Changes to the EE

Friday 26 August 2016

As we all await the publication of the new psychology curriculum, we have also been given the new extended essay criteria. The first set of essays to be marked under the new standards will be submitted in May 2018. So, what are the key changes?  Obviously, there will be a new assessment rubric - and there will be new pages of Inthinking devoted to the assessment rubric over the next few weeks.  However, there are also some more general changes that we should be aware of.

The Introduction

There are some significant changes to the way that the introduction must be written.  Students have always been required to include their research question, discuss the theoretical framework of their topic and explain why their research is important. However, now there will be some more precise requirements.

1.  The research question must be written as a question. Students who write: This paper will evaluate drug treatments for schizophrenia will not longer earn credit.  They should write: This paper will explore the question: To what extent are L-dopa treatments effective in the treatment of schizophrenia? 

2. Students must indicate in the introduction which theories and studies they will use and how.  Admittedly, the extent to which the candidate must explain the "how" is not yet clear to me, but I am hoping to get clarification on this soon.

3. Students must explain how the argument will develop throughout the paper.  In other words, after they have laid out the framework and the justification for the question, they need to explain their plan for the paper.


There are two big changes for presentation, as well as more clarity for students.  First, two reminders:

  • Footnotes may not be used for clarifications. Examiners are told not to credit anything that is written in footnotes.  If there is a definition of a term, it must be written in the body of the paper, not in a footnote.  Often students with high word counts use footnotes to get around the word count.  If this happens, students may lose marks for failure to clarify key terminology, even though they have it in the footnotes.
  • There should be no appendices attached to the EE.  These are not read by examiners.

The key changes are:

  1. Students will no longer write an abstract.  The outline of the paper will now be included in the introduction.
  2. Citation will no longer be assessed. If it is inadequate or not representative of the work, the candidate may be penalised for academic dishonesty.

It is often the case that a large number of sources that are listed in the References are not included in the body of the work - and that the works cited in the text are not listed in the References. This may be sent for academic dishonesty which may mean that the student would not get his or her diploma. How exactly the IB will handle this is unclear.  However, what it means is that although students will no longer be penalized for "errors" in applying a citation standard, lack of application of a correct system or the failure to match sources with citations, may result in more serious penalties.


As part of their final product, students will now be required to submit a set of reflections on the process of researching and writing the EE. Students need to write three formal reflections: one early on in the process, an interim meeting and then after the final viva voce.  IB refers to these as "Planning, Process and Product."

If you are using Managebac, on the EE page in the right-hand column, there is a tab for the "Planning and Progress Form" where students can enter their reflections.

These reflections are assessed.  This replaces the "Holistic" section of the assessment. The reflections must show critical thinking and evaluation of their process - not simply a description of what they have been doing. The guide makes the following suggestions for the focus of these reflections:

  • 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;
  • setbacks 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.


Finally, there are changes to the actual assessment of the paper.  In the past, there were 11 criteria by which students were assessed.  Now there will be only five criteria. A more in-depth discussion of the assessment criteria will appear soon on the site - but for now, the key changes are:

  • The first criteria will be "Focus and Method" which will replace criteria A, B and C (research question, introduction and investigation). It will be worth 6 marks.
  • Knowledge and understanding will remain, but it will now be worth 6 marks, rather than 4. Correct use of terminology is now included under this criteria. Also, the appropriate use of sources is now included under this criteria.
  • Critical thinking is now worth a significantly larger proportion of the overall grade.  It is worth 12 marks. It includes several of the former criteria: reasoned argument, analysis, conclusions.  It is important that the question also be evaluated in lieu of the research - and not simply the research itself.
  • Presentation - the focus of this criterion moves away from citation and is more focused on the layout and structure of the paper.  Headings continue to be required, page numbers and a table of contents. It remains worth 4 marks.
  • Engagement - as stated above, students must submit their reflections - and teachers must submit a final report.  This document is worth 6 marks of the final grade.

The total number of marks for the new EE is 34 marks (rather than 36 marks). The new markbands have not yet been determined.  They will be set after the first assessments in May 2018.

Keep an eye on the site for more detail explanations and examples for the various criteria.  All coming in the month of September.

Tags: extended essay, new curriculum

Comments 2

Sneha Bhatt 19 February 2018 - 04:31

Dear John,
I was concerned about the total word count of the EE. Won't intext citation, take away from the EE material. Or are they not to be counted in the word count?

John Crane 19 February 2018 - 06:43

Sneha, citation is not included in the word count.