The Extended Essay is a great opportunity for pupils to develop research and writing skills and many universities, when asked to comment on the value of the IB, mention the Extended Essay as a key strength of the Diploma Programme. Pupils often choose a research topic in the subject they wish to study at degree level, which can enhance a UCAS application and equip pupils for future success.
The EE is an in-depth study of a topic from one of the six IB subjects that a pupil is studying, or a world studies topic, which takes an interdisciplinary approach to a topic of global significance. As a 4,000-word, primarily research-based essay with academic honesty at the forefront, pupils learn how to find sources, cite them and extract the necessary information to answer their research question. Not only does the EE, alongside Theory of Knowledge, count towards the overall mark of the Diploma, it is also excellent preparation for higher education.
The process at Bryanston
Work on the essay runs in parallel to studying the six academic group subjects, starting in the February of A3 (year 12) with an introduction to the requirements, deadlines and assessment of the EE. Pupils start exploring their various ideas of which subject and, in turn, which topics they would like to study in depth. The topic should be one that really fascinates them and which they would like to explore further. Once pupils have decided which subject area they want to concentrate on, they are assigned a supervisor, in consultation with the relevant Head of Department, who supports and guides them through the whole process. However, pupils take responsibility for their time management and progress and, in collaboration with their supervisor, work towards meeting a series of internal deadlines for the different stages of the EE.
From February until the end of the summer term, pupils carry out their literature research independently, which allows them to devise and refine their research question so that it is focused and can be answered within the word count. Over the summer term pupils can attend weekly one-hour workshops, during which they can work on their EE with the support of the EE Co-ordinator and the Librarian. These sessions are popular with pupils and well attended, as pupils are able to have their questions or queries answered immediately. Towards the end of the summer term of the lower sixth, all IB pupils attend a morning EE workshop, during which they give a five to ten-minute overview of their topic, research question and literature review so far. This is an opportunity for pupils to discover the varied topics being investigated and to ask questions of each other. It can also help with cementing their thoughts or, conversely, offer new directions and/or ideas.
Pupils write the first draft of their EE over the summer break. This is an important part of the process, as their supervisor is only able to comment in detail on this one occasion. The supervisor’s feedback provides direction for pupils as to how their EE can be amended to gain the best possible mark. Further discussions can take place during this period in preparation for the final EE to be submitted on 25 October in preparation for the viva voce (final interview) that completes the process in mid November.