How to write a TOK essay?

As you know 2/3 of your final TOK grade is based on writing an essay on one of the prescribed topics. You want to get the best possible grade obviously, and therefore it is important to write a killer essay. How do you go about doing that?

The most important thing about TOK essay is personal voice; it really should be your essay, a piece of evidence of your thinking. You should really try to answer the question as honestly as you can. Don't just try to sound smart with complicated words.

IB gives us a lot of hints about what the essay should be like. We will firstly look at the examiners' report. In 2007 report they give us following advice.

  • An introduction should not reiterate the prescribed title in detail; nor should it spell out in great detail the exact course of an essay. Introductions should, instead, show a sense of what the question is about and provide an indication of the direction chosen.

    Some of the more sophisticated essays used a specific example in the introduction to highlight an issue/topic and then returned to the example in the conclusion to show what progress had been made.

  • The strongest conclusions do not simply reiterate the main points of the essay, but instead put the findings into context and take a broader perspective on the significance of the issue.

  • Some students had good TOK points in individual paragraphs, but did not manage to make them cohere. Attention to the narrative flow through an essay was often lacking, and further guidance from teachers in this area is advised.

  • Over-reliance on rhetorical questions is to be avoided.
So now we know it. I have sometimes in the past given advice what the introduction, body and the conclusion should be like, by way of saying that this is what they could look like. Please do not take my examples so seriously that it starts to interfere with you personal voice.

Another important thing about TOK essays is that when you think of examples, taken from different Areas of Knowledge and your own experience; try to think of something that is original and topical. Check out the BBC website for recent scientific discoveries or debates one in a while. Ask your teachers.

The examiners' report made a specific comment that tired old examples of “1+1=2 ”, the flat earth and Guernica and others taken from TOK textbooks may not show the most original thinking. Do some research to find out better, more interesting perspectives, ideas and examples.

I will give you more ideas in class. For now try to see how you could take this advice and improve your essay. There are also sites that offer help with editing. Good luck!