• Zain Asif

How I got an A in the Literature Extended Essay in 3 DAYS 💣

I started and finished writing my Literature Extended Essay in 3 days. It got an A. This is how you can do it too.

The EE's 4000 words seem overwhelming but this essay is honestly very doable. In a time when you feel like you don't have much control over your results, it is so important to maximise the quality of components like your EE. Improve it as much as possible.

Now, I did my EE's research and writing in those 3 days at the end of DP1. But obviously, I'm not recommending that you aim for 3 days as it is essential to further explore, rewrite and improve it. However, sometimes we put off the whole task because it seems unenjoyable or too difficult. You need to be mindful of its importance and get the first draft on the page as early as possible, even if you have to rewrite bits afterwards.

My process might not have been perfect but this was my honest experience. I am just a student so take all of the advice and methods with a grain of salt.


Table of Content:


Why use the Statistical Bulletin?

Be clever with picking the subject. The IB releases a 'statistical bulletin' every exam season that includes a ton of data for each exam and IB component (highly suggest reviewing it). I was curious about the grading trends in EE subjects.

I noticed that essays in Math and Literature consistently achieve the highest % of A grades (24% and 15%).

If I'm being honest, this was part of the reason that I ended up doing a Literature EE. I knew I wanted to maximise my chances for an A and I had a solid idea for a topic too. However, it is important that you understand that these are just statistics and actually liking your subject will serve you much more during the process.

Personal note: If you want an A, don't choose the 'Individuals & Societies" subject group unless you have a burning passion and you are certain it will completely fulfil the criteria. It is by far the most common subject for an EE and only 7% of students are awarded an A. So choose a different subject group if you want to maximise your chances for the A. If not, you do you.


My Unique Topic

Read and make notes on all parts of the official EE guide and your subject-specific guide. This is the most obvious thing that most people lose marks on 🤦‍♂️. Understand the marking criteria and where the points actually lie before you start anything.

How are varying representations of imprisonment and freedom used in ‘The Underground Railway’ by Colson Whitehead and ‘The House of Spirits’ by Isabel Allende? - My EE Question

I knew I wanted to be unique and I'm going to be honest: I barely read any literature. But I thought it would be interesting to do a comparative study on a literary classic and a very recent award-winning novel. The paradox of imprisonment and freedom within two radically different novels ended up giving me so many strong approaches and analyses. This is how I chose the novels + topics:

  1. I googled a list of summaries for famous literature classics and found a book that was exciting.

  2. I explored its key ideas from several literature reviews and critics ✅ and then found a more recent novel that could be cleverly compared.

  3. After a few hours of strong analysis + research, I found a unique question to work on (which completely changed a few hours after starting 😂)

These steps might not be ideal for you AT ALL but this was the honest method I used to come up with my topic and research question. I wasn't an avid reader and I didn't want to waste time reading several books just to decide on the novels and research question. This surprisingly was very difficult and it was an experimental part of the process for me.


Smart Research

Aim to cite an academic journal for every claim you plan to make. A major advantage of using a well-researched literature classic was that there was a wealth of reviews, pdfs and critics discussing the novel. This allowed me to gain inspiration from the analysis of studies to synthesise my own reasoned arguments. I could then create comparisons to the other unknown novel through a very unique lens.

Instead of skimming these resources, I thoroughly read and understood all of the analysis relevant to the themes and ideas that my question focused on.

Seems simple but taking the time out to do this was crucial, otherwise I wouldn't have been able to create my own comparisons with the other book nor draw any critical conclusions. I used these key resources to develop my own arguments and evaluations but now I needed to cement my evidence.

Note: Please do not use websites like sparknotes or cliffnotes as resources for your analysis. It's very obvious but just stick to literature reviews and journal articles.


How to Evidence + My Hack

Yes, use literature reviews to influence your arguments but, for the top grades, you need to find your own evidence to cleverly analyse.

All claims and sub-claims made in a paragraph NEED to be backed by relevant quotes from the novels. Don't forget about the sub-claims.

Every single claim you make needs to be backed up by quotes from the book. You need to use them for not only your overall claim but all the sub-claims supporting the conclusion too. Since I ended up making multiple sub-claims within each larger comparison, each paragraph included at least 3-4 quotes.

Hack: Find evidence from the novels with the CTRL+Find Function. I ended up finding even better evidence and links to my claim with this.

This was my cheat way to find evidence and it hugely improved my entire EE. It was simply too time-consuming to actually go through the novels again and again. Instead, I just downloaded a free pdf version of both books and used the shortcut CTRL+F (find) to find particular phrases or words in both books.

For example, the word "sun" was significant in one book, so I used CTRL+F to find the other contexts the word was used in the second book. To my surprise, I was able to construct incredible comparisons and find even better evidence to support my points!


Think Critically: Don't Prove, Disprove

Disprove a critics' claim instead of adopting it.

Criterion C "Critical Thinking" (12 marks) is worth double the marks compared to the rest of the criteria and it states, "viewpoints derived solely from secondary sources, or purely descriptive essays, will not score highly.

Don't make the mistake of only adopting arguments from a critic and then justifying it. But as per the criteria, our essays also need to take a "critical perspective on secondary sources". Take a point made by a literature review and disprove it using your own interpretation and evidence. Far fewer people do this and it demonstrates far more critical thinking than simply agreeing with the critics' perspective.


The Feynman Technique for your EE

Walk someone through your essay. Explain the topic, your arguments and how you wrote it.

Imagine teaching the material you have learnt to a child who has no idea what you're talking about. If you can explain complex knowledge in a simplified way, you are actively reconstructing your core ideas and reinforcing your understanding! That's the Feynman Technique. It's very well-known and highly effective for general studying.

But I want you to do this for your essays. Go to a friend or sibling and start to go through the main ideas behind your essays. Explain the general themes you are analysing or comparing in the novels and talk through how you wrote the essay.

I did this and it was perfect for clarifying my thoughts and understanding the nuances I wanted to achieve with my arguments. Lay everything out in front of someone multiple times during your writing. Its a very simple technique, I highly recommend it.


My Thoughts & Regrets:

If you want to write it in four days you need to use a birds-eye approach, create a thorough outline to be efficient and fulfil the criteria for the A grade.

Use all the suggested tips and write continuously. I wanted an A, I knew what I had to do to get it and I was efficient with my process. But...no one else our age gets to engage themselves in a unique independent process like the EE.

Even though I wrote the EE in four days and got the marks, I regret the way I went about it all. I focused on optimising for that A grade but didn't engage with the process. I didn't choose subjects that I was more enthusiastic about (biology and physics) because it would be a bigger challenge to score highly.

I wish I valued it more and treated it as an opportunity to explore my enthusiasm, instead of only optimising to get that A.

I can look back and see that it was a mistake. Things like the EE, TOK and our IAs are what make the IB different from all other curriculums out there. Make the most of it and explore the things that excite you. Yes, you should still aim for an A but not at the cost of your learning experience.