The theory of knowledge essay is the externally-assessed part of TOK, in contrast to the presentation, which is marked ‘in house’. You choose from a list of 6 different prescribed titles, and try to somehow cram the sum of your TOK knowledge into 1600 words.


Basic guidelines

1. Your TOK essay needs to be a minimum of 1200 and a maximum of 1600 words.
2. Its title must come from the list of prescribed titles that the IB will supply for your particular examination session, and the title should not be altered in any way as you write it (in other words, you can’t get away with saying something along the lines of: ‘although the title asks what areas of knowledge are needed in determining truth, I am going to focus instead on ways of knowing…’).
3. The essay must be well presented, clearly legible, and, if you have referred to the ideas of others (which you should be doing), include details of the references and a bibliography. See our for more information on using evidence and examples.
4. The conclusions of the essay should be yours. Of course, it is advisable to consider the ideas of other people, and draw on the information you have been given during the TOK course, but you have to arrive at a final, original view-point.
5. The other goal is to try to make links between the different areas of knowledge, the ways of knowing, and the knowledge issues – more on this in the K section.
6. Finally, your structure should be built on introducing the knowledge issue, presenting an argument, providing a counterclaim, and arriving at a conclusion. You’ll find a more detailed explanation of that in .

The importance of the TOK essay

As we’ll discuss in this section, the importance of the essay shouldn’t be underestimated. Although it only represents a small proportion of the overall 45 Diploma points, you have to pass it to be awarded the Diploma, and it can help you significantly in your college and university applications. For more on this second point, see this page.

Ask a question about the TOK essay

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