- Knowledge Questions
- Knowledge and Language
- Knowledge and Technology
- Knowledge and Indigenous Societies
- Knowledge and religion
- Knowledge and Politics
- Human Sciences
- Natural Sciences
- TOK exhibition
- Recommended resources.
- Top tips for TOK teachers
- TOK across the curriculum
Top essay writing tips
General information about the essay:, how will your essay be assessed in practice, assessment criteria.
How to structure your essay
Introduction: 30 second structure guide.
- Grab the reader’s attention.
- What is the essay question all about?
- What does the essay invite you to explore?
- What might the main concepts of the title question mean in the context if this TOK essay? (be nuanced here, avoid sweeping statements that are self-limiting).
- Why is the essay question so important?
- Which AOKs will you use and what direction will your essay take (brief outline)?
The main body
- The main assessment criterion is related to whether or not you address the question and maintain focus on that question. In that sense, you should always, and regularly bring your essay back to the central question. Better to do this too much than too little.
- You should also consider ALL the key terms and concepts of the question.
- Your essay should offer a balanced exploration of all the aspects of the question. Sometimes students spend a huge amount of time on just one AOK, or only part of the question. That is not good.
- As mentioned before, do not change the title in any way. Not in the introduction and not in the body of the text.
- Careful: the current areas of knowledge are: History, Mathematics, The Human Sciences, The Natural Sciences, and The Arts. Do NOT use areas of knowledge from the previous spec and don’t call the elements or themes areas of knowledge.
- If an essay question asks you to consider one compulsory AOK and another of choice, don’t choose two random AOKs. You have to consider the compulsory one.
- Don't talk about more than two AOKs if the essay question asks you to talk about two only. This will be self-limiting because your analysis of each AOK will lack the required depth.
- Within the body of the text, you have to show an awareness of different perspectives. In that sense you are not providing a one-sided exploration. It’s very different from a debate where you have defend your one and only point at any cost. In fact, you should demonstrate that you understand that there might be other perspectives (to yours) as well as counterclaims to claims. This does not mean you should be relativistic or say that all perspectives or claims are equally important. But be subtle and holistic.
- You can use different areas of knowledge to provide different perspectives, or even counterclaims. You can use different disciplines within one AOK. Or you can look at different perspectives, theories and strands within one discipline/AOK. How you include these perspectives, claims and counterclaims is fairly open. But you should do it. And make it explicit.
- Although the essay is a reflective and analytical essay (rather than a research essay), you should offer some sort of evidence to claims. This can come in different forms.
- Examples are also essential to drive the essay. BUT. Do not list countless examples. Do not describe examples at ridiculous lengths. All that is not suited to a TOK essay. Your essay should not be descriptive.
- Instead, use the examples to illustrate or introduce your points, claims or counterclaims. Explain clearly how your example is relevant and important in the context of your essay.
- Avoid general claims about mathematicians/Maths, scientists/Science etc without backing this up with specific examples or evidence.
- Your examples should be specific and fresh. Don’t use TOK clichés (Heliocentrism etc). The examiners are so bored of them. Instead, open your eyes and see what is happening in the world at this very moment. Are there any cool Nobel prize winners around? Did you come across a niche art work? And don’t forget your subject lessons or EE research.
Main body: 30 second structure guide.
- Bring the essay back to the title by saying which aspect(s) of the question you will explore first.
- Use an interesting and specific example from the first AOK.
- Link this example to the first main point you make.
- Expand the first point and add evidence/further examples (from the same/other AOK).
- Reflect upon the implications of your point
- Introduce a counterclaim (could be a subtle nuance to your first claim, another perspective, or another discipline/AOK).
- Use an example/evidence to explain the counterclaim.
- Balance the claim and the counterclaim.
- Bring this first part back to the essay question.
- Bring the essay back to the title by saying which aspect(s) of the question you will explore secondly.
- Use an interesting and specific example from the second AOK.
- Expand the first point and add evidence/further examples (from the same or other AOK).
- Reflect upon the implications of your point.
- Introduce a counterclaim. (could be a subtle nuance to your first claim, another perspective, or another discipline/AOK).
- Bring this first part back to the essay question.
Conclusion: 30 second structure guide.
- Start with “in conclusion/to conclude”.
- Briefly recap the main points you made.
- Bring back to the essay question.
- Reach an overall “answer” to the question (avoid relativism).
- Consider the implications of your conclusion.
- Leave with a final reflection/unanswered question/a possible (future) exploration.
- Use the elements, TOK concepts and possibly even the suggested knowledge questions from the guide to inspire your final reflection(s).
Formalities and references
- 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
- Use a standard format (eg APA).
- Create a list of cited works at the end.
- Within the body of the text, acknowledge all ideas/works you have used.
- Avoid misquoting or selecting ideas incorrectly. (this has happened to me and it is very annoying).
A word about language: Useful phrases, style guide and how to improve clarity
- Avoid intellectualizing the essay at the expense of clarity.
- You are encouraged to use the first person (I-form), because this demonstrates your reflective engagement.
- Don’t use big words, philosophical terms and other things you don’t understand.
- Structure your work as clearly as you can.
- Explain the direction of your essay in the introduction and at the start of a new section.
- Avoid very long sentences, because you risk forgetting the main clause.
- Better to use too many connectives than too few (but vary them to avoid repetitiveness).
- Never write the essay first in your native language and then run it through Google translate. That will always go wrong.
- Please run a spelling and grammar check. Read your essay at least once aloud, to check that it makes sense.
- Style: be as nuanced and subtle as you can. Avoid blunt and sweeping statement.
- Remember that the essay is an essay about what it means to know. Descriptive essays score very low, as well as essays that read like an EE. If you struggle to maintain a TOK focus, you might want to use the elements (scope/methods and tools/ethics and perspectives), suggested knowledge questions by the TOK guide (see the bottom of each page of the respective AOK on this site) and the 12 TOK concepts (see home page) to inspire your argumentation and reflection.
Useful TOK essay writing phrases
Do's and don'ts.
- Never change the essay title or its wording.
- You can mention what the essay title invites you to explore.
- You can explain some tensions or issues, or ideas that are captured by the essay question.
- It is a good idea to highlight a basic sense of direction your essay will take (Eg the concepts you will look at as well as the areas of knowledge you will focus on).
- If some concepts are not fully clear because they can be interpreted in different ways, don't panic, but acknowledge this. The whole point of the essay is that you think about this kind of stuff!
- Although it is good to acknowledge the complexity and possible "tensions" that are captured by essay questions, you should under no circumstance say that the essay question itself is confusing, badly phrased, stupid, or that sort of thing.
- Essay questions may ask you to consider particular areas of knowledge, or aspects of the knowledge frameworks. In this respect, they will be more specific than the essay questions of the previous specification.
TOK essay rubric
TOK Home > TOK essay guidance > TOK essay rubric
After understanding the of the basics of the essay, your next step is to grasp how it is evaluated and marked, which is outlined in the ‘assessment instrument’. Your TOK teacher will give you a copy of this, or you can find it online in the 2022 TOK Guide.
Check out our short video explainer for the TOK essay; you can find more explainers about other aspects of the course in our TOK explainer playlist .
TOK essay pages
Learn about how the essay is marked, and the skills you are expected to demonstrate in order to succeed.
Find out how to evaluate the six prescribed essay titles, and decide on which one will work best for you.
Learn about the three interactions with your TOK teacher, and what you should be discussing in each one.
Gain a few tips on how to structure your TOK essay, how to articulate your ideas, and ways to justify your claims.
Find out about how to fill in the essay PPF, and why this is an important indication of your engagement with TOK.
The TOK essay assessment strands
The overall assessment objective of the TOK essay is to answer the prescribed essay title in a clear, coherent, and critical way. In order to do this, the assessment ‘instrument’ looks for five different skills that you are expected to demonstrate in your essay.
1. Making links to TOK
The discussion within your TOK essay should be linked very effectively to the areas of knowledge . Typically, TOK essays expect you to discuss two AOKs, which will provide you with the context to explore and answer the prescribed title you’ve chosen.
2. Understanding perspectives
Your TOK essay should show a clear awareness of different points of view, and should offer an evaluation of them. This means considering how different perspective might approach the question in different ways.
3. Offering an effective argument
The arguments within your TOK essay are clear and coherent, and are supported by strong examples. This means expressing your opinions clearly, and supporting them with original and meaningful real-life situations.
4. Keeping discussions relevant
Your essay’s discussions should offer a ‘sustained focus’ on the title. This means that you should be able to pick out any section of your essay, and be able to identify what question it is answering.
5. Considering implications
Your essay needs to not just present and evaluate arguments, it also needs to say why these arguments are significant, and what their implications are.
More support for the TOK essay
Make sure that your TOK teacher has given you access to all the documents and online material that support the essay. These include the TOK Subject Guide, the TOK essay rubric, and exemplar TOK essays (found in ‘MyIB’, which is accessible to teachers). Make sure you go through our other pages on writing the TOK essay. You’ll find help on understanding what the is looking for, that works for you, what each of the should focus on, how to an effective TOK essay, and how to fill in your . If your school is a member of theoryofknowledge.net, we have designed a series of lessons on the essay, with two formative assessment tasks. These will familiarize you with the essay rubric, knowledge questions, real-life situations, how to deal with perspectives and implications, and structuring an essay. If you are signed into the site, you can access these lessons here . You can also find out our thoughts on the TOK essay (and the TOK exhibition) in several webinars that we have delivered. The main one is the TOK Assessment 2022 webinar, but we also consider this form of assessment in our free webinars on the 2022 course. You can see these webinars on this page of the site.
Using the exploration points
The EPs enable you to develop a deeper understanding of the AOKs, via media sources and unpacking suggestions, links to TED talks, guidance on the 12 key concepts of TOK, and other features. Join us to gain access to this incredibly useful tool for supporting your essay arguments.
FAQs about the TOK essay
How is the tok essay marked.
Your essay is submitted to the IB, and is externally marked by examiners. We discuss the marking rubric (or ‘assessment instrument’) on.
What role do ‘knowledge questions’ play in the TOK essay?
Knowledge questions (KQs) are at the heart of TOK, and you’ll explore them throughout the course. In terms of the essay, the questions you consider about knowledge should all come from the title, and you are not expected to identify any separate KQs.
Where can I view the complete TOK essay rubric?
You can read the whole rubric in the TOK subject guide, on page 48. Your TOK teacher will give you a copy of this.
What makes a TOK essay ‘very good’?
The rubric identifies four key characteristics of a very good (ie 9/10 out of 10) essay. These are: accomplished, lucid, insightful, and convincing. The formative assessment tasks you do for the essay will help you understand what these means.
Links to the areas of knowledge
Use the links below to take you to the areas of knowledge. You’ll find ideas from influential thinkers, the latest real-life situations, key terms and concepts, and other content to help you create an authoritative and accomplished TOK essay.
You should explore your prescribed title within the context of two or more areas of knowledge. Follow the link below to take you to the arts.
You should explore your prescribed title within the context of two or more areas of knowledge. Follow the link below to take you to history.
You should explore your prescribed title within the context of two or more areas of knowledge. Follow the link to take you to human sciences.
You should explore your prescribed title within the context of two or more areas of knowledge. Follow the link below to take you to mathematics.
You should explore your prescribed title within the context of two or more areas of knowledge. Follow the link to take you to natural sciences.
Get real with TOK by subscribing to the newsletter
Step into the real and unpackaged world by subscribing to our unique monthly TOK newsletter. You’ll receive links to great media sources from all over the world that place the TOK themes and areas of knowledge into an authentic context.
You’ll meet great thinkers and ideas, hone your understanding of key TOK concepts, and build up a library of examples for the essay and exhibition. Subscribe HERE !
TOK Assessment Criteria
A. Understanding of Knowledge Issues
2. little treatment and/or understanding of knowledge issues relevant to the prompt or chosen topic; if present, Ways and/or Areas of Knowing are merely mentioned.
4. some treatment and/or understanding of knowledge issues relevant to the prompt or chosen topic; inconsistent links to Ways and/or Areas of Knowing.
6. adequate treatment and/or understanding of knowledge issues relevant to the prompt or chosen topic; some effective links to relevant Ways and/or Areas of Knowing; demonstrates some (partial) understanding.
8. consistently maintains as its focus knowledge issues relevant to the prompt or chosen topic; effective links and some comparison between Ways and/or Areas of Knowing; demonstrates good understanding.
10. consistently maintains as its focus on knowledge issues relevant to the prompt or chosen topic; effective links and comparison between Ways and/or Areas of Knowing are elaborated; demonstrates sophisticated understanding.
B. Knower’s Perspective
2. shows no evidence of independent thinking about knowledge issues relevant to the prompt or chosen topic; limited personal engagement or attempt to acknowledge or explore different perspectives; no appropriate examples.
4. little evidence of independent thinking about knowledge issues relevant to the prompt or chosen topic; some personal engagement; different perspectives are acknowledged but not explored; few appropriate examples.
6. some evidence of independent thinking about knowledge issues relevant to the prompt or chosen topic; obvious personal engagement; awareness of different perspectives but few explored; appropriate examples, but w/o variety.
8. adequate evidence of independent thinking about knowledge issues relevant to the prompt or chosen topic; thoughtful, personal engagement w/ some self-awareness;
different perspectives explored; appropriate examples, w/ some variety.
10. consistent evidence of independent thinking about KIs relevant to the prompt or chosen topic; thoughtful & personal engagement w/ significant self-awareness; serious consideration of different perspectives; varied & effective examples.
C. Quality of Analysis
2. no inquiry into knowledge issues, only description; few attempts to justify main points & little awareness of any counterclaims.
4. inquiry partly explores, but largely describes, knowledge issues; some justification of main points & some coherent argumentation; counterclaims implicitly identified.
6. inquiry explores knowledge issues; most points are justified; most arguments are coherent; some counterclaims are considered.
8. inquiry explores with some insight, depth and/or detail, knowledge issues; main points are justified and arguments are coherent ; counterclaims are explored; implications of arguments are identified.
10. inquiry explores with a high degree of insight, in considerable depth and/or detail, knowledge issues; all main points are justified and arguments are coherent and compelling; counterclaims are explored and evaluated; implications and assumptions of arguments are identified.
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- SCHS TOK Overview/Vital Docs
- Knowledge (and the nature of knowledge itself)
- Types of Knowledge, Memory & Evidence
- KQ activities
- KQ grades/tasks
- Q2 Article Presentation Options
- Q1 Article Presentation Options
- TOK Journal on TED videos + future of technology
- Brain Week/Genius Week/Technology Week/"Good Ideas" Week
- Media Lab/Journal on Applied Mathematics
- Stats/Visual Info/Maps (Beautiful Data) DAY
- Arts/Math/Stats Journal
- Human Sciences
- Media Lab - Human Sciences activity
- Natural Sciences
- Exhibition Tips/FYIs
- The 35 prompts for TOK Exhibition
- TOK essay 2022
- Presentation on job/career
- Presentation on major thinker in a field
- TOK short presentation on idea/thing/debate/case study
- ISMs Presentation (or on an indigenous tribe)
- TOK Book List for the Book Report
- TOK Movie/Documentary List for presentation
- FILMS & PODCASTS YOU CAN STREAM (List)
- Kickstarter project
- FINAL WEEK/Journal
- Make Up Work for Excessive Absences
- Baccalaureate/Grad speech I did May2013
- 2019/OLD/Today's Task
- April Movies
- Video Links with TOK usefulness
- SCHS teacher training on TOK
- Sense Perception
- Religious Knowledge Systems
- Indigenous Knowledge Systems
- TOK Oral Info
- If the title has been modified but it is still clear which prescribed title for the current session it refers to, the essay will be marked against that prescribed title. Any lack of relevance in the student’s response to the prescribed title arising from this modification will be reflected in the score awarded.
- If it is clear that the title bears no resemblance to any title for the current session, the essay will be awarded a score of zero, in accordance with the TOK essay assessment instrument.
- the main part of the essay
- any quotations.
- any acknowledgments
- the references (whether given in footnotes, endnotes or in-text) and bibliography
- any maps, charts, diagrams, annotated illustrations or tables.
How to write a TOK essay
is one of the most crucial and arguable questions especially after the new TOK 2022 update. This article describes the TOK essay outline.
The TOK essay is an external component that carries 67% weightage.
So, a student chooses to answer one of the six pre-released Tok essay titles May 2022. The word count is 1600 as the examiner will stop reading after that.
The TOK essay requires dissecting the prescribed title. My experience as an examiner helps me to claim that most students do mistakes in making the initial arguments clear. It is important to be original and convey what they think about the title. DO NOT get influenced by what others think about the title. Instead, pen down your thoughts and then seek evidence as supporting links to your arguments.
Further, connect the title by defining the keywords. The important keywords in the title must not be defined separately but should be weaved in such a way that presents your original thoughts.
For more details, you can check TOK essay requirements and TOK essay structure .
It is important to understand that each title must have been answered through knowledge questions mentioned in the Tok guide. The knowledge questions are helpful in creating arguments based on 4 frameworks; scope, perspectives, ethics, and methods and tools.
Students must see the title through the lens of each framework and look for compelling, analytical, and lucid arguments that help them to move above the rubrics.
Knowledge questions are a great way to move forward as they prompt students to think in the right direction. They are open-ended and students’ essays may shape up well. The knowledge questions in the TOK essay help in shaping up and connecting to the title as real-life examples can be a good linking pin.
It must be noted that not all frameworks and the respective knowledge questions may suit a particular Tok essay title. Therefore, each Tok essay will have a unique Tok essay requirement yet Tok essay structure will be the same. The TOK essay requirement is title-specific. Therefore, unpacking the TOK essay title based on key terms is essential.
Furthermore, knowledge is not simple and it comes along with multiple problems. Therefore, TOK concepts have been introduced in the current TOK 2022 syllabus. The concepts are the linking pin to connect examples from real-world contexts to explore knowledge questions. Such arguments through weaving the concepts to seek answers to knowledge questions make the whole process of completing and submitting a quality Tok essay easy.
If you like what you read, you might consider reading the TOK essay
Table 1 –– TOK Essay: assessment instrument. Does the candidate present an appropriate and cogent ... real life examples and are effectively evaluated;.
Your TOK essay counts for most of the marks. It it is worth 67% of your final TOK grade. You will get the choice between a set of prescribed essay titles.
The TOK essay assessment strands · 1. Making links to TOK · 2. Understanding perspectives · 3. Offering an effective argument · 4. Keeping discussions relevant · 5.
10. Inquiry explores with a high degree of insight, in considerable depth and/or detail, knowledge issues; all main points are justified and arguments are
The discussion is focused on the title and is linked effectively to areas of knowledge. Arguments are clear, coherent and supported by examples. There is.
TOK essay on a prescribed titleThe TOK essay engages students in a formal, sustained piece of writing in response to one of the six titles that are prescribed
TOK ESSAY GRADING RUBRIC. Does the student present an appropriate and cogent analysis of knowledge questions in discussing the title?
The assessment instrument uses a method called global impression marking: instead of using discrete assessment criteria that assess different aspects of the
The assessment model in theory of knowledge (TOK) has two components, ... One essay on a title chosen from a list of six titles prescribed by the IB for
The TOK essay requires dissecting the prescribed title. My experience as an examiner helps me to claim that most students do mistakes in making the initial