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What is the Extended Essay?

Alexis Kuo ’24
IB Diploma candidates have a lot to look forward to in the coming months. Next term, starting in May, Grade 11 full IB Diploma students will begin working on their Extended Essay, a 4000-word paper that will be completed in mid-October of their Grade 12 year.
The Extended Essay is a chance for students to study in depth a topic related to one of their IB Diploma courses, such as Chemistry, Global Politics or English. Students have the choice to either focus on one course or they can pursue a “World Studies” option, where students link issues of global significance to two of their courses in an interdisciplinary study.

The Extended Essay is a culmination of all the essay writing, research, analysis and time-management skills that students have practised in the Middle Years and Diploma Programmes.

To help Grade 11 students become more familiar with the essay, we asked current Grade 12 IB Diploma students, who have completed the Extended Essay, for their advice.

Jason Ye’s Extended Essay was on comparing the price of EpiPens between the US and Canada and looking at ways to reduce prices. Jason highlights an important component of the essay: the word count. A common trait of GNS students is they like to write in-depth and in detail—this is an important skill that the curriculum hopes to help students develop. However, it does present some challenges with things like word count. Condensing and writing concisely is a skill that needs to develop hand in hand with writing in-depth, and the Extended Essay really helps students develop a balance between detail and being concise.

Joanne Bae chose to pursue how characters Sam and Frodo from The Lord of the Rings “are able to dodge the male gaze by transgressing traditional masculinity.” Joanne notes, however, that research was still a huge part of the process.

“I wish I had known how much research would go into the essay because it didn't seem like the topic was that research-intensive at first,” Joanne said. “But a large percentage of my essay ended up being researched information.”

In the end, though, the hardest part for Joanne wasn’t the research but the time management.

“The deadlines are pretty inflexible,” she added. 

Jacques Jolivet shared the same sentiment about time management being important.

“The hardest part for me was dealing with procrastination and the issues that come with it,” he said.
The Extended Essay is a chance for students to pursue a topic that they are passionate about and Jacques wrote about his passion by studying the relationship between public perception and government policy in terms of environmental issues. 

Tallulah Tam wrote a World Studies essay focusing on environmental sustainability that combined her Chemistry and Environmental Studies and Societies courses. Her question, “How and in what ways have the improper chemical practices in the storage and production of ammonium nitrate as seen in the 2020 Beirut, Lebanon, and the 2015 Tianjin, China ammonium nitrate explosions impacted their surrounding ecosystems?”, led her to discover information that made her curious to learn more. Tallulah advises students on the importance of asking for help and using the support network of teachers supervisors, and classmates that are available.

Even though the Grade 12 IB Diploma candidates have finished their Extended Essays, the skills and knowledge that they have refined in the process of writing the essay will continue to impact their future, as the process provides preparation for undergraduate research, refines communication, and really helps students hone their analysis, synthesis and critical thinking skills.

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We wish to acknowledge and respect the Lekwungen-Speaking Peoples on whose traditional territory we stand, and the Songhees, Esquimalt and Wsáneć Peoples whose historical relationships with the land, where we live, work, play and learn, continue to this day.