As an IB Diploma student, there’s no escaping the joy of TOK. Not only do you have to get your head around what Theory of Knowledge actually is, but the IBO make you write an essay too. Excellent. If it makes you feel any better, the TOK essay was not my favourite part of the IB. So, to help you guys along with this task, I want to offer you my best pieces of advice. This week’s blog is going to help you focus on key elements to remember when writing your TOK essay. Let’s do this!

What are you Dealing With?

Your TOK essay will answer a question set by the IBO. Luckily, you get to pick from six different questions so there is a fair amount of choice. When given the option of multiple questions, I found it easiest to firstly eliminate the questions I knew I definitely did NOT want to answer. From there, I would select the essay title I felt would best suit the examples I wanted to include in my argument.

To give you an idea, these were the six questions set for May 2019 candidates:

  1. “The quality of knowledge is best measured by how many people accept it.” Discuss this claim with reference to two areas of knowledge.
  2. “The production of knowledge is always a collaborative task and never solely a product of the individual.” Discuss this statement with reference to two areas of knowledge.
  3. Do good explanations have to be true?
  4. “Disinterestedness is essential in the pursuit of knowledge.” Discuss this claim with reference to two areas of knowledge.
  5. “The production of knowledge requires accepting conclusions that go beyond the evidence for them.” Discuss this claim.
  6. “One way to assure the health of a discipline is to nurture contrasting perspectives.” Discuss this claim.

Know the Lingo

A great place to start with your essay is to brush up on all of those TOK terms! You want to be totally comfortable using IB TOK terminology. So check out this previous post for an instant guide to TOK terms and how they should feature in your essay. 

You also want to make sure your essay covers everything that the IB criteria requires. Let’s have a look at some of these important points:

  • Essays should express the conclusions reached by students through a sustained consideration of knowledge questions.
  • Claims and counterclaims should be formulated and main ideas should be illustrated with varied and effective examples that show the approach consciously taken by the student.
  • Essays should demonstrate the student’s ability to link knowledge questions to AOKs and WOKs.

It’s a very good idea to keep these points in mind when writing your essay. And once your first draft is complete, go back and ask yourself whether you have covered all of these requirements.

Stand Out From the Crowd

Some of you might be struggling as to where to begin with the content of your assignment. Whilst it can be very tempting to copy and paste certain phrases, words and ideas from TOK websites or online forums, be careful. Simply repeating phrases from TOK websites, or using downloaded TOK essay templates is dangerous territory. It will be very obvious to your examiner. It’s okay to look at TOK essay templates or structures for inspiration, but try not to copy these. Your essay needs to be original. You want to work your essay around your strengths and write about what you feel most comfortable discussing. So make sure your real-life examples are not simply those in your textbooks. Write about examples that fascinate you, and topics you feel confident evaluating, as this will come across as more convincing to your examiner. You want your essay to be unique and to stand out. You don’t want it to follow the same structure as everyone else, as it may also be considered as plagiarised…

Have You Answered the Question?

My next piece of advice is a golden oldie – answer the question! I’m sure you’ve all been told this before, but it’s so crucial with your TOK essay (and all your other essays of course!). If you don’t answer the question, you won’t score well. As I mentioned in my Extended Essay blog post a few weeks ago, you should constantly be asking yourself ‘Have I actually answered the title or question?’. To score well in your TOK essay, every sentence should link to the title you’re dealing with. A great exercise is to go through your entire essay, and analyse every single sentence. If a sentence enhances the question you’re answering, then fantastic! But if you come across a sentence that doesn’t really relate to your essay title, it’s a good idea to reword this section, or get rid of it. This is such a worthwhile exercise to do, as it will guaranteed make any essay much more focused!

Furthermore, don’t change the set titles. As stated in the IB rubric, ‘Students who modify the titles are likely to receive lower scores, since the knowledge questions that are explored in the essay must be connected to the titles in their prescribed formulation.’ So don’t try to be clever by altering the titles – it’s likely to lose you marks, rather than gain any!

Break It Down

When starting out with your TOK essay, the 1,600 maximum word count might seem a million miles away. But a good way to tackle your essay is to break this down; tackle a certain number of words at a time. For example, on one day, set yourself a target of writing a minimum of 500 words. Another day, aim for a further 500 words. And finally, on a different day, write another 500 words. Then in a final session to complete your TOK essay, you can refine what you’ve written so far, and you should have around 100 words left to play with!

And there we go! Hopefully these pieces of advice will make the process of writing your TOK essay much easier. But remember, if you’re looking for instant help with your Theory of Knowledge essay, check out our Online Private Tuition here! One of our elite TOK tutors will be able to offer you tailored support! 

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