1.1 Guide to the guide

1.1.1 The basics

The extended essay is a key requirement for earning the IB Diploma. It sits at the 'core' of the Diploma Programme, together with Theory of Knowledge (TOK) and the Creativity, Action and Service (CAS) programme. It is a culminating product. It brings together much that you have learned, and demonstrates that you know how to find out and to think about what you find out. It is an excellent way to end your school career and to begin the next stage of your education. 

Slide show - Extended essay basics

The extended essay is:

  • personal research in a topic of your own choice
  • chosen from the list of approved DP subjects
  • an in-depth study, intended to promote high-level research and writing skills, intellectual discovery and creativity
  • written under the guidance of a supervisor
  • presented as a substantial piece of formally presented, structured writing.

In addition, the extended essay:

  • is compulsory for all DP students
  • is expected to take about 40 hours to complete
  • is externally assessed
  • contributes, with TOK, up to three bonus points towards the diploma (see EE/TOK Matrix)
  • is assessed according to 5 criteria
  • is awarded a grade of A to E ('A' is excellent, 'E' is a failing condition for your entire Diploma) 
  • requires three formal reflection sessions with your supervisor, recorded on a form which contributes to the assessment Criterion E, 'Engagement'.

What can I write about in my extended essay?

Your essay must be chosen from the list of approved DP subjects. You cannot write an essay on education, transport, medicine or any subject which is not on the approved DP list. This does not, however, exclude these as possible topics for your essay. You might, for example, write about the economics of education, transport or medicine; the history of these topics; or how any of these are used as themes in literary works. You could write about schools in an essay on global politics; about the physics of a form of transport; or health science aspects of a medical treatment. Remember, for these topics you will be using the language and methods of economics, history, literature, and so on, placing your topic within the context of the subject.

Your essay does not have to be in one of the six subjects you are studying for the diploma at school. The only requirement is that the subject of your essay must be drawn from the approved list of subjects below. However, you may penalise yourself if your essay is not in a subject you are studying, because you are less likely to have the background knowledge needed for this topic.

Interdisciplinary essays

There are three types of interdisciplinary essays that you can write: 

  1. Literature and performance (an IBDP subject for Groups 1 or 6)
  2. Environmental systems and societies (ESS) (an IBDP subject for Groups 3 or 4) 
  3. World studies (available as an option for extended essay)

The same regulations for 'regular' extended essays apply to interdisciplinary essays, with the exception that you can draw from more than one IBDP subject discipline. You are encouraged to make connections and use concepts from different fields of research.  

List of approved DP subjects for extended essay

  • Group 1 – Studies in language and literature: Afrikaans, Albanian, Amharic, Arabic, Belarusian, Bengali, Bosnian, Bulgarian, Catalan, Chinese, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English Estonian, Filipino, Finnish, French, German, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Icelandic, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Latvian, Lithuanian, Macedonian, Malay, Modern Greek, Nepali, Norwegian, Persian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Sesotho, Sinhalese, Slovak, Slovene, Spanish, Swahili, SiSwati, Swedish, Thai,Turkish Ukrainian, Urdu, Vietnamese, Welsh
  • Group 2 – Language acquisition: Arabic, Chinese – Cantonese or Mandarin, Classical Greek, Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Hebrew, Hindi, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Latin, Malay, Norwegian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swahili, Swedish, Tamil
  • Biology
  • Business management
  • Chemistry
  • Computer science
  • Dance
  • Design technology
  • Economics
  • Environmental systems and societies*
  • Film
  • Geography
  • Global politics
  • History
  • Information technology in a global society
  • Literature and performance*
  • Mathematics
  • Music
  • Philosophy
  • Physics
  • Psychology
  • Social and cultural anthropology
  • Sports, exercise and health science
  • Theatre
  • Visual arts
  • World religions
  • World studies*

*Interdisciplinary essays. 

What is the value added?

The extended essay, together with TOK and CAS, make IB Diploma Programme (DP) different from most other educational programmes. TOK and the EE give you an inside look at knowledge and how it is formed. The EE is a good example of the IB's philosophy on holistic education, where individuals are encouraged to achieve self-fulfilment. Furthermore, it allows you to develop your academic skills, which will give you a head start on university and higher education. Here are a few testimonials on the advantages of doing the extended essay. 


  • Write down 10 things you know about the extended essay.
  • Read an extract from the IB guide in the downloadable worksheet, which introduces the extended essay. In the extract, highlight one word, one phrase and one sentence that best convey the essence of the extended essay.

Famous quotes

  • "If you don't know where you're going, you might not get there"
    - attributed to Yogi Berra (1925-)
  • "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."
    Laotzu, (604-531 BC)


  • Write your extended essay in a subject you enjoy, on a topic which really interests you.
  • Generally speaking, writing in a subject that you are not taking is self-penalising. You are strongly recommended to write in a subject that you are actually taking in the DP.
  • Most extended essays require a different approach to that needed for internal assessments - sometimes very different. Be sure to read the subject-specific section of the Extended essay guide!

Essential reading

  • Make yourself familiar with the first sections of the IB's Extended Essay Guide. 
  • Later sections of the Extended Essay Guide include subject-specific information. Be sure to read the section for your subject as well.
  • Your supervisor will have access to the IB's Subject Report for your subject, which comes out after each exam session. This also includes relevant information on your subject. (Supervisors: see the OCC).