The toughest of all essays, the Theory of Knowledge is such an essay that an IBO student won’t forget for quite some time. This is a mandatory essay for the Diploma programme and forms the core of the IB Hexagon along with the Extended Essay and CAS (Creativity, Action & Service). These three are a must for any student and the student needs to pass in each of them to obtain his or her IB diploma. However the Theory of Knowledge Essay (TOK) differs from the other two activities as it is neither a plain essay on a single topic like the Extended Essay nor any action based service like the CAS.
The TOK essay is not just another essay but an essay that has some purpose. This purpose is reflected in IBO’s mission statement where the students are expected to be inquisitive and enquirers, able to ask and question, rather than follow anything without deep thinking. Critical thinking is a very important skill and the aim of the TOK essay is to make the student’s critical thinkers. By doing so, the students get to learn how to acquire the ‘real’ knowledge from the multitude of information present in the world.
This makes them conscious of their environment and they start questioning the established facts as not every knowledge is true or correct. For example previously people were told by astronomers and scientists that there were nine planets in the solar system with Pluto being the last. But in 2006, the same category of people – astronomers and scientists amended the planetary structure and composition of our Solar system and excluded Pluto from the planet club and demoted it as a minor or dwarf planet. So how do we know that what we already know is correct and even more important is how correct is the latest knowledge that dislodges or supersedes our previously held knowledge. These are a few things that a TOK essay tries to cover in its 1600 word limit space.
It is a kind of an unorthodox philosophical essay where the thinking needs to be out of box but needs to be presented with certainty and clarity of expression. Further there are certain key parameters and requirements that need to be followed while writing the essay. The essay might be a bit philosophical in content but its style and presentation should not be like a plain formal essay. Instead it should be argumentative and should question well established facts and notions. Not only the essay should be argumentative but it should also have some good counter-arguments to the arguments.
A general approach that many students take while writing a TOK essay is – Definition of the topic – exploration of the topic – some examples – some arguments – some counter arguments – some ideas and examples to prove about something – again citing some counter examples and ideas to prove that it might not be totally true – providing a personal example or experience in getting involved with the point or counter point made by the student – taking both a for and against approach to the point or belief of the candidate – making a balanced conclusion in the end of the essay.
On looking at the above essay structure which is s general standard approach for a TOK essay, one can easily guess how complex the essay is to compose and conclude in a logical and balanced way. Many students fail to measure up as per the minimum requirements due to the complexity and nature of the essay. Some fail to understand the essay topic properly, some fail to find a good introduction, some fail to provide good examples, some fail to provide valid arguments, some fail to provide good counter-arguments, some fail to provide a personal example or experience, some make it very formal and fail to involve themselves personally, some fail to provide their views and counter points effectively, some are not able to clearly express what they want to say, some fail to comprehend the flow and sequence of the essay, some fail to make an effective final conclusion while some fail to maintain the word limit by either exceeding it or writing less than the minimum stipulated requirement of 1200 words.
Another major thing that needs to be kept in mind while writing a TOK essay is that there are some important terms that need to be explored in the essay. Some of them are as:
- Knowledge Issues (KIs)
- Ways of Knowing (WoKs)
- Areas of Knowledge (AoKs)
- Knowledge Claims
These are some key and important points that need to be kept in mind while writing a TOK essay as the lack of any one of them will lead to deduction of marks by the examiner. These need to be adequately highlighted in the essay as any TOK essay is based on these four main components.
For example Areas of Knowledge are the areas or subjects by which we derive knowledge. In TOK parlance it is the IB subjects such as Natural Science, Human Science, the Arts, Ethics, Maths, History, etc., that any IBO student studies as a part of his or her diploma programme requirements. Similarly Ways of Knowing are our sensory accessories that let us communicate with our surroundings like sense of hearing, sense of sight, sense of smell, sense of touch. Some of the broad subcategories under Ways of Knowing are:
Another key point in a TOK essay are Knowledge Issues which are known as KIs. These can be anything related to a TOK point of view as anything concerning to knowledge can be a knowledge issue. These are open ended questions that can have a multiple point of view and can be answered in various way from various angles.
So it is quite evident from the above that a TOK essay is not an easy one to make. What makes a TOK essay even harder for the students that they seldom receive any major help or guidance from their TOK teachers. The teachers just tell them a brief idea about the essay and the key points like KI, WoKs, AoKs, etc, to the student which is pretty small amount of information to any student. As a result the students are more nervous and anxious about their essays as they don’t know where to start from and where to end. Writing a TOK essay from scratch then becomes a real ordeal for the students as he or she starts getting nervous and they start lacking interest.
Since there is no perfect or defined way to write a TOK essay, the essay becomes more challenging and compelling as the students literally reach their wits end top to tackle the essays.
This is where we come into the picture. Our TOK teachers are excellent and they know what exactly is required in a typical TOK essay and they can help you in overcoming your TOK nightmares. We know what are the scoring requirements, what are the criterions, what the essay should have and what it should not have, how it is to be structured, how the KIs, WoKs, AoKs, Knowledge Claims, etc, are to be addressed and brought out in the essay and stuff like that. A TOK essay might be like Greek or Hebrew to of the students but for our TOK experts, it is just another essay which they tackle on a daily basis.
So whatever your TOK queries are, you can contact us and ask for any help, guidance or information required on making your TOK essay. Our teachers had helped over hundreds of students form around the globe in tackling their TOK essay which has also led them to score high marks in their TOK essays. We can also help to improve your TOK essay by giving you excellent advice and tips on your TOK essay so that you score nothing less than you want. So please let us know about your doubts, queries or requirements and we would be more than happy to help you.