TOK essay guidance

The TOK essay

You’ll write your TOK essay on one of six prescribed titles, which are released at the beginning of DP2, and have approximately 6 months to complete it.

Here are a few practical details about the essay; follow the links to go into each one in more detail. You can also check out our assessment videos, and attend a webinar on unpacking the prescribed essay titles for both the May and November sessions.

A quick overview of the TOK essay

  • The TOK essay is an individual task
  • It represents two thirds of the overall mark for TOK
  • It is externally marked
  • You choose your title from a list of six prescribed titles, which change every exam session
  • The word count for the essay is 1600 words
  • You’ll meet your TOK teacher for three interactions to discuss your essay progress
  • Key areas that are assessed include the clarity of arguments, level of effectiveness of examples, and the focus on the title
  • The essay should be completely within approximately 10 hours of teaching/planning/writing
  • You’ll fill in a Planning and Progress Form (PPF), which you submit with your essay (although this is not assessed)
  • The context of the essay is explicitly about the five areas of knowledge
  • There is a single criterion for marking, and four characteristics of an excellent essay (insightful, convincing, accomplished, and lucid)

TOK essay pages

The TOK essay rubric

Learn about how the essay is marked, and the skills you are expected to demonstrate in order to succeed. Read more here.

Choosing your TOK essay title

Find out how to evaluate the six prescribed essay titles, and decide on which one will work best for you. Read more here.

The three TOK essay interactions

Learn about the three interactions with your TOK teacher, and what you should be discussing in each one. Read more here.

Writing your TOK essay

Gain a few tips on how to structure your TOK essay, how to articulate your ideas, and ways to justify your claims. Read more here.

The TOK essay rubric

Find out about how to fill in the essay PPF, and why this is an important indication of your engagement with TOK. Read more here.

More support for the TOK essay

Make sure that your TOK teacher has given you access to all the documents and online material that support the essay. These include the TOK Subject Guide, the TOK essay rubric, and exemplar TOK essays (found in ‘MyIB’, which is accessible to teachers).
Make sure you go through our other pages on writing the TOK essay. You’ll find help on understanding what the is looking for, that works for you, what each of the should focus on, how to an effective TOK essay, and how to fill in your .
If your school is a member of, we have designed a series of lessons on the essay, with two formative assessment tasks. These will familiarize you with the essay rubric, knowledge questions, real-life situations, how to deal with perspectives and implications, and structuring an essay. If you are signed into the site, you can access these lessons here.
You can also find out our thoughts on the TOK essay (and the TOK exhibition) in several webinars that we have delivered. The main one is the TOK Assessment 2022 webinar, but we also consider this form of assessment in our free webinars on the 2022 course. You can see these webinars on this page of the site.

How to write a TOK essay: webinar

This 80-minute webinar video and presentation gives you a clear, engaging, step-by-step guide to the task, helping you to understand the assessment rubric, choose the right PT, and produce an essay that hits all the assessment targets.

The video is supported by a presentation, and a Q&A debrief answering some of the most common questions asked about writing a TOK essay. Purchase your ticket here.

FAQs about the TOK essay

How do I choose my TOK essay?

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 on.

What should I write about in my TOK essay?

The prescribed essay will obviously guide you in terms of what you will write, but the context of the essay should be set within the five areas of knowledge. Typically, TOK essays ask you to explore two of these AOKs.

How should I structure the TOK essay?

Although there are many ways of writing a TOK essay, we examine the basic structure of a TOK essay on . TOK essays are typically written on two areas of knowledge, consider different points of view, and try to evaluate the implications of the arguments offered.

How much help should I expect from my teacher for the TOK essay?

Your teacher should run through the PTs when they are first released, and then meet you for three personal , 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, such as on whether an argument is clearly expressed, whether an example works, whether your links to the TOK course are convincing, etc.

How long will I have to write the TOK 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.

What 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 the right way. We discuss what should be included in the PPF on.

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