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The Secret to a Top Scoring IB Essay


As a teacher and tutor I specialize in helping students write top-scoring essays. I wanted to share with you a helpful way to think about this, which will help you show strong critical thinking --something that often counts for close to 50% of your essay grade, so you can do well, even if you don’t work with me as your tutor. 

First, let’s notice that there are 3 very different actvities required to create a great analytical essay. You need to: 

  1.  Gather relevant evidence, 
  2.  Present an argument, grounded in that evidence. And then 
  3.  Weigh up those arguments to write a judgement that seems very well-supported. 

If you do those 3 things thoughtfully you can definitely get a 7 (or an A, if it's TOK or your EE). 

We can think of those 3 activities as relating to 4 different roles you need to play: You need to

  1. Be a Detective,
  2. Be a Lawyer,
  3. Be a second Lawyer, who disagrees with the first one. And then
  4. Be a Judge.  

The detective work is about gathering evidence and really noticing what's going on. The lawyer then combines that evidence, but also considers how good the evidence is. And then the Judge gets to step back and decide which of the arguments is stronger and why.

Those blue highlights are related to critical thinking. This is a the key to a great essay —the thinking. 💡 The more you can observe things about the evidence, about how the evidence links to your essay question, the more you and then get those noticings (not a really word, but let’s go with it 😉) into your essay, and the better your mark is going to be.  

In the end we (your reader) want to feel that you noticed a lot. You noticed how good your evidence was and you explained why it was so strong or how it worked so well. You even noticed (and shared with us) the weaknesses in your arguments. Your evidence doesn’t need to be perfect, but we (the reader again) shouldn’t be noticing little flaws in the evidence that you didn’t seem to notice. And, where the evidence is strong, we’d like you to carefully explain to us why it’s so strong and how it works (why it supports your claim or counterclaim).

It can be hard to do this well and to see when you’re not doing it well, so definitely show your essay to someone else and ask them if you seem to be doing a good job. And when you do, show them the paragraph just above this one, so they know in particular what kind of feedback you want. Also, ask them whether your writing seems clearly structured and whether your paragraphs clearly link back to your main question. And, if they know the rubric, you could ask them for advice related to specific technical requirements for your particular essay type (i.e. what is valued in a TOK Essay, a History Essay vs an IB English HL Essay).  

So yes, there is a lot to do to create a top-scoring essay, lots of boxes to tick. But the hardest marks to earn come from sharing good thinking, noticing things about your evidence. I'd love to help you with that, if you'd like. Either way, I wish you great success with your essays. 👍

Have a great day! 


Tim is available for private tutoring, almost every day, to support you in writing your best essays. He's an expert Theory of Knowledge teacher (a fully IB-trained teacher and marker) with over 18 years of teaching experience. 🚀 Click here to meet with Tim on Zoom and talk through your work. 🚀

Tim helps students with IB Business Management, IB Global Politics, IB Economics, IB History, IB English IOs, IB Biology IAs and College Admissions essays.