Mistakes to Avoid in IBDP Extended Essay


International Baccalaureate Diploma Program (IB DP) is one of the four programs offered by the International Baccalaureate Organization or simply IB. The DP program, designed to prepare students in the age group 16-19 years for success at university and life beyond, is a rigorous, academically challenging, and balanced program of education.

The program aims to encourage students to be knowledgeable, inquiring, caring and compassionate and develop intercultural understanding, open-mindedness, and attitudes necessary to respect and evaluate a range of viewpoints.

To earn the diploma, students must successfully complete six courses one each from the six different academic groups –Studies in Language and Literature, Language Acquisition, Individuals and Societies, Sciences, Mathematics, and Arts.

Further, the students have the option to replace the Arts course with a second course from any of the other five groups. Further for each subject – two levels are offered – SL (Standard Level) and HL (Higher Level). So, the students are allowed to take at least three subjects and not more than four from the HL and to remain from the SL.

Also, alongside the above subjects, the students need to complete the three core elements of the DP course – Theory of Knowledge (TOK), Extended Essay (EE), and Creativity, Activity, and Service.

The Extended Essay is one of the components of the three core elements of the DP course. It is a compulsory externally assessed task of independent research on a topic chosen by the student and presented as a 4000-word essay – as the name suggests over an extended period of time. Students are guided through the process of this research and writing by a supervisor, usually a teacher at the student’s school. The student takes three mandatory reflection sessions with his supervisor and the last one is more of an interview called the viva voce, following the completion of the EE.


Extended Essay Process

The process happens in various stages,


Research Process

  • Choose the approved DP subject
  • Choose the topic
  • Read some preparatory resources
  • Formulate a well-focused research question
  • Plan the research and writing process
  • Plan a structure (may change as the essay progresses)
  • Carry out the research


Writing and Formal Presentation Process

Required elements of the final work to be submitted as follows,

  • Title page
  • Contents page
  • Introduction
  • Body of the essay
  • Conclusion
  • References and bibliography

The essay should be maximum of 4000 words – includes the introduction, body, conclusion, and any quotations used.


Reflection Process

As a part of the supervision process, the student needs to take three mandatory reflection sessions with his supervisor. These sessions form part of the formal assessment of the EE and the research process. The final reflection session is called the viva voce, basically a small interview for about 10-15 minutes.

There are so many criteria for writing an excellent EE, but there are mistakes that need to be avoided while writing the EE. Let us explore them.


Failing to Understand the Main Elements of the EE to be Submitted

This is an academic essay and not either a narrative or a descriptive essay. You need to be very clear in understanding the above ambiguous terms before writing the essay. An understanding of the elements mentioned above will ensure that you score well on the EE task. The EE is woven around your point of view – the hypothesis. And the entire point of the essay is to either prove or disprove your hypothesis.

There are six required elements of the final work to be submitted.


Title Page

It should include only the following information,

  • Title of the essay
  • Research question
  • Subject for which the essay is registered
  • Word count

The name of the student nor the name of the school should be included in the title page or any other page.

The title of your essay should be a clear, focused, summative statement of your research. It should not be phrased as a research question.

Let us Consider an Example


Negative externalities of consumption: Australian policy on cigarette packaging

Research question

How effective has the Australian policy of plain cigarette packaging been in reducing the negative externalities associated with the consumption of cigarettes in X?


Contents Page

All the pages are to be numbered and the contents page should be put at the beginning of the EE. The index page is not required and even if included will be treated as not present.



The introduction should make clear to the reader the focus of the essay, the scope of the research, and an insight into the line of argument to be taken. While it is needed that the student should have a sense of direction, it is sometimes advisable to finalize the introduction once the body section is completed.


Body of the Essay

The body of the essay should be presented as a reasoned argument, a form of which varies with the subject chosen for the essay topic. As the argument develops, it should be clear to the reader what relevant evidence has been discovered, where/how it has been discovered, and how it supports the argument.

Any information important to the argument should not be included in the footage/appendices as the examiner will not read the notes/appendices.



While the student may draw any conclusions related to the findings, it is important that there is a final summative conclusion at the end, aligning with the research question posed.


References and Bibliography

Student needs to choose his style of academic referencing as soon as he starts writing, enabling him to remember to include every citation.


Word Count

The elements that are included in the word count are,

  • Introduction
  • Main Body
  • Conclusion
  • Quotations
  • Footnotes and/or endnotes

All other elements do not fall under the count.


Procrastinating and Not Following the Schedule for the Essay Writing

Some students procrastinate their essay writing waiting for some motivation or inspiration, which will not happen. They should start writing early and prepare a draft with their respective supervisors. After editing it, they can get it reviewed again. Make a necessary number of checks and edits till you are satisfied with the result.


Failing to Reference All the Sources Properly

Citation is an important task of the EE task and should be done right from the moment you start your essay writing. As an IB student, he should take the responsibility to acknowledge all the sources he uses in every work he submits. And the acknowledgment should be done precisely and accurately, Apart from acknowledging, the referencing enables the showcasing of the student’s insights in breadth and depth. Also, the student should use one style of referencing consistently.


Using Weak Evidence/Examples in the Essay

Evidence/examples lend creditability to what the student has claimed in his essay. Without evidence, he would appear uninformed, and thus his argument weak. Thus, the essay would be unsubstantiated. Hence the students should be careful enough to choose strong, relevant examples/evidence for making their claim.


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What is the IBDP Extended Essay?

The IBDP Extended Essay is a research-based essay that is a core component of the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program (IBDP). It is a 4,000-word essay on a subject of the student’s choice within one of the IBDP subject areas.

Is it necessary to include a thesis statement in the IBDP Extended Essay?

Yes, it is necessary to include a thesis statement in the IBDP Extended Essay. The thesis statement should provide a clear and concise statement of the research question and the main argument or conclusion that the essay will explore.

What are some effective ways to plan and organize the IBDP Extended Essay?

Effective ways to plan and organize the IBDP Extended Essay include identifying a clear research question and thesis statement, conducting thorough research, outlining the essay structure, creating a timeline for completing an essay, and breaking the writing process into smaller, manageable tasks. It is also important to seek feedback from a supervisor or qualified tutor throughout the writing process.

How can I use academic language appropriately in the IBDP Extended Essay?

Using academic language appropriately in the IBDP Extended Essay involves using specialized terminology and following conventions for formatting, citation, and referencing. It is important to use precise and concise language to convey ideas clearly and logically. Additionally, avoiding colloquial language and slang is important to maintain a professional tone.

What are common mistakes to avoid when writing the IBDP Extended Essay?

Common mistakes to avoid include choosing a topic that is too broad or too narrow, failing to plan and organize the essay effectively, not following proper citation and referencing guidelines, not using an appropriate academic writing style, and not analyzing and evaluating research effectively.

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