The TOK essay

The TOK essay counts for 2/3 of your final TOK grade. The essay involves selecting one title from six titles prescribed by the IB each September. The essay has a word limit of 1600 words. You can see the examiners notes, advice and example essays from previous years here and Top Tips here.


The essay is written in school and at home over several weeks. During this time you will have three discussions with your teacher about the essay. You will have to summarise the key points from these discussions on a Planning and Progress form on MB. The final discussion relates to your draft essay, which will have been reviewed by your teacher. The final essay, and the Planning and Progress form, are submitted to the IB and are marked by an external examiner using this rubric (taken from the IB TOK guide).

essay rubric.pdf

Preparing for the TOK Essay

1. Read and interpret each of the prescribed essay titles.

2. Choose the essay title in which you are most interested, remembering that some essays will be more difficult.

3. Write down ideas about the essay title – what does the title mean, which AOK will you use, which knowledge questions will you use, what arguments and counter-arguments can you use, which real life examples can you use?

4. Discuss your ideas with your teacher and record these as your first interaction on the Planning and Progress form.

5. Write an essay outline.

6. Discuss your outline with your teacher and record these as your second interaction on the Planning and Progress form.

7. Write a draft essay.

8. Discuss your draft feedback with your teacher and record these as your third interaction on the Planning and Progress form.

9. Write the final essay

Suggested Essay Format:

Introduction (150-200 words)

· Define any key terms in the title in your own words.

· Identify which AOK you will be discussing.

· Identify a thesis statement (a short answer to the question which will be your main line of argument in the essay).

Main body (3 x 400 words)

· Aim to focus on two or three main knowledge questions

Argument (200 words)

· Point: Use a knowledge question as the leading sentence at the start of each paragraph.

· Evidence: Support your arguments with a real life example.

· Analysis: Discuss your argument.

· Link: Link your argument back to the knowledge question

Counter-argument (200 words)

· Using the same P.E.A structure, ensure you discuss counter-arguments and different perspectives (cultural, historical, political etc.) e.g. on the other hand… an alternative point of view…

· Link: Link the counter-argument back to your argument. Do you refute the counter-argument or do you make some concession to the counter-argument?

Repeat the argument/counter-argument structure for your other two knowledge questions. You will also need to discuss the implications of at least one of your arguments and counter-arguments e.g. as a consequence… as a result… because of this….

Conclusion (150-200 words)

· Summarise your discussion in relation to your thesis statement and the essay title.

Works Cited page

· Acknowledged your sources using in-text citations and include a Works Cited page.

Use these transitional device to help the flow of your essay.

Copy of Transitional devices.docx

Don't forget to check out these Top Tips for your essay and look through the examiners notes and example essays from the previous syllabus.