Let’s learn how to write a ToK Essay with Tutopiya. The IB ToK Essay contributes to the overall score of a student’s IB Diploma. The award of points for the IB ToK Essay is in conjunction with the extended essay. A maximum of three points is awarded according to a student’s combined performance in both the TOK and Extended Essay.
Tutopiya will help and guide our IB Diploma students on the following:
- How to Start a ToK Essay
- Cover the ToK Essay Structure
- How to Write a ToK Essay Conclusion
- Analysis of a ToK Essay Example
Choosing Your Essay Title
Before you can dive into structuring or writing your essay, you will need to spend time to decide on a topic you wish to write on. For the IB ToK Essay, you are required to compare and contrast different ways of knowing through perception, language, reason, emotion with different areas of knowledge (AOK).
1 – Selecting your prescribed title and knowledge question
Before you hastily decide on a title you wish to write, take some time to read each title carefully on the list and brainstorm ideas.
Tip #1: Brainstorming
Get some initial ideas you have of each and every title/ question down on paper. Ask yourself some simple questions when brainstorming for each title.
Am I confident to write an essay about this? Is the question asking what I am thinking? Do I understand the keywords or concepts in the title?
You may not be clear on what the title is asking you to do. Go through the title and highlight any keywords and concepts you are unsure about or may have missed out.
Do you have a strong interest in the title? We recommend that you should at least be interested since you will be spending time and effort on researching this topic, pick something you are willing to research more about!
Can you relate anything to the title? Though the IB Tok Essay should be as objective as possible, you can always inject the essay with personality and character.
You can always do so by adding in ideas or topics you have learned or studied in class or even personal experiences.
Tip #2: Understanding the question in your own words
The titles of these essay questions can sometimes be long and difficult to grasp when you first read them so before you write the IB ToK Essay, consider paraphrasing the question in your own words.
You may struggle to understand the keywords and concepts in the title, you may even be unsure about the perspective, comparison and contrast of the title.
To help our IB students, we recommend breaking down the question/ title by first, understanding the keywords in the title. Then, put the title together and understand what they are asking.
This way, you will be able to understand the title more in-depth than before and able to answer the title sufficiently.
Structuring your Essay
1 – Knowing the Assessment Criteria
2 – Theory of Knowledge Essay
The rubrics require students to be able to understand the knowledge questions and their quality of analysis of knowledge questions. View the TOK Essay Mark Scheme here.
You will have to choose two Areas of Knowledge (AOK) to explore.
There are 8 different Areas of Knowledge are as follows:
- Natural Sciences
- Humane Sciences
- The arts
- Religious knowledge systems
- Indigenous knowledge systems
You can also use Ways of Knowledge (WOK) in your essay and the are as follows:
- Sense Perception
Analysis of a Sample Essay
Question: “Doubt is the key to knowledge (Persian Proverb). To what extent is this true in two areas of knowledge?
Important Keywords in the Title
“To what extent”
When keywords like this appear, note that you need to present 2 different perspectives to the question, a for and against argument in your essay.
Paragraph 1: Introduction
You would provide an explanation and interpretation of the title and identify the key terms in the title. You would also need to state your thesis and explain or identify the areas of knowledge you will be exploring in your essay.
1 – Start the essay by saying something relatable or interesting
By doing that, you can capture the reader’s attention and make them want to read more by evoking a sense of curiosity to find out more about your essay.
2 – Your Thesis/ Stand
You can also state your thesis (that is different from mainstream ideas – to capture the reader’s attention). You can make the decision to be a for or against stand in your essay. If you decided
In your own words, give an interpretation of the title and show that you are able to identify the key terms of the question.
“The problem with doubt as the key to knowledge is that doubt isn’t a way of knowing. Doubt is an emotion we feel that motivates us to seek knowledge.”
3 – Outline of the paragraph
Give the readers an idea of what you will be going through in your body paragraphs, a sentence that gives the readers a preview. Let the readers know which AOKs you will be exploring, making it easier for the examiner to know what to look for.
“However this motivation can manifest itself differently in contrasting areas of knowledge like Mathematics and Religion.”
Your introduction should not be too long, use around 150 to 200 words for your first paragraph would be sufficient.
Paragraph 2: First Area of Knowledge.
1 – Begin your paragraph with a claim or topic sentence
This helps you to outline your argument about the title.
“Mathematics is an area of knowledge that is only concerned with reason.”
2 – Explain and Elaborate
Now, give explain and elaborate on your topic sentence/ claim.
“In a right-angled triangle a²+b²=c² and that’s it. There are no alternative answers or personal interpretations. An answer to a mathematical problem is either right or wrong. This is because the main way of knowing in math is reason and evidence is required for a mathematical statement to be true or false.”
3 – Give an example with an explanation
This helps you to further elaborate and explore your topic sentence or claim.
The example you give should be personal, specific, precise and real.
This way you can make your claim believable and relatable in some sense. This also helps to evoke a sense of authenticity in your essay.
“When we first learned about negative numbers in math class it made no sense to me. How could a bigger number have a lower value than a smaller one? It was illogical and it contradicted all the math I had learned before that day….. Either the previous mathematical information was wrong or the new information about negative numbers were wrong. But he explained the concept of a number line with a central point 0 and that they were both right.”
4 – Linking back
Remember to link back to your claim and the question after you are done exploring this example.
“My doubt led to understanding and was the key to my knowledge.”
Paragraph 3: Counter
1 – State your counterclaim
This paragraph would focus on counterclaim. You are supposed to discuss 2 different perspectives to your claim, a for and against. You are to argue against your claim above this paragraph.
“On the other hand, doubt in mathematics can be detrimental to education.”
2 – Give an Example and Explanation
Add in an example and explanation to support your counterclaim.
“For example, after I do a question from the International Baccalaureate mathematics textbook I always look at the back in order to check if my answers are correct because it has answers in the back. If I do not have the book and I am in class then I ask my mathematics teacher for the correct answer. I do this when I am uncertain of my answer to a question and my doubt allows me to gain knowledge i.e. whether my answer is wrong or right. My doubt also helps me to assess how much of the mathematical concept I have understood by marking myself. However, this can be detrimental to progress because I started to become dependent on the answers at the back of the book or my mathematics teacher. Every time I do a question I feel like I have to verify my answer with an authoritative source which I have now come to understand leaves no room for exploration or the development of my own methods.”
3 – Linking back
Link back to your prescribed title and your claim of this paragraph.
“My doubt caused a loss of confidence in my mathematical abilities and dependence on authoritative sources.”
Now, follow this format and carry on writing for the next two body paragraphs, exploring on another Area of Knowledge, in this case, this student will have to write one more AOK on Religion and a counterclaim for it.
Aim to write a maximum of 600 words for each Area of Knowledge (Paragraph 2 and 3, Paragraph 4 and 5).
Paragraph 4: Second Area of Knowledge
- Topic Sentence
- Example + Explanation
Paragraph 5: Counterclaim
- Topic Sentence (Counterclaim)
- Example + Explanation
- Link to prescribed title and your initial claim of this Area of Knowledge
Finally, write your ToK Essay conclusion in one paragraph totalling 200 to 250 words.
Paragraph 6: Your conclusion
Explain the different insights you have gained or have come out of this essay.
“As illustrated by the example of dependence on authoritative sources in mathematics doubt can be detrimental and cause a loss of confidence. Similarly, doubting conjectures has also proven to be unfruitful. However, within mathematics individual doubt can lead to the acquisition of knowledge.”
Implications and significance
Tell the readers why it is important to know that and how does it matter that they understand this when you write your IB ToK Essay.
Perspectives and Extension
If you can, try to input a very different perspective on your conclusion. Perhaps recognizing a different way of approaching the question, which could have resulted in different insights.
You can mention the limitations of your essay saying there are one or two unresolved questions that this essay has revealed. It’s about showing the readers that the conversation is not over yet. And that, there is more to the question and more rooms that you can explore.
“Furthermore, in areas like religion where we do not yet have the tools to prove it one way or the other simply doubting something by itself is a step towards acquiring knowledge because by suggesting that certain view is not absolute it makes room for new knowledge.”
A Quick Tip for writing a ToK Essay
Tip: Try not to use dictionary definitions in your essay
You want to show the examiners that you are writing a reflective essay, not a textbook definition heavy essay. Don’t rely too much on dictionary definitions to prove your argument or support a counterclaim. This will demonstrate that you did not engage with the topic and bypassed complexities around the topic.
Instead of using standard answers or cliche examples, you can try to use your own personal experiences to make it original and insightful for your readers. Though the essay should be objective, your essay should still have a personality and character.
Try Getting Expert’s Help
Tutopiya is a 1-1 Live Online Tutoring for all students aged 8 to 18 years old. Tutopiya offers the IB Diploma Programme curriculum to all students, visit our IB curriculum page to find out more about the subjects we teach here. We also have a blog full of useful IB resources for our students, why not read another sample essay for IB TOK?
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