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?”
Students also take part in a presentation, which can be done individually or in a group of up to three people.
Further guidance on the TOK essay and presentation can be found in the IB’s online curriculum centre (OCC).
Materials in the OCC 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.
The Top Ten Theory of Knowledge Essay Tips
Here are my top tips for getting to top marks on your Theory of Knowledge essay.
1. All ToK essays are cross-disciplinary; they are never just about one way of knowing (perception, language, reason, etc) or one area of knowledge (mathematics, natural sciences, human sciences, history, etc). In general you’ll want to include at least
2. But be careful about which WoK's and AoK's you include. Review all of your notes to refresh your understanding and make sure you’re seeing the relevant connections and make sure (after you’ve done your research) that you have interesting points to make (claims and counter claims).
3. Make an outline first. The outline is your road map and it’s where you make a lot of your major decisions. It will also help you to develop an argument, with each paragraph building on the one before.
3. Research in a lot of different ways: websites, your class notes, talking with people (parents, classmates, your teachers). Find arguments which support both sides of (for and against) your thesis and examples that support your claims and counterclaims. As you develop insights you can use, make sure to record them. ]
4. Make sure you have clarified the scope of your essay (what you're aiming to do). Make it clear, in your introduction, which WOK's and AOK's ’s you’re using. And define your key terms carefully, in ways that are useful to your argument. Dictionary definitions rarely do this. At the minimum, be sure to not just use the first definition you find.
5. It’s easy to forget that ToK is about developing your ability to think for yourself. Give yourself some time away from your outline, to reflect before you begin your real essay. And then try to give yourself a few breaks from your essay as well, so you can come back to it with fresh eyes. It’s hard to see the weaknesses of your thinking while you’re busy trying to get it done (i.e. in a hurry). Come up with your own ideas.
6. Read at least 3 examples of excellent ToK Essays written by other people.
7. Keep editing. Each of your paragraphs should show opposing viewpoints concisely. Compare two opposing ideas about how natural science might relate to your knowledge question.
8. Use specific and qualified language. Rather than writing that “all science always provides useful insights,” instead say that, “chemistryoften provides useful insights.” Words like often or sometimes (instead of always), might or could (instead of should) help to keep from over-generalising or saying more than you can actually support in your essay.
9. To prove your essay's thesis you’ll need to rely on evidence. Various types of facts are fine (quotations, statistics, true stories from your reading or your own life). Avoid using clichés and common examples. If you can use examples that the marker hasn’t heard before this will show that you are thinking for yourself.
10. Read it out loud, after you have finished it. This will help you to find mistakes and areas that don’t flow as well as you thought.
Other Useful ToK Essay Resources
Six steps to writing a good TOK essay: A student guide by Colleen H. Parker at SPHS
Writing a TOK essay, by Richard van de Lagemaat
How to Write a Good TOK Essay, By Peg Robinson
This in link TheoryofKnowledgeStudent.com goes through a variety of examples of how to answer some of the questions from previous years.
Mr Hoyes’ Notes on The ToK Essay
How to Write a Good ToK Paper, from Collective Thinking
Writing a TOK Essay, from ‘Findings’ Part One, Two, Three, Four, and Five.
10 Tips on Writing a Good Theory of Knowledge Essay, from the American International School of Lusaka
Guide to writing the TOK Essay, from IBCram
Tips for writing a good ToK Essay by Ric Sims @ Nothing Nerdy
And consider some common problems, from ToK Talk