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Extended Essay: General Advice

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Extended Essay: General Advice

The truth is, there is not one single way to do the Extended Essay, but there are some general things you could do to create the best paper you can.

IB Diploma candidates have a lot on their plate. Apart from the rigorous study programme, they will also have to complete a 4,000 word research paper, the Extended Essay. It is an independent project where students have their advisers as their only official source of help, so it is normal to be unsure of how to craft the perfect Extended Essay. The truth is, there is not one single way to do it, but there are some general things you could do to create the best paper you can.

The rubric

The most important thing is to understand what examiners want from you. Reading and understanding the grading criteria will be crucial for you to understand what you need to show and include in your 4,000 words. Your school should provide you with a copy.

Exemplar essays

If you can, try to read through a couple of A-grade Extended Essays. You should pay attention to the content of these; how they analysed their evidence, how they structured the essay… But don’t copy from them. Reading exemplar essays is about giving you an idea of what you have to do, not about letting you plagiarise someone else’s work. There is not one way to make a good Extended Essay, so do not be afraid of being original and implementing your own ideas.


Your research is the most important part of your essay, as the strength of your evidence will affect the quality of your arguments and analysis. Make sure you start early so you have time to research properly. Choosing a topic you are interested in is particularly important here, as you will have to spend long hours reading about it. There is no quick way to carry out your research;  you may skim read and skip sources at the expense of missing out on very important information for your essay.

Be careful of the data you choose from your research; some facts may be misleading.

Outlines and drafts

Your essay structure is extremely important, so you have to get it perfect. The only way to do this is to outline your essay carefully before you start. Otherwise, your essay will be all over the place. Moreover, you will need to write several drafts – at least two is recommended. Your first draft may look great, but read it over a couple of days later and you will find there is room for improvement. Doing a few drafts will ensure your essay is as good as you can make it.

Word count

Be very careful with your word count, as you cannot go over the limit. Ideally, you should try to get as close to 4,000 words as possible because it will allow you to write a more in-depth essay. At the same time, do not try to force getting to the limit. Remember, it is quality over quantity, so if you think your essay says it all at 3,800 words, do not try to stick 200 words just to fill in. Make sure you check what is included in the word count and what is not, as you do not want to be penalised for accidentally going over the limit.


The worst thing that could happen to you is to fail your Extended Essay because of unintentional plagiarism. You do not want all your hard work to go to waste like that, so make sure that you cite and reference everything you take from another source. Even if you are paraphrasing or taking a general idea, make sure you reference your source in text and in your bibliography. Also, do not leave your references until you finish writing your essay. Do them as you write your body so that you save time later on and so that you do not forget to cite anything.

Although challenging, your Extended Essay will hopefully be an interesting experience too. Make sure you start your essay in advance, so if you encounter any problems you will have time to overcome them and produce a great research paper.

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Further Reading

IB Official Extended Essay Guide:

IB Mastery – How to Make Your Good Extended Essay Great:

Citations Checklist:

Featured EIB resources
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Timothy Hoffmann