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How To Write IB Extended Essay Reflections


As you already know, the new extended essay criteria include 6 marks for “Engagement.” That's 6 marks out of 35, meaning these reflections are worth 17.6% of your EE mark! 

Those 6 marks are almost enough to bring you from a C to an A

This is a lot of marks for just 500 words. That's 500 words in total, for all of the 3 reflections. 

This post will show you what the rubric is asking for and how to show these things in your writing. (You will be writing your 3 reflections on the new "Reflections on Planning and Progress Form" Updated March 2020).

In short, the reflections are meant to prove "the authenticity of your work." You do this by talking us through the path you took as you wrote your EE. So you will show us some of your thinking, decision-making and planning along the way. And you will try to show that you’re taking “an intellectual approach” and have a lot of “personal engagement.” 

Here's what the they (the IB big-shots) DON’T want, what they DO want and HOW to do it:


1) Don't just describe what you've done.

  • Let us understand your thinking processes
  • Reflect on decisions you’ve already made. What decisions were hard to make or made poorly so far and how have you dealt with these?
  • Have you found it hard (or easy) to make good research decisions? 
  • Discuss something you could have done differently or better.
  • And, be yourself. We want this to be written in your own words (the 


2) Don't make it seem like you've only picked the easy-to-get information.

  • Show that you have been careful about choosing your sources and you haven't just used whatever came up first on Google.
  • Show us that you have taken time to think creatively about what kind of information will be required to answer your question and then that you’ve taken the time to try to find this exact information. (Some tips on doing advanced EE research).
  • Reflect on your planning so far. Have you under-planned (or over-planned?) or not planned for the right aspects of your work so far?
  • Have you found it hard (or easy) to plan your work? 
  • What set-backs have you faced in your planning and how have you dealt with these? What would you do differently, in your planning, next time you do research like this?


3) Don't make it seem like you're (mindlessly) just doing what your teacher is telling you to do. 

  • Show that you have really taken the lead on this research. (Some tips for getting started with your EE, if you aren't sure where to start).
  • Show us that you see this research as interesting and important, in a genuine way. 
  • What sub-questions have you been asking yourself as you did your research? (These would be questions that would help you answer your main research question). 
  • What do you find interesting about this topic? 


4) Don't try to hide your mistakes.

  • Tell us about some of your mistakes and what you’ve learned from them. We love this because it shows that you are becoming a person who doesn't need a teacher to improve. You can notice your own mistakes and learn from them.
  • What have you learned about yourself already, as a result of doing this work? 
  • What has proven more difficult than you expected and how have you dealt with this?


5) Don't worry about making it seem too academic.

  • Be comfortable explaining your journey in your natural voice.
  • As you'll see in the rubric below, the IB is hoping the reflections can help you demonstrate the authenticity of your work by you explaining it in a "student voice."  


A few more suggestions

Here is a list which I've adapted from the IB EE Guide (Page 154), which might also give you some ideas. It says, you can reflect on:

  • The approaches and strategies you've chosen, and how well these have gone 
  • The Approaches to learning (ATL) skills you have developed through the EE research  and how you've developed as a learner. (The ATLs include: thinking skills, communication skills, social skills, self-management skills or research skills). 
  • How your conceptual understandings have developed or changed as a result of your research. For example, have you learned how to apply course ideas in a new context?
  • Explain some setbacks you faced in your research and how you overcame them (or worked around them)
  • Share some questions that emerged as a result of your research.
  • What you would do differently if you were to start this research again?


Want to sneak a peek at the top mark-band from the rubric?

The 4 rules above are my best thinking about how you can produce reflections that can be described by the top (5-6) mark band. But you don't have to take my word for it.

It's worth having a look at the top mark band yourself.


Cite this page as:
Woods, Tim. “How To Write IB Extended Essay Reflections” IBMastery 26 Jan 2022. Web. PUT TODAY’S DATE HERE <>