HL Essay

The Higher Level (HL) essay is a formal academic essay of between 1,200 - 1,500 words. It is, obviously, a task that is only completed by HL students. Based on what you study in your course, the essay gives you the opportunity to choose an area that is of particular interest to you and, with guidance from your teacher, write a focused essay that shows an understanding of a literary work or a non-literary body of work you have studied. This website has been written to help you gather and formulate your ideas, and to draft and write an excellent academic essay.

Essential Questions

The IB Diploma is the global benchmark for pre-university, post-16, High School education. Being an inquiry-driven programme, the articulation of essential questions at the forefront of any study is a prerequisite. Below you find kinds of questions that will be answered within this section of the site:

What are the requirements for the Higher Level Essay?


On what stimulus material should the Higher Level Essay be based?


Can I write the Higher Level Essay on a single non-literary text?


How do I design a suitable line of inquiry for the Higher Level Essay?


What does a really good Higher Level Essay look like?

This section will:

  • Give you a more detailed insight into the requirements and expectations of the assessment;
  • Help you with how to choose a topic - an essential requirement and the difference between success and failure;
  • Share student work with you, and allow you opportunity to assess and see examiners' comments.

  • HL Essay - The Basics

    This page provides you with a clear and basic introduction to the HL Essay, an academic essay based on literary works or non-literary texts studied during your course. Later pages provide you with tips, models, and activities to help you...

  • HL Essay - Choosing a Topic

    For Higher Level students, the fourth assessment component is the Higher Level essay. What to choose for a topic is the biggest challenge.

  • HL Essay - Student Samples

     Here you will find examples of real student HL Essays. Take a read and, using the marking criteria, grade them. You can compare your marks with those of the examiner.

  • HL Essay - Gaining Level 7

    Being able to see really good model examples is essential to learning skills. All the better if those models are truly assessed by examiners as part of a session, and if they adhere to our guidelines for organising and structuring an excellent...