How Long Is An IB Extended Essay? Let’s Find Out

October 28, 2023

how long is an extended essay

Your IB Extended Essay should be 4,000 words long as the upper limit. Because it's an independent, self-directed, and mandatory piece of research with a rigid structure, the essay you write shouldn’t exceed this limit.

Key Takeaways 

  • Your essay should demonstrate a higher level of confidence, engagement, and critical thinking.
  • The essay should also show a high level of curiosity and the ability to think and solve complex problems. 
  • In addition to the Extended Essay, you will work on IAs, ToK, and a CAS project.

So you need professional writing to  complete your EE from start to finish? You can hire Help for Assessment because our writing service is legit and we guarantee the best results. 

What’s the Typical Length of an Extended Essay?

An extended essay should not be more than 4,000 words long. IB advises instructors never to read any more words past the set limit.

And exceeding the 4,000-word mark can actually get you penalized.

Your first draft can be as long as 6,000 words or maybe even more. When working on your final copy, you’ll often find yourself deleting some sections of your paper to maintain relevance and clarity.

And as you do that, you have to keep in mind that your work should be 4,000 words long.

To be abundantly clear, IB hasn’t set an actual minimum word count for the project yet, but that’s not an excuse to make your work shorter.

We suggest aiming for at least 3,000 or 3,500 words, as that gives you more room to fully investigate your topic and present your findings.

What Should I Write in an Extended Essay?

Your EE can be about anything provided it’s within the limits of the approved categories of subjects.

Ideally, your IB instructor and supervisor expects to see an essay on any of the six subjects, which are Biology, Chemistry, English , Geography, Math, and Visual Arts.

Our guide on choosing EE topics makes it easier for students to determine what topics to explore within these limits.

The guide also includes links to example topics. So check it out if you need more insights and help in identifying a suitable topic to explore.

Given that you have the freedom to choose any topic provided it matches one of the six subjects, it shouldn’t be difficult to work on your EE from start to finish.

Some Tips to Make Your Extended Essay Great

While the IB program gives you the freedom to write on any topic that falls within the scope of the accepted subjects, it’s important to understand that there are mistakes they don’t expect you to make.

You want to score top grades for your EE, no question about that. To do so, you need to make sure you adhere to the following rules:

1. Never Plagiarize Any Part of Your EE 

There’s nothing worse in IB than plagiarized piece of work. To IB teachers, plagiarism is an indication that you didn’t take your work seriously and therefore failed to invest time to do original research.

Taking a piece of written work in bulk and using it as your own without citing or quoting the author is wrong and can easily have you penalized.

Really the best way to avoid plagiarism is to avoid falling for the assumption that you can easily get away with it.

You have to invest your time and effort to research, outline, organize, and put down your ideas in a way that demonstrate absolute commitment to the assignment.

There are times when you can’t avoid but to include some texts in your work exactly as they are.

In this case, make sure you cite or quote the author as a clear indication that you found the source helpful and good fit for your extended essay.

2. Start Your EE Early 

Procrastination is a big problem for many IB students. Unfortunately, it’s the reason why many students fail to score a 34 in an EE.

Remember, the EE is a long-term project that goes beyond just writing down the words to hit the target limit.

From research and outlining to writing and holding reflection sessions, you need more than just a couple of weeks to complete the project. 

So you should start as early as you can. Even if you feel like your topic is easy to explore, consider getting started months before the first or second reflection session so you can stay on track.

3. Hold All the Three Meetings with Your Supervisor

Your supervisor will be an important support system throughout the EE period. So you shouldn’t hesitate to ask for help if you feel stuck or unsure about something.

Understand that the reflection process counts towards the final marks of your EE. Therefore, it’s important that you attend all the three meetings with your supervisor.

Confusions might arise somewhere along the way as you work on your extended essay, and that’s okay.

The best thing to do in such a case is to ask your teacher for help as soon as you can.


As you can see, an extended essay has a maximum word count that your paper simply can’t exceed. Keep in mind that 4,000 words is the set limit, not where you should get to.

That means it’s fine if your essay is less than 4,000 words, but you should try to make it 3,000 or 3,500 words for more clarity at least.

That way, your teacher will have an easy time reading and understanding your EE subject and then award you the best marks possible. 

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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