Extended Essay Guide 2009

Supervision of the Extended Essay

It is the school's responsibility to ensure that each student submitting an extended essay is supervised by a teacher at the school where the student is registered for Diploma Programme examinations. The teacher must have appropriate qualifications and/or experience in the subject chosen by the student, and must be familiar with the Diploma Programme.The teacher who is supervising a students work on his or her extended essay, known as "the supervisor", must not be related to the student.

It is required that the supervisor:

  • provides the student with advice and guidance in the skills of undertaking research
  • encourages and supports the student throughout the research and writing of the extended essay
  • discusses the choice of topic with the student and, in particular, helps to formulate a well-focused research question
  • ensures that the chosen research question satisfies appropriate legal and ethical standards with regard to health and safety, confidentiality, human rights, animal welfare and environmental issues
  • is familiar with the regulations governing the extended essay and the assessment criteria, and gives copies of these to the student
  • reads and comments on the first draft only of the extended essay (but does not edit the draft)
  • monitors the progress of the extended essay to offer guidance and to ensure that the essay is the student's own work; and reads the final version to confirm its authenticity
  • submits a predicted grade for the student's extended essay to IBCA
  • completes the supervisor's report (if the extended essay cover is not signed by both the student and the supervisor, the essay will not be accepted for assessment and may be returned to the school)
  • provides an explanation in the report in cases where the number of hours spent with the student in discussing the extended essay is zero; in particular, it is necessary to describe how it has been possible to guarantee the authenticity of the essay in such circumstances
  • writes a report and presents it to the school's Diploma Programme coordinator if malpractice, such as plagiarism, is suspected in the final draft.

It is strongly recommended that the supervisor:

  • reads recent extended essay reports for the subject
  • spends between three and five hours with each student, including the time spent on the viva voce (see below)
  • ensures that the chosen research question is appropriate for the subject
  • advises students on:
    • access to appropriate resources (such as people, a library, a laboratory)
    • techniques of information-/evidence-/data-gathering and analysis
    • writing an abstract
    • documenting sources
  • conducts a short, concluding interview (viva voce) with the student before completing the supervisor's report.

The student may work with or consult external sources, but it remains the responsibility of the supervisor within the school to complete all the requirements described above.


The viva voce (concluding interview)

The viva voce is a short interview between the student and the supervisor, and is a recommended conclusion to the extended essay process. Students who do not attend the vivo voce may be disadvantaged.

The viva voce serves the following purposes.

  • A check on plagiarism and malpractice in general
  • An opportunity to reflect on successes and difficulties in the research process An opportunity to reflect on what has been learned
  • An aid to the supervisor's report

The viva voce should last between 10 and 15 minutes. This is included in the recommended amount of time the supervisor should spend with the student. The following are examples of questions that can be asked, which should be adapted to the particular essay and student.

"I am not clear what you mean on page XXX. You quote Y: could you explain a little more about what this tells us?"

  • "On page *** you cite Z. I couldn't find this reference (for example, web site). Could you tell me more about it?"
  • "What have been the high and low points of the research and writing processes?"
  • "What were the most interesting aspects of the process? Did you discover anything that surprised you?"
  • "What have you learned through writing this essay? Is there any advice you would want to pass on to someone just starting out on an extended essay?"
  • "Is there anything else that you would particularly like me to mention in my report?"


In conducting the viva voce and writing the report, supervisors should bear in mind the following.

  • Examiners want to know that students understand any material (which must be properly referenced) that they have included in their essays. This is particularly important in subjects like mathematics. If the way the material is used in context in the essay does not clearly establish this, the supervisor can check the student's understanding in the viva voce and report on it.
  • Minor slips in citation and referencing may lose the odd mark. If there appear to be major shortcomings, the supervisor should investigate thoroughly. No essay should be authenticated if the supervisor believes it contains plagiarism.
  • In assessing criterion K (holistic judgment), examiners will take into account any information given in the report about unusual intellectual inventiveness or persistence in the face of unexpected difficulties.
  • The report should not attempt to do the examiner's job. It should refer to things, largely process-related, that may not be obvious in the essay itself.
  • Unless there are particular problems, the viva voce should end positively. Completion of a major piece of work such as the extended essay is something for students to feel good about.



International Baccalaureate Organization. (2007). Responsibilities of the supervisor. In IBO Extended essay guide, First examinations 2009, (pp. 8-9). New York: International Baccalaureate Organization.


International Baccalaureate Organization. (2007). The viva voce. In IBO Extended essay guide, First examinations 2009, (pp. 20-21). New York: International Baccalaureate Organization.


The extended essay (EE) is a mandatory core component of the IB Diploma Programme. It is a research paper of up to 4000 words, giving students an opportunity to conduct independent research or investigation on a topic that interests them. Like the theory of knowledge (TOK) essay, TOK presentation, and participation in creativity, action, service activities, submitting an extended essay is a prerequisite for the award of the Diploma.

Recommended subjects[edit]

It is mandatory that the extended essay be taken from the field of one of the IB subjects being studied (e.g. the essay may be about a book that has not been studied as part of IB English).[1] However, the topic must not be too broad or too narrow as to make it difficult to write 4,000 words, and the general subject must be taught under the IB diploma program by one of the members of staff at the high school (so that there is someone with expertise able to help). The subject (not topic) on which the extended essay is written is recommended to be one that the candidate has formally studied, but this is not required. Also, the EE may not be written across different subjects – it must concentrate on one subject only, unless the student is writing under the World Studies topic. However, some subjects include several disciplines, with an emphasis towards one. An example is the subject Societies, which can include chemistry, biology, psychology, etc. generally with an emphasis toward one discipline.


The supervisor provides the student with assistance in putting together their EE, including guiding them in finding a suitable research question and on how to acquire the necessary resources to complete the research (such as a specific resource material–often hard-to-find documents or books–or laboratory equipment). The supervisor may suggest improvements to a version of the EE, but must not be engaged in writing it. The IBO recommends that the supervisor spend approximately two to three hours in total with the candidate discussing the EE.


Extended essays are marked by individuals named external assessors (examiners appointed by the IB) on a scale of 0 to 36. There are "general" and "subject-specific" criteria, at a ratio of 2:1 (24 possible marks for the general criteria and 12 marks for the subject-specific one). The total mark is converted into a grade from A to E. A similar system is used for theory of knowledge and students can gain up to 3 points for the diploma based on the grades achieved for EE and TOK. A scores of E on either the extended essay or TOK essay revoked the eligibility of receiving the IB Diploma (EE Subject Guide p15).[2]

Theory of Knowledge
Extended Essay
A3321Failing Condition
E or NFailing Condition
Source: The diploma points matrix. May 2015 onwards[3]


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