What the Extended Essay Is Really Like

From the Graded Seniors’ Perspective

What the Extended Essay Is Really Like

With the overwhelming experience of writing the Extended Essay fresh on their minds, Seniors reminisce on the ups and downs of their EE process, making the time suitable to get their best and most honest accounts of how the project went. Going into the IB, Seniors remember being intimidated by the EE. Indeed, most Graded students have limited experience with demanding academic writing; the very idea of writing a 4,000-word essay in high school seemed, as Senior Natalia Choo commented, “ridiculous.” The tumultuous experience of the Seniors writing their EE mid-pandemic also demands commemoration and reflection. Looking back at this time allows them to learn from their process, preparing them for the many more lengthy essays that await them in college. With the aim of shedding light on the foreign realities of the EE for the succeeding Graded students and offering the opportunity for honest reflection – or ranting – to Seniors, The Talon has interviewed the Graded class of ‘22 on what writing the Extended Essay is really about, a valuable preparation for Graded students who will write their own in the coming years.

The overwhelming majority of advice the Seniors offered about the EE refer to time management. According to Senior Naomi Rosenblatt, “everyone tells you to manage your time,” as teachers set an array of deadlines and repetitive reminders. However, she says that it is essential “to actually take in this advice,” don’t dismiss it or send the reminders straight to junk mail. Unlike most students, Rosenblatt found that the EE itself was “not a lot of work,” but students must work on it in conjunction with the many other assignments that pile up during the senior year. Along these lines, Pia Hekma advises students to “respect the deadlines as much as possible in the beginning,” to avoid rushing the process to meet the last deadline in September. 

Some students were guilty of underestimating the difficulty of the Extended Essay. As senior Caio Sallouti suggests, “the jump from flexible deadlines and moderate summatives to rigorous coursework and harsh deadlines” becomes much apparent during the EE process. Students such as Hekma and Carol Campos thought it was “even harder than [they] expected.” Thus, it is fair to suggest that when the time to write such an essay comes around, it should not be left to the last minute or stacked away in the back as other demands and distractions that often occupy high school students. 

The Extended Essay varies greatly depending on the chosen subject, more focused advice should be considered as students choose their topics. It was a common misconception that certain subjects were harder than others. For example, many believed that Language and Literature would be less demanding than the sciences or Economics. Choo, who wrote about economics, was apprehensive “in regard to how people writing their EE on economics struggle to get high marks since many people write on the subject.” However, as she followed along with the experience of other students, it became clear that all subjects are demanding, so “students should focus on topics they are actually interested in, to make the writing process less strenuous.” Indeed, Campos and Rosenblatt wrote about Language and Literature and found that “it was difficult to really understand the [novels] of their choosing.” Since Lang & Lit is a common subject for the EE – perhaps because of the misconception regarding it being the easiest – Rosenblatt argues that “a lot of topics are overwritten” so it is important to “find an original topic” and “think outside the box” to score higher marks, making the subject particularly challenging to write the EE on. 

Santiago Gonzalez, wrote on Psychology, and warns that as psychology students’ research and studies add up, new information is highlighted. Consequently, “the research question is going to change.” To avoid being “frustrated” with this as he was,  Gonzalez urges students to understand that this is an expected aspect of the psychology EE. Meanwhile, Hekma, who focused on Biology, advises students to think about their experiments carefully before starting the EE. Hekma tells The Talon that her EE advisor warned that “it is best to choose a primary experiment because they usually score higher.” With this in mind, she suggests that students opt for “studies which they can actually do well,” to avoid “spending too much time experimenting and getting behind on the writing part.” Unfortunately, Hekma’s experiments were complicated by the pandemic, which forced her to conduct her studies at home with limited materials. Hopefully, the coming classes will not face this challenge, which distinguished the EE experience for the class of ‘22. 

A main component of the EE process is the relationship between students and their supervisors. It should be noted that advisors are limited in their ability to give feedback by the International Baccalaureate: they are only allowed to read and give feedback on a full draft once. However, most students wished that this was different, as they felt that such a difficult, foreign task should allow more support from advisors. Additionally, some students felt there was a miscommunication with their advisors. Both Hekma and Rosenblatt “struggled to schedule meetings and/or conversations” that accommodated both parties’ busy schedules. Gonzalez also wished that advisors would give more samples and “advice in regards to the formatting of the EE.”

Truly, from this perspective, it seems like students’ stress about the Extended Essay is accurately attributed. However, the EE offers many benefits that may even equate to its downsides. Of the students The Talon has spoken to, all argue that writing the Extended Essay enhanced their knowledge and understanding to some degree. Though it is the first time that students have to write a 4,000 word essay, it is also the first time in which they are given almost complete autonomy over what to study, offering students an opportunity to explore curiosities they would have otherwise ignored. For instance, Rosenblatt has “always been interested in Indian culture” and was excited to learn about it through her EE. She argues that “if it were not for the EE, I would probably have never really gone in-depth about Indian culture, but I am really glad that I did.” The essay also expanded students’ interests. Gonzalez states that the essay “shed light on a new field of study, sociology.” 

All in all, The Talon does not wish to sugar-coat the Extended Essay. It is a challenging and exceptionally demanding project, and Graded students should prepare for this. Nevertheless, acknowledging the feedback from the experienced seniors can facilitate the process. In the words of Rosenblatt, “really take in” the advice. The seniors’ reflection should also be used as an opportunity for all of Graded to consider the aspects that can actually be modified. With this, The Talon hopes to offer a valuable guideline for the Extended Essay, making the writing process a less stressful and more positive experience for all.