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EXPLAINED: May 2024 TOK Essay Prescribed Titles

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TOK Essay Titles – May 2024 Examination Session

The titles for May 2024 are released! Here they are below:

Make sure to bookmark this page as I explain and provide examples for each of these titles in depth! UPDATE: Title 1, 2, 5 and 6 are now available. Stay tuned for more! For general guidance on how to write a good TOK essay, check out my TOK Essay advice collection .

Is subjectivity overly celebrated in the arts but unfairly condemned in history? Discuss with reference to the arts and history.

How can we reconcile the opposing demands for specialization and generalization in the production of knowledge? Discuss with reference to mathematics and one other area of knowledge.

Nothing is more exciting than fresh ideas, so why are areas of knowledge often so slow to adopt them? Discuss with reference to the human sciences and one other area of knowledge.

Do we underestimate the challenges of taking knowledge out of its original context and transferring it to a different context? Discuss with reference to two areas of knowledge.

Do we need custodians of knowledge? Discuss with reference to two areas of knowledge.

Are we too quick to assume that the most recent evidence is inevitably the strongest? Discuss with reference to the natural sciences and one other area of knowledge.

This title attempts to challenge students on the main school of thought that you learn over the TOK course. The gist of your TOK teaching on both of these AOKs probably boiled down to something like: everything is art and it’s just whatever the artist wants to create, while history is always biased because the winners always write all of history. However, this eliminates much of the nuance in each of these AOKs that are worth exploring. That’s what makes this prompt interesting.

Is subjectivity overly celebrated in the arts? I will be honest, I never thought we really ‘celebrated’ subjectivity. It just, was. Inherently, art is a subjective exercise – you can think about this point a little further. You will find some heated discussion on whether art is subjective or could it be objective on the internet and I won’t delve into that here, because it isn’t the point of this title. The key here is to focus on the EXTENT of subjectivity and is it to the detriment of the area of knowledge itself. Then, we have to consider, whose subjectivity are we talking about: is it the artist’s subjectivity, or the audience’s subjectivity. For example, the Mona Lisa wasn’t that well known when it was first painted. I’m sure the Da Vinci thought it was quite a nice piece, but it seems like we didn’t really celebrate his subjectivity. It wasn’t until a certain audience found it subjectively good, that we accepted it as one of the greatest pieces of art in the world! That is an example of how subjectivity is relevant in the dissemination of artistic knowledge. For a more modern example, what about your favourite YouTuber? Do they truly make what they want? NO! They are often beholden to sponsors, and you – the audience! What you want to see, is what they will make! So it is YOUR subjectivity that drives their decision to produce art, not necessarily purely their subjectivity. Subjectivity by definition is just a person’s opinions, emotions, thoughts. This connects well with the TOK concept of values. What VALUES and WHOSE values are determining what art is created (in a variety of contexts), how art is perceived, and how art changes in its reception over time? These are all good questions to ponder. For more unconventional examples about art, think about how museums choose what art to display, what constitutes good art for prizes like the Nobel Prize for Literature, or why some art is considered more expensive than others? Are there systematic ways to think about our subjectivity and how we apply it to art? Is it really overly celebrating subjectivity or simply a necessity to make sense of the abundance of artistic knowledge in a sea of information today?

History gets a bad rep in the TOK classroom. Students like to trash on History calling it biased and unreliable. In this prompt, I don’t want you to refute these claims, but just think about how they aren’t necessarily catastrophic as we might think. We aren’t denying that biases in history could be problematic. I would be suspicious too, if the only accounts of the Rohingya Genocide came from the Myanmar military. However, the word condemned in the title suggests that we might be too harsh on historians when they get things wrong. We should focus on how the historical method recovers itself from failures in biases from its sources. Yes, it might be biased, but is it better than no history? Furthermore, does subjectivity actually ADD value to the way we produce, and interpret historical knowledge? While I’m sure a completely objective, news story like report of what happened in 1886 would be a historian’s dream, that isn’t the case! No matter how objective we try to be, we colour the events we experience by our own opinions, feelings and emotions. But isn’t that history in itself? In an almost cliched way, history’s subjectivity tells us more about what happened in the past and their beliefs and values more than words could ever say.

In both the historical and artistic discussions, you should focus more on the methodologies of these AOKs and how they achieve their AOK’s purpose. Subjectivity manifests in different ways in these AOKs and their methodology reflects that. In the overt awareness of subjectivity in the Arts, its method to produce knowledge is characteristically defined by subjectivity. In History, the method is to identify the covert influences of subjectivity, then to produce the most truthful knowledge possible. You can see that the goals of these two are different, and hence they deal with subjectivity differently. Don’t fall in the trap of focusing your discussion too much on your examples, but generalise to the patterns of how subjectivity manifest in your AOKs and whether their treatment of it is problematic.

It is crucial, when writing the essay for this prompt, to clearly define in your introduction what specialisation and generalisation means. DO NOT use the dictionary definitions here – since this is a TOK Essay, you want to make a TOK version of specialisation and generalisation, in terms of how these two things differ in the production of knowledge. Clearly defining the two in this way will form a solid foundation for you to have a nuanced discussion on this process of reconciliation between the two. The prompt hints at the competing demands on knowledge of specialisation and generalisation – i.e. you might not be able to produce knowledge in the same way if you were aiming for specialisation versus generalisation. So, this provides a point of contrast for you to choose examples and frame your discussion. Remember, the idea of competing demands is an ASSUMPTION, not an argument posed by the question. You should focus on how your chosen examples demonstrate a way to balance the interests of both and reach a ‘middle-ground’ rather than arguing that specialisation or generalisation are compatible with each other. TLDR: Don’t challenge the assumption.

For the first AOK of Mathematics, you should have encountered many personal examples just from your study of IB Maths. Most of your learning has been on generalisation, and the application of such generalisations. For instance, you learn about Calculus, a general topic within Mathematics, and then apply it in various contexts. Mathematicians love generalisations – that Calculus you learned? Well, the definition of a derivative generalised for all functions could be summarised by the first principles of derivatives function that HL AA students learn. You would have less interaction with specialisation of Mathematical knowledge. In a broader sense, the specific components of mathematics, cannot be separated from the general. You can’t solve calculus problems without the fundamental theorem of calculus. However, you could argue that the fundamental theorem of calculus didn’t need calculus problems to exist. Thus, an interesting dilemma arises in Mathematics – the generalisation could be produced, without a particular need for specialisation, but specialisation often calls for generalisation to first exist.

Looking at the latest mathematics research, you will find that applied mathematics is most common. Rarely do you see people get excited by new discoveries of solutions to elliptical curves, but more do when you tell them a new mathematical model to improve our prediction of the weather. We may place greater value on specialisation of knowledge, because we could see its usefulness more immediately, but, the Area of Knowledge does not require such specialisation to produce knowledge. So, do we encourage people to produce knowledge with the goal of specialisation in mind, or do we tell them to produce whatever theoretical generalised mathematical knowledge they can? Look to how mathematics is applied to Quantitative Finance, Econometrics, and Actuarial Science. They specialise mathematical knowledge and provide for some of the most lucrative careers. Does that speak to our preference and demand for specialised knowledge? But then again, what of the interdependence between generalisation and specialisation? How do we balance the two and how does the methodologies of the AOK contribute to this balancing act?

For the second, complimentary AOK, you could have discussions with all of the AOKs. For the Sciences, you could present a similar argument about needing to have some general theories before you could specialise. The scientific method is essentially one big generalisation process – you take specific observations and you make inferences so that you can generalise about some natural process. However, the knowledge that produces need not be general, it can still be specific. If we take specialisation as the goal, then we could pose narrow hypotheses to test. If we take generalisation as the goal, then we might need multiple of these narrow hypotheses to form a full picture, testing each individual case. Thus, specialisation could lead to specialisation alone, but more often, generalisation is the result of many specialisations.

One last question you might want to consider and attempt to answer in your essay is, do you want to know something about everything or everything about something? The answer to that will depend on your AOK. While we want to know about everything on everything, that is simply not reality. So, what trade offs do we make in each AOK, and how does each AOK decide on what we need to know more on?

You might be able to appreciate how long it takes ideas to actually be implemented in reality by looking at the recent Nobel Prize winners for Economic Sciences. The winner of the 2017 prize was Richard H. Thaler, for his contributions to behavioural economics. He explored the impacts of limited rationality, social preferences and the lack of individual self-control on economic decision making on an individual and market level. He started these findings from the 1980s, but it is only recently, in the 2022 revision of the IB syllabus that Economics students learn about the field of Behavioural economics in any detail! So why is it so?

To some extent, it is hard to criticise things for moving slowly. After all, new discoveries like behavioural economics represents a fundamental paradigm shift towards the way research is conducted in the particular AOK. Often times, fresh ideas are left to “ferment” so that their truthfulness can be tested with time. Nothing is more embarrassing than going down a rabbit hole only to find that your assumptions turned out to be monumentally incorrect. Even if we are making a big shift in light of new ideas towards the way we produce knowledge, doing so takes time! For many years and still now, we rely on strong assumptions of rationality to make economic models function. While the psychology of such behaviours are well researched, applying them to an Economic setting may not be. That is to say, it is important to consider how these new ideas arise, and what effect it has on existing knowledge, and the way we produce future knowledge. New ideas is simply new knowledge, but with the added implication that it has some effect on the existing knowledge within an AOK. It could potentially change how we view current knowledge, or how we conduct research given a particular discovery.

In the AOK of the human sciences, which broadly follows the scientific method, you could drawn some inspiration from the philosopher Thomas Kuhn’s view of scientific progress. He argues that within a period of “normal science” where we make incremental progress under the assumption of an overarching model, but there comes a point where we notice accumulation of imperfections with such a model that leads to new paradigms – new ideas, that fundamentally change how we do science. Then we undergo a sort of scientific revolution, where there are debates and decisions made over what sort of model we need to follow, until everyone eventually accepts the new paradigm and returns to a normal science period so that continual small improvements are made to knowledge, until another paradigm shift happens again. While you are not expected to demonstrate such strong philosophy knowledge within the TOK Essay, it is helpful to consider how each AOK handles such ‘revolutions’. For instance, it is harder to irrefutably find falsities in human sciences given the difficulty in replicability and corroborative studies compared to natural sciences.

As for complimentary AOKs, any would suit here, as each AOK has a very different way to handle new ideas. Many factors influence the way new ideas is accepted. For this title, we need to take the assumption that their acceptance is slow, not argue with it. Instead, you should consider what factors influence this slowness, and how different AOKs have different factors in mind when deciding how to accept new ideas. This relates to the nature of the AOK (what is its purpose) and the methodology guiding knowledge production in them.

Have you ever said something that sounds very weird out of context? That might have just been something silly with no real consequences, but in the realm of knowledge, we need to be careful about the consequences of knowledge taken out of their original context. This article highlights how the context of medical treatment matters a lot! As you can imagine, something that works in one field, doesn’t always apply in a straightforward manner to another. This is why there are whole research teams dedicated to what we call “translational research”. That is, trying to “translate” what you get from something like a lab setting, into actual products, like life-saving medications.

The obvious links to AOKs here are the Natural and Human Sciences. For Natural Sciences, we often start off knowledge production in a lab setting, or in a controlled environment. However, the application of such knowledge is rarely as controlled! So an interesting point to consider is how natural scientists have to account for the fact that their findings won’t ever be used in as perfect a setting as their research. Sure, you might have developed bullet proof wood , but how is that going to work in practically when it comes to mass manufacturing it for the army or the police? This is one of the biggest challenges that natural scientists face. It’s not that we aren’t trying to produce exciting knowledge, but that the application of such knowledge in a practical and appreciable context is often very difficult. Something like the mRNA technology (which recently was awarded a Nobel) took a long time to be developed into actual vaccines. The question then is, do we underestimate this process? Often it depends on the goal of the scientist. If the knowledge producer set out with an idea to commercialise in mind, then they would often consider the practical implications of findings. However, people studying theoretical physics for example, would struggle to immediately find very accessible real life implications. That doesn’t mean the knowledge is worthless, but certainly, the challenges are there.

What about non-scientific disciplines? Recently, I went to an art exhibition that trend Van Gough’s paintings into a 3D digital display. There was a Banksy exhibition that took the original murals he painted on the street, into this museum environment. Does changing the context of how art work is shown, and the manipulation of artistic knowledge change its meaning? What is the goal of transforming art into a different context? There are many reasons. Sometimes, it is to create satire (have a look at the parodies of the Mona Lisa), bringing old art onto a new audience (like VR exhibitions of Da Vinci), or simply making it more accessible to people (by making art works digitally available). The producers of these adapted forms of knowledge take great care in considering how this impacts the meaning of the art in its changed form. When artwork is so subjective, the context of art is often required to understand the artist’s meaning and intention, to ‘interpret’ works accordingly. At the same time, as we know art is quite subjective, is a ‘correct interpretation’ always required? If we are to remain artistic purists, then many of the joys of art could be lost! Imagine if you were admonished for listening to Taylor Swift through Spotify on your AirPods because it isn’t the original uncompressed music file with all the details, and you aren’t listening to it on the exact set of thousand dollar speakers it was created with? It would be ludicrous to assume that artistic knowledge is always going to be disseminated in the same context. Thus, this must be a consideration of artists. Is this consideration more or less difficult for different types of art? How is this consideration different to science considering there is no ‘right’ answer to interpreting art?

When thinking about this title, we aren’t arguing whether it is difficult. I think we all agree it is. However, it is about whether we underestimate just how difficult it is! Center your focus on how each AOK’s methodology highlights the consideration of being able to change contexts, and whether that affects the interpretation of the knowledge in question.

The term ‘custodians of knowledge’ is not something TOK students have likely heard of before, but this concept is relatively simple to understand. If you think positively about it, it could be protectors of knowledge, people who preserve knowledge, keeping it for generations to come – for example, some people might consider the Indigenous Peoples’ in Australia to be custodians of their unique cultural knowledge and what they call dreamtime stories. In this way, they keep culture alive, even if most people nowadays speak English and don’t readily tell their history. However, thought about negatively, it could also mean “gatekeepers’ (pardon the Gen Z language) of knowledge. The idealogical “protection” of knowledge could also be seen as a way to prevent some forms of knowledge from becoming knowledge in the first place. Talk to any university academic, and they will tell you how many times their research papers have been rejected. That’s why there is a bias towards statistically significant results, while research that showed that nothing significant has happened doesn’t often get published. Thus, these two contrasts provide for interesting discussion, particularly when considering how each AOK has different forms of custodians of knowledge and how they “gatekeep” or “protect” knowledge in different ways.

Take the AOK of the arts as an example. The career of artists are laughed upon because it is so hard to “break in” to the fine world of art. Many artists aren’t acclaimed until they are long dead. Perhaps most famously, the Mona Lisa wasn’t very well known until several hundred years after it was made. Thus, artists are often at the mercy of custodians of artistic knowledge like art curators and critics, who decide what merits acknowledgement as knowledge. After all, knowledge is only knowledge when there is consensus it is. And if the big wigs in the art industry doesn’t think it’s worth a mention, your art, however brilliant it seems to you, would not reach the consensus required to be considered knowledge. Of course, there are debates on the necessity of custodians in such a subjective AOK. After all, there were many times I questioned how some “artworks” even made it into the modern art museum when it’s literally splashes of paint on a canvas. I digress. However, there is something to be said about maintaining some form of standard to art. We judge whether some art is good or bad, but not in a very rigorous way. Custodians of knowledge supposedly have a framework to make such judgement in a way which preserves the nature of the AOK, and the knowledge within it. Therefore, discussion about the necessity of the custodians should focus on how they contribute to the purpose of the AOK, and whether it is compatible with the nature and methodologies of the AOK.

To further illustrate what I mean, you could see that Natural Sciences might present a stronger argument to the necessity of such custodians. We implicitly “trust” science, for better or for worse, because we know that there is a level of credibility imbued by the scientific method. It is the custodians’ role to maintain the standard of adherence to the scientific method that keeps this credibility alive. This is why, when flat earthers argue that they can’t see the curvature of the earth from the horizon, that it doesn’t get published in a scientific journal as fact! This is why, when research emerges that denies the existence of climate change, custodians have a responsibility to retract such research . However, at the same time, it also places much pressure on producers of such knowledge to create something worthy in the eyes of custodians. You might have heard of the data manipulation scandal that forced Stanford’s president to resign. Thus, custodians do appear quite important in this AOK, when we value the truthfulness of knowledge so much, but that isn’t without its consequences.

I recommend picking two contrasting AOKs that value much different things when writing the essay. While comparison is not a requirement for the essay, it gives you a more nuanced understanding of the question and thus a more reflective piece. For instance, we have just demonstrated that art is relatively subjective, while the sciences are less so. Thus, this influences the role which custodians need to play in each AOK.

The framework to answering this title for many students will follow a similar structure: an example of when novel evidence was accepted and had groundbreaking impacts, and another example where such evidence was problematic and disputed. Repeat this for the second AOK you choose and you’ll have 4 contrasting examples. This is not the only way to approach this title, but is my personal preference considering the structure I suggest to most students that ensures firstly, you will pass the basic criteria of a TOK Essay, and secondly, you will have a strong foundation to succeed. However, since everyone will have a similar style and collection of examples, it is even more important for this title, that you tease out the meaning and the effect on each area of knowledge, and knowledge in general, that your examples represent.

To demonstrate what I mean, let’s focus on two natural sciences examples. First, consider the case of “Cold Fusion”, a theory that you could supposedly have nuclear fusion at room temperature, discovered and subsequently debunked in 1989. A contrasting example, could be recent Nobel Prize winner of Medicine and Physiology, for the research on mRNA vaccines. Immediately, it is obvious that one shows where recent evidence isn’t the strongest, while the latter shows that it could be. But the focus should be on are we TOO QUICK in assuming so, not whether we should or not. Well, what are the reactions and timelines for each example? While Cold Fusion was met with excitement from the general public for the potential it holds for energy production, I wouldn’t say we ‘assumed’ it to be strong. Looking at the news reports from that time, you can see that there was great anticipation about the discovery, leading to lots of sudden funding and interest to investigate it and replicate it. As for mRNA, that discovery took a long time! First the technology, and the getting it to not appear foreign to the human body was very tricky. Even after it was discovered, we waited quite a while, with many people’s first experience with mRNA to be their COVID 19 vaccine. What you need to draw from these two examples is the methodological similarities and differences which reflect the NATURE of Science, and thus, the purpose of science. You see in both how there is an emphasis on replication which corroborates or falsifies, and only after doing so for a long time do we accept it to be true, otherwise it is debunked. So yes, there are moments where Natural Sciences provides strong compelling evidence that ends up false, there are many hurdles with in the methodology of the Natural Science that prevents us from being TOO QUICK to assume it to be true.

For this prompt, it is too easy to fall into the debate of why something was true or why something was false and tricked the population. This is not the point of the essay. You should avoid talking about the specifics of your examples at length. You need to demonstrate how your examples reflect the wider methodologies of the Natural Sciences (and similarly, for your second AOK) that either encourages or discourages our assumptions that novel evidence is always best. As you can see from my examples above, I focused on how such assumption does not happen too quickly because there are many ways we verify scientific knowledge to be true. I don’t discuss the specifics of the actual science behind Cold Fusion or mRNA as that isn’t required. You are better off focusing on the methodologies behind the AOKs themselves and answering the question.

Some interesting complements to the Natural Science AOK could be History (particularly focusing on revisionism and how historical events could be interpreted differently over time), Mathematics (how could the methodologies differ and are there ‘mistakes’ in Maths), or even Human Sciences (replication is a bit more difficult with that!).

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20 responses to “explained: may 2024 tok essay prescribed titles”.

Brandon Avatar

Hi, when will you deconstruct #6? Much appreciated.

hackib Avatar

I just did! Hope it helps.

Brandon Avatar

Thank you so much!

dora Avatar

hello! when will you deconstruct #2? would really really appreciate it !!!

Just posted!

Mathias Ndinya Avatar

Hi when will you deconstruct No. 5? Much appreciated.

Tim Habay Avatar

Could you please deconstruct no5. ?

Check it out!

alisha wang Avatar

Please Please deconstruct 5 ASAP, first draft due in 5 days!!!! Thanks!

I just did! It’s a very interesting title.

sally Avatar

Hi, when will you deconstruct #3? Much appreciated.

I have just posted this. Thanks!

TOK2024 Avatar

Hi, when will you deconstruct #4? Thanks!

Just updated!

Jais Avatar

Hi, is there more in depth analysis of title 4 coming?

Sorry it took a while, but it’s here now!

anis ayuni Avatar

I have a question, for PT3, so what will be our possible counterclaim? is it another factor that will make it slow? or find another RLS that show sometimes fresh ideas can be adopted fast ?

I would reread the prescribe title. The title is asking you “why”. So all you need to do is propose different sorts of reasons as to why this slowness occurs. You don’t need to challenge the assumption within the title that it is slow. Accept that it is slow, and propose various ideas for why that is the case according to the properties of your chosen AOK.

MS Avatar

Could you explain how you would format number One. Would I only be talking about two examples one for each AOK and what about them? Introduction, aok 1 and aok2 and conclusions

For sure! You should refer to my article on structuring for TOK Essay for more details. In general though, you can approach this prompt with two examples for each AOK, with one example about subjectivity being overly celebrated, and one not in the arts, while for history, it would be one where it is condemned unfairly vs not.

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Extended Essay Writers

extended essay blog

How to Structure the TOK Essay?

TOK essay structure

Luke MacQuoid

Hello, fellow IB students! Fear not if you’re struggling with the IB Theory of Knowledge essay. I’m here to guide you through writing a stellar work. Having been in your shoes and now a seasoned IB writer, I understand how daunting this task can feel. But let’s break it down together. In this article, I’ll share insights on how to structure the TOK essay, a skill I’ve honed over years of experience.

Fundamentals of TOK Essay Structure

Let’s dig into the TOK essay structure, an essential aspect of successful IB essay writing. In my view, understanding the basic structure is like having a guide for your academic paper. So, a typical TOK essay includes three main parts.

The introduction is where you set the stage. It’s about introducing your topic and presenting your thesis statement — your central argument or standpoint. A strong introduction captures the reader’s attention and clearly outlines what you will discuss.

The body of your essay is where the discussion takes place. Each paragraph should focus on a specific aspect of your thesis. Here’s a simple breakdown:

  • Point . Start with a clear point that relates to your thesis.
  • Explanation . Elaborate on this point. Why is it relevant? How does it relate to the TOK concepts ?
  • Example . Provide examples to support your point. It could be real-life situations, specific knowledge claims, or references to areas of knowledge.
  • Analysis . Analyze your example; don’t just describe it. How does it support your argument? What implications does it have for knowledge?

In the conclusion, you’re wrapping up your essay. Restate your thesis in a new light, considering the arguments and examples you’ve presented. It’s your final chance to make an impact on your reader, so make it count by summarizing your main points and leaving them with a final thought or question to ponder.

Remember, while the structure is like a skeleton, how you articulate your arguments, provide evidence, and engage with TOK concepts breathes life into your essay. Keep your writing clear, coherent, and focused on your thesis throughout.

How to Choose the Right Title for Your TOK Essay?

Selecting the appropriate title for your TOK essay is a significant step. From my extensive experience writing and mentoring in the IB program, I can tell you that your chosen title sets the tone for your essay. It’s not just a label; it’s the guiding star of your argument.

When faced with the list of prescribed titles from the IB, take your time to reflect on each one thoroughly. Which of these titles sparks your curiosity or challenges your thinking? The right title should resonate with your interests and knowledge. Here’s why this is crucial:

  • Personal Engagement . A title that genuinely interests you will inspire deeper thought and more passionate writing. Your connection to the topic will shine through in your essay, making it more compelling.
  • Scope for Exploration . Consider how the title allows for the exploration of TOK concepts. A good title should offer enough breadth to discuss various perspectives and areas of knowledge yet be specific enough to allow for in-depth analysis.
  • Connect with Areas of Knowledge . Consider how the titles relate to different areas of knowledge (AOKs) and ways of knowing (WOKs). Choose a title that allows you to draw on the AoKs and WOKs you are most familiar with or find most intriguing.
  • Formulate Your Argument . A well-chosen title will help you formulate a clear and concise thesis statement and meet a TOK essay word count . It should offer a clear path to build your arguments upon.

The title of your TOK essay is more than just a starting point; it’s the framework upon which your entire argument is built. Take the time to choose wisely, and ensure it’s a title you can engage deeply and critically. This careful consideration at the beginning significantly affects the ease of writing and the quality of your final essay.

Writing a Captivating Introduction for Your TOK Essay

Writing an introduction for your TOK essay is like setting the stage. It’s your first impression on your reader and, more importantly, the examiner. Having guided many students through this process, I’ve learned that the introduction is not just about stating facts; it’s about engaging, intriguing, and presenting your stance. Your introduction should serve several key purposes.

Present Your Thesis Statement

It is the cornerstone of your essay. Your thesis statement should clearly state your perspective or argument to the TOK title. It must be concise yet powerful, giving the reader a clear sense of your viewpoint and how you intend to research it.

Interpret the Essay Title

Before digging into your argument, you must show you’ve thought deeply about the title. Explain the title and hint at the angles you will research. It sets the context for your argument and shows the examiner that you’re addressing the title directly.

Outline Your Approach

Give the reader a map of your essay. What aspects will you cover? How will you approach them? It doesn’t mean listing every point you’ll make but giving a general idea of the structure and flow of your argument.

Engage the Reader

The introduction is also about capturing the reader’s interest. Start with an intriguing statement, a thought-provoking question, or a compelling quote. It can be a great way to draw the reader into your discussion.

Connect to TOK Concepts

Briefly indicate how your essay will engage with key TOK concepts. It could include the areas of knowledge you will focus on or the ways of knowing that will be most significant in your analysis.

IB TOK essay structure

Structuring the Body of Your TOK Essay

This part of the TOK essay is where you develop your ideas, present evidence, and conduct a thorough analysis. Here’s a comprehensive guide to writing the body of your TOK essay.

Paragraph Organization

Start each paragraph with a clear topic sentence related to your thesis. This sentence should introduce the paragraph’s main idea, clearly linking your argument. Each section must focus on a single main idea to maintain clarity and coherence.

Develop Ideas

After introducing the main idea, it’s time to develop it. It involves explaining your point in more detail, relating it to TOK concepts, and showing how it supports your thesis. Be sure to include your insights and understanding. Your engagement with the topic is what brings your essay to life.

Use Evidence

Each point you make should be supported by evidence. It could be real-life situations, historical examples, science, literature, or personal experiences. What’s important is that your examples are relevant and help to substantiate your argument.

Critical Analysis

Don’t just present evidence; analyze it. Discuss its implications, strengths, and weaknesses. How does it support your point? What does it say about knowledge? This analysis demonstrates your critical thinking skills and depth of understanding.

Ensure that your paragraphs are interconnected. The end of each paragraph should naturally lead to the beginning of the next. This can be achieved through transition sentences summarizing one point and hinting at the next or directly linking the concepts discussed in consecutive paragraphs.

Reflect on Counterarguments

In your body paragraphs, it’s also effective to consider counterarguments or alternative perspectives. It shows the breadth of your understanding and strengthens your argument by demonstrating that you have considered and rebutted opposing views.

How to Add Real-Life Examples to Your TOK Essay?

When selecting examples, ensure they directly illuminate the point you’re making. The beauty of TOK is its interdisciplinary nature, so draw various areas like history, science, current events, or even personal experiences. This variety demonstrates your broad understanding of knowledge across different fields.

However, it’s not just about listing examples. The art lies in how you link them to TOK concepts. Each example should be a tool to explore these concepts, shedding light on your argument. It’s essential to analyze your examples, discussing their implications and relevance to the essay question. This approach shows critical thinking and a deep engagement with the material.

Also, consider the limitations of your examples. Acknowledging potential biases or missing perspectives reflects your ability to evaluate knowledge claims from multiple angles critically. Smoothly integrating these examples into your essay improves its flow and coherence, making your arguments more compelling. Remember, effective use of real-life examples can turn a good TOK essay into a great one.

in the tok essay you should work the title with

Need help with your IB TOK essay?

From research and analysis to structuring and editing, our skilled mentors will be by your side, helping you write an exceptional TOK essay that meets the word count and stringent IB criteria.

Making Conclusion for Your TOK Essay

The conclusion of your TOK essay is much more than just a summary. It’s your final opportunity to make an impact. Drawing from my extensive experience in IB writing and mentoring, I can give some key elements to include.

Synthesize Key Points

Your conclusion should summarize the main points you’ve made. It isn’t about listing each point again but about drawing connections between them to reinforce how they collectively support your thesis. Show the reader how the pieces fit together.

Address the Implications

Discuss the broader implications of your argument. What does your analysis suggest about the nature of knowledge? How does it contribute to our understanding of the TOK themes? It’s your chance to demonstrate the significance of your discussion beyond the confines of the essay.

Reflect on AOKs and WOKs

Briefly reflect on how your essay engages with different areas of knowledge and ways of knowing. How have these contributed to your understanding of the topic? This reflection shows your ability to think about knowledge holistically and interconnectedly.

Leave Thought-Provoking Idea

End your essay with a thought-provoking idea or question. It could be related to a gap in the current understanding, a future direction for research , or a philosophical question that emerged from your discussion. The goal is to leave the reader thinking deeply about the topic even after reading.

The Bottom Line

And there you have it! A guide on how to structure the TOK essay. Remember, this is your opportunity to showcase your critical thinking skills. With a clear structure and a bit of creativity, you’re well on your way to success. Best of luck, and remember that our experts are always ready to help you with TOK essay writing.

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Luke MacQuoid has extensive experience teaching English as a foreign language in Japan, having worked with students of all ages for over 12 years. Currently, he is teaching at the tertiary level. Luke holds a BA from the University of Sussex and an MA in TESOL from Lancaster University, both located in England. As well to his work as an IB Examiner and Master Tutor, Luke also enjoys sharing his experiences and insights with others through writing articles for various websites, including extendedessaywriters.com blog

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How to Write a TOK Essay

Last Updated: December 28, 2023

This article was co-authored by Stephanie Wong Ken, MFA . Stephanie Wong Ken is a writer based in Canada. Stephanie's writing has appeared in Joyland, Catapult, Pithead Chapel, Cosmonaut's Avenue, and other publications. She holds an MFA in Fiction and Creative Writing from Portland State University. This article has been viewed 250,777 times.

The International Baccalaureate (IB) Theory of Knowledge essay is a 1200–1600 word essay on prescribed topics or titles created by the IB. As the name suggests, your Theory of Knowledge (TOK) essay should focus on knowledge issues (what is knowledge? why and how do we know things?) and link to other areas of knowledge as well. About two-thirds of your final TOK grade is determined by your score on your TOK essay.

Choosing Your Essay Title

Step 1 Understand the structure of a TOK essay.

  • Mathematics
  • Natural sciences
  • Human sciences
  • Religious knowledge systems
  • Indigenous knowledge systems

Step 2 Ask your teacher for the prescribed titles for the TOK essay.

  • “Compare the roles played by reason and imagination in at least two Areas of Knowledge.”
  • “When mathematicians, historians and scientists say that they have explained something, are they using the word ‘explain’ in the same way?”

Step 3 Select a title carefully.

  • Do you understand the keywords or concepts in the title? You may not be clear on what a title is asking you to do. Go through the title and highlight any words or concepts you are unsure about. Some titles will use keywords from TOK courses, such as “belief”, “knowledge” “truth”. You may want to check back on your class notes and consider what these words mean in the context of the title.
  • Do you have a strong interest in the title? The title should play to your interests and you should feel you can write about the title with care and diligence. For example, if you are skilled or interested in the arts, you may choose a title like “Compare the roles played by reason and imagination in at least two Areas of Knowledge” and pick the arts as one area of knowledge. Keep in mind, however, you should balance your passion for the title with an objective perspective.
  • Do you have something relevant to say about the title? It’s important that you relate the question to the ideas you have covered in your TOK course, as well as the topics you have studied in class, and your own personal experiences or thoughts. The essay should have an objective tone, but you will still need to inject it with personality, passion, and clarity.

Step 4 Put the title in your own words.

  • For example, in a title like: “When mathematicians, historians and scientists say that they have explained something, are they using the word ‘explain’ in the same way?”, you may rephrase it into two sentences. The title refers to three AOK: mathematics, history, and science. It is then asking you to compare and contrast the way these three AOK use explanation as a way of knowing about a topic or issue.
  • By breaking down the title into short sentences, you now have a clearer picture of what the title is asking you to do and how you might go about answering the title sufficiently.

Structuring the Essay

Step 1 Note the assessment criteria.

  • Understanding the knowledge issues: your essay must be focused on the knowledge issues, link and compare at least two knowledge issues, show relevancy between at least two knowledge issues, and demonstrate a sophisticated understanding of the knowledge issues.
  • Knower’s perspective: your essay must demonstrate independent thinking, self-awareness, at least two different perspectives, and several supporting examples.
  • Analysis of the knowledge issues: your essay must show insight and depth, justify your main points, present arguments and counter-arguments, and explore any assumptions and implications of your topic.
  • Organization of ideas: your essay must be well structured, explain key concepts, be factually accurate, and cite references where applicable.

Step 2 Read the essay instructions.

  • You may also be asked “to what extent” or “in what way” a statement is justified. You will then need to present for and against arguments for the statement.
  • If you are asked a direct question, your essay should address to what extent or in what ways you are for and against an argument or position.

Step 3 Brainstorm ideas around the essay title.

  • Start by doing a general, open brainstorm. Write down everything that comes to mind when you think about the title without passing judgement on any of the ideas, or stopping to read over your brainstorm.
  • After five minutes of brainstorming, read over your notes. Identify ideas that relate to each other or that contradict each other. If you are evaluating or assessing a claim in the essay title, create a for column and an against column. Group your brainstorming ideas into either column. Create a third column for grey area ideas, or ambiguities, and place ideas in that column.
  • Note any examples of the ideas that you wrote down. For example, you may be addressing a title like: “When mathematicians, historians and scientists say that they have explained something, are they using the word ‘explain’ in the same way?” You may create a brainstorm for each area of knowledge (mathematics, history, science) in relation to the idea of explaining something. You may then use examples of “something” that can be explained in each AOK: a mathematical equation, a historical moment in a battle or a trial, and a scientific theory.

Step 4 Identify the knowledge issue in the essay title.

  • You should also identify the areas of knowledge you will be discussing in your essay. For example, for a title like: “Compare the roles played by reason and imagination in at least two Areas of Knowledge” you may choose two AOK: the arts and science. You may then compare and contrast the function of “reason” and “imagination” in the arts and in science.

Step 5 Create an outline.

  • Paragraph 1: Introduction. You would provide an explanation and interpretation of the title and identify the key terms in the title. You would also state your thesis and explain or identify a knowledge issue related to the title.
  • Paragraph 2: First Area of Knowledge. For example, the arts. Discuss how the arts answers the title and provide supporting examples. You should also note any counter-arguments against the title or any limitations of the supporting examples.
  • Paragraph 3: Second Area of Knowledge. For example, mathematics. Note how mathematics answers the title and provide supporting examples. You should also note any counter-arguments against the title or any limitations of the supporting examples.
  • Paragraph 4: Third Area of Knowledge (if applicable)
  • Paragraph 5: Conclusion. Summarize your main ideas and restate your thesis. Conclude by answering the title fully, taking into account the counter arguments and limitations of the areas of knowledge.
  • You may also decide to structure your essay based on a main argument and a main counter-argument. Your outline may contain four paragraphs total:
  • Paragraph 1: Introduction and explanation of the knowledge issue.
  • Paragraph 2: Main argument, with justification and one to two supporting examples.
  • Paragraph 3: Main counter-argument, with justification and one to two supporting examples.
  • Paragraph 4: Conclusion.

Step 6 Create a thesis...

  • Some students find it useful to draft their thesis statement once they have finished writing a first draft of the essay. By this point, you will likely have a better sense of the main arguments in the essay and be able to write a clear, concise thesis statement.
  • For example, you may need to create a thesis statement for this title: “Compare the roles played by reason and imagination in at least two Areas of Knowledge.” You have chosen two AOK: the arts and mathematics. Consider how reason and imagination function in the arts and in mathematics, as well as the different ways they function in each AOK. Your thesis may be: “Through reason and imagination play an important role in both mathematics and the arts, the imaginative thoughts of mathematicians must be provable, while the imaginative thoughts of artists need only be reasonable.” [5] X Research source

Writing the Essay

Step 1 Use your essay outline as a guide.

  • You may want to also refer back to your brainstorming notes to identify the supporting examples for your two areas of knowledge, or your main argument and your main counter-argument.

Step 2 Avoid using dictionary definitions in your essay.

  • For example, you may be discussing the use of reason and imagination in the arts. Rather than discuss a familiar artist, like Picasso, or a familiar example of imaginative thinking, like the Sistine Chapel, use supporting examples that feel original and insightful. Though the essay should be objective in nature, it should also feel reflective and personal. Using a supporting example that you feel passionate about, like Pollack’s kinetic movement paintings, or Rodin’s sculptures, will show you have taken the time to explore unique examples.

Step 3 Cite all external sources using MLA style citations.

  • Reference surprising or little known claims, but not well known facts or commonly held opinions. For example: “The sun is the center of the solar system” is a well known fact you will not need to cite. But “Rodin was a traditionally-schooled artist and had a craftsman-like approach to his work” will require a citation as it is maybe a little known fact.
  • Reference any sentences or sections where you are closely following someone else’s train of thought or argument, even in your own words.
  • Reference exact quotes, and use quotation marks.
  • Be consistent with your citations and the way you reference certain sources.

Step 4 Read your essay out loud.

  • As you read your essay out loud, make sure there are no vague or abstract sentences or terms. You want to ensure you use your 1600 word count in a clear and concise way. Every word will count in your TOK essay.
  • Confirm you have addressed knowledge issues in your essay. Your essay should answer the question “How do you know?” and assess the strengths and weaknesses of knowledge claims in at least two areas of knowledge. You should also use arguments and counter-arguments to support your thesis statement, as well as strong supporting examples.

Step 5 Correct any spelling or grammatical errors.

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  • ↑ http://www.dirk-solies.de/TOK/how%20to%20write%20a%20ToK%20essay%20cambridge.pdf
  • ↑ http://www.toktalk.net/2009/11/20/starting-and-planning-the-tok-essay/

About This Article

Stephanie Wong Ken, MFA

To write a TOK essay that compares several areas of knowledge, start with an introductory paragraph that explains your title and states your thesis. Then, write 2-3 main body paragraphs, discussing in each a single area of knowledge and how it relates to your title. Try to provide supporting examples in each case, and address any potential counter-arguments, as well. Finally, end your essay with a conclusion that summarizes your main ideas and restates your thesis. When you’re done, check to be sure that you’re within the 1,200-1,600 word limit for the essay. To learn from our English reviewer how to choose an essay title and create your thesis statement, read on! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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How To Write A ToK Essay - Updated 2023

Ace your ToK Essay with our expert tips & tricks! Get the latest and greatest techniques on "How To Write A ToK Essay" and impress the IB examiners.📝💡

How To Write A ToK Essay - Updated 2023

Table of content

Purpose of tok, assessment of tok, the game plan, execution of the gameplan, planning for tok essay, structure of tok essay, introduction, conclusions, bibliography.

How to write a TOK Essay? 

To answer that, you must familiarise yourself with what a TOK Essay is about.

Before you start reading this article,  Amanda  has some excellent TOK tips for you!

Theory of Knowledge is one of the most meta subjects that IB offers. Despite its complexity, TOK helps in providing a base for holistic learning and allows students to have a multidisciplinary experience. 

To understand TOK is to understand the essence of IB, a task that most people consider unattainable.

But not for you! 

Thank your lucky stars who made you land on Nail IB. How exactly will Nail IB help you? 

Well, nailing International Baccalaureate is something we will discuss later. 

Let's focus on cracking your TOK essay, shall we?

TOK demonstrates how students  can apply their knowledge  with  greater awareness  and  credibility .

Big words, huh? 

Now that we know that we cannot just slide through the Theory of Knowledge, let's understand how we can conquer this battle all guns blazing.

ToK essay’s primary objective is to answer the  why  behind our studies. 

It makes one aware of the real-life implications of their subjects. The students gain greater awareness of their personal and ideological assumptions and appreciate the diversity of different perspectives. It helps the students find their unique perception, a prerequisite for excelling in the IB TOK essays.

Before we dive into our gameplan, let’s overview the rules of the game.

There are two assessment tasks in the TOK: an essay and a presentation . While a presentation encourages students to explore a real-life situation through the lens of TOK, an essay is written on the basis of the various questions provided by the International Baccalaureate Organisation.

  • The presentation is to assess a student’s ability to apply TOK thinking to a real-life situation whereas IB TOK essay is more conceptual.
  • The essay is externally assessed by IB and must be on any one of the prescribed TOK essay titles issued by the IB for each examination session.
  • Word limit of a TOK essay is 1600 words ( excludes extended notes, footnotes, bibliography).

Now that we have unleashed the game, let’s move ahead towards the gameplan of acing both, your presentation and your essay.

One of the fundamental tasks of TOK is to examine different areas of knowledge and find out their similarities and differences.

The TOK essay requires the students to investigate two Areas of Knowledge (AOK)  and two Ways of Knowing   (WOK) . AOKs and WOKs are investigated via questions such as:

  • How do we know what we know? (WOK)
  • What counts as evidence for X? (AOK)
  • How do we judge which is the best model of Y? (WOK)
  • What does theory Z mean in the real world? (AOK + WOK)

The aforementioned are  Knowledge Questions  which help combine the Areas of Knowledge and the Ways of Knowing that they are using. This eliminates the superficial way of learning and makes an individual sensitive to the nature of the information.   Our acquisition of Knowledge can be broadly divided into Shared Knowledge and Personal Knowledge.

Shared knowledge: What WE know It is the product of more than one individual. Although individuals contribute to it, shared knowledge does not solely depend upon the contributions of a particular individual—there are possibilities for others to check and amend individual contributions and add to the body of knowledge that already exists.

Personal knowledge: What I know It is essentially dependent on the experiences of a particular individual. Also known as procedural knowledge, it is gained through experience, practice and personal involvement and is intimately bound up with the particular local circumstances of the individual such as biography, interests, values, and so on.

The best hack to ace TOK essay is to develop a habit of making connections between the construction of knowledge, its acquisition and its relevance in the real world. 

After that one needs to develop an interest in understanding the difference between diversity and cultural perspectives and personal assumptions.

One also needs to critically reflect on their own beliefs and assumptions, leading to more thoughtful, responsible and purposeful lives.

Yes, this is what you signed up for. It may sound a little intimidating but once you get the hang of it you will be able to see the matrix and understand this beautiful world a little better.

Understand that to provide the best version of your writing, it will take you more than one or two drafts. First and foremost, you need to pick your essay topic diligently. Try to choose an essay topic that best interests you. The topic should also allow you to explore the Areas of Knowledge towards which you are naturally inclined. Here are a few sample questions:

a) 'Ways of knowing are a check on our instinctive judgments.' To what extend do you agree with this statement?

b) With reference to two areas of knowledge discuss the way in which shared knowledge can shape their personal knowledge.

c) How can we know if knowledge is produced more through 'Passive Observation' or 'Active-Experiment' within the Human and Natural-sciences under a Mathematical-Perspective?

d) "The whole point of knowledge is to produce both meaning and purpose in our personal lives". Assess the validity of this statement.

Great things take time. It took me more than a couple of weeks to finalize this TOK essay guide. It is completely okay if the first few drafts may not look pleasing or award-winning to you. You will require sharpening your perspective towards the topic each time you polish your draft. Your writing journey from a dull draft to a masterpiece will be a whole process that you will have to be patient with. Have faith in yourself and proceed stepwise.

You need to consider the opinions of others who have devoted hours of research and a lifetime of dedicated studying the topic that surrounds your writing. Unravelling the realms of your mind palace is so Sherlock but let’s not deny the fact that at times, Watson is the one whose expertise helps Sherlock through pretty difficult times. I mean even Batman needs a Robin. In support of my awesome sauce examples, the point I am trying to make is that  finding support for our claims and counterclaims through research is a good thing .

Use real-life examples to support your claims and counterclaims. These examples need to be documented researched examples like studies, experiments, articles, presentations by well-known people, etc. Examples that stem from your diploma subjects are highly encouraged, but those will need to be supported by research as well.   

It is suggested that you choose a title, stick to it, tackle it and not be afraid. Do not change your mind unless there is a good reason. Also, try choosing Areas of knowledge that you truly enjoy. You know slaying a known devil is much easier than an unknown one. Allot a TIMELINE to your essay. Start with creating an outline of your essay. This will help you to track your progress and accomplish your goals

You can use tools like  Trello  to organize your ideas and plan your TOK essay.

Areas of Knowledge (AOKs): TOK distinguishes between eight areas of knowledge. They are mathematics, the natural sciences, the human sciences, the arts, history, ethics, religious knowledge systems, and indigenous knowledge systems. It is suggested that students study and explore six of these eight.

Ways of knowing (WOKs): TOK identifies eight specific WOKs- language, sense perception, emotion, reason, imagination, faith, intuition, and memory. It is suggested that studying four of these eight in-depth would be appropriate. WOKs underlie the methodology of the areas of knowledge and provide a basis for personal knowledge.

Moving ahead, let us discuss the structure of your TOK essay.

Your essay will consist of 4 broad segregations

Before breaking down further on the pillars, keep the following in mind

  • Please note what the TOK essay title is asking you. (Read it a couple of times. We highly recommend that you brainstorm ideas with your TOK coordinator)
  • Make sure you understand the command term and the question it is asking.
  • What kind of knowledge is being elicited?
  • When choosing your areas of knowledge (AoK) and ways of knowing (WoK) make sure that you are able to draw contrasts and comparisons, that is, you are able to find evidence that supports as well as challenges your claims.
  • Identify key terms in your TOK essay title. Make sure you define them. Your essay will gravitate around them. Key terms/words in your titles are your essay anchors. Your response should be built around them.
  • Your writing skills come in handy while you work on your IB TOK essay. Like any other essay make sure you have proper thesis statements and topic sentences to guide the evaluator through your work.
  • Respect the TOK essay title. Rephrasing the topic is not encouraged . Your main job is to address the title.

Introduce your topic accurately and state your thesis statement for the essay carefully.  A thesis statement is like a teaser to your entire essay wherein you define your key terms and introduce your interpretation of the question. Make sure that you do not reword the prescribed title in your thesis. Instead, it needs to, as the word says, INTRODUCE your readers to what your essay is about. A strong introduction allows the reader to deduce what knowledge question(s) you are trying to answer.

So, in a nutshell

  • Write interesting things about the given TOK essay title .
  • Define key terms
  • Narrow in on the particularly interesting aspect
  • State your thesis statement . This will be your short answer to your given title if you don't know how to write a killer thesis statement check out this blog from SparkNotes .
  • State your Roadmap. This will help the readers in understanding the direction of your essay.

The body can be mainly divided into 3 segments.

Body (1st Segment)

  • AoK Claim:  Here you investigate your first Area of Knowledge and draw parallels between your AoK and the question. This is done by stating your claim. Claims can be general in nature and need not reference a particular area of knowledge. They help you shape your essay and investigate the question further. 
  • Evidence: Example of a real-life situation, describe thoroughly and accurately, which supports your stated claim. (AoK)
  • Counter-Claim: State your counter-claim: like claims, those can be general and need not reference a particular area of knowledge. Counterclaim helps you show the other side the coin and gives your essay a holistic nature. 
  • Evidence: A referenced real-life situation/example. Describe thoroughly and accurately, show how this supports your counterclaim (AoK ).
  • Don’t forget to weave in your WoKs:  You need to take into account the source of your knowledge. Here you can also investigate if your nature of acquiring the knowledge has, in any way, affected it. It is good practice to question if your knowledge would be different had it been acquired through a different source/method
  • Mini-conclusion: Here you analyze your examples in reference to your claims and counterclaims. You must connect to your thesis statement and the prescribed title. How does your proposed argument, in this particular part of the body, connect to the prescribed title and the knowledge questions you are trying to answer?

Body (2): Follow the above process for your second AOK.

  • Use this part of your essay to compare and contrast your varying AoKs. You need to connect them to your thesis and your prescribed title clearly showing how your arguments respond to the PT.

Your conclusion section will make your essay come together. It is the glue that will make your essay stick together. Herein, you need to

  • Reiterate your thesis (initial response).
  • Use your mini conclusions to write a final conclusion.
  • Tell the reader what the significance is for knowing what we know in this particular PT.
  • Discuss implications as well.
  • Offer another perspective, how will the perspective of a different person affect the claims/counterclaims you make in the essay?
  • Don’t forget to make the end strong.

We recommend all the ib students use the  citation machine  (It's FREE) to organize or generate a bibliography for your TOK essay. Please go through this extensive guide provided by the IB before you start working on your citations.

If you are still struggling heaps with your TOK essay feel free to subscribe to our tok notes bundles or get access to more than 500+ IBDP notes and past papers here .

Nail IB is your virtual companion that helps you hustle through your diploma and provide you with the right resources at the right time. To know more about acing IB, click  here .

I hope this article will become the foundation for figuring out how to write a TOK Essay.

Remember to have faith in yourself.

I hope you NAIL your TOK essay!

Quoting the great Napolean Hill

"Whatever the mind of a man can conceive and believe, it can achieve."

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in the tok essay you should work the title with

Guide to the TOK Essay

What’s covered:.

  • What is Theory of Knowledge (TOK)?
  • What is the Theory of Knowledge Essay?

How is the Theory of Knowledge Essay Scored?

How to structure your theory of knowledge essay.

The International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IB/IBDP) is a rigorous and rewarding internationally based educational program that offers courses in numerous studies, from humanities to chemistry. Students take part in a two-year curriculum that includes external examinations, internal assessments, research papers and community service hours. Essentially, students will have to do a bit of everything, especially with IB’s core, which is CAS, TOK, and the extended essay (EE). Understanding how TOK, IB’s flagship class, is assessed with its essay is important to success in the course overall. 

What is Theory Of Knowledge (TOK)?

Theory of Knowledge is IB’s way of introducing a more intuitive way of thinking into classrooms. TOK is at its surface as simple as it sounds: you essentially learn the “what” and “why” of how we learn and understand knowledge. In order to assess students of their skills in TOK, IB uses an essay and a presentation. The essay makes up 67% of your total TOK score, making it the most important task to focus on for getting a high score. 

What is the Theory Of Knowledge Essay?

The TOK essay is a 1600 word essay written about topics usually given to students from their teachers from a list of numerous options. It is an essay that promotes arguments and counterarguments for the topic at hand. Understanding your ways of knowing (WOKs) and areas of knowledge (AOKs) is extremely crucial before you even start choosing a topic to write on, as your essay will revolve around and structure itself based on these two concepts. Being able to demonstrate higher-level thinking and using examples to solidify the points you make in your essay is also important. Additionally, you’ll need to reference every source of information that you use, since that is something examiners look for as well.

As said earlier, 67% of your grade is from the essay, and your overall TOK score receives a letter grade using a calculated score out of thirty. Your essay score and presentation score are each out of ten. The grades for your TOK presentation and essay are determined by sending material to the board of IB, from which they designate a grader/examiner to read your essay and grade based on a rubric that determines the level of knowledge you exhibit in your writing.

The following formula should better explain how to find your TOK grade. 

(presentation score) + (essay score * 2) = overall score out of 30

The grade boundaries out of 30 that determine your letter grade can vary each year so checking in with your school for the most recent ones is the best course of action, but an example set would be like this:

Once you have a letter grade for IB, your extended essay, which is another part of the core, is also included into a larger grading schema to calculate your core score, which is three additional points required to complete and earn the diploma. The following table details this grade further:

Doing well in the core is important to passing IB and getting three points out of the total 45 attainable points. 

There’s a trick that most IB students use in writing the TOK essay, and it boils down to understanding four key components of learning:

  • Content : Understanding knowledge issues
  • Clarity : Structuring your essay in a legible and clear/easy to read manner
  • Creativity : Using your personal ways of thinking and applications of knowledge specific to your understanding of the knowledge issue
  • Critical Thinking : Using a counter argument for every argument you have to analyze your own claims constantly 

Dividing your actual essay into three main chunks helps, starting with an introduction. Your introduction should be where you state your knowledge question, the central point of your essay, and you should make use of jargon specific to the concept. As the basis of your essay, the introduction should be where you form claims and counterclaims that either support or challenge the knowledge question through heavy analysis and evaluation. 

The body of the essay follows the introduction, and it is where most of the conceptual analysis of your knowledge question takes place. Every argument and its counterargument should have a dedicated paragraph of its own, and make sure to not jump back and forth too much throughout the essay. to avoid creating messy transitions for the reader and potentially harming your score. Understanding the essay from the reader’s point of view is important, as it will help you better understand how to structure the body of your essay.

A conclusion in the TOK essay is mainly for finding closure among the numerous arguments that have been taking place thus far in the essay. Make sure to summarize but not repeat previous information entirely to refresh the reader. A conclusion should essentially loop back to the beginning of the essay, the knowledge question. The knowledge question’s answer should be the conclusion and the stopping point of the essay, and by now the answer you provide should be backed by paragraphs of supporting claims and counterclaims. If done right, concluding the essay can be how you earn most of your points. 

Start Early

Starting early is an obvious and effective advantage to students. Aside from TOK, let alone the presentation, IB has substantial work that requires focus and allocated time dedicated to it, such as external examinations and the extended essay. These tasks are equally as important as the TOK essay, so starting your outlining, drafting or even just planning early will set you up for success.

Send Your Drafts to Your Teacher

Your TOK teacher is a great resource for drafting essays and making edits to perfect your final product. Making use of time outside of the classroom to catch your teacher for a quick review of your essay could be a bigger advantage than you realize. Making use of an outside perspective is essential to forming a great essay. 

While your final IB grade isn’t as important as you’d think regarding college admissions, understanding how to pass TOK and using the lifelong practices you’ll learn in the class is even more important. TOK creates students who think outside conventional methods, making them excellent candidates in the eyes of college admissions offices. Taking TOK and showing proof of understanding it as well as capability of academic rigor is what colleges are looking for. For more information on how your chances of college admissions might look, use CollegeVine’s admissions calculator !

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in the tok essay you should work the title with


Mastering ToK Essay Structure: A Comprehensive Guide

Daniel Trump

  • December 5, 2023
  • Student Support , ToK Essay

Introduction to ToK Essay Structure

December is the busy essay writing season for May session schools! I’ve been reading ToK Essays from students all over the world in which I am frequently seeing problems of structuring the ToK Essay effectively. This post aims to address the often-asked question, “ How do I structure my ToK Essay? “

The International Baccalaureate (IB) doesn’t prescribe a single structure for the ToK Essay. They require that you “ provide a clear, coherent and critical exploration of the essay title ” (IB ToK Essay Assessment Instrument, 2020) Achieving this requires a well-thought-out structure that fosters clarity, coherence, and critical exploration. Let’s break down the essentials that every ToK Essay should include, regardless of the chosen title or structure.

Essential components of a ToK Essay.

Essential Elements of ToK Essays

  • Knowledge Arguments (or Knowledge Claims): For each Area of Knowledge (AoK) considered, formulate at least one main knowledge argument or claim.
  • Real World Examples: Illustrate your knowledge arguments with real-world examples, which may also include evaluation points.
  • Evaluation Points: Consider alternative viewpoints to your knowledge claims. These are crucial for a balanced and critical exploration.
  • Implications: Reflect on the implications of your arguments and any conclusions you reach.

These four elements are non-negotiable in any ToK Essay.

Essential & Useful components of a ToK Essay

Additional Components for Enhanced Essays

  • Definitions of Key Concepts: Best integrated within your knowledge arguments.
  • Thesis Statement: A sentence summarizing the essay’s main argument. Typically found in the introduction, it helps organise your arguments and maintains coherence.
  • Unpacking the Prescribed Title (PT) in the Introduction: Offer your interpretation and explanation of the essay question here.

For a more detailed exploration, refer to my e-book, “ How to Write the ToK Essay in 6 Easy Steps ” linked here

Common ToK Essay Structure

A widely used structure, found in about 75-80% of ToK Essays, looks like this:

Common ToK essay structure

This structure is effective for most Prescribed Titles and can lead to high scores.

Alternative Structure for Deeper Analysis

Some students opt for a different approach:

Alternative ToK Essay Structure for deeper analysis

This structure cleverly uses the Knowledge Argument against PT in AoK 2 as evaluation points for the argument supporting PT in AoK 1. This method allows for a more in-depth comparative analysis and potentially higher scores.

Remember, the optimal structure for your ToK Essay is one that enables you to “provide a clear, coherent and critical exploration of the essay title”. For further assistance with essay structures and content, consult my e-book “How to Write the ToK Essay in 6 Easy Steps” or detailed notes for each ToK Essay this season (links in the video description).

Embarking on your ToK Essay journey with a clear understanding of its structure is key to success. Happy writing, and remember, the path to knowledge is as much about the journey as the destination!

Stay TokTastic,

Daniel, Lisbon, Dec 23

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Example essays

As part of theory of knowledge (TOK), each student chooses one essay title from six issued by International Baccalaureate®(IB). 

The titles change in each examination session. 

Upcoming and past questions include: 

  • “To what extent are areas of knowledge shaped by their past? Consider with reference to two areas of knowledge.”
  •  “'There is no reason why we cannot link facts and theories across disciplines and create a common groundwork of explanation.' To what extent do you agree with this statement?”
  • “There is no such thing as a neutral question. Evaluate this statement with reference to two areas of knowledge.”
  • “'The task of history is the discovering of the constant and universal principles of human nature.' To what extent are history and one other area of knowledge successful in this task?”

Further guidance on the TOK essay and exhibition can be found in the IB’s Programme Resource Centre (PRC) .

Materials in the PRC are only available to existing IB World Schools. These materials are free.

There are a number of resources on TOK in the IB Store , which are available to everyone.

Find out how to become an IB World School .

in the tok essay you should work the title with

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How to Structure and Format your TOK Essay!

in the tok essay you should work the title with

TOK is, for many, an extremely difficult subject to get your head around. A lot of the questions you get asked in class might seem entirely nonsensical to you, and perhaps the TOK essay titles seem just as confusing! One thing that we at Lanterna think is the most under-appreciated thing that truly aids understanding and expressing those more confusing concepts is clear structure and format . 

So many of the TOK essays we’ve seen students submit have had some great ideas but they seem too rambling and incoherent. Taking a few extra hours to address the structure of the essay is not just something that will make your essay ‘look’ better, but it will actually express your ideas much more clearly! What results is an examiner that clearly understands your viewpoint, rather than having to search for what you actually mean, and your grade is sure to increase! So… how do we structure and format our TOK Essay? 

Introduction (150-200 words)

  • Start by focusing on the prescribed title (PT) – what catches your attention about it? 
  • Define a few key terms from the prescribed title. Typically your PT will contain some words or phrases that aren’t easily definable, like “progress in knowledge” vs. “change in knowledge”, so the way in which you define these key terms is extremely important to the way that you then answer the PT. 
  • Choose the AoK’s that you will consider related to this PT and perhaps a brief description of why you think these are good choices of AoK’s to discuss this title!
  • State your thesis – typically the PT will be a question that you can agree, disagree, or partly agree with. 
  • Give a general overview of what you will be discussing in your essay, potentially referring to the real life examples (RLE’s) that you will consider, or the Ways of Knowing (WoK) that you will discuss further in your body paragraphs. 

Body Paragraph 1 (250-350 words)

  • Explore the first AoK you chose. State why that AoK either supports or doesn’t support the PT.
  • Introduce a real life example
  • Explain why this real life example supports or doesn’t support the PT using WoKs
  • Talk about if this is a unique example, or if that example is true for most of that AoK.

Body Paragraph 2 (250-350 words)

  • Counterclaim to the example you gave above – explaining why it might be flawed or what downsides it might have
  • Introduce a real life example within the same AoK that counters the example in paragraph 1, using different WoKs
  • Refer back to the PT with a concluding sentence stating to what extent your first AoK supports or doesn’t support your thesis based on the example and counterexample you’ve highlighted.

Body Paragraph 3 (250-350 words)

  • Similar to Body Paragraph 1, explore your second AoK by bringing up a real life example, explaining it using WoKs, and evaluate

Body Paragraph 4 (250-350 words)

  • Similar to Body Paragraph 2, give a counterclaim to your previous example and then refer back to the PT showing whether your second AoK supports or doesn’t support your thesis. 

Body Paragraph 5 

  • If you have additional words to play around with then we’d recommend adding a body paragraph where you compare and contrast the 2 AoKs that you chose. Why is that they address the PT in different ways? Is it purely down to the WoKs we use when getting knowledge from those areas, or are there other factors at play? 
  • Most importantly, refer back to the PT and your thesis. Through your analysis what is your response to the PT? Generally it’s unwise to come down extremely strongly on one side of the argument, as that probably implies that you’ve failed to recognize the arguments on the other side of the aisle. With that said, state what side you lean towards after your analysis and what examples backed that up!
  • Tell us why it’s important to know the answer to this question!

Every TOK Essay will look different and this isn’t the only format you can use for your essay. In fact, for some prescribed titles you might even want to steer away from this structure if the PT lends itself to another format! However, as a baseline, this is a clear, well-thought out way to approach the confusing essay that is your TOK Essay. Let us know if you have any more questions about the TOK Essay and we’ll be happy to help you out! Good luck!

We also offer online private tuition if you would like more support with your TOK essay, and our packages here .

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The TOK Essay Process

Developing a successful TOK essay is important and very challenging. The TOK essay makes up a significant part of the overall mark for TOK. Additionally, the bonus points available can make an important difference in your overall IB results. Every point counts.

The TOK essay process is an excellent way to develop open-ended and creative analytical skills. The Extended Essay is similar in some respects but the EE is more narrowly focused and doesn’t have the scope of the TOK essay.

Keep in mind the following outline of the TOK essay process is not exhaustive nor is it the only way to go through the essay process.

  • Work extremely hard on any school assignments you are given in your first-year TOK class. You may not immediately realize it, but these assessments are designed to build the skills and knowledge you will need on the TOK essay.
  • Carefully read the TOK essay guidelines and assessment instrument.
  • Read, analyze and annotate sample TOK essays. You should start with sample essays that have been written for the same TOK curriculum that you are in. You can also use TOK essays from previous cohorts but be a bit careful when using TOK essays from a older curriculum. Some of the requirements will have changed.
  • Read, analyze, and annotate past Prescribed Titles and past TOK essays.
  • You must have a good grasp of both before you start working on your essay. Try to find multiple sample essays on the same Prescribed Title; this will help you grasp the very different ways you can approach a Prescribed Title.
  • When the IB releases your Prescribed Titles your TOK coordinator / teacher will pass them on to you. Prescribed Titles change for every cohort. Start analyzing the prescribed titles as soon as possible.
  • FIRST INTERACTION (TK/PPF PDF FORM) Around this point in the process you will have your FIRST INTERACTION . Fill in the relevant details on the TK/PPF PDF FORM . This form will be submitted to the IB at the end of the process along with the final essay. There is more information about the form here: https://toktips.com/the-tok-essay-planning-and-progress-form-tk-ppf/
  • Look at each of the Prescribed Titles for your cohort and identify the key words. Consider the different meanings / interpretations that the key words can have. Also think about the significance of each word in a particular AOK. For example, the word “theory” has a specific meaning in science but it doesn’t mean the same thing in the arts.
  • Search for underlying Knowledge Questions that are connected to the Prescribed Titles. These knowledge questions aren’t really “created” by students or teachers. These knowledge questions are found in the prescribed titles by analyzing them closely.
  • After you have done some analysis and brainstorming for all of the prescribed titles pick the one prescribed title you will base your essay on.
  • Check the TOK essay assessment instrument carefully and repeatedly. Ensure that as you work your way through the essay development process your ideas and your writing addresses the terms in the assessment instrument.
  • Over time you will develop the Knowledge Questions and arguments that are the key to your essay. As you make changes to them check the Prescribed Title. Your Knowledge Questions and arguments need to be linked directly to the Prescribed Title.
  • Make sure you have strong arguments and strong evidence to support them.
  • Keep track of your sources. You will need to acknowledge them in the final essay (i.e. with in-text citations and a works cited page). You should make sure you do this in your first draft – don’t wait too late.
  • Look for specific examples (SEs) that you can use in your essay. A good specific example is one that you can connect directly to key terms in the Prescribed Title.
  • Once you decide on SEs have another look at the key terms in the Prescribed Title and how they fit. Make sure you have a well-rounded set of SEs.
  • There are a number of specific examples that are used over and over again by students every cohort – Galileo, Einstein, Darwin, etc. You may want to avoid these. Your TOK marker would prefer to read something unique and interesting and not yet another TOK essay on Darwin & science vs. Religion.
  • TOK markers complain often about the fact that TOK students do not make enough use of personal SEs in their essay. Search for SEs that you have a personal connection to and have solid connections to the Prescribed Title you have chosen.
  • Examine the specific examples you are considering using for your essay and make note of which AOKs there are in which SEs. Then take a look at the different aspects of the Knowledge Framework and use it to deepen your understanding of the role knowledge plays in your SEs.
  • Examine the Different Points of View (DPOVs) in your SEs. You need to address different points of view in your essay to be successful. It’s not good enough just to mention them. You have to look at the DPOVs in detail and think about precisely what the person or group’s DPOV is, where it comes from, how their DPOV compares / contrast with others, etc. Of course the most important thing is that your investigation of different points of view is linked directly to the prescribed title.
  • Continue to develop well-rounded arguments that are directly linked to the prescribed title.
  • Take another careful look at past sample TOK essays and the TOK essay assessment instrument.
  • Put together a rough outline of your essay.
  • SECOND INTERACTION : Around this point in the process you will have your SECOND INTERACTION . Fill in the relevant details on the (TK/PPF PDF FORM) .
  • Remember what you have learned in your other classes about how to write effective essays. Apply your knowledge of essay writing to your TOK essay. A good TOK essay must also be a good essay.
  • One area where a TOK essay may not follow typical essay guidelines is the use of the first person. You can use “I” in a TOK essay if you are discussing a personal Real Life Example or your own Different Perspective. This is the exception though, not the rule.
  • Ideally you should have more ideas than you will need in your essay. It’s much better to have to cut a few weaker parts than to be forced to keep everything because you don’t have enough.
  • Make sure your RLEs are clear to a TOK marker. This is especially true if you are discussing a RLE that isn’t common knowledge. A brief explanation is usually enough. Don’t spend to much space explaining – save your word count for deeper discussion and analysis.
  • Consider the implications of your arguments and included them in your essay. According to the TOK essay assessment instrument the implications only need to be “considered” – they do not need to be discussed in great depth. Implications are usually placed near the end of the essay.
  • If possible, write an early first draft before your school’s deadline for the first draft. This will give you the chance to edit it, make changes, and have the best possible first draft submitted for feedback. Make sure the first draft you submit to your teacher follows the assessment guidelines and make sure you cite your sources.
  • THIRD INTERACTION : At this point in the process you will have your THIRD INTERACTION . Fill in the relevant details on the (TK/PPF PDF FORM) .
  • Your TOK teacher will only be able to give you somewhat limited feedback on your first draft because of the guidelines stated in the subject guide. After the first draft the guidelines are even stricter.
  • You want to make the most of the feedback you get on your first draft. Examine the comments carefully and start making changes as soon as you can.
  • The deadline between the first draft and the final essay may be quite long depending on the school and you will be working independently a fair bit of the time. Give yourself firm deadlines and stick to them.
  • When you get close to the final deadline for the TOK essay carefully check that you have followed IB and school guidelines. In particular, go through your essay EXTREMELY CAREFULLY and make sure you have properly cited all of your sources.
  • Ensure that you have filled in all of the relevant sections of the TK/PPF PDF.
  • Submit your final TOK essay and TK/PPF PDF according to the instructions given to you by your TOK teacher / TOK coordinator.
  • Your TOK teacher / TOK coordinator / DP coordinator will process your submission and it is submitted to the IB for marking.

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in the tok essay you should work the title with

TOK Prescribed Titles

The International Baccalaureate Organization releases six TOK essay titles, twice a year for submission either in May or November. So you need to know which cohort you're submitting with. The essay titles for submission in May are released in the previous September. The essay titles for submission in November are released the previous March.

  • May 2022 topics
  • November 2021 topics
  • May 2021 topics
  • November 2020 topics
  • May 2020 topics
  • November 2019 topics
  • May 2019 topics
  • November 2018 topics
  • May 2018 topics
  • November 2017 topics

"A" example Essays

  • Reason vs Emotion in Ethics
  • Breaking Conventions
  • Context is All
  • Moral Wisdom
  • Valuable Knowledge
  • Experience & Culture

Essay Guidelines

The word count is 1600 words. This includes quotations. You have to write down the number of words when you submit the essay. The examiner will not read past 1600 words. References, maps/charts/illustrations and bibliographies are not included in the word count. You can choose any standard referencing system, but be consistent with the one you chose.

Assessment Criteria: Markscheme from the TOK Guide (as of Class of 2022)


TOK Essay Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some questions that students and teachers frequently ask about the TOK essay. Read through these questions and the answers to check that you are doing the right thing.

What’s the most important thing to bear in mind?

The first thing is to BE CLEAR! Most students do not even manage to communicate their ideas clearly to the examiner. Regardless of whether or not your answer is stunningly original or crammed with a variety of interesting examples, if it is clear then you will already have a massive head start over the majority of other students from elsewhere in the world. That is why it is absolutely vital to plan in detail – if you have a clear plan you will write a clear essay. If you start the essay without a clear plan then the chances are you will not do very well.

The second thing is to remain focused on the question. It is really easy to lose focus and when you do your score will instantly drop. A slight switch from discussing ‘what we believe is true’ to ‘what is true’ might be enough to make most of your answer irrelevant to the question that you have been asked so you have to be really, really careful here. Always ask yourself whether you are correctly focused on the question.

If my answer is not completely different to everyone else’s will I lose?

Most good essays will offer well balanced, plausible and convincing answer to the knowledge question that has been asked. Clearly there is not an infinite variety of plausible and convincing answers to any question and so you should not expect your answer to be completely different to everyone else’s and nor should you strive to make it bizarrely and outlandishly strange in an attempt to seem original. A good answer will usually point out that x is true in some case cases because of a certain set of reasons, while it is less true in other cases and pretty much completely untrue elsewhere. Students who take very extreme positions tend not to do so well in TOK because, unlike in English where you can usually find some evidence to back up even the most unusual reading, TOK is meant to be firmly grounded in the real world and so, for instance, it is not really that plausible to argue that we can never know anything because that just doesn't fit with how we live our daily lives. Similarly, answers which are overly simply probably won't do that well because most things in TOK just aren’t that clear cut. For example students who claim that Art is completely subjective and that we can never know whether one painting is better than another have trouble when accounting for how the IB award some students Level 7s in art while failing others.

So in this sense your essay might be balanced in the same way as someone else’s but the difference between your essay and everyone else’s should be in exactly how you strike that balance, exactly which discriminations you make and the kinds of evidence that you use to persuade me that your answer is correct. The more convincing your position: the better you will do.

How many examples do I need?

In terms of number of examples there is no set answer. However, in a 1600 word essay you should try to have about 4-6 main body points with one clear example that is central to each one. The best marks will not go to those students who have lots of examples but those who choose examples that support their point really well and then go on to consider the counterclaims against this position (possibly using the same example or a different one) and then respond to this counterclaim (again using the same example or a different one - however three examples in paragraph might be getting a bit too much).

How important is it to talk about myself?

It is important to demonstrate personal engagement, indeed the highest marks will really only be awarded to essays that create a sense that the writer has really engaged and got to grips with the question that they have chosen to answer. However, there are a number of different ways to do this. Using the personal pronoun ‘I’ and talking about something that has happened to you is one way to do this but it will not score highly unless it is a strong example that convincingly supports the point you are trying to make. For example, you will are unlikely to get any points for a personal example about your summer holiday or your Mum’s noodle soup unless it clearly and convincingly supports your answer to the question.

Other ways to demonstrate personal engagement and independent thought are by offering personal definitions of key words and researching original examples that you have come up with yourself rather than the obvious example or the one that everyone else in your class is using because that is the one that the teacher gave you.

Ultimately the best way to demonstrate your personal engagement with the question is through your tone of voice and the sense that you have really ‘got’ what this question is asking and honestly offered your own answer to it. However, this can be hard to identify for an examiner so it is probably best if you try to cover all of the different methods mentioned above in order to come across as a student who is thinking for themselves and relating this question to experiences in their own education.

Should I offer definitions of all the words in my title?

Obviously not – beginning your essay with a list of personal definitions does not make for a very engaging start.   However, there may be some terms in your question title that it is important to define and so you might need to start by doing this. In these case it is best to offer a   brief   personal definition (avoid Dictionary.com!), but be careful with going into any more detail than that. Otherwise the best way to show that you understand what the words in the title mean is to continually link back to the key words from the question throughout your essay. Just like in an English essay you would usually do this at the beginning or end of a paragraph but the best students will be able to make the link clear throughout.

One handy trick to bear in mind when thinking about definitions is that, considering different definitions of key words can actually be a good way of incorporating different perspectives into your essay. For example, if your essay question asks you whether progress is equally possible in the sciences and the arts then how you answer that question might depend on how you define progress and a good structure for the essay might be to start by considering one definition of progress (i.e. progress from one perspective) and then go on to contrast this with the answer that we get if we consider a different definition of progress from another perspective.

Is it a good idea to argue that it’s impossible to know anything at all?

Generally no … TOK examiners tend to be quite dismissive of essays that argue either that we can’t know anything at all or that you can have your ‘truth’ and I can have my ‘truth’ and that these truths are both true. The first of these approaches is often called ‘lazy scepticism’ and the second ‘easy relativism’ and you can see that the names imply that these are not particularly impressive positions to adopt. This is not to say that it’s impossible to be sceptical about knowledge and argue that there are problems with it because clearly there are. It’s also not to say that it’s impossible to argue that in some situations the ‘truth’ might actually be different for different people. However, by and large TOK is looking at how we can know things despite the problems we face when acquiring with knowledge or in spite of the different opinions that exist. TOK is in many ways a pragmatic and realistic subject that is trying to move away from creating the impression that we just can't know anything at all. As such, the best essays will admit that the acquisition of knowledge may not be straight-forward, but will go on to consider how we can overcome these obstacles in the successful pursuit of knowledge.

Do I have to cover every AOK and WOK in my essay?

No, you won’t have enough space. However, you should start by considering all of the   AOKs   and   WOKs   when you begin planning your essay and then narrow it down to the 2 or 3   AOKs   or   WOKs   where you can say the most interesting things. Make it clear that this narrowing down is a conscious decision that you have made and you can even briefly explain the reasons why you have made the choice that you have, if you think that it is relevant. Remember that the highest marks will go to the students who explore a few really key ideas in depth rather than those who try to cover everything. Remember also that the best and most original ideas are not necessarily going to be the ones that spring to mind first so try to use   AOKs   or   WOKs   that not everyone else is using – as long as they work.

So how do I know which   AOKs   or   WOKs   would be good ones to pick?

In general, it can be good to compare an AOK where a statement 'x' really applies well and contrast that with one where it doesn't or doesn't seem to. So for example 'All knowledge is subjective' seems to fit well with The Arts and Ethics, but less with Maths and Science so if you just talk about The Arts and Ethics then you are just going to have an essay that keeps saying ... and this is also true in Ethics, and we can see another example of subjectivity in the Arts, etc. It would be much better to say that this is true in the arts because of xyz reasons and not true in Maths because of   abc   reasons.

If you are really confident with TOK you might try inverting an obvious stereotype about an AOK and seeing if you can find examples where that isn’t true. For example, most students’ first reactions are that the Arts are a subjective subject whereas Maths is a subject which contains objective, universal truths. While there is some   truth to this stereotype   it is not true all the time and the best students will be able to explore where that stereotype breaks down and why it breaks down.   For example, while judgement in art is subjective, some truths – e.g. that this picture was painted by   Da   Vinci - are empirical and so we can have objective agreement about them. Additionally, even the subjective truths aren't allowed to be absolutely anything - even my Mum doesn't think that my Primary School paintings are as good as   Da   Vinci's. This kind of subtlety is what marks out the best answers.

In addition, do not make sweeping statements about aspects or areas of knowledge that imply that what you are saying is always and absolutely true without exception. Instead, phrase things in a way that acknowledges the limitations of your own knowledge and experience: for example ‘Accepting for the moment the premise that … then we can say …’

Do I have to use TOK words like ‘Areas of Knowledge’ in my essay?

Yes you do as this will demonstrate a good understanding of the course but be wary of just throwing them in everywhere: judicious and correct use of TOK terminology is better than going over the top. The words that should come up more frequently are the key words from the question to show that you are remaining focused on the question and not getting distracted by anything else.

Do I have to include any Philosophy or Philosophical words?

No   - the IB have made it clear that TOK is not a philosophy course, instead it is meant to be grounded in the real world and your own experiences as a student. As such you should try to avoid including complex philosophical points unless you really understand them and they really are fully relevant to the essay, even then it is often to put these points into your own words rather than quote philosophers because TOK is about you thinking for yourself rather than quoting someone else’s thoughts.

Do I have to research the quotations in the question title?

It is a good idea to know where the quotation came from, who said it and why but you wouldn’t necessarily include any of this in your essay. In fact, the quotation may not really be relevant at all to the essay question as they are sometimes just used to give you a flavor of   the what   the essay is about. For example in the ‘What I Tell You Three Times is True’ question – the number ‘three’ and the fact that this comes from Lewis Carroll are not necessarily as important as the point about repetition and so detailed research into the works of Lewis Carroll will not really help you with this question.

Can I use quotations from famous people to back up my argument?

Students often like starting essays, concluding essays or supporting points with quotations from famous people like Oscar Wilde or Albert Einstein. The fact that these people are experts tends to lend an air of credibility to your argument. However, the opinion of someone like Oscar Wilde is only going to be relevant in certain, very specific circumstances, for example, if you are exploring esthetics (the theory about what makes beautiful things beautiful) then it might be worth considering Oscar Wilde’s perspective on this topic as he was an artist… but you have to remember that his view is only one perspective and just because Wilde said it, it doesn’t mean that he has the best or most convincing theory about beauty. You should also remember that, outside of the topic of esthetics, it might not be a such good idea to quote Oscar Wilde at all: his opinions on how to live a good life, for example, can be sharply witty and sound quite appealing ... but we need to remember that he did die penniless and alone in Paris so is he really someone that we want to listen to?

Similarly, Einstein is a hugely important figure in the history of science and it might be worthwhile quoting him if you were exploring the forces that drive or inspire genius. However, again you should bear in mind that Einstein’s personal statement about what inspires him is not necessarily something that is going to be true of all thinkers. On top of that you should remember that it has been almost 100 years since the publication of Einstein’s last great work, the General Theory of Relativity, so if you are looking for an up to date comment on the nature of scientific knowledge then it might be best to look elsewhere.

In general the rule with quotations is that you should only quote from someone when they are an expert in the relevant field and even then you have to bear in mind that their opinion is nothing more than that, an opinion. Just like your opinions have to be backed up with evidence and proof, so do the opinions of experts… just because Einstein said it, it doesn’t mean it’s true until you show me the proof. One danger you should also be aware of if you quote too much is that the expert’s voice can come to replace your own and so you should only quote opinions sparingly. One additional way to prevent the expert’s voice from dominating your essay is to use quotations from them in your counterclaims; if you go on to disagree with the expert then that’s usually a clear indication that you are thinking for yourself.

Finally, be careful where you get your quotation from. ‘Brainyquote.com’ might be a repository of thousands of fantastic and completely accurate quotations but it doesn’t create a great impression of your ability to select reliable sources so try to find the original source for your quotation and quote that!

Do I need to include different perspectives in my essay?

Definitely, although remember that ‘different perspectives’ can mean a range of different things. One nice way to include different perspectives is by considering the question from the ‘perspective’ of the different   AOKs . So, for example, you might answer the question from the perspective of the sciences and then compare this with the perspective of the arts – this is a particularly nice trick because it also enables you to draw in some comparisons between the   AOKs   at the same time. However, there are other perspectives that you considering and exploring different cultural, political, philosophical, historical and intellectual perspectives or different schools of thought within an AOK can lead to a more interesting and more convincing essay.

Do I have to distinguish between ‘personal’ and ‘shared’ knowledge in my essay?

It’s definitely a good idea to consider these ideas in your planning but, as with anything, you should only really include them if they are relevant to your essay. One effective way to include these different kinds of knowledge in your essay is to treat them as different perspectives on the same issue. For example, if you are looking at whether it is possible to make progress in the arts then the answer might be quite different depending on whether I am talking about progress at a personal level (clearly I can get better at drawing) or at a shared / communal level because it’s not entirely clear what it would mean for art overall to get ‘better’. This links nicely with the previous point as a way of considering different perspectives on the same issue and can be a good way of killing two birds with one stone.

From www.mrhoyestokwebsite.com

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in the tok essay you should work the title with

Unpacking the 2024 November TOK Titles: A Comprehensive IB Solved Guide

Two human heads with a question mark between them

The November 2024 IB Theory of Knowledge (TOK) Essay Titles are out!

Let's be honest – tackling the TOK essay can be a daunting task. With so many ideas, concepts and topics at our disposal and a myriad of ideas swirling around, it's easy to feel overwhelmed at the outset.

That's where we come in.

In this article, we'll delve into each title and offer some strategic advice on how to approach them.

General Tips to Unpacking a Title

When we first encounter a prompt, we want to think in terms of perspectives and counter-perspectives (formerly known as claims and counterclaims). This framework allows for a structured essay, exploring the title through the lens of two chosen Areas of Knowledge (AOKs) and weaving in different arguments. While the ultimate conclusion you draw may often reside somewhere between these extremes or on a conditional basis (e.g. perspective 1 is correct in certain circumstances, while perspective 2 is a better approach in other), starting with opposing arguments can facilitate the development of a more nuanced exploration and argument.

So let's get to it – here is everything you need to know about the November 2024 TOK Essay titles:

Title 1:  Does our responsibility to acquire knowledge vary according to the area of knowledge? Discuss with reference to history and one other area of knowledge.

Recommended AOKs: History (Mandatory) and Natural Sciences/The Arts/Human Sciences

This title prompts an assessment of whether we have different levels of responsibility to acquire knowledge across different AOKs. While you are open to argue against the title directly, suggesting that the responsibility is the same across AOKs, this would be unwise. It would be better to reflect on each AOK and perhaps present one perspective in support of the responsibility and one perspective against it, drawing a conclusion on which argument is stronger in each AOK.

Also consider the difference between the acquisition and production of knowledge – perhaps we have a broader responsibility to produce new knowledge in some areas of knowledge but not necessarily to acquire it as individual knowers.

Some perspectives you may consider:

Perspective: We have a responsibility to acquire knowledge to ensure that we construct an accurate record of the past. It is our responsibility to know our History and learn from the past.

Counter-Perspective: Historical knowledge is limited by subjectivity and collective memory, hence it is not essential to acquire knowledge of our past to build a successful future.

Perspective: We have a responsibility to acquire artistic knowledge to understand cultures and societies.

Counter-Perspective: The acquisition of knowledge in the Arts is for aesthetic purposes and enjoyment, not the fulfilment of a responsibility.

Natural Sciences/Human Sciences

Perspective: We have a responsibility to acquire new scientific knowledge for the continual development of mankind.

Counter-Perspective: Understanding how the world/humans work is not necessary knowledge for knowers to acquire.

Title 2:  In the production of knowledge, is ingenuity always needed but never enough? Discuss with reference to mathematics and one other area of knowledge.

Recommended AOKs: Mathematics (Mandatory) and Natural Sciences/The Arts/Human Sciences

This is a super interesting title – ensure you define 'ingenuity' from the outset. The essay almost structures itself – your first paragraph in each AOK can consider how/whether ingenuity is 'always needed', exploring how this plays out in each AOK, while the second paragraph can explore whether or not it is 'never enough'.

Some ideas you may consider:

Paradigm Shifts – To revolutionise an AOK, often ingenuity is needed to enact a paradigm shift (a new way of thinking which changes the entire knowledge structure of an AOK) and to ensure progress.

Creativity – Creative thinking is important not only for AOKs such as the Arts, but even in Mathematics and the Sciences. Discovering innovative ways of devising experiments or utilising clever analogies to explain incredibly complex concepts is integral to these AOKs.

Structure – Ingenuity is only valuable within a framework for knowledge production, whether this be an artistic process or the scientific method.

Title 3:  How might it benefit an area of knowledge to sever ties with its past? Discuss with reference to two areas of knowledge.

Recommended AOKs: History, Natural Sciences, The Arts and Human Sciences

The 'How' of this title restricts the scope to discussing different 'benefits' rather than a standard 'perspective-counter' analysis. It will also be important to define exactly what 'severing ties' involves – does this mean completely ignoring all past knowledge or simply becoming less attached to existing ways of thinking?

Some ideas for this title:

Fresh Ideas and Paradigm Shifts – By severing ties, you open up the possibility of acquiring knowledge which can overhaul an entire AOK, drastically accelerating progress.

Bias – By severing past ties, knowers can free themselves of the biases of their predecessors.

Innovation – Since existing frameworks of thinking often lead to similar conclusions, you can expand the possibilities of new knowledge by severing past ties.

However, you may interestingly conclude that these benefits are only reaped when ties to the past are severed to an extent, as it may be detrimental to an AOK to entirely negate past knowledge.

Title 4:  To what extent do you agree that there is no significant difference between hypothesis and speculation? Discuss with reference to the human sciences and one other area of knowledge.

Recommended AOKs: Human Sciences and History/Natural Sciences

This prompt is very focused on your definitions. I would suggest defining these terms distinctly and precisely from the outset. The primary question which this title is asking is whether hypotheses are mere "speculation" or "guesses", or if there is a significant difference.

Also, if selecting the Human and Natural Sciences, please ensure that your perspectives aren't repetitious and highlight the differences between these AOKs.

Development – Speculation and hypothesis differ in the fact that the development of a hypothesis generally requires significant prior research and an understanding of existing knowledge

Experimentation – Hypotheses are developed purposefully and then empirical experimentation are conducted to provide evidence either in support or against them

Emotion – Speculation tends to come from 'feelings' or 'impressions', whereas the development of a hypothesis is far more methodical

Title 5:  In the production of knowledge, are we too quick to dismiss anomalies? Discuss with reference to two areas of knowledge.

Recommended AOKs: Human Sciences/History/Natural Sciences

This title allows you to reflect on whether or not we dismiss 'anomalies' (a key term to be defined) too quickly when producing knowledge.

Paradigm Shift – Anomalies are often the prompt for a paradigm shift in the sciences, causing us to challenge existing beliefs and ideas

Exceptions – Often rather than investigating anomalies further and considering an overhaul of existing knowledge, anomalies are dismissed as 'exceptions' to the rule, rather than a justification to question the rule itself

Generalisation – There is often a focus on generating 'general' rules and theories which can lead anomalies to be dismissed (think of the Human Sciences – how often do we produce a rule about human behaviour but ignore those who behave contrary to the rule)

Title 6:  In the pursuit of knowledge, what is gained by the artist adopting the lens of the scientist and the scientist adopting the lens of the artist? Discuss with reference to the arts and the natural sciences.

Recommended AOKs: The Arts and the Natural Sciences

This title requires you to define the 'lens' of each of these AOKs from the outset. It will be better to define them quite opposingly – the scientist is more methodical, experimental and structured, whilst the artist is more free-flowing and creative. You will then be able to take these attributes and argue which elements would be better across the two disciplines.

Creativity – Scientists can benefit from the creativity of artists when developing innovative ways of experimenting, presenting results and constructing abstract theories

Structure – Artists can often benefit from a methodical approach to constructing art, particularly when aiming to convey a specific message or purpose through their art

Flexibility – Artists are often quite flexible when constructing an artwork, always willing to change and adapt to their free-flowing thoughts, an attribute which is highly beneficial for scientists who at times may become rigid in their thinking and fixed to pre-existing scientific beliefs.

And that's it - our comprehensive guide to the 2024 November TOK Titles! If you're still racking your brain as to how to begin the writing process for your TOK essay, why not check out our post on The Complete IB TOK Essay Guide . Or check out one of our Grade A Exemplar TOK Essays ! Or better yet, if you are looking for some more personal assistance with your IB TOK Essay, click below to reach out to us and we can work with you through the entire writing process, from title selection to the best structure for success!

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How to write a Theory of Knowledge (TOK) Essay: Full Guide

in the tok essay you should work the title with

Guide For a Theory Of Knowledge Essay

A Theory of Knowledge (TOK) essay entails reflecting on the nature of the topic you are writing about and how best you know it. However, you cannot wake up and get started with the TOK essay. There is a need to do thorough planning from start to finish.

This will ensure that you choose the right topic and come up with an essay that meets International Baccalaureate (IB) standards.          

in the tok essay you should work the title with

How to Write Theory of Knowledge Essay Reflections

ways of knowing

Unfortunately, it can be a daunting procedure to write TOK essay reflections .

But here is a guide to help students write a TOK essay that will guarantee them a good TOK grade.

1. Understand the Title

You need to know what the title is all about. This means that you have to read the question and understand it.

Get to know what the title requires of you and what keywords to use. In this connection, you will need to have known areas of Knowledge (AOK) and ways of knowing (WOK).

They will help you get an in-depth understanding of the question and make short notes and, comparisons, and contrasts with a lot of ease.

However, there is a catch. You ought to be clear about the areas of knowledge you choose. Unlike math and history, you have to understand the title, define keywords and create a brilliant response. You have to understand the terms and TOK questions.

2. Pick a Title

Picking the right title can be a challenge, but that does not mean it is beyond your reach. You have to pick a title with an AOK you are interested in or familiar with. There is no choosing a topic just because it looks appealing or straightforward.

You have to go through all the available titles and choose the one you can easily hack.

The teacher will provide you with a list of TOK essay titles to choose from. Usually, the IB creates the titles. Once you have options at your disposal regarding titles, it is upon you to compare and contrast.

At this juncture, there are many questions to ask yourself. Doing such an assessment allows you to pick a fully understood title. You know which concepts or keywords to use. If unsure about the meaning of words or concepts, make sure you check your class notes to get the hang of them.

Most importantly, you need to have a strong interest in the title you choose. For instance, if you pick a title in history or arts, you must be passionate about it. Besides, the title needs to have an objective perspective.

This entails relating the title to what you learned during the TOK course, your personal thoughts, and topics covered in class. The TOK essay should be clear and reveal the passion of the topic or title you pick.

3. Time to Rewrite the Title

essay titles

Understanding the title of your choice can be a challenge. This is normally the case when you read it for the first time. That being the case, you should take the time to demystify and rephrase the title. It helps you know what the title requires of you.

In fact, it will be easier to get a clear picture of the question you are tackling and how best you can answer it. As such, you should not be in a hurry when it comes to rewriting the title you choose.

4. Know the Grading Criteria

IB criteria

Once you write your TOK essay, it has to go through a grading system. The IB uses a four-part criterion when it comes to assessing your essay.

The first step gauges the knowledge issues. It involves ensuring your essay does focus on the issues on a comprehensive level.

Then, you have to develop to adopt an interdependent mindset.

Once you have done so, it will be the right time to analyze the knowledge issues. Have an in-depth understanding of the issues, raise arguments, and demystify your main points.

It helps you create a structured, accurate, factual essay with well-researched references.

5. Read and Understand the Instructions

You will need to read the instructions provided. The essay might require you to assess the claim in question. Understating the instructions allows you to justify your statement by providing supporting arguments.

This might not be an easy undertaking since you will have to eliminate any uncertainties.

You have to follow all the instructions to the latter to support your statements.

Reading the instructions also lets you familiarize yourself with some terminologies that go into the TOK essay. You have to use vocabulary and definitions to offer you a chance of scoring a higher grade.

Also, challenging personal biases is something you will need to do. That means you have to know what the essay requires of you through the instructions provided.

6. Go through Your Ideas

Definitely, you will need to have an outline of your essay. So, come up with a list of ideas you need to incorporate in your essay. Once you note them down, you have to go through them.

Brainstorming allows you to analyze your topic and separate chaff from the wheat. Identify the ideas that support your claim and those that do not. Also, you can identify any ambiguities so that you can get rid of them as soon as possible.

Writing Theory of Knowledge Essay in Whole

How to write a TOK essay as a whole requires a lot of seriousness and attention to detail. Once you have noted your ideas well, it is high time to get down to work. Following the instructions, you have to come up with an essay that is structured properly.

how TOK essay flows

Your ideas need to make sense and define your understanding of your topic.

You have to make an outline of your essay and perform in-depth research by reading various TOK essays.

This will help you navigate the entire process of writing your essay.

There are mistakes you will have to avoid while writing your essay. For instance, desist from using dictionary definitions.

Ensure that your essay is reflective and not just copy-pasting textbook definitions.

Above all, you must convince the assessment committee that you understood the topic, researched it, and obtained relevant references.

Therefore, overcoming the complexities that come with writing a TOK essay is something you need to be good at.

Proofreading is important to eliminate any grammatical errors and spelling mistakes. You can bring on board a professional to do the editing and necessary corrections so that you have an error-free essay. However, not just anyone can do the job.

The professional should have a good grasp of how to write a TOK essay. Therefore, ensure you assess the available experts in this field before making your selection.

Examples of Theory of Knowledge Essay Interactions          

When writing TOK essays, interactions are crucial to your process. With these interactions, a student can be able to work in collaboration with the teacher. The teacher’s work assists the student in developing the ideas at hand.

example of TOK presentation

Below are examples of TOK essay interactions;

  • A discussion of the title can be the premier interaction of your essay. The discussion should give reasons for choosing the title and explain its meaning. A description of all the phrases in it and AOKs that can help tackle the questions should not be missed. In short, the end of this discussion should have certainty of the choice of title.
  • A second interaction gives an in-depth explanation of how ideas are progressing forward. Here, reference to the ideas and essential thinkers needs to be explained. Also, emphasize more on points of view that have come up in your discussion. This should include possible problems you have come across so far. With these explanations, the construction of a good essay plan will not be difficult. It paves the way for writing a comprehensive draft TOK essay.
  • In your third interaction, reflect on your teacher’s observations on your draft essay. It makes it easy to not only comprehend your teacher’s comments but also make full implementation. Completing your third interaction means you are now fully ready to write the final essay.

When it comes to writing a TOK essay, there are guidelines you will need to learn by heart. Those steps will help you create an essay that guarantees you the perfect score. You need to pick the right title, know which keywords to use, have an outline of your essay, and eliminate any grammatical issues through proofreading.

To be honest, you will have to be careful so that you write an essay that is not only engaging but also has relevant ideas regarding the question at hand. So, you need to show commitment and prepare thoroughly so that you can pass your TOK essay.

James Lotta

James Lotta

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How to Write a TOK Essay In One Night: A Guide for 2024

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by  Antony W

January 9, 2024

how to write a tok essay

This is the complete guide on how to write a ToK essay in one night.

Whether you still have time left or you’re in the last minute race, this guide shows you exactly how to complete the assignment in the shortest time possible.

Key Takeaways 

  • Read the essay prompt carefully to understand what the assignment requires.
  • Choose a prescribed title.
  • Select two of the most appropriate areas of knowledge.
  • Develop an outline relevant to the Theory of Knowledge essay.
  • Write the introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion.
  • Proofread your work. 
  • Submit your ToK essay for assessment.

If you already understand the fundamentals of writing a ToK essay but you’re already running late, Help for Assessment can get the paper done for you. Get our  ToK essay writing service   and benefit from the convenience of our custom writing. 

Otherwise, continue reading this guide to learn how to develop a comprehensive essay from start to finish, even if you have only 24 hours left.

How to Write a ToK Essay in One Night

The Theory of Knowledge essay is a 1,600 words assignment based on an already pre-determined title.

It requires you to compare and contrast the different ways of knowing with the different areas of knowledge.

Furthermore, your work must reflect on the nature of knowledge and clearly demonstrate why you know what you claim to know.

So here's what you need to do: 

1. Choose Your Prescribed Title

prescribed title tok

Choose a title from one of the prescribed essay titles provided by IB. 

You shouldn’t just pick a topic because it appears simple. We recommend that you read each title and make a careful consideration of your topic selection.

Look at the title you’ve select and try to understand the command terms and the underlying knowledge question .

Ask yourself the following:

  • What question does the prescribed title ask?
  • Does the title require me to focus on shared or personal knowledge?

2. Choose Two Areas of Knowledge

Keep in mind that Theory of Knowledge is comparative in nature.

Thus, when choosing your areas of knowledge ,  ensure you can easily draw relevant comparisons and contrasts to the WoKs you write.

Take note on whether the title requires you to handle two disciplines or AOK before you start writing.

And except for Math and History, you should be clear about the -discipline of the AOK that you choose.

3. Read the Essay’s Instructions Carefully

Note the keywords in the essay’s instructions.

The question might ask you to “assess” or “evaluate” a perspective, which implies that you should consider for or against the title.

Also, factor in any grey area or ambiguity linked to the title.

  • If the title asks “in what way” or “to what extent”, it means you provide an argument for or against the statement.
  • Where the title asks a direct question, you should address in what way or the extent to which you support or don’t support a position or argument.

4. Understand the Grading Criteria

IB assesses Theory of Knowledge essays based on four criteria, and each carries equal weight:

  • Understanding Knowledge Issues: Your essay should show relevant between two knowledge issues, links and compares the issues, and demonstrate a unique comprehension of the issues. 
  • Knowers Perspective: Demonstrate independent thinking. Have at least two different perspectives, a few supporting examples, and show self-awareness.
  • Analyzing Knowledge Issues: Demonstrate insight and depth. Present counter-arguments and arguments, and justify key points, and show implications and assumptions of the selected prescribed title.
  • Organizing Ideas: You should structure your essay properly. Ensure factual accuracy, explain key concepts, and, where applicable, cite sources.

5. Brainstorm Ideas for Your Prescribed Title

The Theory of Knowledge essay is inherently reflective. It requires you to demonstrate your thoughtful consideration of the title and your readiness to analyze and reflect upon it.

So brainstorm the title you’ve selected. Write all the thoughts that come to mind, and allow your ideas to flow freely.

Next, review your notes, making sure you identify interconnected ideas, as well as those that present conflicting viewpoints.

If the title presents a perspective to assess or evaluate, create two columns, one for supporting the perspective and another for opposing it, and allocate the ideas you have generated into the respective columns.

Additionally, create a third column to capture ambiguities or areas where the answer is not clear, and assign relevant ideas to this column.

Look at instances where you can use concrete examples to support the ideas you recorded. These examples will serve to enhance your arguments and add depth to your essay.

6. Create Your Theory of Knowledge Essay Outline

We’ve written quite a lot about TOK essay outline already, and we strongly recommend that you check out that guide for an in-depth teardown of the structure.

However, for the sake of this guide, here’s the summary of the format that you should follow:

First, understand that the purpose of the outline is to guide your essay, so you can easily organize your points to achieve a logical flow of information.

If you can follow this specific outline to a tee, you’ll end up with a more comprehensive essay based purely on the selected prescribed title.

Here’s the outline to use:

Write the Introduction

The introduction of your Theory of Knowledge essay sets the stage for the paper. It should be between 100 and 150 words long.

Paragraph 1

Your introduction goes here, usually in 100 to 150 words. Your description should show at most two things about the prescribed title and a few words to show that you understand the knowledge question.

Give a clear definition of one or two key terms from the prescribed title. The definitions are usually important, especially because they can give you some clues for perspectives and evidence. 

Complete the paragraph by giving your readers a clear roadmap for the essay.  By doing this, you make it easy for the reader to know exactly what to look for in your work.

Develop Your First Area of Knowledge

The second and third paragraph will cover your first area of knowledge. This area should be no more than 600 words.

Paragraph 2

  • State the Claim: Write the topic sentence. Remember, a perspective is the argument about the prescribed title you selected in the first step.
  • Give an Example: Give an example of the perspective, which can be anything based on your experience, as long as it’s real and specific.
  • Explain: Give a clear explanation on how your example supports the perspective. For the sake of grabbing the reader’s attention, state something interesting about your example and explain what it state about the title.

Paragraph 3

  • State Counterclaim: Here is where you argue against the perspective that you make in the second paragraph.
  • Give an Example: Here is where you give a concrete support for the perspective that you just made.
  • Explain the Example: Give a clear explanation about how the example you provided supports your perspective. Remember to write what you believe is interesting about the example. Also, mention what the example says about the selected prescribed title.
  • Summary: Sum this section by linking to the prescribe title and ensuring you’ve highlighted the insight that you have had about this area of knowledge.

Develop Your Second Area of Knowledge

This is the section where you develop your second area of knowledge. Again, this part should be no more than 600 words.

Paragraph 4

  • State your perspectivefor the second AOK.
  • Give a solid example.
  • Explain your example, making sure you show exactly how it supports the perspective.

Paragraph 5

  • State the perspective for the second AOK.
  • Give an example that’s good enough to support the perspective.
  • Explain how the example you’ve provided supports the perspective you’ve given.

Write the Conclusion

The conclusion is the final paragraph of the ToK essay. In terms of length, it should be between 200 and 250 words long.

Paragraph 6

  • Conclusion: Here, write what insights you’ve gathered, making sure it relates to the prescribed title question. Also, ensure you synthesize the main insights that you’ve gathered about the two areas of knowledge.
  • Implication and Significance: Explain the impact and importance of your essay in relation to the prescribed title. Go the extra mile to give clarity on why it’s important to understand these insights.
  • Perspectives and Extensions: Is there a different way that you would have approached the question? Would the approach have given a different outcome or insight than that already reflected on your essay?

Note that the Theory of Knowledge essay has changed a bit. So as to the number of paragraphs in a TOK essay , the maximum you should have now is 6, not 9.

The TOK is often assessed through a 1200-1600-word essay and an oral presentation.

The essay asks you to reflect on the nature of knowledge, as well as how you know what you claim to know. It is usually a part of the International Baccalaureate Diploma and is compulsory for all students.

Every TOK essay is different. To pass your essay, you will need to prepare thoroughly.

Treat it as you would any type of research and take some time to create an outline and write your thesis statement. After writing, make sure you cite your work properly and proofread it.

About the author 

Antony W is a professional writer and coach at Help for Assessment. He spends countless hours every day researching and writing great content filled with expert advice on how to write engaging essays, research papers, and assignments.

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In short, I can’t recommend this article enough. It’s a must-read for anyone interested in topic above. Good work to the writer, you have truly outsmart yourself! Keep the good content coming.

Dear Sir, I would like you to check my TOK essay. Kindly let me know where can i improve my essay.

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November TOK Essay Titles Unpacked.

November TOK Essay Titles Unpacked.

Age range: 16 - 18

Resource type: Lesson (complete)


Last updated

23 March 2024

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in the tok essay you should work the title with

This is a 42 page TOK resource which contains the following:

detailed mind maps of November 2024 Essay titles with brief summary. detailed template to help organise each Essay title.

list of TOK vocabulary with their definitions .

This is a very detailed resource to help teachers prepare their students unpack the essay titles and start writing them. The mindmaps are very useful in helping the teachers and students get a prespective on the Essay title and spark off new ideas. n unpacking November’s Theory of Knowledge (TOK) titles, it’s crucial to deconstruct each prompt methodically. Utilize a templated approach, breaking down each title into its key components: identifying the knowledge questions, clarifying key terms, and recognizing the underlying assumptions. Mind maps can aid in visualizing connections between concepts and exploring diverse perspectives. When approaching a title, consider multiple knowledge perspectives, such as areas of knowledge and ways of knowing. Evaluate the implications of different interpretations and methodologies, fostering critical thinking and reflection. By systematically analyzing each prompt and constructing coherent arguments, TOK students can effectively engage with the complexities of knowledge claims.

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Writing & uploading the TOK essay

TOK Home > Free TOK notes > TOK essay guidance > Writing & uploading the TOK essay

in the tok essay you should work the title with

After you have grasped the essay rubric , chosen your title , and have a clear plan and structure , you can start writing your TOK essay. You’ll be doing this alongside the three interactions, so keep these in mind as you proceed.

Read the points below to get some advice on how to write your essay, and avoid common mistakes made by students.

STEP 4: Write and upload your TOK essay

Get started.

The most important part of writing your essay is getting started. You can procrastinate for ages, thinking about whether you’ve chosen the right title, which areas of knowledge to explore the question in, key thinker and ides to draw on, and so on. Obviously you need to choose the right title, and have an effective plan, but this means nothing until you have put your thoughts down on paper. You will find that many of your uncertainties start to resolve themselves when you start writing.

The introduction is all important

Your introduction should begin with a ‘hook’ to engage the reader, offer your interpretation of the key words or ideas from the title (don’t just copy a definition out of a dictionary – give your take on what the title means), outline the scope of the essay. Get your introduction right, and you will have set up the foundations for a great essay. If you rush it, or not view it with the importance it really requires, you’ll struggle to develop clear ideas in the main body of the essay.

Follow a clear essay plan

By two, you should have formulated a clear essay plan. This means knowing which  AOKs  you are using as the context of the essay, the arguments and counterarguments you’ll be presenting, the real-life examples you’ll be drawing on to justify discussion points, how you’ll indicate the implications of your arguments, and the way in which you’ll challenge assumptions in the question. Agree with your teacher on this plan, and let them know if you are deviating significantly from it.

Justify each point you make

Each of the discussion points you make should be supported by a real-life example. These can come from your own experiences as a knower (inside, and outside of the school), or from events, issues, and topics you’ve read about or encountered from the news and other media sources.

Don’t jump straight into your examples

A common mistake made by students is to move straight onto real-life examples without offering a proper discussion about knowledge. Discuss your own take on the question, perhaps referring to a key thinker or theory, before relating this to a real-life situation.

Consider counterarguments

You need to offer a consideration of different points of view, and the way to do this is via counterarguments. For each of your claims or arguments, you should offer a counterclaim or counterargument, weighing up how the issue could be considered from another point of view. Make sure you evaluate these counterarguments, and don’t just mention them.

Find your own voice

Make sure that you offer your own opinions, give your own interpretation of the title, and offer your own experiences to support your arguments. This will demonstrate your skills as a critical thinker, and distinguish your essay from those that rely on generic and cliched discussions.

Make full use of the interactions

In order to develop your ideas, and ensure that you’re on the right track with your essay, make sure you make full use of the with your teacher. It’s during these one-to-one sessions that you can discuss your arguments, evaluate your examples, and consider which key thinkers and concepts work in your essay.

Don’t neglect the non-assessed elements

 Make sure that you format your essay in the right way, offer a decent bibliography, hit the word limit (without going over it), and follow all the other protocols for submitting your TOK essay. This will present a great impression to examiners, and show that you are ready and willing to follow the IB requirements for the assessment task.

A four-step guide to the TOK essay

Click on the buttons below to take you to the four steps of creating a great TOK essay. Don’t forget that we have plenty of videos on this and other aspects of the course, and members of the site have access to a huge amount of other resources to help you master the course and assessment tasks.

in the tok essay you should work the title with

Check out our three-minute explainer video on the TOK essay here . The video goes over the basics of the TOK essay, such as how it’s assessed, the word count and other practical details, terms such as ‘perspectives’ and ‘implications’, and the role of real-world examples in justifying claims and arguments.

You’ll find more videos on this and other aspects of TOK here , and you can dive into much more depth via our free and premium webinars, here .

Watch our essay & exhibition webinars

Click on the images below to access these premium webinars on how to create the essay and exhibition. Access more webinars here , and watch our videos on the assessment tasks on this page .

in the tok essay you should work the title with

FAQs about the TOK essay

How do i choose my tok essay title.

You choose your essay from six prescribed essay titles, that are released at the beginning of your second DP year. We give a few tips on how to choose a PT that will work for you here . But briefly, choose one that links to your pre-existing knowledge, and that you find personally engaging.

What will I be writing about in my TOK essay?

You’ll be answering your prescribed title, within the context of two areas of knowledge, considering how different perspectives might affect our response to the question, and what the implications of your arguments are.

Can I use ChatGPT to write my essay?

You can use ChatGPT to help you gather materials for your essay, but you should definitely not be using it to write the essay. Be very careful with ChatGPT. It bases its answers on online material, and much of this is inaccurate or out-of-date. For example, depending on what you ask it, it may tell you that you have to explore multiple areas of knowledge (rather than the two stipulated by the titles), and that you have to identify a separate knowledge question to the title (which is absolutely not the case).

How much help should I expect from my teacher?

Your teacher should run through the PTs when they are first released, and then meet you for three interactions, during which you’ll discuss your progress. They are allowed to give you one set of written feedback. But you can consult them at other times with specific questions.

Do I need to use real-world examples in my TOK essay?

Yes, real-life examples help illustrate your points and make your arguments more tangible. They can be drawn from personal experiences, historical events, scientific discoveries, etc.

Should I include my personal opinion in the TOK essay?

While the TOK essay is not about your personal opinion per se, it’s important to reflect on your perspective and how it shapes the way you understand the title. However, you should avoid using the essay as a platform for rants or unsubstantiated claims.

Is it necessary to include counter-arguments in my TOK essay?

Yes, including counter-arguments shows a deeper understanding of the complexity of the topic and demonstrates your critical thinking skills. It also enables you to consider different perspectives, and evaluate the implications of arguments.

Should I include the 12 key concepts in my essay?

Yes, as much as you can, draw on the key concepts such as justification, evidence, perspective, bias, certainty, and objectivity within your arguments linking them to the title, and to the real-world examples you draw on.

How do I ensure that my TOK essay reflects my own original thinking, and avoids plagiarism?

Clearly attribute ideas and sources that are not your own, and strive to present original insights and interpretations supported by evidence and reasoning. See our point above on using ChatGPT – never view this as more than a tool to help you gather material for your essay, rather than a tool to write it for you.

What are some common pitfalls to avoid when writing a TOK essay?

Avoid oversimplifying complex issues, relying solely on personal opinion without justification, neglecting counter-arguments, veering off the question, and failing to include a consideration of different perspectives.

How long do I have to write my essay?

You’ll have 6 months from the time the prescribed titles are released, to the deadline date for uploading your essay to the IB. However, most schools will set their own deadline for completing the essay, so that everyone has plenty of time to complete your PPF, and upload it on time. Follow what your school tells you about this.

How important is the TOK essay PPF?

The PPF (‘Planning and Progress Form’) is the document that you fill in to outline your discussions during the three essay. Although this is not directly assessed, it is an important part of demonstrating that you have approached the TOK essay in an ethical way, which is now particularly important in the era of ChatGPT.

What are some effective strategies for revising and editing my TOK essay to improve clarity and coherence?

Take breaks between revisions, seek feedback from peers or teachers, and carefully proofread for grammar, punctuation, and coherence.

Should I include references or a bibliography in my TOK essay?

While not required, referencing sources appropriately adds credibility to your essay; use footnotes or endnotes for citations.

in the tok essay you should work the title with

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  1. PPT

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  3. Tok Essay Title 1

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  5. how to write a ToK essay cambridge

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  6. How to Write Ib Tok Essay and Tok Presentation Tutor

    in the tok essay you should work the title with


  1. TOK May 2024 Essay Title 1

  2. TOK May 2024 Essay Title 6

  3. ToK Essay 6 May 24: Recent Evidence #shorts #tok #tokessay #ibtok

  4. TOK November 2023 Essay Title 3

  5. TOK May 2024 Essay Title 3

  6. ToK May 2024 Title 1: Key Points


  1. EXPLAINED: May 2024 TOK Essay Prescribed Titles

    The titles for May 2024 are released! Here they are below: Make sure to bookmark this page as I explain and provide examples for each of these titles in depth! UPDATE: Title 1, 2, 5 and 6 are now available. Stay tuned for more! For general guidance on how to write a good TOK essay, check out my TOK Essay advice collection.

  2. TOK Essay Structure: A Guide for IB Students

    In my view, understanding the basic structure is like having a guide for your academic paper. So, a typical TOK essay includes three main parts. The introduction is where you set the stage. It's about introducing your topic and presenting your thesis statement — your central argument or standpoint.

  3. Choosing a TOK essay title

    As you consider the titles, you should be thinking about how they link to the areas of knowledge, and which AOKs might work as the context of your essay. Inevitably, you will have enjoyed, and had more success, with some AOKs than others, so your title should link naturally to these - if it doesn't, then perhaps you need to rethink your ...

  4. How to Write a TOK Essay: 15 Steps (with Pictures)

    Download Article. 1. Use your essay outline as a guide. Focus on expanding each section of your outline, keeping in mind the 1200-1600 word limit for the essay. Your introduction and your conclusion should be the shortest paragraphs in your essay, and the body paragraphs should be the longer sections of your essay.

  5. Breaking Down TOK Essay Titles 2022

    Prescribed Essay Titles for Your TOK Essay. The prescribed essay titles above are great for tok essays as they cover ethical grounds that you can discuss with reference and solid justification. Once you have narrowed down these prescribed titles, you can conduct research based on factual knowledge and find specific examples to work with.

  6. Planning and structuring the TOK essay

    Once you've grasped the essay rubric, and chosen your title, you can start planning and structuring your TOK essay. You base this around the 3 interactions with your teacher, which are one-on-one meetings discussing your progress, and receiving feedback. As well as the interactions, you can also ask your teacher specific questions about your ...

  7. How To Write A ToK Essay

    The presentation is to assess a student's ability to apply TOK thinking to a real-life situation whereas IB TOK essay is more conceptual. The essay is externally assessed by IB and must be on any one of the prescribed TOK essay titles issued by the IB for each examination session. Word limit of a TOK essay is 1600 words ( excludes extended ...

  8. How to Structure a Theory of Knowledge Essay

    Paragraph 1. - Say one or two interesting things about the prescribed title question. This shows us, right away that you know what the question is asking. - Define one or two of the key terms in the title. Get definitions for all of the main words in your title. You don't need to include all of them in your essay, but it's useful to see how ...

  9. Guide to the TOK Essay

    The TOK essay is a 1600 word essay written about topics usually given to students from their teachers from a list of numerous options. It is an essay that promotes arguments and counterarguments for the topic at hand. Understanding your ways of knowing (WOKs) and areas of knowledge (AOKs) is extremely crucial before you even start choosing a ...

  10. Mastering ToK Essay Structure: A Comprehensive Guide

    They require that you " provide a clear, coherent and critical exploration of the essay title " (IB ToK Essay Assessment Instrument, 2020) Achieving this requires a well-thought-out structure that fosters clarity, coherence, and critical exploration. Let's break down the essentials that every ToK Essay should include, regardless of the ...

  11. TOK Essay essentials

    The TOK essay must be the student's own work. However, the teacher plays an important role in supporting the student during the planning and writing of their essay. Teachers are expected to explain the requirements of the task and ensure that students are familiar with the assessment instrument, provide clarifications in response to students ...

  12. Example essays

    To what extent do you agree with this statement?". "There is no such thing as a neutral question. Evaluate this statement with reference to two areas of knowledge.". "'The task of history is the discovering of the constant and universal principles of human nature.'. To what extent are history and one other area of knowledge successful ...

  13. How to Structure and Format your TOK Essay!

    Every TOK Essay will look different and this isn't the only format you can use for your essay. In fact, for some prescribed titles you might even want to steer away from this structure if the PT lends itself to another format! However, as a baseline, this is a clear, well-thought out way to approach the confusing essay that is your TOK Essay.

  14. The TOK Essay Process

    The TOK essay makes up a significant part of the overall mark for TOK. Additionally, the bonus points available can make an important difference in your overall IB results. Every point counts. The TOK essay process is an excellent way to develop open-ended and creative analytical skills. The Extended Essay is similar in some respects but the EE ...

  15. Unpacking the 2023 November TOK Titles: A Comprehensive IB Solved Guide

    The November 2023 titles for the IB Theory of Knowledge Essay have been released! Let's face it - the TOK essay can be very intimidating. With so many topics to choose from and so many ideas bouncing around, it can be hard to know where to begin. That's where we come in. In this post, we'll take a closer look at each of the titles and give ...

  16. TOK essay guidance

    10 TOK essay starting points. 1 The TOK essay is an individual task. 2 It represents two thirds of the overall mark for TOK. 3 It is externally marked. 4 You choose your title from a list of six prescribed titles, which change every exam session. 5 The word count for the essay is 1600 words.

  17. LibGuides: US IB Theory of Knowledge: TOK Essay

    The International Baccalaureate Organization releases six TOK essay titles, twice a year for submission either in May or November. So you need to know which cohort you're submitting with. The essay titles for submission in May are released in the previous September. The essay titles for submission in November are released the previous March.

  18. The May 2024 TOK Essay Titles

    Below are the Theory of Knowledge Essay prescribed titles for the May 2024 session.. The video analysis of these titles is available in the member's area--which you can watch using a free trial.(Just click the "subscribe" tab at the top of this page).Click here to watch it now (just login first).. Our just updated TOK Essay Video Course (11 helpful videos) is ready for you as well.

  19. Unpacking the 2024 November TOK Titles: A Comprehensive IB Solved Guide

    The November 2024 IB Theory of Knowledge (TOK) Essay Titles are out! Let's be honest - tackling the TOK essay can be a daunting task. With so many ideas, concepts and topics at our disposal and a myriad of ideas swirling around, it's easy to feel overwhelmed at the outset.

  20. FAQs About the Essay

    A typical TOK essay will ask you to consider a question within the context of two different AOKs. In order to consider different points of view, you will structure the main body of your essay around arguments (that might support an assertion in the title) and counterarguments (that might oppose an assertion in the title).

  21. How to write a Theory of Knowledge (TOK) Essay: Full Guide

    1. Understand the Title. You need to know what the title is all about. This means that you have to read the question and understand it. Get to know what the title requires of you and what keywords to use. In this connection, you will need to have known areas of Knowledge (AOK) and ways of knowing (WOK).

  22. How to Write a TOK Essay In One Night: A Guide for 2024

    Key Takeaways. Read the essay prompt carefully to understand what the assignment requires. Choose a prescribed title. Select two of the most appropriate areas of knowledge. Develop an outline relevant to the Theory of Knowledge essay. Write the introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion. Proofread your work.

  23. November TOK Essay Titles Unpacked.

    This is a very detailed resource to help teachers prepare their students unpack the essay titles and start writing them. The mindmaps are very useful in helping the teachers and students get a prespective on the Essay title and spark off new ideas. n unpacking November's Theory of Knowledge (TOK) titles, it's crucial to deconstruct each ...

  24. Writing & uploading the TOK essay

    After you have grasped the essay rubric, chosen your title, and have a clear plan and structure, you can start writing your TOK essay.You'll be doing this alongside the three interactions, so keep these in mind as you proceed. Read the points below to get some advice on how to write your essay, and avoid common mistakes made by students.