Extended Essay: Choice of topic, student support & assessments

Shubhdarshani
Dec 23, 2022
Secondary school

In continuation to the two-part Q&A series on Extended Essay (EE), one of the three core components of the IB Diploma Programme (IBDP), with Ms. Deepa Chandrasekaran, GIIS IBDP Coordinator.

Q1. For Extended Essay, how does the assessment work?

Unlike other subjects, Extended Essay is not calendared in the class timetable. For EE, the supervisor is not supposed to have more than four hours of dedicated formal sitting per student. The research is completed by the student under the guidance of the supervisor.

‘EE grades contribute to the total of 45 grade points’

The EE, done in school under the guidance of the supervisor, is submitted online to the IB along with the RPP (Reflections on Planning and Progress) form. It is externally marked, and the grades contribute to the total of 45 grade points. 

The core competence of Theory of Knowledge and Extended Essay together contribute a maximum of 3 grade points. All EEs are assessed by external examiners on a scale of 0 to 34, which correspond to the band as:

● A – excellent

● B – good

● C – satisfactory

● D – mediocre

● E – elementary

As supervisors, we can give our students hints and nudge them to improve upon their findings and probable solutions. Ultimately, the role of the supervisor involves:

● ensuring that the research question is feasible and appropriate

● guiding the student to answer the research question

● insisting on the student working on the various criteria

● presentation protocol is followed by the student

Q2. How does GIIS support students through resources and teacher guidance?

EE workshops: The IB conducts Extended Essay workshops for supervisors throughout the year. EE workshops are a bundle of exercises and activities for supervisors where they are put into different situations, and the workshop leaders try to elicit different responses from them. As IB teachers who already know the EE requirements, these workshops help them sharpen their skills as a supervisor. 

Also read: 5 reasons why IBDP is respected by world's leading universities

Shared online repository: Apart from that, we also have a shared online repository of IB resources, accessible to all supervisors. Our faculty is encouraged to use the resources widely. Through resource sharing and collaboration, our supervisors provide expert guidance to our students.

Exemplar essay collection: We also have a collection of exemplar EE essays in our secondary school library, which the students can borrow and read, under the strict check of our librarian, during the self study period. These have been collated subject wise and help students widen their topic ideas. 

GIIS alumni connect: Also, during our September briefing, GIIS invites our school graduates who make presentations for the current batches on various key aspects of the EE such as the MLA8 formatting required for EE. We believe this support gives our students a good head start.

Q3. What are some of the ways Extended Essay learnings prepare students for the real world?

When a student is going through the journey of writing the EE, it definitely starts with honing the thinking skills as you need to think, analyse, see where your passion lies before you grab a topic. 

Then comes the self-management skills. At GIIS, we ask our students to:

Write a diary: It’s because EE is not a subject timetabled in school, so you are your own teacher. Mention details such as - on this date, I researched on these topics, I visited these websites, I contemplated on these issues, and I finally decided to go ahead with this particular topic.

Research thoroughly: Related to the EE topic, start searching for books, blogs, articles, journals, social media links, etc. 

Hold discussions with your supervisor: Discuss your findings, ideas on the topic with your supervisor. Both formal and informal discussion should go into the diary. Once that gets into place, you will be able to manage your research process well.

Another key learning is the communication skill  –  how you communicate, convince and catch the attention of your supervisor through your ideas. The approaches to communication that a student takes through emails, interviews, face-to-face meetings with resources to get primary information also hone their skills.

Q4. What would be three key things to remember when selecting an EE topic?

1. Definitely, the most important thing is passion. 

2. Second is subject knowledge. 

3. Third is to see whether the topic is feasible and can be written in 4,000 words.  Choose a topic which has global relevance.

Additionally, discuss, dissect, debate the topic over the dinner table with your parents; get their inputs; go into heated discussions to see where the topic stands.

Extended Essay examples and approaches

‘EE on plight of Rohingya Muslims’

One of our students wrote her EE on the plight of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. It was done through the lens of two subjects - History and Global Politics. The student analysed how the historical background of the Rohingyas in Myanmar and the current global political system have resulted in impacting their existence and identity today. 

She approached an NUS professor, who had travelled to Myanmar while researching on this topic, for his insights. Therefore, getting firsthand information, which she incorporated in the essay, while giving full credit to the professor. Her thorough study was really an eye opener.

‘Oil spill impact on Mauritius’s blue economy’ 

Another of my students came across a very disturbing article about the oil spill in Mauritius and how it affected the blue economy of Mauritius. He realised it was a global issue, which needs to be arrested going forward. 

Oil Spill is related to what happens when oil mixes with the ocean water, which is Chemistry, and the impact on the blue economy is Economics. So the student realised that he can do an interdisciplinary EE by using concepts theory tools from both Chemistry and Economics. 

He called up NGOs, sent emails, started connecting with those concerned and found out what were the problems faced by NGOs in removing the oil spill. For instance, they use chemicals to coagulate the oil and then take out things, and that area has a lot of marine life, and also birds. So then he found out about the environmental impact too.

The student did a deep research on what had happened in Mauritius by being in Singapore. And then related it to what could go wrong if something like this happens in other parts of the world, while trying to find solutions as to how to avoid such things in the future. 

At GIIS, apart from subject specific Extended Essay, our children are largely taking up world studies, which they really enjoy working on as it is something that is topical and contemporary. GIIS students have produced more than 150 World Studies Extended Essays till date. 

If you are keen to know more about IBDP at GIIS, please feel free to contact our friendly admissions counsellors today.

*Information shared under some sections of this blog is as mentioned in the IB Extended Essay subject brief.

Shubhdarshani Mitra

Shubhdarshani has over 10 years of experience in content creation, curation and editing. She has worked for Indian newspapers, school magazines and international news websites where she worked closely with the leadership on the execution and communication of the content strategy. Aside from work, she’s a passionate B&W photographer and storyteller.

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