in organizing your essay but also offer invaluable guidance during the writing process.

What Does The Extended Essay Require?

The IB Extended Essay requires that you do the following:

  • Choose a subject from one of the six categories in the Diploma Program.
  • Formulate a focused and concise research question that relates to the chosen subject.
  • Engage in independent research on the topic.
  • Present your findings in a well-structured essay of approximately 4,000 words.

Considering that the Extended Essay is a formal piece of writing, it is important to adhere to the following additional guidelines throughout the writing process:

  • Conduct research beyond classroom materials and include proper citations for your sources.
  • You should submit your initial draft to your supervisor for review and feedback.
  • Subsequently, you will revise and refine your work, culminating in the second draft, which will serve as the final version of your Extended Essay.

On What Subjects Can You Write an Extended Essay?

The Extended Essay allows for a broad range of topics, providing you with the freedom to choose an area of investigation that aligns with your interests and the assignment's requirements.

However, it is important to note that your chosen topic must fall within one of the six subject groups approved by the IB. These subjects include:

With such a diverse selection of subjects, you have the flexibility to decide on a topic that captivates your curiosity and focus your research on what you find most engaging.

What Does Reflection Cover?

The EE reflections hold significant importance and are a compulsory component of the Extended Essay process. They also contribute significantly to the assessment of your essay.

Referred to as "meetings," these reflection sessions provide you with valuable opportunities to connect with your supervisor and engage in discussions concerning your essay.

You will need to plan and attend three meetings, each serving to stimulate new perspectives and enhance your involvement in the research process.

These meetings aim to broaden your thinking and foster deeper engagement with your chosen topic.

Important EE Guidelines for IB Students

Here are some valuable tips that can help you to research and write an outstanding IB Extended Essay on any topic:

1. Decide What You Enjoy Writing

Writing a comprehensive EE is impossible if you are not passionate about or intrigued by a topic.

Remember that you have the freedom to select a subject and topic that pique your interest well in advance. So take time to evaluate your options and choose a topic that you feel comfortable exploring.

A helpful approach is to examine the six subgroups and select a category that aligns with your area of interest.

Generate a list of potential topics within that category, taking note of the most captivating ones and those that may be less interesting. Then, choose one of the most intriguing topics from your list and delve deeper into it.

2. Be Specific

Avoid the pitfall of selecting either an overly broad topic or an excessively narrow subject, as this can lead to difficulties in completing the work.

What purpose does it serve to write an IB History EE on World War II when 4,000 words are insufficient to cover all the intricate details of the event?

Clearly, such a topic would require a book of at least 700 pages to explore, making it too broad for an IB EE.

To impress your IB supervisor and score a 34, choose a specific topic.

Being specific allows you to explore your subject and gather ample ideas that not only fit within the expected word count but also address the research question without omitting crucial information.

3. Engage the Right Supervisor for Reflection

Having the right advisor to consult whenever questions arise can alleviate the frustrations of writing an IB Extended Essay.

Instead of selecting your favorite teacher as your advisor, choose a teacher who is well versed in the subject you wish to investigate.

Engaging in reflection sessions with such a supervisor ensures that you get relevant feedback on the progress of your EE and valuable insights for your first, second, and final draft.

For example, if you decide to work on an IB English EE, consider collaborating with an English teacher throughout the process, even if you don’t interact with them often at school. 

4. Start Early

One common misconception is that an IB Extended Essay is an assignment that you can write in the last minute.

However, the reality is that extensive research, reading, reflection sessions with your supervisor, drafting, and finalizing your work require a significant amount of time.

Therefore, attempting to complete all these tasks within a short period is unlikely to result in a high-quality essay.

For the best results, even in complex subjects such as Chemistry and Mathematics, it is crucial to start early so that you have ample time to start and complete the first, the second, and the final draft on time.


You’ll have at most 10 months to work on your Extended Essay, with 40 hours of pure writing spread out between the first and last month.

Given the timeframe you have to work on the assignment, it’s highly unlikely you’ll fail the essay.

Moreover, online help is only a click away should you ever need assistance to get the work done smoothly. All you have to do is to contact our team and we’ll be happy to help.

About the author 

Antony W is a professional writer and coach at Help for Assessment. He spends countless hours every day researching and writing great content filled with expert advice on how to write engaging essays, research papers, and assignments.

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