Writing Extended Essay English

With summer either already here or very near, it’s time for our next step in the Extended Essay Step-by-Step Guide. This one will help give you that push to put all of that essay preparation to use. Yes, it’s time to bite the bullet and write the thing.

To recap, this is the stage that comes after:

Topic Choice
Topic Research
Finalising a Question
Outlining/Planning

If you don’t feel you’ve quite nailed something in that list above, have a read of our previous blogs in the series for a comprehensive breakdown of what you can do to get there. If on the other hand you do feel you’ve done all of this, you should know WHAT you’re going to say. The real question is HOW. This isn’t a post about how to write. I know you’ve written things before. This blog is about how to make yourself get that writing for this Extended Essay on the page in front of you.

1. Know When You’ll Write Your Essay

It should be obvious that the key to making sure you write your extended essay is to find the time to write it. But you’d be surprised how easily the time can slip away without a single word getting typed or written. Especially in summer, that pesky thing called procrastination can disguise itself as everything from the new season of Orange is the New Black to a trip to a lake to swim with pelicans.

To make sure you get the writing done when you want it done, take half an hour to get organised. Work out when, objectively, you will have the time to devote some love and care and sweat and blood to this essay. And do it in chunks. Half a day at a time is ideal. Start by scheduling a few at a time near the start of your holiday so that you can see how much time this will actually take you and adjust your schedule accordingly.

To be extra efficient, don’t just decide when you will work on your essay, but decide what you will work on. Set deadlines for finishing different stages of the essay throughout the summer. For a Language, Literature, or Group 3 essay you might set deadlines for completing the introduction, body, conclusion, and proofreading. For a Group 4 Science essay your deadlines could be more detailed, separated for completing sections on background information, methods and materials, and data analysis, for example.

Exercise 1: Take out your calendar, work out what plans you already have for the summer which you’ll need to work around, and mark out your devoted Extended Essay time. Don’t have a calendar? No problem! Download our own printable Extended Essay time planner by clicking here!

2. Getting the Words on the Page

Now you’ve organised yourself and found time to do the writing, it’s time to sit down and put the words on the page. The biggest tip I can possibly give you is to remind that getting any words on the page at all is more important, at this stage, than getting ‘the right words’. This is only a first draft, and at this point it’s only a draft of a first draft. So do whatever you can to help yourself put pen to paper/hands to keyboard.

If you feel like you can launch straight into writing that essay, great! Sit down and do that. On the other hand if you’re still unsure where you start there are a bunch of techniques you can try to help get you started.

  1. There’s nothing to say you have to write the essay in chronological order! Instead you could take each paragraph of your essay one at a time, and start with the section you feel most confident, or excited about.
  2. A lot of people find it easier to write things by hand before typing it. If you’re experiencing what I like to call ‘keyboard fear’, ditch the laptop, take a pen and a piece of paper, and write your essay as if you are answering the question in an exam.
  3. If you’re struggling to turn your outline into full sentences, forget about eloquence for a while and just write it in whatever way you like. No need for good words. Just write. No one will see it but you.

Exercise 2: Pick one of the three options above and try it: write your favourite ‘piece’ of the essay first, write as much as you can by hand in one writing sprint, or lose the grammar and just get the ideas down in the right order.

3. Perfect Your Extended Essay Language

Perfect language doesn’t matter at the beginning of your writing process. But making sure that your writing is clear, well-paced and polished is essential for the final product. You’ll get a chance to fix up the writing later in the process, but paying attention to your language, tone and style as you go along will save you a lot of time in the long-run. More importantly, it will help you to see what is and isn’t making sense now.

A great way to get into the right frame of mind for writing a formal essay is to read other examples. Have a look at our free resources page to see how other successful IB students have written their essays in the past. Alternatively you could remind yourself of general guidelines to academic writing like this guide here.

In general it’s better to be simple. Avoid the temptation to write as many long, complicated words as you possibly can so that you reach the 4000 word limit faster! I promise you that the most common Extended Essay problem of all IB students is fitting their words into the word limit at the end. So take some time to relax, breathe, and only write what you need to write.

Case in point: Which sentence makes more sense to you?

  1. It is arguable that during the nineteenth century, and in the latter half of the century in particular, many people perceived a growth in what can be termed the mass market for novels and literature.
  2. The later nineteenth century saw an increase in the literary mass market.

Exercise 3: Paste one of your completed paragraphs onto a new document and cut out the unnecessary words and phrases. Aim to cut words down by 10%. Do this for each one of your paragraphs either as you go along or at the end.

The only thing left to say now is to just do it. It will be tough, but you won’t have a better time to work on it than this summer*. If you’d like more help from us have a look at our assignments package for online private tuition, or our Mid-IB Extended Essay workshop.

(*And if you hate the idea of doing it now, think about doing it next term when you have 10 other deadlines to meet as well!)

Happy writing!

Read Part 6: Motivation

The extended essay is an IB core requirement, where students explore a subject in depth. The subject must relate to one of the courses offered in Groups 1 - 6 of the IB Diploma Programme. The extended essay is an opportunity to demonstrate research and writing skills, along with other traits of the IB learner profile. While independent study and self-discipline are part of this task, an in-school supervisor is assigned to each student to monitor progress. The final, formal piece of writing of 3,000-4,000 words is something that students can be proud of, present to teachers, parents and even future employers. 

The following pages explain the relevance of extended essay to Group 1 and the Language A: Language and Literature course. You can find information on the basic requirements and the assessment criteria, along with sample extended essays from former students. It is recommended that you study these pages carefully before you engage in the writing process, in order to ensure the best results and the most rewarding experience. 

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