Failed Your Extended Essay? What to Do?

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As an experienced IB tutor, I’ve seen how stressful and disappointing it can be to fail the extended essay (EE). According to general IB criteria, failing the EE could potentially risk your IB Diploma — a significant concern for many students. In my experience, you need to understand precisely what a failing grade on the EE means and the direct impact the extended essay fail could have on your future academic life.

What Does Failing Your Extended Essay Mean?

As a seasoned IB writer, I have observed numerous students grappling with the results of their extended essays. In my opinion, understanding the significance of these results, especially if they are disappointing, is crucial for every IB student. According to general IB criteria, the extended essay is an integral component of the diploma, meant to develop your research, analytical, and writing skills. Failing the EE means scoring below 14 points out of a possible 34. Here’s a quick breakdown of the extended essay grading scale:

  • 27 to 34 points. Reflects excellent research and understanding, placing you in the highest grading bracket.
  • 14 to 26 points. Indicates a pass, ranging from satisfactory to good performance.
  • 0 to 13 points. Unfortunately, this range is considered a failing score, suggesting significant areas of improvement.

From my experience, scoring between 0 and 6 points is particularly concerning as it indicates that the essay likely did not meet basic research or presentation standards. This low score might suggest several shortcomings:

  • You may not have fully grasped the topic or how to effectively address the research question.
  • Perhaps the argument lacked coherence, or the essay was poorly structured, making it difficult for examiners to follow your analysis.
  • Limited or inappropriate sources severely undermine your essay’s credibility.
  • Failing to follow the required format or missing critical components like referencing or citations.

If you find yourself in this situation, it’s essential not to see it merely as a setback but as an informative experience. Each point on the grading scale offers specific feedback on your performance, and understanding this can be instrumental in improving your approach to academic tasks in the future.

First Reactions and Understanding Your EE Score

When you receive your extended essay results, the first step is to review the score and the feedback provided calmly. I know from my extensive involvement with IB students that this moment is incredibly overwhelming. However, methodically dissecting where things might have gone off track is essential. Did you fail to meet the research question’s scope, or were there issues with the structure and coherence of your argument? Sometimes, the feedback might indicate a misalignment between your understanding of the topic and what the IB expected.

In my opinion, one of the most critical steps at this juncture is to not jump to conclusions or wallow in disappointment. Instead, take a structured approach to review each comment. Identify the main areas where you lost marks. Was it in the analysis, methodology, or how your conclusions were drawn? Or maybe you just pick a hard EE subject?

Moreover, managing your emotions during this challenging time is vital. From my experience, the support system you build around yourself (teachers, peers, or family members) plays the central role. Speaking openly with them about your frustrations provides significant emotional relief and practical advice on moving forward. Often, they can offer perspectives that you might have overlooked.

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Can You Retake the Extended Essay After Failing?

A popular inquiry among students is, “Is it possible to redo the EE?” Indeed, based on the overall IB guidelines, students may be allowed to revise their essays, depending on certain factors like due dates and your school’s regulations. Retaking your extended essay, despite being intimidating, enables you to demonstrate your skills and meet the diploma criteria.

I have learned that choosing to retake the EE requires dedication to acknowledging and improving the flaws in your initial effort. This decision does not just involve rephrasing sections of your essay following a strict EE word count but also requires a comprehensive reassessment of your topic, methodology, and overall argument.

Moreover, I believe that having the chance to redo your extended essay is a valuable learning experience. It imparts strength and the value of helpful criticism in academic development. You learn to handle criticism with a mindset focused on progress, not failure. Furthermore, redoing the EE boosts your abilities in conducting research and writing, skills that are essential in higher education and the future.

As far as I know, schools usually have a set process for initiating a retake. It often involves discussing your intent with your EE coordinator and possibly your subject advisor. It’s also important to consider the timing; you must ensure enough time to complete a new research and writing cycle without affecting your other IB responsibilities.

In my experience, students who choose to retake their extended essays often feel more prepared and confident the second time around. They have a clearer understanding of the expectations and more defined goals. If you find yourself in this situation, remember that this is not just about correcting a past mistake but about demonstrating your true academic capabilities.

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Alternative Paths After EE Fail and Their Implications

For some students, retaking the extended essay may not be feasible. Other routes might need to be considered, whether due to time constraints, logistical issues, or simply the overwhelming pressure it might add. As a seasoned IB writer and advisor, I’ve seen that exploring alternative pathways to meet graduation criteria becomes necessary under such circumstances. Depending on your IB coordinator’s advice, these alternatives might vary significantly but typically include additional coursework or assessments.

From my experience, here are some common alternative paths that students might consider if retaking the EE isn’t an option:

  • Some schools offer the option of completing an alternative project or research paper to fulfill the extended essay requirements without repeating the entire process.
  • Enrolling in an extra IB course can sometimes compensate for the missing points from the extended essay, depending on your school’s policy and the IB scoring system.
  • Sometimes, there might be grounds for an appeal or request for special consideration, mainly if extenuating circumstances affect your performance.
  • Improving your performance in other core components, such as Theory of Knowledge (TOK) and the Creativity, Activity, Service (CAS) projects, can help balance the points needed for the IB Diploma.

While these alternatives can provide a viable pathway to graduation, they come with their challenges and should be carefully considered. Discuss these options thoroughly with your IB coordinator, who can provide personalized advice based on your situation and overall academic progress.

How to Prepare for an Extended Essay Retake?

As someone with experience in IB writing and mentoring students, I confirm that a retake must be carefully planned strategically to achieve success. Being prepared is crucial, and knowing how to use your initial feedback appropriately improves your chances of receiving a higher grade.

Analyze Feedback and Identify Weak Areas

The first and most critical step in preparing for your EE retake is to thoroughly analyze the feedback received from your initial submission. According to general IB criteria, detailed feedback should outline specific areas where improvements are needed. In my opinion, focusing intently on these areas can provide direct insight into where your efforts should be concentrated. It’s essential to understand not just what your weaknesses were but why they impacted your grade. This analysis will guide your research and writing in the retake.

Choose a New Topic or Refine the Old One

Sometimes, selecting a new topic for your retake may be wise, especially if your original topic was too broad, narrow, or unsuited for your interests and academic strengths. From my experience, choosing a topic you are passionate about can significantly affect your motivation and the quality of your work. However, if you stick with the original topic, redefine and sharpen your research question based on the feedback to avoid repeating the same mistakes.

Develop a Structured Timeline

Once your topic and direction are precise, developing a structured timeline for your retake is next. As far as I know, time management is one of the biggest challenges for IB students. Create a realistic timeline that allows for in-depth research, drafting, feedback from your supervisor, and revisions. Ensure that each phase of your essay has specific deadlines, and try to set these deadlines well in advance of the final submission date to allow for unforeseen challenges.

Focus on Writing and Presentation Skills

Finally, pay close attention to enhancing your writing and presentation skills. The quality of your writing and how effectively you communicate your research and arguments can make a significant difference in your score. Consider workshops or tools that can help improve your academic writing. According to general IB criteria, clarity, coherence, and a well-structured argument are crucial.

Final Thoughts

Regardless of the outcome, you must view your extended essay project as a valuable learning opportunity. Don’t forget that many academic efforts faced obstacles initially, but determination and adaptability turned those failures into remarkable achievements. So, accept the challenge, gain knowledge from the encounter, and confidently move forward. You can also contact our IB writers at IBStudentHelp.com if you need a helping hand.

Nick Radlinsky

Nick Radlinsky

Nick Radlinsky is a devoted educator, marketing specialist, and management expert with more than 15 years of experience in the education sector. After obtaining his business degree in 2016, Nick embarked on a quest to achieve his PhD, driven by his commitment to enhancing education for students worldwide. His vast experience, starting in 2008, has established him as a reputable authority in the field.

Nick's article, featured in Routledge's "Entrepreneurship in Central and Eastern Europe: Development through Internationalization," highlights his sharp insights and unwavering dedication to advancing the educational landscape. Inspired by his personal motto, "Make education better," Nick's mission is to streamline students' lives and foster efficient learning. His inventive ideas and leadership have contributed to the transformation of numerous educational experiences, distinguishing him as a true innovator in his field.

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