Why it is a BIG Mistake to Choose a Science Subject for Your Extended Essay

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Science students often think Biology, Chemistry, or Physics are a good choice assuming they know enough to pull it off. In reality, there are plenty of reasons why it is a mistake to do a Biology, Physics, or Chemistry Extended Essay.

If you’re an IB student, the Extended Essay (EE) is a crucial component of your Diploma programme. You should carefully choose the area of your study since it will greatly impact your overall experience with the EE, let alone your grade.

Challenges of The Science Extended Essay

At first glance, completing an EE in Biology, Chemistry or Physics seems logical for students with a strong interest and natural aptitude for these subjects. Assuming the role of a scientist and conducting your own experiment can actually be fun.

Moreover, the university of your choice may require you to write the EE in a specific topic if you want your application to succeed.

Finally, choosing a tough subject can bring a lot of benefits – you have a chance to test your abilities and skills in conducting research, learn from the challenges you encounter along the way, as well as simply enjoy the process of finding out and processing new information.

However, when it comes to practice, choosing to do the Extended Essay in a science topic all on your own often comes with the potential for a Big Extended Essay mistake:

Restricted Lab Resources

Science EEs require hands-on lab work and access to equipment to collect meaningful data. That being said, you will often need to complete your EE over summer break when you can’t go to a school lab or get qualified supervision.

While passionate high schoolers may find a professional lab willing to assist, the IB often looks sceptically at this. That’s because they presume that a student could get excessive help. Their scepticism often leads to mark deductions.

It is really heartbreaking to work hard during your summer break only to get a grade lower than you feel you deserve.

Challenges of Generating a Focused Research Question

Science encompasses vast fields of knowledge. It’s easy to become overwhelmed trying to formulate a narrow, well-defined research question for the EE without guidance. Many students make the Extended Essay mistake of settling on broad topics, which leads to vague and superficial essays. If you lack experience or insight (let’s face it, you probably do), developing an incisive research question can be a big problem.

Conducting Experiments Without Support Can Undermine Accuracy

Oftentimes, students who choose science EE are required to independently carry out original experiments without expert supervision. However, a lack of guidance in areas like properly calibrating sensitive equipment, controlling important variables, or recording data can become a fertile ground for mistakes. Flawed experimental design and execution lead to inaccuracies, which will definitely weaken your EE’s credibility. Even small mistakes born of inexperience can make your findings questionable.

Organizing Lab Resources Adds Stress

As we have already mentioned, you need to complete your EE over the summer when school labs are off-limits. To perform these hands-on science experiments, you will have to organize and obtain all needed lab resources on your own.

Ordering lab equipment and reagents, as well as transporting fragile materials all fall on your shoulders. This can easily add immense organizational and logistical complexity to your work, and that’s besides the stress you’re already under with all of the challenges of the IB programme. The additional workload can become overwhelming.

Technical Terminology Can Be Confusing for Non-Experts

Biology, Chemistry, and Physics alike demand the correct application of complex technical vocabulary. You will need it to accurately describe methodologies, data, results, etc. Students who misunderstand or misapply these terms risk undermining their analysis. Your Extended Essay requires clear, mistake-free usage of scientific language.

What are the Alternatives?

Ultimately, it is up to you which areas of study to choose. If you feel you can tackle a science Extended Essay, then go ahead. Just keep in mind that many aspiring students who have chosen science disciplines before you describe this experience as ‘never again’.

But if you shouldn’t do a Biology, Physics or Chemistry Extended Essay, what’s an alternative?

Well, rather than restricting yourself to a lab experiment essay, you can produce a great result by integrating science with other areas of study, such as humanities or social sciences. In this way, the student can consider a topic of global importance like climate change, migration, or international terrorism.

For example, you might want to explore the economic impact of biofuel production – this is a combination of Biology and Economics. In this way, a student explores how the issue exists in a local context using specific examples and links the local to the global.

In summary, these types of combined subject essays are called world studies EEs.

World Studies Tutor For IB Extended Essay
World Studies Tutor For IB Extended Essay


What is the World Studies Extended Essay?

First, this means identifying a topic with global significance, and the IB gives three topic options:

  1. global sensitivity – a sensitivity to local phenomena and experiences as expressions of developments on the planet
  2. global understanding – the capacity to think in flexible and informed ways about issues of global significance
  3. global self – a developing perception of self as a global actor and member of humanity, capable of making a positive contribution to the world.

IBO World Studies Extended Essay updated June 2023.

Second, as the perspective is interdisciplinary the student needs to view the topic through multiple lenses.

By expanding beyond pure science, you can access a wider range of desktop research materials.

Getting Help from Experts

Even with a well-chosen topic, Extended Essays remain challenging. Although you are discouraged from getting help from the outside, you are allowed to get guidance. This is what we, TutorPlus, are glad to offer. Our experienced Extended Essay tutors can help you:

  • Brainstorm ideas to identify great EE topics;
  • Refine research questions so they are focused and clear;
  • Review drafts to improve academic writing;
  • Suggest additional resources to enrich analysis;
  • Provide feedback on structure and organization.

Refining your research skills can make the difference between an excellent essay and disappointment. We can help you reach the former. Don’t hesitate to contact us at +41 022 731 8148 or info@tutorsplus.com to get assistance with your EE.


You want to avoid Extended Essay mistakes, and independent scientific experiments may come with a multitude of risks. Lack of resources and terminology challenges can make all your efforts go to waste. However, combining science with other disciplines, getting help from experienced EE tutors, and avoiding over-ambitious lab work, can result in a top Extended Essay. Choose wisely, and you can impress your teachers while avoiding unnecessary stress.

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