You write your TOK essay on your choice of six prescribed titles, which are released at the beginning of DP2, and you have approximately 6 months to complete it.
Learn about the basic details of the TOK essay on this page. After you’ve grasped these, move onto our four-step guide to the essay: 1 Understanding the rubric, 2 Choosing a title, 3 Planning and structuring, 4 Writing and uploading.
10 TOK essay starting points
- 1 The TOK essay is an individual task
- 2 It represents two thirds of the overall mark for TOK
- 3 It is externally marked
- 4 You choose your title from a list of six prescribed titles, which change every exam session
- 5 The word count for the essay is 1600 words
- 6 You’ll meet your teacher for 3 interactions to discuss your essay
- 7 Key areas that are assessed include the clarity of arguments, level of effectiveness of examples, and the focus on the title
- 8 You’ll fill in a Planning and Progress Form (PPF), which you submit with your essay (although this is not assessed)
- 9 The context of the essay is explicitly about the five areas of knowledge
- 10 There is a single criterion for marking, and four characteristics of an excellent essay (insightful, convincing, accomplished, and lucid)
A four-step guide to the TOK essay
Click on the buttons below to take you to the four steps of creating a great TOK essay. Don’t forget that we have plenty of videos on this and other aspects of the course, and members of the site have access to a huge amount of other resources to help you master the course and assessment tasks.
FAQs about the TOK essay
How do I choose my TOK essay title?
You choose your essay from six prescribed essay titles, that are released at the beginning of your second DP year. We give a few tips on how to choose a PT that will work for you here. But briefly, choose one that links to your pre-existing knowledge, and that you find personally engaging.
What will I be writing about in my TOK essay?
You’ll be answering your prescribed title, within the context of two areas of knowledge, considering how different perspectives might affect our response to the question, and what the implications of your arguments are.
Can I use ChatGPT to write my essay?
You can use ChatGPT to help you gather materials for your essay, but you should definitely not be using it to write the essay. Be very careful with ChatGPT. It bases its answers on online material, and much of this is inaccurate or out-of-date. For example, depending on what you ask it, it may tell you that you have to explore multiple areas of knowledge (rather than the two stipulated by the titles), and that you have to identify a separate knowledge question to the title (which is absolutely not the case).
How much help should I expect from my teacher?
Your teacher should run through the PTs when they are first released, and then meet you for three interactions, during which you’ll discuss your progress. They are allowed to give you one set of written feedback. But you can consult them at other times with specific questions.
Do I need to use real-world examples in my TOK essay?
Yes, real-life examples help illustrate your points and make your arguments more tangible. They can be drawn from personal experiences, historical events, scientific discoveries, etc.
Should I include my personal opinion in the TOK essay?
While the TOK essay is not about your personal opinion per se, it’s important to reflect on your perspective and how it shapes the way you understand the title. However, you should avoid using the essay as a platform for rants or unsubstantiated claims.
Is it necessary to include counter-arguments in my TOK essay?
Yes, including counter-arguments shows a deeper understanding of the complexity of the topic and demonstrates your critical thinking skills. It also enables you to consider different perspectives, and evaluate the implications of arguments.
Should I include the 12 key concepts in my essay?
Yes, as much as you can, draw on the key concepts such as justification, evidence, perspective, bias, certainty, and objectivity within your arguments linking them to the title, and to the real-world examples you draw on.
How do I ensure that my TOK essay reflects my own original thinking, and avoids plagiarism?
Clearly attribute ideas and sources that are not your own, and strive to present original insights and interpretations supported by evidence and reasoning. See our point above on using ChatGPT – never view this as more than a tool to help you gather material for your essay, rather than a tool to write it for you.
What are some common pitfalls to avoid when writing a TOK essay?
Avoid oversimplifying complex issues, relying solely on personal opinion without justification, neglecting counter-arguments, veering off the question, and failing to include a consideration of different perspectives.
How long do I have to write my essay?
You’ll have 6 months from the time the prescribed titles are released, to the deadline date for uploading your essay to the IB. However, most schools will set their own deadline for completing the essay, so that everyone has plenty of time to complete your PPF, and upload it on time. Follow what your school tells you about this.
How important is the TOK essay PPF?
The PPF (‘Planning and Progress Form’) is the document that you fill in to outline your discussions during the three essay. Although this is not directly assessed, it is an important part of demonstrating that you have approached the TOK essay in an ethical way, which is now particularly important in the era of ChatGPT.
What are some effective strategies for revising and editing my TOK essay to improve clarity and coherence?
Take breaks between revisions, seek feedback from peers or teachers, and carefully proofread for grammar, punctuation, and coherence.
Should I include references or a bibliography in my TOK essay?
While not required, referencing sources appropriately adds credibility to your essay; use footnotes or endnotes for citations.
Subscribe to the free TOK newsletter!
Subscribe to our free newsletter, and collect fantastic examples that will help you to understand the key ideas of TOK, support your essay and exhibition discussions, and help you to become an authentic critical thinker.
You’ll encounter some of the most important thinkers from the past and the present, go beyond the headlines of contemporary events and issues around the globe, and see how TOK concepts manifest in the real-world. Subscribe HERE!