Assessment of the Extended Essay

How is the Extended Essay Assessed?

From May 2018 new assessment criteria and a new emphasis was implemented for the Extended Essay. On this page we will look at the criteria, how they relate to ESS and World Studies essays and what this means for the Extended Essay process.

This information is adapted from the IB's own TSM for Extended Essays which you can find on the Programme Resource Centre of MyIB. It is very comprehensive and worth a look.

There are five criteria with a total of 34 marks

A: Focus and Method (total 6 marks)

B: Knowledge and Understanding (total 6 marks)

C: Critical Thinking (total 12 marks)

D: Presentation (total 4 marks)

E: Engagement (total 6 marks)

The grade boundaries in 2018 were as follows:

GradeFromTo
A2734
B2126
C1420
D713
E06

To guarantee a pass you need 7 points.

Overall, the IB does not expect perfection or originality in the EE but credit should be given to the following/compliance of the subject criteria. 

Best fit approach

The aim is to find the mark band descriptor that conveys most accurately the level attained by the candidate's work, using the best fit approach.

A best fit approach means that compensation should be made when a piece of work matches aspects of different mark bands.

The mark awarded should be one that most fairly reflects the balance of achievement against the mark band.

It is not necessary for every indicator within a mark band to be met for a mark to be awarded in a mark band.

 Criterion A: Focus and Method

In this criteria, the examiner looks at the development of the research question and how the methodology will address the question. The examiner wants to see a focus on the research question throughout the essay and not just at the start and end.

QuestionESS Advice

What the criterion focus on? 

The topic,the research question and the methodology

make sure it is a question! If not, there is an automatic cap of 2...the research quetion is expressed but not clearly. 

The student should refer to the RQ throughout the essay - its worthwhile to add the RQ to a header on the document whilst completing the essay. 

 It assesses the explanation of the focus of the research (this includes the topic and the research question), how the research will be undertaken, and how the focus is maintained throughout the essay.

  1. The topic chosen is identified and explained to readers in terms of contextualizing and justifying its worthiness.
    • How well does the research paper identify and communicate the chosen topic
    •  The purpose and focus of the research to be addressed is within the scope of a 4,000-word extended essay, is outlined in the introduction and specified as a research question.
      • Is the focus of the research question maintained throughout the essay?
      • Is the research question clearly stated, focused and based on/situated against background knowledge and understanding of the chosen subject/topic area?
      • For example, is the topic sufficiently focused to be adequately addressed within the requirements of the task? The purpose and focus of the research to be addressed is within the scope of a 4,000-word extended essay, is outlined in the introduction and specified as a research question.
  2. This criterion focuses on the topic, the research question and the methodology. It assesses the explanation of the focus of the research (this includes the topic and the research question), how the research will be undertaken, and how the focus is maintained throughout the essay. The topic chosen is identified and explained to readers in terms of contextualizing and justifying its worthiness.

  3. Sources/methods are considered relevant/appropriate or sufficient in so far as the academic standards for the discipline are concerned. For example, for an economics essay, it would not be sufficient to only use textbooks but rather include reports and data. There is no consideration of the research question as such.

An EE in environmental systems and societies should focus upon the interaction of the natural environment and human societies. Students must ensure that the topic would not be better submitted under a subject area within the experimental or human sciences.

What do the IB want to see in this criterion?

Titles are required amongst other formal presentation requirements

Key question: Has a focus been maintained on the research question throughout the essay?

How is it assessed?Maxiumum mark available is 6

Criterion B: knowledge and understanding

QuestionESS advice 

What does  the criterion focuses upon?

Context

subject specific terminology and concepts

What do the IB want to see in this criterion?

The EE must demonstrate an effective understanding of the place of the research question in a broader environmental systems and societies context. For example, in an essay on the effects of a specific human activity on the environment, the student may use repeated measurements on the ground, satellite images or maps.

Students should show clear and perceptive links between their own study and the body of theoretical knowledge associated with the subject. The literature cited should predominantly come from acknowledged scientific sources and be applied effectively to support the student’s argument.

Students need to show fluency in the use of appropriate environment-related terminology and avoid excessive use of jargon. Any technical terms that are used should be clearly explained. The student must demonstrate an understanding of these terms by using them appropriately within the text.

Students should maintain a consistent linguistic style throughout the essay.

Students are expected to use appropriate scientific and systems terminology. 

Key question: Are the terminology and concepts used throughout the essay indicative of the subject and area of research?

Is knowledge and understanding of concepts evident and sustained throughout the essay?

The EE must demonstrate an effective understanding of the place of the research question in a broader environmental systems and societies context. For example, in an essay on the effects of a specific human activity on the environment, the student may use repeated measurements on the ground, satellite images or maps.

How is it assessed?Maxiumum mark available is 6

Criterion C: Critical Evaluation 

Question

Advice

What does this criterion focus on?

Research, analysis, discussion and evaluation 

What does the IB want to see in this criterion?

This criterion assesses the extent to which critical-thinking skills have been used to analyse and evaluate the research undertaken. This criterion carries the most marks (12 marks) accounting for more than a third of the marks available.

When considering a candidate's performance against this criterion compensation should be given for performance in higher order skills.

The criterion covers research, analysis and discussion/evaluation.  

  1. The selection and application of the research presented is relevant and appropriate to the research question.
  2. The appropriateness of sources/methods in terms of how they have been used in the development of the argument presented.
  3. The analysis of the research is effective and focused on the research question.
  4. The discussion of the research develops a clear and coherent reasoned argument in relation to the research question.
  5. There is a critical evaluation of the arguments presented in the essay.
  6. Unlikely or unexpected outcomes can also demonstrate critical thinking.

Key Question: Is there evidence of critical engagement throughout the essay in terms of an analysis and evaluation of the data, materials and sources?

Does the discussion link to the research question and the sources?

How is it assessed?Maxiumum mark available is 12

Criterion D: Presentation

QuestionAdvice
What does this criterion focus on?

Structure and layout

What does the IB want to see in this criterion?

This criterion assesses the extent to which the presentation follows the standard format expected for academic writing and the extent to which this aids effective communication.

  1. Structure: the structure of the essay is compatible with the expected conventions of a research paper in the subject for which the essay has been submitted. (Examiners, supervisors and students are advised to check the guidance given in the Extended essay guide for the relevant subject.)
  2. Layout: title page, table of contents, page numbers, section headings (where appropriate), effective inclusion of illustrative materials (tables, graphs, illustrations, appropriately labelled) and quotations, bibliography and referencing.
    • The referencing system should be correctly and consistently applied and should contain the minimum information as detailed in the Extended essay guide.*
    • The extended essay has not exceeded the maximum word limit.**
  3. * If referencing does not meet this minimum standard work should be considered as a case of possible academic misconduct.

  4. ** If the essay exceeds 4,000 words, examiners should not read or assess beyond the maximum 4,000-word limit. Students who exceed the word limit will compromise the assessment of their extended essay across all criteria. For example, in criterion B, any knowledge and understanding demonstrated beyond the 4,000- word limit will be treated as if it were not present; in criterion C, any analysis, discussion or evaluation made beyond the 4,000- word limit will be treated as if the point had not been made. Given the holistic nature of the assessment criteria, students who write in excess of the word limit will self-penalize across all criteria.

Things to think about

Does the student know to  provide a section and subsection structure to their essays, with appropriate informative headings.

Has the student properly refernces any charts, images or tables from literature sources included in the essay. Are these tables etc, relevant and referred to in the body of the essay?

Is there large amounts ofraw data collected by the student? best in an appendix

Of course tables and graphs should be included in the body of the work but they have to be learly labelled and referenced. Tables and graphs should be easy to read and informative and should only include processed data. 

Anything important and pertinent to the argument of the essay should be included in the body of the essay and not in the appendix; an examiner is not required to read anything in the appendix.

For experiments where numerical results are calculated from data obtained by changing one of the variables, it is generally good practice to show one example of the calculation in the main body of the essay. The remainder can be displayed in tabular or graphical form.

Key question: Are the layout and structural elements consistent throughout the essay?

How is it assessed?Maxiumum mark available is 4

Criterion E: Reflection 

QuestionAdvice
What does this criterion focus on?Process and research focus
What does the IB want to see in this criterion?

This criterion assesses the student’s engagement with their research focus and the research process. It will be applied by the examiner at the end of the assessment of the essay, and is based solely on the candidate’s reflections as detailed on the RPPF, with the supervisory comments and extended essay itself as context.

  • This criterion assesses the candidate's engagement with their research focus and the research process.
  • Examiners must assess criterion E after first assessing the essay against criterion A - D.
  • Supervisory comments will be visible along with the essay as context.
  • When assessing criterion E examiners should only consider the candidate's reflections as detailed on the reflections on planning and progress form

Things to think about:

Has the student been expected to provide reflections on the decision-making and planning process undertaken in completing the essay? The easiest way to do this is for the student to signpost some decisions during the process - this makes life much easier at the end!  Students should be able to justify why they made those decisions and how the EE has evolved from their initial plan

For example, students may reflect on:

  • the approach and strategies they chose, and their relative success
  • the Approaches to learning skills they have developed and their effect on the student as a learner
  • how their conceptual understandings have developed or changed as a result of their research
  • challenges they faced in their research and how they overcame these
  • questions that emerged as a result of their research
  • what they would do differently if they were to undertake the research again.

Maximum word count is 500

How is it assessed?Maxiumum mark available is 6
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