How Long Does it Take to Write an IB Extended Essay?

writing extended essay

Greetings, young scholars! As someone who has walked the challenging path of the IB DP program, I understand the anxiety that accompanies the start of your Extended Essay (EE). It’s a significant undertaking, indeed. You may wonder, “How long does it take to write an IB Extended Essay?” This question is valid, and today, I’m here to explain the process to you, drawing from my deep experience.

Is the IB Extended Essay Hard?

From my years as an IB coordinator and mentor, I’ve guided many students through the rigors of the Extended Essay. Is it hard? In my opinion, yes, it presents its challenges, but these are manageable with the right mindset and strategy.

Firstly, the level of depth required for the EE is notably more intense than most high school assignments. According to general IB criteria, you must engage in independent research through an analytical prism and produce a coherent, scholarly piece of about 4,000 words. It can seem daunting because it’s not just about presenting information but critiquing it and presenting a personal insight.

Secondly, from my experience, the Extended Essay tests your self-management skills to a great degree. You have a flexible timeline, usually over 18 months, so you must pace yourself and avoid last-minute rushes. Procrastination is the enemy here, and time management is a skill you must develop rapidly.

Moreover, the scope of the EE can be overwhelming. Choosing a broad topic can lead to difficulties effectively covering all relevant aspects, while a narrow theme might not yield enough material for a discussion. However, let me share some tips that might help:

  • Choose a topic that genuinely interests you. This strategy will make the research and writing process more enjoyable and engaging.
  • Plan your research and writing phases meticulously. Break down your tasks into manageable chunks and set regular deadlines.
  • Seek feedback regularly. Use your supervisor’s experience, and don’t hesitate to revise your work based on their input.

While the IB Extended Essay can be challenging, it’s also a great way to learn and grow. You can research your topic in-depth and learn how to manage a large-scale personal project. With the right mindset and some effort, it’s a fantastic learning experience.

How Many Hours Should the EE Take?

From what I’ve seen, a well-planned Extended Essay typically requires around 45-50 hours of dedicated effort. This estimate aligns with general IB criteria, which advocate for thorough yet efficient work.

Initial Research

In my opinion, starting strong with your initial research is crucial. This phase involves selecting your topic, formulating a precise research question, and conducting preliminary readings. Generally, I advise students to allocate 10-15 hours to this initial stage. Effective use of this time can set a solid foundation, making the subsequent writing phase more straightforward. This stage is your opportunity to immerse yourself in the subject, identify key themes, and establish a clear direction for your essay. It’s also a time to consult with your supervisor to ensure your chosen topic and research question are viable and aligned with IB criteria.

Writing the Draft

Drawing from my experience, you’ll spend the bulk of your time in the writing phase. IB students should dedicate around 20-25 hours to crafting the first draft of their EE. This stage requires translating your research findings into a coherent, well-argued essay. Remember, the goal during this phase is to develop a complete draft, not a perfect one. During this time, you will outline your main arguments, structure your essay logically, and begin drafting your analysis. Maintaining a consistent writing schedule ensures steady progress and leaves sufficient time for revision and feedback.

How Long Does EE Take

Revision and Editing

Based on general IB criteria, revising and editing your essay are crucial for a high-quality submission. I suggest setting aside about 10-15 hours for this process. Use this time to integrate your supervisor’s feedback, refine your arguments, and ensure clarity and coherence in your writing. Revision is more than just proofreading; it involves rethinking your arguments, clarifying your thesis, and sometimes reorganizing sections for better flow. This phase is critical for polishing your essay and strengthening your analytical points. Regular reviews and iterations can vastly improve the quality of your work, transforming a good essay into an exceptional one.

Final Review and Polishing

Finally, the last 5 hours should focus on your essay’s final review and polishing. This stage includes checking for grammatical errors, verifying all citations’ accuracy, and ensuring the essay follows the IB’s formatting guidelines. This stage is your last opportunity to make minor adjustments and ensure that your essay presents a professional, polished appearance. Paying attention to details such as word count, citation format, and the overall presentation can significantly affect how your work is perceived. Additionally, it’s wise to have a peer or mentor review your essay one final time to catch any oversights and to give feedback on your essay’s overall readability and impact.

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Factors Affecting the Time Needed to Write an Extended Essay

I’ve observed that the time required to complete this significant component can vary widely. Several factors influence how much time you must dedicate to your essay. Understanding these can help you better plan your approach and manage your time effectively.

First and foremost, the complexity of the topic you choose plays a crucial role. A too broad topic may require more time to narrow down and focus, while a highly specialized theme might lead to difficulty finding enough resources. In my opinion, Choosing a well-defined topic that you are passionate about streamlines the research process.

Another critical factor is your prior knowledge of the subject area. Students who choose a topic aligned with their interests or coursework often find the writing process smoother and quicker. They are already familiar with the terminology and fundamental concepts, which reduces the time needed for background research.

Here’s a list of additional key factors that typically impact the time needed to write an Extended Essay:

  • Access to resources. The availability of primary and secondary sources can make or break your research phase.
  • Efficiency in research and writing. Some students can synthesize information and articulate their thoughts more quickly than others.
  • Guidance from supervisors. Regular and constructive feedback can expedite the writing and revision stages.

Moreover, your organizational skills are paramount. From my experience, students who create a detailed work plan and adhere to it tend to complete their essays more efficiently. It means setting clear milestones and deadlines for completing each essay section.

Lastly, the revision process also varies. Some essays may require extensive revisions that push back completion times, especially if the initial drafts are not aligned with the IB criteria.

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Is It Possible to Write an Extended Essay in One Day?

From my years of experience as an IB tutor, I occasionally encounter students who ask whether writing an Extended Essay in just one day is feasible. While it is theoretically possible, it is not advisable and is not likely to meet the standards required by the IB curriculum.

Writing an Extended Essay involves a comprehensive process of planning, researching, drafting, and revising. According to general IB criteria, an EE should be a detailed research paper involving significant independent investigation and demonstrating an in-depth understanding of the subject. This scholarly work demands more than a single day’s effort. Here are a few reasons why attempting to write an Extended Essay in one day is not practical:

  • The EE requires deep research into your chosen topic. Gathering and analyzing sufficient academic resources to support your thesis takes time, often weeks, not hours.
  • Developing a coherent argument and structuring your essay is crucial. It involves outlining your points, planning the layout, and thinking critically about how best to present your arguments. Such thoughtful preparation cannot be rushed without compromising quality.
  • As I know from guiding many students, writing a first draft is only part of the process. Revising your draft, receiving feedback from your supervisor, and making necessary adjustments are integral to producing a high-quality essay. Each stage requires careful attention that can’t be addressed in 24 hours.

Moreover, completing an Extended Essay in one day can be highly stressful and lead to a rushed paper that likely won’t meet the high standards expected by IB examiners. From my experience, such pressure with IB EE deadlines can hinder creativity and critical thinking, which are essential for a successful essay.

Final Thoughts

So, how much time should be spent on the EE? The hours it takes to complete an Extended Essay can vary widely, but with proper planning, guidance, and perseverance, it’s an incredibly fulfilling project. Remember, the Extended Essay is your chance to research a topic you’re passionate about, which is a rare opportunity. If you stay focused, you can complete your work in approximately 45-50 hours. If you want to cope much faster and still get an excellent grade, contact our authors at