TOK Essay? No problem!

TOK Essay: The assignment that has to be done, but seems like an impossible challenge before you even look at the prescribed questions. If you haven’t started looking at this year’s essay titles, you might begin by doing this. However, if you feel like “Um, what is this and how does any of the work I’ve ever done in TOK class relate to this” – don’t worry! You are not alone. This post will explain some key pointers and tips to have in the back of your mind when starting your TOK essay!




Get comfortable with the terminology!

A key aspect of your TOK essay is understanding the vast amount of definitions in TOK. Only when you understand what the syllabus is asking of you is it will you be able to start brainstorming and writing your essay. To make your life easier, I’ve created a definition cheat sheet for you to use when you get stuck!


Knowledge claim: Knowledge claims are when you claim to know something.

Knowledge issue:  A knowledge issue is when you when you evaluate the knowledge claim you’ve made.


The underpinning knowledge claims of your prescribed essay title are what you are meant to picking apart in your essay – using WOK and AOK! But what are WOKs and AOKs?


Use Ways of Knowing and Areas of Knowledge to your advantage!

You should have a basic understanding of all the Ways of Knowing and Areas of Knowledge. Aim to include 2-3 WOK and AOK in your essay. Using WOK and AOK are the best ways to discover the knowledge claim at the question:

Ways of Knowing: Ways of knowing are a guide to help answer the question “How do I know what I know?”. The IBO identify 8 areas of knowledge to work with; emotion, faith, imagination, intuition, language, memory, reason and sense perception. Each WOK has its individual strengths and weakness, which are up to you to pick apart. If you find this particularly confusing, check out these great resources:

Areas of Knowledge: Areas of knowledge are designed to answer questions about “what we know”, rather than “how we know”. We know information through different subject areas: mathematics, Natural Science, Human Science, History, The arts, Ethics, Religious Knowledge systems and Indigenous Knowledge systems. This guide will expand on how you distinguish between the different AOKs:


Accept that there is no right answer!

Unlike a lot of your subjects, TOK is not about finding the one or the right answer. In fact, there is no right answer. It is by no means black and white. Accept that your essay will not have the same shape, form or content as anyone else. Why? Partially because your essay is meant to have personal examples in order to answer the knowledge issue in the title. Thus, instead of searching for a right answer, you are meant to think about evaluating and critically reflecting on knowledge and knowing.


You’ve made it to the end, well done! Hopefully, you now have a better idea of what the TOK essay is about and how to complete it. If you feel you need more help with your TOK essay, don’t forget that Lanterna offers tutoring specifically for this.  With this,  a tutor can help you focus your question, plan, structure and gain more confidence with it!

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