It’s very common for IB students to struggle with time management since there are lots of assignments from their classroom, IA, CAS, and EE. On top of that, although there’s a supervisor to guide them, EE requires students’ own initiative for making an appointment, carrying out an experiment, and writing up the essay. So it’s very important to plan how much of the writing process should be done by each span of time, beforehand, and follow the plan. This post is for those who don’t know how to plan the EE writing process and those who are worried if they’re too behind with their work.



1. Average Time to Write the EE

Each IB school has a different schedule so the timing in which students start doing their research and writing their EE may vary depending on the school. But the information will probably let you find a pattern of when students start their EE and how long it usually takes to finish it.

Our team has collected data through an online questionnaire taken by IBDP graduates (28 respondents), and have found that many first started doing the research either in the second semester of their first yearduring the summer break between the first and second year, or from the very beginning of the IB. You need to follow your IB coordinator’s instruction, but it’s not too early to start thinking about the EE on your own and get advice from teachers in the field your EE will focus on, even if your school hasn’t started the “EE season” yet. Once a supervisor is assigned to you, then you can discuss your ideas and your schedule with them.

Based on the above, it’s realistic to think it can take more than half a year to finish EE. The average months taken to finish the whole process of EE was 8.2 months according to the respondents of our questionnaire. But, some answered a year or a year and a half while a few answered a few months to finish their EE. If the experiment or the research takes too long or if you decide to re-write the whole EE, it could take longer than a year.

So, it’s best to schedule your “EE season” at the early stage of IB and have a safety margin to spend as much time as possible on your essay because you don’t want to rush it and compromise the quality of it.



2. Stages of the EE Writing Process

There are many things to do in the process of writing the EE, but it’s easy to finish the whole process once you know each step. The table below summarizes the steps set to finish within 6 months and you can either follow them or change some parts to suit your choice of topic or writing schedule (e.g. adding “experiment” between the steps).

Stage Step Week What to do
Research  1. Do research on possible topics 1~2
  • This is the most important stage. Take as much time as you need to find what interests you and how you can incorporate that in your EE.
  • The possible topics should be the interest of conflicts, meaning there should be arguments regarding the topic. You should also consider whether you have access to enough and appropriate sources.
 2. Read policies / assessment criteria of EE 2
  • When aiming for an A on the EE, it’s essential to understand the assessment criteria and IBO regulations regarding references and writing format. You should keep important rules in mind during the writing process and talk to your IB coordinator if there’s any confusion.
 3. Choose a subject / topic 3
  • Choose the subject and topic carefully, considering the findings from previous research and your knowledge in the area. Your supervisor will be assigned according to the subject you will write your EE in.
 4. Initial Reflection Session 3
  • There are 3 formal Reflection Sessions with your supervisor to reflect each stage of the process. Each session takes about 20~30 mins while more casual check-in sessions can last longer depending on the help a student needs. Each session requires students to write a reflection with a maximum word count of 500 words.
  • The first session reviews the assessment criteria, discuss possible approaches, issues, strategies to overcome the issues, and overall timeline.
Planning  5. Set Research Question(s) 3
  • You can have multiple RQs as long as they are suitable to guide your investigation. Same as any RQs, they should not be too broad nor too narrow. Consider if your RQs are manageable within the word limit. Try to use IB command terms in RQs to avoid “yes/no” questions and allow you to think critically.
 6. More research 3~5
  • Test your RQs by doing more research on the topic. Adjust your RQs according to the findings from the research.
  • Consider possible outcomes as answers to your RQs and how to develop the arguments from different aspects.
 7. Make table of contents 6
  • Making the table of contents prior to the writing stage allows you to structure your EE, setting a section of body paragraphs according to each aspect of the argument you considered previously. At the same time, consider the role of each section in answering your RQs.
 8. Interim Reflection Session 6
  • This session reflects the progress a student has made since the Initial Reflection Session. The main topic of discussion is about the RQs, arguments in the essay, possible sources, and a writing plan.
Writing  9. Write the introduction 7
  • Your introduction should explain why you chose your topic and RQs.
10. Write the body paragraphs 8~20
  • The style of body paragraphs varies depending on the subject of your choice but it should allow readers to understand the findings and arguments easily.
  • Having sections will help you organise the body paragraphs.
  • Try to avoid basic mistakes such as being subjective, misspelling and lack of citations. Remember to follow the assessment criteria.
11. Write the conclusion 21
  • The conclusion must have answers to your RQs and significance of your investigation. Don’t just summarize what you’ve written in the body paragraphs.
12. Create a bibliography 22
  • Make sure to list every single source you’ve used as a reference in the academic format. Double check to see if the citation is correct, too.
13. Submit the first draft to your supervisor 22
  • Ask your supervisor to comment on the first draft. It might take some time for your supervisor to give you feedback. So it’s best to let them know by when you want their feedback.
14. Edit 23~24
  • Make improvements based on your supervisor’s feedback. If there’s any confusion with the feedback, contact them to clarify.
15. Final submission 25
  • Make sure your EE has everything it needs before submitting. Check your format, structure, expression, citation, and bibliography.
16. Final Reflection Session (viva voce) 25
  • This session reflects successes and difficulties a student experienced in the process of investigation for EE. This is also a good opportunity to reflect what you’ve learned.



3. Tips to Keep Up with Your Planning

3.1 List Everything You Need to Do

Those who can’t keep up with the plan tend to miss important tasks when they plan in the first place and they end up doing it at the last minute. This is the easiest part but take your time, make sure you have everything on the task list, and understand what you have to do from the start. Feel free to use the table we provided in the previous section and change or add necessary tasks to make it your original list.



3.2 Use a Planner Tool

There are various planning tools to organize your schedule. It can be a physical planner or an app. Find something you can get used to, put due dates of your tasks, and make sure you have enough time to finish it. By using a planning tool, you can visually see how much time you have for the tasks, as well as time to socialize, and to sleep. It also gives you consistency and you’ll find it satisfying to cross out the tasks you’ve finished.



3.3 Exercise between the Tasks

Whether you have many tasks or not, doing physical exercise frequently will help you clear your head. It can be very stressful to go through the writing process and sitting in front of your desk for hours is not healthy. So you might find taking a walk or doing a ten-minute workout refreshing. It’s also effective when you feel your productivity is not as high anymore. Having exercise in your daily schedule will help you decide whether you have to keep going or call it a day.



3.4 Be Flexible

As mentioned above, it’s also important to have the courage to call it a day when your brain isn’t working anymore because it won’t be productive. Carrying on with the task the next day might be better. When your task is not done by the day you planned to, it’s best to be flexible and reschedule it to another day. But, this doesn’t mean you can change the schedule anytime, it just means being flexible with your plan is one option you can have when you’re stuck with a certain task.