Core (compulsory) Studies

Modified May 29, 2024
13 min
Modified May 29, 2024

Extended Essay



Course Description

The Nature of the Extended Essay

In the Diploma Programme, the Extended Essay is the prime example of a piece of work where the student has the opportunity to show knowledge, understanding and enthusiasm about a topic of his or her choice. The Extended Essay is an in-depth study of a focused topic chosen from the list of approved Diploma Programme subjects—normally one of the student’s six chosen subjects for the IB Diploma. It is intended to promote high-level research and writing skills, intellectual discovery and creativity. It provides students with an opportunity to engage in personal research in a topic of their own choice, under the guidance of a supervisor (usually a teacher in the School). This leads to a major piece of formally presented, structured writing, in which ideas and findings are communicated in a reasoned and coherent manner, appropriate to the subject chosen. It is recommended that completion of the written essay is followed by a short, concluding interview, or viva voce, with the supervisor. The Extended Essay is assessed against common criteria, interpreted in ways appropriate to each subject. The Extended Essay which is compulsory for all Diploma Programme students is externally assessed and, in combination with the grade for Theory of Knowledge, contributes up to three points to the total score for the IB Diploma.

The Choice of Topic

The topic of the Extended Essay is the particular area of study within the chosen subject. In choosing a subject, an essential consideration is the personal interest of the candidate. Before a final decision is made about the choice of topic the relevant subject guidelines should be carefully considered. Candidates should aim to choose a topic which is both interesting and challenging to them. The topic chosen should be limited in scope and sufficiently narrow to allow candidates to collect or generate information and/or data for analysis and evaluation. Candidates are not expected to make a contribution to knowledge within a subject. A broad topic is unlikely to result in a successful Extended Essay. A topic which requires no personal research and/or requires an essentially narrative or descriptive approach is not suitable for an Extended Essay. Similarly, although a reliance on secondary sources is sometimes necessary, an Extended Essay which only provides a summary of such sources will not be successful. Writing a precis of a well-documented topic is unlikely to result in a successful Extended Essay.

The IB Learner Profile

The learning involved in researching and writing the Extended Essay is closely aligned with the development of many of the characteristics described in the IB learner profile. Students are, to a large extent, responsible for their own independent learning, through which they acquire and communicate in-depth knowledge and understanding. The research process necessarily involves intellectual risk-taking and extensive reflection; open-mindedness, balance and fairness are key prerequisites for a good Extended Essay.

Relationship To Theory Of Knowledge

Whichever subject is chosen, the Extended Essay shares with the Theory of Knowledge (TOK) course a concern with interpreting and evaluating evidence, and constructing reasoned arguments. Where the two differ is in the emphasis placed on the research process and its formal outcomes. 

The Research Question

When an appropriate topic has been chosen, candidates should narrow the focus of the investigation and formulate a specific research question. For many Extended Essays this will be phrased in the form of a question, but alternatives such as launching the investigation with a hypothesis are acceptable. By frequently referring to this research question, candidates should be able to maintain the purpose and orientation of the investigation. Candidates are encouraged to formulate a challenging research question but to ensure that it can be explored within the constraints of essay length, time and resources available to them.

The Supervisor

The candidate will be assigned a supervisor from the appropriate department. The supervisor has four principal responsibilities: to encourage and support the candidate throughout the research and writing of the Extended Essay; to provide the candidate with advice and guidance in the skills of undertaking research; to ensure that the Extended Essay is the candidate’s own work, to complete the Supervisor’s report. The amount of time spent by the supervisor with each candidate will vary depending on the circumstances, but will usually be between three and five hours in total.


All Extended Essays are externally assessed by examiners appointed by the IB. This maximum score is made up of the total criterion levels available for each essay. The total score obtained on the scale 0 to 36 is used to determine in which of the following bands the extended essay is placed. This band, in conjunction with the band for Theory of Knowledge, determines the number of Diploma points awarded for these two requirements. 

The IB band descriptors are:
A  Work of an excellent standard
B  Work of a good standard
 Work of a satisfactory standard
 Work of a mediocre standard
E  Work of an elementary standard.

Award of Diploma points

The Extended Essay contributes to the overall Diploma score through the award of points in conjunction with Theory of Knowledge. A maximum of three points are awarded according to a student’s combined performance in both the Extended Essay and Theory of Knowledge. Both the Extended Essay and Theory of Knowledge are measured against published assessment criteria. According to the quality of the work, and based on the application of these assessment criteria, a student’s performance in each of the Extended Essay and Theory of Knowledge will fall into one of the five bands described previously. The total number of points awarded is determined by the combination of the performance levels achieved by the student in both the Extended Essay and Theory of Knowledge according to the matrix.

Creativity, Action, Service (CAS)



Course Description

CAS is a fundamental part of all Diploma students’ programmes. Students are expected to complete a minimum of 9 experiences, 3 in each category each running for at least one month. Evidence and reflections will be recorded for each experience.

Creativity is interpreted as imaginatively as possible to cover a wide range of practices. Learning new activities and skills, to include creativity by the individual student.

Action can include participation in expeditions, individual and team sports and physical training. It can also include carrying out creative and service projects as well as training for service.

Service is community or social service. It can be service to individual people, to communities of people or to the local or wider environment.

The programme is designed to provide a challenge to each student in each of the three areas of creativity, action and service; to provide opportunities for service; to complement the academic disciplines of the curriculum and to provide a balance to the demands of scholarship placed upon the student; to challenge and extend the individual by developing a spirit of discovery, self-reliance and responsibility; to encourage the development of the student’s individual skills and interests.

A written, critical self-evaluation of personal performance is required from students for each activity. The self-evaluation or ‘reflection’ process encourages the development of critical thinking skills and enhances students’ awareness of their own strengths and weaknesses.

Students consider in their evaluations the extent to which they have developed personally as a result of the CAS experience; the understanding, skills and values acquired through the experience; and how others may have benefited from the activity.

Self-evaluations are reflective rather than descriptive, narrative reports.

The School is required to record and evaluate all CAS work. These records focus on attendance, punctuality and time spent on the activity; evidence of initiative, planning and organisation; the amount of effort and commitment displayed; and a student’s personal achievement and development, taking into account skills and attitudes at the start of the activity.

Students are required to demonstrate a number of Learning Outcomes. As part of this CAS programme students should have:
– Increased their awareness of their own strengths and areas for growth
– Undertaken new challenges
– Planned and initiated activities
– Worked collaboratively with others
– Showed perseverance and commitment in their activities
– Engaged with issues of global importance
– Considered the ethical implications of their actions
– Developed new skills

Theory of Knowledge (TOK)



Course Description

It is commonplace to say that the world has experienced a digital revolution and that we are now part of a global information economy. The extent and impact of the changes signalled by such grand phrases vary greatly in different parts of the world, but their implications for knowledge are profound. Reflection on such huge cultural shifts is one part of what the TOK course is about. Its context is a world immeasurably different from that inhabited by “renaissance man”. Knowledge may indeed be said to have exploded: it has not only expanded massively but also become increasingly specialised, or fragmented. At the same time, discoveries in the 20th century (quantum mechanics, chaos theory) have demonstrated that there are things that it is impossible for us to know or predict. The TOK course encourages critical thinking about knowledge itself, to try to help young people make sense of what they encounter. Its core content involves questions like these: What counts as knowledge? How does it grow? What are its limits? Who owns knowledge? What is the value of knowledge? What are the implications of having, or not having, knowledge?

The purpose of the TOK programme is to help students critically reflect on their knowledge and experience. This reflection requires a consideration of the various ways we interpret the world in culturally diverse settings. TOK is not philosophy instead it requires students to become aware of personal and ideological biases to their knowledge and to consider what responsibilities knowledge may place on the knower. The course aims to develop a concern for rigour in formulating knowledge claims, intellectual honesty and links to all subject groups in the IB Programme.

The programme considers real-life knowledge issues as they often arise in part from questions about what we know; however, it is not a series of debates about such issues. By engaging in an inter-cultural analysis of the concepts, arguments and value judgements that we use, the programme leads students to an understanding of the bases of knowledge and experience, to a recognition of subjective and ideological influences and to the development of ways of thinking based on the critical examination of evidence and rational arguments.

The course moves backwards and forwards through these three perspectives and touches on topics such as:
– Ways of Knowing: sense perception, language, emotion, intuition, reasoning, memory, faith and imagination
– Map like and story-like knowledge
– Local and global knowledge
– Constrained creativity
– Paradigm shifts
– Areas of Knowledge: Mathematics, Human Sciences, History, the Arts, Ethics, Natural Sciences, Indigenous Knowledge Systems, Religious Knowledge Systems.

External assessment Part 1:
Essay on a prescribed title (maximum of 1600 words) (67%)
Each student must submit for external assessment an essay on any one of the 6 titles prescribed by the IB for each examination session.
Internal assessment Part 2:
The presentation (33%)
Students select a prompt and connect three objects of their choice to their selected prompt. Writing in TOK language they exhibit their three commentaries of 900 words to the staff and students.

TOK and the Extended Essay
The performance of a student in both Diploma Programme requirements, Theory of Knowledge and the Extended Essay is determined according to the quality of the work, based on the application of the IB Diploma Programme assessment criteria and A – E grades are given.

The IB band descriptors are:
A  Work of an excellent standard
 Work of a good standard
 Work of a satisfactory standard
D  Work of a mediocre standard
E  Work of an elementary standard

Using the two performance levels and the Diploma points matrix, a maximum of three Diploma points can be awarded for a student’s combined performance as shown in the Matrix. A student who, for example, writes a satisfactory Extended Essay and whose performance in Theory of Knowledge is judged to be good will be awarded 1 point, while a student who writes a mediocre Extended Essay and whose performance in Theory of Knowledge is judged to be excellent will be awarded 2 points. A student who fails to submit a TOK essay, or who fails to make a presentation, will be awarded N for TOK, will score no points, and will not be awarded a Diploma. Performance in either Theory of Knowledge and the Extended Essay of an elementary standard is a failing condition for the award of the Diploma.