The teachers whose students take November exams are currently in the process of collecting Extended Essays, reading them, conducting the Viva Voce (although it’s now optional a surprising number of teachers still do an exit interview) and then trying to determine how to fill out the report.

The student fills out the front page and signs a declaration that the work they submit is their own.  It then goes to the supervisor.

The required components are the supervisor’s name at the top, and the number of hours spent working with the student on the Extended Essay and a signature declaration that you have read the final copy and to the best of your knowledge the work is that of the candidate on the bottom.

However, the center of the page is large a blank area for comments  with the following directive:

 “If appropriate, please comment on the candidate’s performance, the context in which the candidate undertook the research for the extended essay, any difficulties encountered and how these were overcome. These comments can help the examiner award a level for criterion H. Do not comment on any adverse personal circumstances that may have affected the candidate.”

What should we write?  Should we write at all?  The answer is almost always yes.  Most of us spend between 3 and 5 hours on each student.  This time involves reading, commenting, meeting with the student and discussing both the progress and the final result.  By commenting on this you can give the examiner an insight into the process that the student underwent when creating and writing the essay.  Other than personal comments regarding interest in the subject (especially when the student has a personal connection to the content), we examiners do not know the student.  We can make good guesses about how hard the student worked, but we aren’t always right.

As an examiner, I don’t need to know how you think the student will perform against the criteria or even an A – E mark.  I will be reading it and making that assessment myself soon enough.  So, what do you comment upon?

Some students are researching and writing in multiple languages; others are not the best students but they have done the best work you have ever seen from them and this was a real growth experience.  Some subjects may seem easily researched in major cities but your student is in a rural area with limited access to scholarly, peer-reviewed materials and has done the best with the materials available.  All of these are worthy of comment.

Also, you have put considerable work into supervising the student – was the student easy to work with or open to feedback?  Be sure to report this.

All of this helps make the essay become a person’s product to the examiner, something that makes the process more enjoyable, and makes us all more open to providing detailed comments on the exam even though we are not required to do so.

The Extended Essay is one of the few remaining assessments that we still receive as a paper copy.  It’s nice to feel that direct connection.