Exploring the Benefits of the IB Extended Essay for University Studies


The International Baccalaureate (IB) Extended Essay is a requirement for students to engage in independent research through an in-depth study of a question relating to one of the six subjects they are studying.  A significant number of IB alumni matriculate at UVA every year, so CASTL-HE was a natural choice to research the impact of the Extended Essay on former IB students’ post-secondary careers.  This study focused on current undergraduates’ experiences with research while in college and used a student survey, individual and/or focus group interviews, and an analysis of student records.

What is the International Baccalaureate Extended Essay?

The International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Program is an academically challenging high school curriculum with final examinations that prepares students for success in college and beyond. The Extended Essay is a requirement for students to engage in independent research through an in-depth study of a question relating to one of the six subjects they are studying, including Language Acquisition, Languages and Literature, Individuals and Societies, Mathematics and Computer Science, the Arts, and the Experimental Sciences.

Why did International Baccalaureate choose the University of Virginia to research the Extended Essay?

Curious about the impact of the Extended Essay on IB students in their post-secondary careers, International Baccalaureate sought out a research partner.  A significant number of IB alumni matriculate at the University of Virginia every year; in fact, there are currently around 700 former IB students enrolled at UVA.  Combined with the University’s reputation for academic rigor, these enrollment numbers made UVA — and CASTL-HE — a natural choice.

“Karen [Inkelas] has an enthusiasm for education that makes this project even more exciting.  Her team is well prepared and experienced…” Liz Baynard, IB’s Global Research Manager (Program Impact, Schools Division)

What were the goals of this study?

This study focused on current undergraduates’ experiences with research (rather than other aspects of the writing process) while in college, in hopes of answering the following four questions:

  1. How well are the documented curricular aims of the Extended Essay achieved and sustained as students continue through university studies?
  2. To what extent do students perceive the Extended Essay to be valuable to university preparation and in what ways?
  3. What correlations, if any, exist between the Extended Essay grade and university success in terms of grade-point average, continuation rates, and post-university destinations?
  4. What is the relationship between the Extended Essay grade and the overall International Baccalaureate Diploma Program score?

How was this study conducted?

The goals of this study centered on three types of information (perceptual, behavioral, and performance-based), which CASTL-HE collected through a student survey, individual and focus group interviews, and an analysis of student records.  In addition to basic demographic and college enrollment questions, the survey primarily focused on the types of research students had conducted while in college.  Interviews with a subset of survey respondents explored students’ ability to conduct independent research, their confidence with and intellectual excitement about the research process, and their desire to engage in research in college and beyond.  The analysis of student records involved a statistical examination of various correlations among IB alumni’s Extended Essay grades, overall Diploma scores, college grade-point averages, and continuation rates.     

What is International Baccalaureate saying about working with CASTL-HE?

According to Liz Baynard, IB’s Global Research Manager (Program Impact, Schools Division), “Karen [Inkelas] has an enthusiasm for education that makes this project even more exciting.  Her team [Amy Swan, Jill Jones, and Josh Pretlow] is well prepared and experienced, which has enabled us to approach the research questions in multiple ways.”

CASTL-HE Researchers: Karen Kurotsuchi Inkelas, Amy K. Swan, Jill N. Jones, and Josh Pretlow

Associated Faculty