Strategies to K.O the TOK Essay

If you stumbled across this article, chances are, you are looking for strategies that can aid your essay writing journey. Look no further! The Theory of Knowledge (TOK) Essay is often regarded as one of the toughest parts of the IB Diploma. Hence, we have gathered the following tips from our high-performing scholars, so that you can knock out the final boss!

  1. Decipher the TOK keywords and major concepts from the title

In order to fully understand the objective of the TOK essay, you must break the title down word by word, and analyse their roles in the essay. Using a TOK essay title from May 2019 as an example:

The quality of knowledge is best measured by how many people accept it.” 

Discuss this claim with reference to two areas of knowledge.

The essay mentions about ‘quality of knowledge’, which is the value determination of the knowledge. But how can ‘quality’ be measured? Can we measure the ‘quality of knowledge’ by its certainty, applicability or level of agreement? Additionally, what is ‘knowledge’? How do we define ‘knowledge’? Does ‘best measured’ mean that there are alternative ways of measurements that are inferior? How can we prove that measuring the ‘number of people accepting’ is the best way to determine quality? Lastly, who are the ‘people’? Are they laymen or experts?

The analysis above is not conclusive of what can be discussed, but once you have deciphered the title, you can begin to determine the objective of your essay with reference to the relevant Ways or Areas of Knowledge.

2. Construct an outline for your essay

Not everyone has a habit of writing a plan for their essays. However, an outline in this case would be very useful because you can visualise how your arguments and counter-arguments would be in order, and whether the essay has a logical flow. Ensure that each of the paragraph has a certain degree of linkage with the one before and after, so that the entire essay will be coherent. Also remember to incorporate the relevant examples and philosophical theories in each argument, so that your viewpoints are justified with evidence.

3. Incorporate TOK terminology

In order to score high in the TOK Essay, you must use a lot of TOK ‘jargons’ consistently from start to bottom. Examples of these terminology are as such: ‘empirical knowledge’, ‘falsification’ ‘paradigm shifts’, ‘syllogism’, ‘confirmation bias’, ‘paradox of cartography’, etc. If you have trouble coming up with these vocabulary, you can always refer to your TOK textbooks, philosophy-related materials, or look up online. 

4. Shy away from cliché examples

Imagine how many pieces of TOK Essay an examiner will read. The exact number is unknown, but we can bet that it is likely to be MANY. If you want to stand out from the sea of essays, you must research and incorporate unique and intriguing examples. Keep the famous scientists like Albert Einstein or Isaac Newton at bay. They are overused and overexploited

5. Consult teachers and classmates

Whenever in doubt, ask somebody! Your teachers are there to aid you throughout your journey, so don’t be afraid to ask them during class or after class. Suppose that one of your chosen Area of Knowledge is Natural Science, you should consult your Science teachers for guidance. They may not be familiar with how TOK works, but they can be helpful when coming up with claims or examples from their valuable insights and years of experience. On top of that, ask your peers for their thoughts! Peer learning is one of the most effective ways of learning, and they may know something that you don’t. That said, you should exchange your essays with your friends from time to time, and give out your genuine thoughts as a reader of their work.

6. Jot down questions when reviewing the essay

As mentioned, you should seek help from your teachers whenever you hit a plateau. However, before the consultation, you must jot down the specific questions and problems that you encountered when writing the essay. For example, you may keep a note saying ‘The linkage between these two claims are rather weak, how can I make it better?’, or ‘I am unsure whether the claim is strong enough, can we verify that?’. By writing the questions down beforehand, you will have a far more productive session with your teachers, and achieve more in a shorter amount of time.

7. Do not Procrastinate

For our final tip, the three words say it all. And it is easier said than done. Be self-disciplined, and determined. Do not unleash your inner deadline fighter when it comes to the TOK Essay.

Lastly, we can all acknowledge that the TOK Essay is not a piece of cake, but it is manageable. We hope these tips have given you a dose of motivation or even AMPLIFIED your potential TOK grade. Good luck!




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Bjorn achieved an IB score of 43/45 and a grade A in his Business HL Extended Essay. As an avid writer, he hopes to offer advice to current and prospective IB students. 


© Ampla Education  –  Unauthorised use of this material without permission is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full credit is given to Ampla Education. 

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