Meet the Most Important Essay You'll Ever Write in Your Life

When Monica Chan, DCSPD Class of '13, went off to college at Stanford, she brought one important thing with her - a hard copy of her IB Mathematics Extended Essay in which she modeled the SARS virus, doing all the calculations by hand. 

She recalls, "Whenever I hit something really hard, really challenging in college, I would pull out my EE and say to myself 'I've done something even harder before.'"

Monica Chan
Whenever I hit something really challenging in college, I would pull out my EE and say to myself 'I've done something even harder before.
- Monica Chan, Class of 2013

For IB students, the Extended Essay, or EE as it is commonly known, is one of the most feared requirements. But when our graduates reflect back, over and over we hear the same thing: the EE was one of the most valuable parts of the IB experience.

So what is the EE?

The Extended Essay is a compulsory component of the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme. It provides students the opportunity to undertake a self-directed, independent piece of research, culminating in a 4,000-word essay. The EE can be done in science, the humanities, maths, economics - any of the six chosen diploma programme subjects are fair game. Crucially, though, the title of the EE must be phrased as a question.

IB students do online research

The EE requirements were last revised in 2018 where the abstract was removed and the reflections section was beefed up to be included in the final submission, but the main thrust remains the same: write a college-level academic essay.

Even though it only contributes a maximum of 3 points toward the final IB score, it is far and away the most practical preparation IB students get for undergraduate academic life. Throughout the process of research and writing the EE, our students are supported by a DCSPD supervisor from the subject area who provides guidance and advice and time for the student to reflect on the process.

The EE requirements were
Our Year 13 students demonstrated resilience, passion, and perseverance in undertaking their EE.
- The EE requirements were, Head of Psychology and EE Coor

Says Rachel Thornton, Head of Psychology and EE Coordinator at Dulwich Pudong, "It is an academically challenging undertaking, and as a school we are incredibly proud of the 2021 cohort and the determination in which they approached the EE, especially during online learning. The students demonstrated resilience, passion and perseverance in undertaking their EE. There was a range of topics and titles which showed the intellectual curiosity of our students and their academic promise for the future ahead of them."

A Wide Variety

The EE reflects each student's personality as much as their research and writing abilities. This year there was a fascinating range of topics, nine of which we share with you below:


One of our fundamental learning principles at Dulwich is relational learning, the ability for students to apply what they learn in the classroom to novel situations and phenomena encountered outside the classrooms. The Extended Essay is the ultimate expression of that core competency; and is the very best preparation for the rigors of academic life ahead.



The Extended Essay is a compulsory part of the IB.

The topic is chosen by the student but must relate to one of the six chosen IB subjects.

It challenges students to write a university-level academic essay.

It is the best preparation for the academic rigors of university.