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The Extended Essay (EE) is one of the requirements of the IB Diploma Programme. It is an essay of up to 4,000 words, written on a freely-chosen topic, and provides the students with an opportunity to conduct independent research on a topic that interests them. The student writing an EE works together with a supervisor who advises and guides them in the writing process. In total, students are expected to spend about 40 hours on writing the EE, but some students use a shorter and others a longer amount of time. The Extended Essay is externally assessed (graded) by the International Baccalaureate Organization.

The EE may be written on a topic of the student's choice, it should not be taken from the field of any one of the IB subjects that one is studying (e.g. one cannot write about a book that has been studied as part of IB English). This restriction in subject choice is to encourage individual research and learning, and encourages the one's self to take an interest in subjects other than those studied. However, the topic must not be too broad and it should not be too narrow that it is difficult to write 4000 words, and the general subject must be taught under the IB diploma somewhere and must also be taught by one of the members of staff at the college (so that there is someone with expertise able to help). The subject (not topic) that 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.

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. Some schools allow their students to choose a supervisor from outside their school, provided that the student appoint a teacher from inside the school to handle required administrative paperwork (such as anti-plagiarism policies).

The Extended Essay is assessed (graded) by examiners appointed by the IBO on a scale of 0 to 36. There are "general" and "subject-specific" criteria, at a point ration of 2:1 (24 possible points for the general criteria and 12 for the subject-specific one).

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