The TOK essay rubric
After understanding the of the basics of the essay, your next step is to grasp how it is evaluated and marked, which is outlined in the ‘assessment instrument’. Your TOK teacher will give you a copy of this, or you can find it online in the 2022 TOK Guide.
Check out our short video explainer for the TOK essay; you can find more explainers about other aspects of the course in our TOK explainer playlist.
The TOK essay assessment strands
The overall assessment objective of the TOK essay is to answer the prescribed essay title in a clear, coherent, and critical way. In order to do this, the assessment ‘instrument’ looks for five different skills that you are expected to demonstrate in your essay.
1. Making links to TOK
The discussion within your TOK essay should be linked very effectively to the areas of knowledge. Typically, TOK essays expect you to discuss two AOKs, which will provide you with the context to explore and answer the prescribed title you’ve chosen.
2. Understanding perspectives
Your TOK essay should show a clear awareness of different points of view, and should offer an evaluation of them. This means considering how different perspective might approach the question in different ways.
3. Offering an effective argument
The arguments within your TOK essay are clear and coherent, and are supported by strong examples. This means expressing your opinions clearly, and supporting them with original and meaningful real-life situations.
4. Keeping discussions relevant
Your essay’s discussions should offer a ‘sustained focus’ on the title. This means that you should be able to pick out any section of your essay, and be able to identify what question it is answering.
5. Considering implications
Your essay needs to not just present and evaluate arguments, it also needs to say why these arguments are significant, and what their implications are.
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 theoryofknowledge.net, 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.
FAQs about the TOK essay
How is the TOK essay marked?
Your essay is submitted to the IB, and is externally marked by examiners. We discuss the marking rubric (or ‘assessment instrument’) on.
What role do ‘knowledge questions’ play in the TOK essay?
Knowledge questions (KQs) are at the heart of TOK, and you’ll explore them throughout the course. In terms of the essay, the questions you consider about knowledge should all come from the title, and you are not expected to identify any separate KQs.
Where can I view the complete TOK essay rubric?
You can read the whole rubric in the TOK subject guide, on page 48. Your TOK teacher will give you a copy of this.
What makes a TOK essay ‘very good’?
The rubric identifies four key characteristics of a very good (ie 9/10 out of 10) essay. These are: accomplished, lucid, insightful, and convincing. The formative assessment tasks you do for the essay will help you understand what these means.
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.
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