When do you do your extended essay (EE)? It is probably out of your control and a whole school issue but that said, do spend some time planning ahead for it.

Most schools seem to launch the EE sometime in the third term of IB. There are two reasons for this, firstly, your students can have the long break / holiday to start their write up, secondly, the second year of IB classes will probably have finished or be writing their exams so (in theory), you have more time on your hands to advise the students with the EE.

As group 4 teachers, we do have it harder than the other subjects. With the exception of group 5, our results do seem lower than the other groups (you can see this in the IB statistical bulletin, which can be found on the IB website).

However, we also need to deal with the practical work. In theory, an EE that is entirely research based is acceptable, but if you read between the lines, the IB would much rather see a practically based EE rather than a research based one.

So, one of your students has a real passion for chemistry, is enthusiastic and wants to get their teeth stuck into an EE in chemistry. What makes a good EE to carry out? My advice here (and this is really important) is to keep it simple. Often, students have some great ideas but they are unrealistic, the may really be more suitable for a PhD or need equipment that the school does just not own. Keep it simple. Studying the oxidation of wine can be far more elegant than looking at the effect of Pb2+ ions on the length of chemiluminescence in a fixed concentration of lumionl.

The last thing to factor in is when will the lab work be carried out? IN my experience, the best time to do this is, believe it or not, right at the end of term. Infact, the first few days of the holiday. What? Why? I hear you say! Well, most schools / teachers ask students to come back at the end of the day and carry out the research. This is usually unsatisfactory as it takes so long to get the apparatus out and set up that the actual practical time can be minimal. Have a few dedicated days that could be shared around in the department and let the students have some decent lab time. You will see a marked improvement in results. The other way around this is to talk your director of studies into have a few ‘EE’ days for all students’ right at the end of term. This would be a winner for everyone.

Once the research is carried out, you have the easy part out of the way. You just then need to get the student to write it up!

If you have any good ideas regarding when and how to carry out the research, please share your ideas below. We would love to hear about them.