7 Tips for Your TOK Essay
By Sandro Lau
Just thinking about the Theory of Knowledge (TOK) essay can be overwhelming. However, since it is an IB Diploma requirement, the TOK essay is unavoidable. There is a silver lining to this: Although the essay itself represents a small portion of the 45 Diploma points, it can significantly boost your college and university applications whilst also strengthening your critical skills. Like any essay assignment, practice makes perfect; the more you write, the stronger your writing skills become. Utilize the following 7 tips to strengthen your TOK essay.
Disclaimer: The order of the tips does NOT denote importance.
1. Become friends with Ways of Knowing (WOKs) and Areas of Knowledge (AOKs)
Having a basic understanding of WOKs and AOKs is of the utmost importance: they allow you to pinpoint the knowledge claim of your question. You should aim to use 2-3 WOKs and AOKs in your essay. You should review all of your notes to ensure you see relevant connections as well as confirm that they have both interesting claims and counterclaims.
2. Familiarise yourself with terminology
A thorough understanding of the vast amount of vocabulary and their definitions is vital to a high-scoring TOK essay. Incorporating TOK-specific jargon improves your chance of receiving scores in the higher levels (Level 4 and Level 5).
3. Challenge personal biases and preferences
Challenging your own biases and preferences will allow you to formulate counterclaims to claims. In essence, TOK is meant to show your ability to look at an issue (or issues) from multiple perspectives and argue in support of and against those perspectives. Furthermore, being able to be critical of others’ ideas and your own is essential at any stage of life, from high school to university and beyond.
4. Vary research methods
Using a variety of research sources allows you to find arguments that support both sides of your thesis and examples that support your claims and counterclaims. Consider class notes, websites, and people’s (classmates, teachers, friends, and family members) opinions as useful sources to develop your insights.
5. Make an outline first
Speaking of notes, you should always organize your ideas using outlines. Outlines serve as roadmaps allowing you to make minor and major changes as well as organize your body paragraphs so each paragraph builds on the previous one. Remember that a strong thesis statement is essential – it should be arguable, clear, specific in scope, and relevant. To this last point – it should answer the “so what?” question. That is to say, what is the importance of your research?
6. Read past TOK essays that received high scores
Finding your own writing voice can be challenging. Try reading essays written by others. This can significantly help you overcome your challenges in writing, since seeing how others form their arguments can provide you with opportunities to determine what works for you.
7. Reverse engineer outlines for past TOK essays
Creating outlines for past TOK essays is a great way for you to practice structuring arguments/counterarguments. In addition, you can see how past TOK essays incorporate examples and evidence to support and explore claims/counterclaims.