Theory of knowledge

Theory of knowledge (TOK) is assessed through an exhibition and a 1,600 word essay.

It asks students to reflect on the nature of knowledge, and on how we know what we claim to know.

TOK is part of the International Baccalaureate® (IB) Diploma Programme (DP) core, and is mandatory for all students.

Learn more about theory of knowledge . You can also find examples of TOK essay titles and read about how the IB sets deadlines for TOK .

You may also be interested in the other components of the DP core: creativity, activity, service (CAS) and the extended essay .

Learn more about TOK in a DP workshop for teachers . 

DP subject briefs

Find out about what each subject offers within the Diploma Programme (DP).

Our DP subject briefs—for both standard and higher level—contain information about core requirements, aims and assessment.

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ib tok essay prompts 2022

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Breaking Down TOK Essay Titles 2022

Image shows a library with statues on the left hand side that are reminiscent of philosophers and TOK

The TOK Essay can be a daunting task, and many of us struggle to even begin out of fear of doing something wrong. Not only are you expected to learn the philosophy of all the areas of knowledge, but now you have to write an essay about it too!?

TOK Essay Titles in Human Sciences

As difficult as this may seem, what most of us need is just a nudge in the right direction, and this is exactly what the following guide will provide. If you’re struggling to begin your essay, don’t know where to start or which title to pick, we’re here to help!

Read on for a simple breakdown of the 6 TOK titles and how to tackle them.

1. Can there be knowledge that is independent of culture? Discuss with reference to mathematics and one other area of knowledge.

The first title is very intriguing for those who are interested in the social sciences! The question posed expects you to discuss whether knowledge and culture are always connected and if knowledge can exist without culture in the first place. You’re asked to consider mathematics and another AoK of your choice. Before we consider which AoK’s are suitable, however, we must establish what it means for knowledge to be independent of culture.

Culture is a very abstract concept, and it can refer to anything ranging from a regional food dish such as Spanish Paella to the entire history, language and moral values of a society. This may seem like a lot to tackle, but a simpler way to look at it is to consider whether knowledge is always defined by culture, or if there are exceptions.

In some cases, culture certainly determines the knowledge we produce. Consider the AoK History, for instance, where the history of a country is closely connected to aspects of culture such as language and morality. Historians use language to write history and their morals (which are defined by culture) to interpret the past, such as who was right or wrong. Both language and morality are aspects of culture, and therefore we can argue that historical knowledge may not be independent of culture!

How about Mathematics, then? We must also consider if knowledge can be independent of culture. In this case, mathematics is largely independent of culture as it is mostly an objective AoK. Knowledge is factual, and facts are absolute. Mathematics has one, universal language spoken by all mathematicians, and 2 + 2 = 4 in any part of the world. Thus, we can argue that mathematical knowledge is indeed independent of culture.

Lastly, don’t forget to support your arguments with real-life examples (RLEs). For history, one option would be to look at how bias affects historical writing. Some historians may have biases, which have arisen from their morals and culture and are reflected in their historical writing. For mathematics, consider the absence of bias and how formulae such as Pythagoras’ Theorem remain universal, and no amount of cultural influence can ever change something which is a fact.

2. To what extent do you agree with the claim that “there’s a world of difference between truth and facts.” (Maya Angelou) Answer with reference to two areas of knowledge.

While prompt 1 gives you one prescribed AoK, this one offers you more choice. Hurray! Or? While this question allows you to select both AoKs, too much choice is often more detrimental than beneficial in the Theory of Knowledge. Here, you’re asked to consider the difference between truth and fact. At first glance, you may be thinking that they’re the same thing and while this is not the case, they are immensely similar. Let’s see how you can approach this…

When considering the meaning of truth and fact, it is always useful to put them into some sort of context. For instance, in the natural sciences, we can argue that there isn’t much of a difference between truth and fact. This is because when a scientific theory such as the theory of evolution is proven, it becomes widely accepted as true and factual. Thus, the definition of truth and fact are virtually inseparable in the sciences.

Another AoK to explore could be history. Here, historians never truly know the ‘truth’ of what happened in the past, and they struggle immensely to recover facts from all sources so that they may piece together accurate interpretations. Therefore, they collect facts in an attempt to reach ever closer to the ultimate truth of what happened in the past, but arguably never achieve this fully. This leads to varying interpretations in history, as historians gather the same facts but may reach different truths from them. In this view, we can argue that facts are the building blocks of truth, rather than truth itself.

3. Is there solid justification for regarding knowledge in the natural sciences more highly than other areas of knowledge? Discuss with reference to the natural sciences and one other area of knowledge.

It’s time for more science! This is probably the most straightforward TOK title this time around, and that’s good news! Not everything has to be complex, even in TOK. Here, you’re being asked to discuss if there is any good reason to regard scientific knowledge ‘more highly’ than other AoKs. In other words, is scientific knowledge ‘better’ than knowledge in other AoKs, and if so, why and how? Let’s dig in!

To make things easier, let’s consider what other AoKs would be suitable choices for this title. In this case, a social science such as history or art would be very suitable. If we consider the arts, knowledge can be defined as the creations of artists such as paintings or music, and the interpretations people have of them. In this view, we can argue that art knowledge is quite subjective as the same song may make one person feel happy and another sad. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as it also makes the arts unique.

Nevertheless, the subjectivity of the arts could also be one reason that scientific knowledge may be regarded more highly, as it is objective and factual. For instance, it is an objective fact that cells are the smallest unit of life, but it is not factual to say that a painting is ‘beautiful’, as beauty is subjective. Then again, maybe facts aren’t everything, and maybe scientific knowledge isn’t better, but simply different from art knowledge. Consider these perspectives and ultimately decide if there is enough justification for the claim.

4. How do historians and human scientists give knowledge meaning through the telling of stories? Discuss with reference to history and the human sciences.

Storytelling is a powerful tool, so much so that experts in the social sciences use it to communicate their research. If you’ve chosen this title, you should begin by considering how knowledge is defined in history and the human sciences, such as psychology.

From the lens of history, you may decide that historical knowledge is a collection of interpretations of the past. Moreover, these are the interpretations of historians who record and teach them, orally or in writing.

These interpretations give historical events meaning by communicating their significance. A potential RLE would be to consider a historical event such as World War 2, and then analyze how historical interpretations teach us to appreciate its significance and not repeat the past.

If we consider the social sciences such as psychology, things can be a bit more complicated and ambiguous. Do psychologists tell stories? Maybe not in the conventional sense, but are research papers on mental health disorders not a type of story, one which teaches us about the disorder and the experiences people have of it? Exactly!

The key here is to consider how knowledge is communicated in history and social science. Thus, your essay should focus on analyzing and discussing the methodology that historians and human scientists use to tell stories.

5. How can we distinguish between good and bad interpretations? Discuss with reference to the arts and one other area of knowledge.

This question is my personal favorite! If you’re a fan of the arts, this is the question for you. What is an interpretation, and what makes it good or bad? In title 4 we considered how historical interpretations tell us about the past, and interpretations in the art are similar. While historians can interpret the past, art critics can judge the quality of an artistic piece. But how can we tell which interpretations are ‘good’ and which are ‘bad’?

When considering this title, make sure to focus on the different types of interpretations we can have within art. Not all interpretations come from professional art critics, as art is free to view by all, and the everyday person can have their own, unique opinion on a piece of art.

A good starting point to explore would be whether one art critic has a better interpretation of a piece of art than the everyday person. Perhaps the critic has professional training and is more qualified to judge the techniques Da Vinci used to craft the Mona Lisa than a casual art enthusiast.

However, art is not only about technique but also about emotion, and the everyday person may be better able to appreciate the subjective beauty of an art piece. Thus, in the arts, it may be difficult to tell the difference between good and bad interpretations, as there are no concrete criteria for determining this.

Through the lens of another AoK, we can see a completely different perspective in the natural sciences. Here, the opinions of experts can be said to always be better than those of the general public. A good RLE could be climate change propaganda, and how scientific knowledge is necessary in order to make educated interpretations.

In the arts, it may be debatable whether the Mona Lisa is a ‘sad’ or ‘joyful’ painting, but in the sciences, global warming is a proven fact, and anything which says otherwise is a ‘bad’ interpretation. Inherently, this question is about the subjectivity of the arts and the objectivity of other AoKs. Just some food for thought!

6. If we conclude that there is some knowledge we should not pursue on ethical grounds, how can we determine the boundaries of acceptable investigation within an area of knowledge? Discuss with reference to two areas of knowledge.

The last prescribed title is one of the most difficult, as it deals with ethics. Here, you’re asked to discuss ethical boundaries within two AoKs of your choice. Some good choices could be AoKs which are very research-based, such as the natural sciences and history. Let’s break this down.

Ethics can be very tricky, as you’re essentially asked to discuss the boundaries between what is ethical and what is not. This is difficult because ethics differ as much from person to person as they do from one AoK to another.

In the sciences, ethical boundaries may refer to experiments involving human trials, for example. How can we determine when a new drug is safe for human testing and is it ethical at all to test on humans?

Similarly, in history, we may consider the issues that arise when researching sensitive topics. For instance, is it ethical to interview holocaust survivors and urge them to remember their past traumas, all for the sake of historical records?

At what point do we draw the line, and how are these ethical boundaries determined? This question is all about methodology and whether methodology within two AoKs is ethical, so if that sounds interesting, this is your go-to title!

Prescribed Essay Titles for Your TOK Essay

The prescribed essay titles above are great for tok essays as they cover ethical grounds that you can discuss with reference and solid justification. Once you have narrowed down these prescribed titles, you can conduct research based on factual knowledge and find specific examples to work with. Then the fun part begins: the essay writing process!

Do you have any questions?

Reach out to the team at Lanterna.

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May 2022 TOK essay titles

TOK Home > TOK essay guidance > May 2022 TOK essay titles

M22 prescribed essay titles

The M22 TOK prescribed essay titles are now being written by Northern Hemisphere schools, for a mid-March deadline. Check out the M22 TOK essay webinar , which models what an initial unpacking session would look like. Below you’ll find the key words to pin down in the essay introduction, links to the  BQ framework , and other consideration points.

Prescribed title 1

The ideas you see here roughly correspond to the initial unpacking session you will have with your TOK teacher. You’ll then go on to have three face-to-face interactions with your teacher, in which you’ll discuss your progress in writing the essay , working through any difficulties and challenges you experience.

Make sure you pin down…

  • I ndependent of culture

relates to…

  • Perspectives (BQ4) – think about how knowledge is subject to interpretation, and whether that interpretation is culturally-driven.
  • Creativity (BQ5) – think about the development of knowledge, and the role culture plays in this.

BEAR IN MIND…

  • Knowledge itself will require a definition
  • Can knowledge be produced without a cultural background?
  • Mathematics – the assumption is that this is independent from culture – is that true?
  • See culture in our key concept resource

Prescribed title 2

Make sure you pin down….

  • World of difference

RELATES TO…

  • Foundations (BQ1) – think about the nature of truth, role of facts, etc. – and come up with your own definitions of these.
  • Spin (BQ3) – facts can be used to mislead us, by presenting half-truths (“A truth that’s told with bad intent / Beats all the lies you can invent.”- Blake)
  • Angelou’s full quote also refers to ‘facts can obscure the truth’ – tricky to decide whether to include this section of the quote
  • Ensure it establishes (or refutes) world of difference – not just difference
  • A broad question in terms of which AOKs you can select
  • See truth in our key concept resource

Prescribed title 3

  • Solid justification  
  • More highly
  • Values (BQ2) – this could be one of the bases for this essay, that highly regarded knowledge is synonymous with knowledge that helps us to improve our values
  • Perspectives (BQ4) – perhaps highly regarded knowledge is that which is the most objective (and therefore least vulnerable to interpretation)?
  • Experts (BQ6) – think about how do we regard knowledge with more discernment
  • What does ‘solid’ justification mean (as opposed to just plain old ‘justification’)?
  • Regarding something highly is vague – needs pinning down very clearly
  • The purpose of knowledge needs to be considered
  • See justification in our key concept resource

Prescribed title 4

  • Telling of stories
  • Spin (BQ3) – think about communicating ideas via means that aren’t always factually-based.
  • Creativity (BQ5) – think about how we create knowledge via our imagination.
  • What does ‘give knowledge meaning’ mean – and how does this happen via ‘telling stories’?
  • The most prescriptive of the PTs
  • There is a lot of cross-over between history and the human sciences – it could be harder to craft a contrasting essay. 
  • It could also turn into a descriptive essay (it’s not “to what extent to historians and human scientists…”)
  • ‘Telling stories’ really needs to be nailed down.

Prescribed title 5

  • Good  
  • Interpretations
  • Perspectives (BQ4) – think about how our perspectives lead us to make different interpretations. When does this strengthen our claims (perhaps personal experiences)? When does this detract from our claims (perhaps when we seek to confirm our biases)?
  • Experts (BQ6) – think about how experts make discerning judgements on the world – in terms of humility, evidence, an agenda that doesn’t seek to be served, etc.
  • There is quite a lot for students to do with this essay – interpretations within the arts will probably be evaluated in a completely different way to other AOKs
  • See interpretation in our key concept resource

Prescribed title 6

  • Ethical grounds  
  • Boundaries of acceptable investigation
  • Values (BQ2) – clear links with this BQ. Think about how and who should decide on the ethical boundaries of knowledge?
  • Creativity (BQ5) – this is about creating new knowledge, so it also links to this BQ
  • “If we conclude”… but if we don’t? 
  • Who is the ‘we’? Not a bad thing – this is a great way of including a consideration of perspectives in this essay. The experts? The authorities? Ordinary knowers? Etc.

M22 essay webinar $24.99 / $49.99

This webinar discusses the M22 titles, and how to begin writing the TOK essay. We look at the key words of the titles, link them to the course, and run over possible approaches. This is a great starting point for writing the essay, and works similarly to the initial unpacking session that teachers run with their students.

  • Group ticket – $49.99
  • Individual ticket – $24.99

November 2022 TOK Essay Prescribed Titles

The IB has released the May 2022 TOK Essay Prescribed Titles.  Make sure you get the “official” two-page document from your TOK teacher / coordinator.  Page 1 of the document contains some important instructions for students.

The “unofficial” November 2022 TOK essay prescribed titles:

  • Within an area of knowledge is it more important to have credibility or power? Discuss with reference to the natural sciences and one other area of knowledge.
  • If pushed too far, can open-mindedness itself become restrictive? Discuss with reference to two areas of knowledge.
  • Is it better to “have questions that can’t be answered than answers that can’t be questioned” (adapted from Richard Feynman)? Discuss with reference to mathematics and one other area of knowledge.
  • Why do we seek indisputable evidence when it is so often unattainable? Discuss with reference to two areas of knowledge.
  • To what extent do you agree with the directive to “measure what is measurable and make measurable what is not so” (Galileo Galilei)? Answer with reference to the human sciences and one other area of knowledge.
  • If the artist has freedom to interpret past events in ways that are denied to the historian, is this an asset or an obstacle to our understanding of the past? Discuss with reference to the arts and history.

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Guide to the TOK Essay

What’s covered:.

  • What is Theory of Knowledge (TOK)?
  • What is the Theory of Knowledge Essay?

How is the Theory of Knowledge Essay Scored?

How to structure your theory of knowledge essay.

The International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IB/IBDP) is a rigorous and rewarding internationally based educational program that offers courses in numerous studies, from humanities to chemistry. Students take part in a two-year curriculum that includes external examinations, internal assessments, research papers and community service hours. Essentially, students will have to do a bit of everything, especially with IB’s core, which is CAS, TOK, and the extended essay (EE). Understanding how TOK, IB’s flagship class, is assessed with its essay is important to success in the course overall. 

What is Theory Of Knowledge (TOK)?

Theory of Knowledge is IB’s way of introducing a more intuitive way of thinking into classrooms. TOK is at its surface as simple as it sounds: you essentially learn the “what” and “why” of how we learn and understand knowledge. In order to assess students of their skills in TOK, IB uses an essay and a presentation. The essay makes up 67% of your total TOK score, making it the most important task to focus on for getting a high score. 

What is the Theory Of Knowledge Essay?

The TOK essay is a 1600 word essay written about topics usually given to students from their teachers from a list of numerous options. It is an essay that promotes arguments and counterarguments for the topic at hand. Understanding your ways of knowing (WOKs) and areas of knowledge (AOKs) is extremely crucial before you even start choosing a topic to write on, as your essay will revolve around and structure itself based on these two concepts. Being able to demonstrate higher-level thinking and using examples to solidify the points you make in your essay is also important. Additionally, you’ll need to reference every source of information that you use, since that is something examiners look for as well.

As said earlier, 67% of your grade is from the essay, and your overall TOK score receives a letter grade using a calculated score out of thirty. Your essay score and presentation score are each out of ten. The grades for your TOK presentation and essay are determined by sending material to the board of IB, from which they designate a grader/examiner to read your essay and grade based on a rubric that determines the level of knowledge you exhibit in your writing.

The following formula should better explain how to find your TOK grade. 

(presentation score) + (essay score * 2) = overall score out of 30

The grade boundaries out of 30 that determine your letter grade can vary each year so checking in with your school for the most recent ones is the best course of action, but an example set would be like this:

Once you have a letter grade for IB, your extended essay, which is another part of the core, is also included into a larger grading schema to calculate your core score, which is three additional points required to complete and earn the diploma. The following table details this grade further:

Doing well in the core is important to passing IB and getting three points out of the total 45 attainable points. 

There’s a trick that most IB students use in writing the TOK essay, and it boils down to understanding four key components of learning:

  • Content : Understanding knowledge issues
  • Clarity : Structuring your essay in a legible and clear/easy to read manner
  • Creativity : Using your personal ways of thinking and applications of knowledge specific to your understanding of the knowledge issue
  • Critical Thinking : Using a counter argument for every argument you have to analyze your own claims constantly 

Dividing your actual essay into three main chunks helps, starting with an introduction. Your introduction should be where you state your knowledge question, the central point of your essay, and you should make use of jargon specific to the concept. As the basis of your essay, the introduction should be where you form claims and counterclaims that either support or challenge the knowledge question through heavy analysis and evaluation. 

The body of the essay follows the introduction, and it is where most of the conceptual analysis of your knowledge question takes place. Every argument and its counterargument should have a dedicated paragraph of its own, and make sure to not jump back and forth too much throughout the essay. to avoid creating messy transitions for the reader and potentially harming your score. Understanding the essay from the reader’s point of view is important, as it will help you better understand how to structure the body of your essay.

A conclusion in the TOK essay is mainly for finding closure among the numerous arguments that have been taking place thus far in the essay. Make sure to summarize but not repeat previous information entirely to refresh the reader. A conclusion should essentially loop back to the beginning of the essay, the knowledge question. The knowledge question’s answer should be the conclusion and the stopping point of the essay, and by now the answer you provide should be backed by paragraphs of supporting claims and counterclaims. If done right, concluding the essay can be how you earn most of your points. 

Start Early

Starting early is an obvious and effective advantage to students. Aside from TOK, let alone the presentation, IB has substantial work that requires focus and allocated time dedicated to it, such as external examinations and the extended essay. These tasks are equally as important as the TOK essay, so starting your outlining, drafting or even just planning early will set you up for success.

Send Your Drafts to Your Teacher

Your TOK teacher is a great resource for drafting essays and making edits to perfect your final product. Making use of time outside of the classroom to catch your teacher for a quick review of your essay could be a bigger advantage than you realize. Making use of an outside perspective is essential to forming a great essay. 

While your final IB grade isn’t as important as you’d think regarding college admissions, understanding how to pass TOK and using the lifelong practices you’ll learn in the class is even more important. TOK creates students who think outside conventional methods, making them excellent candidates in the eyes of college admissions offices. Taking TOK and showing proof of understanding it as well as capability of academic rigor is what colleges are looking for. For more information on how your chances of college admissions might look, use CollegeVine’s admissions calculator !

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IB TOK Essay Titles

The International Baccalaureate Organization releases six TOK essay titles, twice a year for submission either in May or November. So you need to know which cohort you're submitting with. The essay titles for submission in May are released in the previous September. The essay titles for submission in November are released the previous March.

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  • November 2021 topics
  • May 2021 topics
  • November 2020 topics
  • May 2020 topics
  • November 2019 topics
  • May 2019 topics
  • November 2018 topics
  • May 2018 topics
  • November 2017 topics

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May 2022 Theory of Knowledge Essay Titles | Tips + SAMPLES

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Already nervous about the BIG ToK essay? We hear ya! From finding the right ToK essay topic to making sure you cover all your basis, ToK essay can be a big deal and frankly overwhelming as well. The key here, however, is forward planning and by the looks of it, you seem to be on the right track!

IMPORTANT! These are topics for the year 2022. Check the latest 2023 November TOK Essay Titles

Finalizing the topic for your essay is just one component of ToK but an extremely important one. According to the ToK essay core, it holds 67% weightage in the final grade. Through this essay, examiners see how coherent, critical and clear the reflection and analysis of the topic you have chosen is. And because of how essential the essay is, students often find themselves in a pickle because they are often not guided correctly on how this essay needs to be done.

The idea behind this essay is not to assess the amount of knowledge you possess regarding a subject matter, but how you explain the findings that you have. It must demonstrate your knowledge in a constructive manner and that is what helps you with this 67% of the grade.

ToK essay topics:

Now that you have landed on this page much in advance, let’s touch some base on the prescribed May 2022 theory of knowledge essay titles. Furtheremore, you will find several ToK essay 2022 samples completed by our theory of knowledge essay writers .

1. “Can there be knowledge that is independent of culture? Discuss with reference to mathematics and one other are of knowledge.” + SAMPLE

If  Math as a subject  is something you are passionate about, this is the perfect topic for you. Here, you need to talk about mathematics and the relation that culture has to it. The best way to explore this topic is to talk about the universality of mathematics in terms of the subject being one that is extremely objective. The same formulae are used to solve problems in mathematics world over. However, when we talk about a different area of knowledge like human sciences or art, we can explore how these are highly subjective in nature. Hence, contrasting the role of culture in these two areas of knowledge can help understand this much better.

2. To what extent do you agree with the claim that ‘there’s a world of difference between truth and facts’ (Maya Angelou)? Answer with reference to two areas of knowledge. + SAMPLE

Including two areas of knowledge may get a handful, but it’s not to say that this won’t be an interesting ToK essay because of how subjective and debatable it is. In this essay, you have to talk about the fine line of difference between truth and facts. The best approach here is through the use of examples. It can be quite difficult to understand this for someone who does not have any prior idea of the substantial difference between the two. For this reason, pick out something that you are familiar with, and then highlight how the truth and facts differ in these.

3. Is there solid justification for regarding knowledge in the natural sciences more highly than knowledge in another area of knowledge? Discuss with reference to the natural sciences and one other area of knowledge.

Science is the most important source of knowledge and information. It gives us the solutions we need in our everyday functionality and helps in unfolding the mystery of the world. If you are a science geek, this is the perfect topic for you to proceed with. If you decide to go with this topic, then it is best that you give examples from the sciences and highlight how these can be evidence based, and hence proved to be right or wrong. Contrasting this with something more subjective like the human sciences can help shed light on this in the best possible way. The point that you need to highlight here is how natural sciences as a subject is one that is highly evidence based, whereas other areas of knowledge are subjective, and different meanings can come out of those.

4. How do historians and human scientists give knowledge meaning through the telling of stories? Discuss with reference to history and the human sciences.

Storytelling is an art and historians and scientists have been doing that for decades with their findings about life on the earth. This topic requires an essential link between these two disciplines. The idea is to shed light on what storytelling mainly is, and how storytelling can help gain insightful knowledge in different situations. The idea behind using these two areas of knowledge is that these are as such that storytelling is very common in these. So give examples of how historians and human scientists have come up with evidence through the use of stories, and how it has been helpful in people understanding things in a much better way,

5. How can we distinguish between good and bad interpretations? Discuss with reference to the arts and one other area of knowledge. + SAMPLE

Gut feelings and interpretations are indeed important human fundamentals. This is a fun topic to play around with and if you wish, you can get into the depths of multicultural elements around interpretations and discuss how they vary geographically as well. The way that human beings interpret things differs greatly from situation and situation. Not just that, but there are also several other factors that affect our understanding of things, which essentially means that our interpretation will also differ.

6. If we conclude that there is some knowledge we should not pursue on ethical grounds, how can we determine the boundaries of acceptable investigation within an area of knowledge? Discuss with reference to two areas of knowledge.

This is a common debate – the correlation between law and ethics. If you like to take a controversial front in a topic, this essay topic might be the perfect fit for you! Ethics in itself is something that is so highly debatable based on the opinions and outlook of different people. So outlining your own definition and boundaries of ethics, you can talk about the role that ethics plays when it comes to knowledge. This can be a very interesting topic for you to work on if you can highlight the different role that ethics plays in different areas of knowledge based on several different schools of thought.

The year 2023:

  • November 2023 TOK essay prompts
  • November 2022 prescribed TOK essay titles

Previous years prompts:

  • November 2021 ToK Essay titles
  • May 2021 Theory of Knowledge essay prompts

Now you know about the ToK essay topics you can expect for May. Plan ahead, don’t mess with the TOK essay word count , and start doing your research.

⏩ And in case you feel you  need a hand with the ToK essay , you know where to come! ⏪

Free topic suggestions

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Vasyl Kafidoff is a co-founder and CEO at WritingMetier. He is interested in education and how modern technology makes it more accessible. He wants to bring awareness about new learning possibilities as an educational specialist. When Vasy is not working, he’s found behind a drum kit.

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ToK Essay Prompts Demystified: Interpreting and Tackling 2023's Questions

Henrik M.

Navigating the complex web of ToK essay prompts can feel like trying to decipher an ancient manuscript – it's challenging, yet deeply rewarding. Every year, the IB presents students with fresh, thought-provoking questions that aren’t just about showcasing your knowledge but also your ability to reason, reflect, and engage in intellectual play.

Now, 2023's prompts have landed, and you might be wondering: "How do I even begin to approach these?" Relax. It's normal to feel overwhelmed. However, understanding your prompt is the first (and perhaps most crucial) step towards crafting an essay that stands out. A well-interpreted prompt can be the foundation of a stellar essay, and that's what we're diving into today.

By the end of this guide, you’ll have a clearer vision of what these questions are really asking and how you can tackle them with confidence and creativity. Ready? Let’s demystify these prompts together!

The ABCs of ToK Essay Prompts

Understanding ToK essay prompts isn't just about reading the words. It's about delving deep into their meaning, intent, and the broader context they inhabit. Think of each prompt as a puzzle. At first glance, it might seem daunting, but each piece holds a clue to the bigger picture.

Why These Questions? The Intent Behind the Prompt

Every ToK essay prompt is meticulously crafted. The questions are designed to push you to reflect, reason, and develop an individual perspective on knowledge and how it interacts with the world. Remember, it's not just about answering the question but also about showcasing how you think and perceive the world of knowledge.

The Layers of a Prompt: Surface and Depth

On the surface, a ToK essay question may seem straightforward. But scratch a little deeper, and you'll uncover layers of meaning. Each prompt comes with its set of nuances, undertones, and subtleties. It's your job to unearth these layers, interpret them, and mold your essay around your unique understanding.

Flexing Your Interpretative Muscles

Interpreting a ToK prompt isn't much different from analyzing a poem or a piece of art. There's no singular 'correct' way to approach it. Multiple interpretations can coexist, and your perspective is just as valid as any other, provided it's well-reasoned and backed by thoughtful reflection. Remember, the IB isn't looking for a 'right answer' but rather, they want to witness the journey of your thought process.

2023's ToK Essay Prompts: A Closer Look

Alright, champions of knowledge! The much-awaited 2023 ToK essay questions are here. Let's unpack these thought-provoking challenges that await your intellectual prowess:

The Role of Replicability : Is replicability necessary in the production of knowledge? Dive into the depths of this question, referencing two areas of knowledge and unveiling the significance of reproducibility in our understanding of the world.

Artists vs. Natural Scientists : For artists and natural scientists, which is more crucial: what can be explained or what cannot be? Delve into the contrasting yet intertwined worlds of arts and the natural sciences. How do explanation and mystery influence these fields?

Knowledge in Bubbles : Does it matter if our acquisition of knowledge happens in "bubbles" where some information and voices are excluded? Explore the implications and consequences of receiving knowledge in isolated silos. What do we gain, and what might we be missing out on?

The Paradox of Power : Do you agree with Bertrand Russell's assertion that it is "astonishing that so little knowledge can give us so much power"? Dive into the dynamic realm of the natural sciences and another area of knowledge to reflect upon the immense power that even a sliver of understanding can bestow upon us.

The Visual Aid Dilemma : Are visual representations always helpful in the communication of knowledge? Challenge or defend the use of visuals in the expansive territories of the human sciences and mathematics. How do visuals shape, aid, or potentially hinder our understanding?

Methodologies and Outcomes : To what extent is the knowledge we produce determined by the methodologies we use? Take a journey through history and another area of knowledge to discern the profound influence of methodologies on our comprehension of the past and the world around us.

Phew! Talk about a brainstorming marathon! Remember, while these prompts may initially seem dense, each one is a golden opportunity to showcase your unique perspective on knowledge. The journey might be challenging, but the rewards – oh, they're worth every ounce of effort.

Delving Deeper into Select Prompts

While all of the 2023 ToK essay prompts are a treasure trove of intellectual exploration, let's zoom in and dissect a few of them a bit more, shall we? This deep dive will provide a clearer understanding, perhaps sparking that ‘aha’ moment for your own essay.

The Role of Replicability in Knowledge Production

Overview : This topic challenges us to reflect on the importance of replicability in research and knowledge generation. But why is it significant? Think of scientific experiments. If a result can be consistently replicated, it bolsters its credibility.

Possible Angle : Contrast the natural sciences, where replicability is often a cornerstone, with another area of knowledge where it might not hold as much weight. For instance, in the arts, is a replicated piece as valuable as an original?

Knowledge in Bubbles - A Double-Edged Sword?

Overview : The modern age, with its vast array of information platforms, often sees us in echo chambers, where we hear opinions and facts that align with our own views. But what's the consequence of such selective knowledge acquisition?

Possible Angle : Evaluate the pros and cons. For instance, while these bubbles can strengthen community ties and provide tailored knowledge, are they also breeding grounds for misinformation or limiting broader understanding?

The Paradox of Power in Knowledge

Overview : Bertrand Russell's assertion highlights a profound observation – sometimes, even a little knowledge can yield immense power. But is this always a good thing?

Possible Angle : Reflect on historical instances where limited knowledge led to significant consequences, both positive and negative. Additionally, ponder on the ethical implications when wielding such power.

Remember, these prompts are meant to stimulate your thinking, not restrict it. Let your creativity flow. Dive deep, challenge assumptions, and most importantly, enjoy the intellectual journey. If at any point you find yourself hitting a roadblock, revisit our previous guide on mastering the ToK essay for some inspiration and direction.

General Strategies for Approaching ToK Essay Prompts

Alright, young scholars, having taken a closer look at a few of the prompts, it’s time to arm you with some universal strategies to tackle any ToK essay topic. Whether you’re addressing the role of replicability or diving into knowledge bubbles, these strategies are your trusted companions:

Begin with an Open Mind : Before taking a stance, allow yourself to explore both sides of the argument. This not only provides depth to your essay but showcases your ability to evaluate diverse perspectives.

Connect to Real-Life Situations : Anecdotes and real-world examples make your essay relatable and tangible. They serve as evidence of your claims and breathe life into abstract ideas.

Interlink Areas of Knowledge (AoK) : While the prompt may specify certain AoKs, don’t be afraid to draw connections to others if relevant. This showcases your holistic understanding and makes for an enriched argument.

Mind the WoKs (Ways of Knowing) : Whether it’s perception, emotion, reason, or language, remember that WoKs can offer unique angles and insights into your essay topic. Weave them in where appropriate.

Engage with Counterclaims : A well-rounded essay isn't just about asserting your perspective but recognizing and addressing counterarguments. This not only strengthens your position but exhibits critical thinking.

Stay Structured : While the ToK essay encourages deep thinking, remember that clarity is crucial. Use a clear introduction, body, and conclusion. Organize your thoughts systematically to guide the reader seamlessly through your arguments.

Personalize Your Insights : Remember, the ToK essay is a reflection of your intellectual journey. While you'll rely on experts and sources, don’t forget to interject with your personal insights, experiences, and reflections.

Revisit and Revise : First drafts are called 'first' for a reason. Once you've penned down your initial thoughts, take a break, return with fresh eyes, and refine your essay. This iterative process can be a game-changer in elevating the quality of your piece.

Now, with these strategies in hand, you're better equipped to face the ToK essay head-on. Remember, it's as much about the journey of exploration as it is about the final piece. Enjoy the process, relish the challenges, and if ever in doubt, our earlier guide is just a click away for some quick wisdom.

Final Tips for Tackling the ToK Essay Head-On

Alright, we've traversed the vast landscape of ToK essay prompts, delved deep into some of them, discussed strategies, and even looked into multimedia resources. But before you embark on your essay-writing journey, here are a few last-minute nuggets of wisdom to carry with you:

Stay Original : While it's great to gather insights and understand the general perspective on topics, always ensure your voice shines through. Adjudicators value originality and authenticity.

Seek Feedback : It's always a good idea to have someone else, be it a peer, teacher, or mentor, take a look at your essay. They might offer a perspective or insight that you hadn't considered.

Stay Within the Word Limit : It might seem challenging, but condensing your thoughts and being concise is key. Straying far from the word limit might make your essay seem unfocused.

Relax and Trust Yourself: Believe in your capabilities. Remember, this essay is as much about the journey of exploration as it is about the end product.

The Theory of Knowledge essay can indeed seem like a mammoth task. With multiple layers of interpretation and areas of knowledge to consider, the process can be daunting. But with the right strategies, resources, and mindset, it's a challenge you can certainly overcome.

And hey, if ever the waters seem too rough, remember you're not alone. Whether you need to go back to the basics with writing ToK essay or require hands-on assistance, there's always help at hand with IB writing service .

Last edit at Aug 15 2023

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Henrik M.

IB Tutor and Writer

With over a decade in the educational realm, Henrik has guided countless IB students towards academic excellence. Combining a deep understanding of the IB curriculum with practical strategies, Henrik is committed to making challenging subjects approachable and essays memorable.

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US IB Theory of Knowledge: TOK Essay

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ib tok essay prompts 2022

TOK Prescribed Titles

The International Baccalaureate Organization releases six TOK essay titles, twice a year for submission either in May or November. So you need to know which cohort you're submitting with. The essay titles for submission in May are released in the previous September. The essay titles for submission in November are released the previous March.

  • May 2022 topics
  • November 2021 topics
  • May 2021 topics
  • November 2020 topics
  • May 2020 topics
  • November 2019 topics
  • May 2019 topics
  • November 2018 topics
  • May 2018 topics
  • November 2017 topics

"A" example Essays

  • Reason vs Emotion in Ethics
  • Breaking Conventions
  • Context is All
  • Moral Wisdom
  • Valuable Knowledge
  • Experience & Culture

Essay Guidelines

The word count is 1600 words. This includes quotations. You have to write down the number of words when you submit the essay. The examiner will not read past 1600 words. References, maps/charts/illustrations and bibliographies are not included in the word count. You can choose any standard referencing system, but be consistent with the one you chose.

Assessment Criteria: Markscheme from the TOK Guide (as of Class of 2022)

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TOK Essay Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some questions that students and teachers frequently ask about the TOK essay. Read through these questions and the answers to check that you are doing the right thing.

What’s the most important thing to bear in mind?

The first thing is to BE CLEAR! Most students do not even manage to communicate their ideas clearly to the examiner. Regardless of whether or not your answer is stunningly original or crammed with a variety of interesting examples, if it is clear then you will already have a massive head start over the majority of other students from elsewhere in the world. That is why it is absolutely vital to plan in detail – if you have a clear plan you will write a clear essay. If you start the essay without a clear plan then the chances are you will not do very well.

The second thing is to remain focused on the question. It is really easy to lose focus and when you do your score will instantly drop. A slight switch from discussing ‘what we believe is true’ to ‘what is true’ might be enough to make most of your answer irrelevant to the question that you have been asked so you have to be really, really careful here. Always ask yourself whether you are correctly focused on the question.

If my answer is not completely different to everyone else’s will I lose?

Most good essays will offer well balanced, plausible and convincing answer to the knowledge question that has been asked. Clearly there is not an infinite variety of plausible and convincing answers to any question and so you should not expect your answer to be completely different to everyone else’s and nor should you strive to make it bizarrely and outlandishly strange in an attempt to seem original. A good answer will usually point out that x is true in some case cases because of a certain set of reasons, while it is less true in other cases and pretty much completely untrue elsewhere. Students who take very extreme positions tend not to do so well in TOK because, unlike in English where you can usually find some evidence to back up even the most unusual reading, TOK is meant to be firmly grounded in the real world and so, for instance, it is not really that plausible to argue that we can never know anything because that just doesn't fit with how we live our daily lives. Similarly, answers which are overly simply probably won't do that well because most things in TOK just aren’t that clear cut. For example students who claim that Art is completely subjective and that we can never know whether one painting is better than another have trouble when accounting for how the IB award some students Level 7s in art while failing others.

So in this sense your essay might be balanced in the same way as someone else’s but the difference between your essay and everyone else’s should be in exactly how you strike that balance, exactly which discriminations you make and the kinds of evidence that you use to persuade me that your answer is correct. The more convincing your position: the better you will do.

How many examples do I need?

In terms of number of examples there is no set answer. However, in a 1600 word essay you should try to have about 4-6 main body points with one clear example that is central to each one. The best marks will not go to those students who have lots of examples but those who choose examples that support their point really well and then go on to consider the counterclaims against this position (possibly using the same example or a different one) and then respond to this counterclaim (again using the same example or a different one - however three examples in paragraph might be getting a bit too much).

How important is it to talk about myself?

It is important to demonstrate personal engagement, indeed the highest marks will really only be awarded to essays that create a sense that the writer has really engaged and got to grips with the question that they have chosen to answer. However, there are a number of different ways to do this. Using the personal pronoun ‘I’ and talking about something that has happened to you is one way to do this but it will not score highly unless it is a strong example that convincingly supports the point you are trying to make. For example, you will are unlikely to get any points for a personal example about your summer holiday or your Mum’s noodle soup unless it clearly and convincingly supports your answer to the question.

Other ways to demonstrate personal engagement and independent thought are by offering personal definitions of key words and researching original examples that you have come up with yourself rather than the obvious example or the one that everyone else in your class is using because that is the one that the teacher gave you.

Ultimately the best way to demonstrate your personal engagement with the question is through your tone of voice and the sense that you have really ‘got’ what this question is asking and honestly offered your own answer to it. However, this can be hard to identify for an examiner so it is probably best if you try to cover all of the different methods mentioned above in order to come across as a student who is thinking for themselves and relating this question to experiences in their own education.

Should I offer definitions of all the words in my title?

Obviously not – beginning your essay with a list of personal definitions does not make for a very engaging start.   However, there may be some terms in your question title that it is important to define and so you might need to start by doing this. In these case it is best to offer a   brief   personal definition (avoid Dictionary.com!), but be careful with going into any more detail than that. Otherwise the best way to show that you understand what the words in the title mean is to continually link back to the key words from the question throughout your essay. Just like in an English essay you would usually do this at the beginning or end of a paragraph but the best students will be able to make the link clear throughout.

One handy trick to bear in mind when thinking about definitions is that, considering different definitions of key words can actually be a good way of incorporating different perspectives into your essay. For example, if your essay question asks you whether progress is equally possible in the sciences and the arts then how you answer that question might depend on how you define progress and a good structure for the essay might be to start by considering one definition of progress (i.e. progress from one perspective) and then go on to contrast this with the answer that we get if we consider a different definition of progress from another perspective.

Is it a good idea to argue that it’s impossible to know anything at all?

Generally no … TOK examiners tend to be quite dismissive of essays that argue either that we can’t know anything at all or that you can have your ‘truth’ and I can have my ‘truth’ and that these truths are both true. The first of these approaches is often called ‘lazy scepticism’ and the second ‘easy relativism’ and you can see that the names imply that these are not particularly impressive positions to adopt. This is not to say that it’s impossible to be sceptical about knowledge and argue that there are problems with it because clearly there are. It’s also not to say that it’s impossible to argue that in some situations the ‘truth’ might actually be different for different people. However, by and large TOK is looking at how we can know things despite the problems we face when acquiring with knowledge or in spite of the different opinions that exist. TOK is in many ways a pragmatic and realistic subject that is trying to move away from creating the impression that we just can't know anything at all. As such, the best essays will admit that the acquisition of knowledge may not be straight-forward, but will go on to consider how we can overcome these obstacles in the successful pursuit of knowledge.

Do I have to cover every AOK and WOK in my essay?

No, you won’t have enough space. However, you should start by considering all of the   AOKs   and   WOKs   when you begin planning your essay and then narrow it down to the 2 or 3   AOKs   or   WOKs   where you can say the most interesting things. Make it clear that this narrowing down is a conscious decision that you have made and you can even briefly explain the reasons why you have made the choice that you have, if you think that it is relevant. Remember that the highest marks will go to the students who explore a few really key ideas in depth rather than those who try to cover everything. Remember also that the best and most original ideas are not necessarily going to be the ones that spring to mind first so try to use   AOKs   or   WOKs   that not everyone else is using – as long as they work.

So how do I know which   AOKs   or   WOKs   would be good ones to pick?

In general, it can be good to compare an AOK where a statement 'x' really applies well and contrast that with one where it doesn't or doesn't seem to. So for example 'All knowledge is subjective' seems to fit well with The Arts and Ethics, but less with Maths and Science so if you just talk about The Arts and Ethics then you are just going to have an essay that keeps saying ... and this is also true in Ethics, and we can see another example of subjectivity in the Arts, etc. It would be much better to say that this is true in the arts because of xyz reasons and not true in Maths because of   abc   reasons.

If you are really confident with TOK you might try inverting an obvious stereotype about an AOK and seeing if you can find examples where that isn’t true. For example, most students’ first reactions are that the Arts are a subjective subject whereas Maths is a subject which contains objective, universal truths. While there is some   truth to this stereotype   it is not true all the time and the best students will be able to explore where that stereotype breaks down and why it breaks down.   For example, while judgement in art is subjective, some truths – e.g. that this picture was painted by   Da   Vinci - are empirical and so we can have objective agreement about them. Additionally, even the subjective truths aren't allowed to be absolutely anything - even my Mum doesn't think that my Primary School paintings are as good as   Da   Vinci's. This kind of subtlety is what marks out the best answers.

In addition, do not make sweeping statements about aspects or areas of knowledge that imply that what you are saying is always and absolutely true without exception. Instead, phrase things in a way that acknowledges the limitations of your own knowledge and experience: for example ‘Accepting for the moment the premise that … then we can say …’

Do I have to use TOK words like ‘Areas of Knowledge’ in my essay?

Yes you do as this will demonstrate a good understanding of the course but be wary of just throwing them in everywhere: judicious and correct use of TOK terminology is better than going over the top. The words that should come up more frequently are the key words from the question to show that you are remaining focused on the question and not getting distracted by anything else.

Do I have to include any Philosophy or Philosophical words?

No   - the IB have made it clear that TOK is not a philosophy course, instead it is meant to be grounded in the real world and your own experiences as a student. As such you should try to avoid including complex philosophical points unless you really understand them and they really are fully relevant to the essay, even then it is often to put these points into your own words rather than quote philosophers because TOK is about you thinking for yourself rather than quoting someone else’s thoughts.

Do I have to research the quotations in the question title?

It is a good idea to know where the quotation came from, who said it and why but you wouldn’t necessarily include any of this in your essay. In fact, the quotation may not really be relevant at all to the essay question as they are sometimes just used to give you a flavor of   the what   the essay is about. For example in the ‘What I Tell You Three Times is True’ question – the number ‘three’ and the fact that this comes from Lewis Carroll are not necessarily as important as the point about repetition and so detailed research into the works of Lewis Carroll will not really help you with this question.

Can I use quotations from famous people to back up my argument?

Students often like starting essays, concluding essays or supporting points with quotations from famous people like Oscar Wilde or Albert Einstein. The fact that these people are experts tends to lend an air of credibility to your argument. However, the opinion of someone like Oscar Wilde is only going to be relevant in certain, very specific circumstances, for example, if you are exploring esthetics (the theory about what makes beautiful things beautiful) then it might be worth considering Oscar Wilde’s perspective on this topic as he was an artist… but you have to remember that his view is only one perspective and just because Wilde said it, it doesn’t mean that he has the best or most convincing theory about beauty. You should also remember that, outside of the topic of esthetics, it might not be a such good idea to quote Oscar Wilde at all: his opinions on how to live a good life, for example, can be sharply witty and sound quite appealing ... but we need to remember that he did die penniless and alone in Paris so is he really someone that we want to listen to?

Similarly, Einstein is a hugely important figure in the history of science and it might be worthwhile quoting him if you were exploring the forces that drive or inspire genius. However, again you should bear in mind that Einstein’s personal statement about what inspires him is not necessarily something that is going to be true of all thinkers. On top of that you should remember that it has been almost 100 years since the publication of Einstein’s last great work, the General Theory of Relativity, so if you are looking for an up to date comment on the nature of scientific knowledge then it might be best to look elsewhere.

In general the rule with quotations is that you should only quote from someone when they are an expert in the relevant field and even then you have to bear in mind that their opinion is nothing more than that, an opinion. Just like your opinions have to be backed up with evidence and proof, so do the opinions of experts… just because Einstein said it, it doesn’t mean it’s true until you show me the proof. One danger you should also be aware of if you quote too much is that the expert’s voice can come to replace your own and so you should only quote opinions sparingly. One additional way to prevent the expert’s voice from dominating your essay is to use quotations from them in your counterclaims; if you go on to disagree with the expert then that’s usually a clear indication that you are thinking for yourself.

Finally, be careful where you get your quotation from. ‘Brainyquote.com’ might be a repository of thousands of fantastic and completely accurate quotations but it doesn’t create a great impression of your ability to select reliable sources so try to find the original source for your quotation and quote that!

Do I need to include different perspectives in my essay?

Definitely, although remember that ‘different perspectives’ can mean a range of different things. One nice way to include different perspectives is by considering the question from the ‘perspective’ of the different   AOKs . So, for example, you might answer the question from the perspective of the sciences and then compare this with the perspective of the arts – this is a particularly nice trick because it also enables you to draw in some comparisons between the   AOKs   at the same time. However, there are other perspectives that you considering and exploring different cultural, political, philosophical, historical and intellectual perspectives or different schools of thought within an AOK can lead to a more interesting and more convincing essay.

Do I have to distinguish between ‘personal’ and ‘shared’ knowledge in my essay?

It’s definitely a good idea to consider these ideas in your planning but, as with anything, you should only really include them if they are relevant to your essay. One effective way to include these different kinds of knowledge in your essay is to treat them as different perspectives on the same issue. For example, if you are looking at whether it is possible to make progress in the arts then the answer might be quite different depending on whether I am talking about progress at a personal level (clearly I can get better at drawing) or at a shared / communal level because it’s not entirely clear what it would mean for art overall to get ‘better’. This links nicely with the previous point as a way of considering different perspectives on the same issue and can be a good way of killing two birds with one stone.

From www.mrhoyestokwebsite.com

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How To Write A ToK Essay - Updated 2023

Ace your ToK Essay with our expert tips & tricks! Get the latest and greatest techniques on "How To Write A ToK Essay" and impress the IB examiners.📝💡

How To Write A ToK Essay - Updated 2023

Table of content

Purpose of tok, assessment of tok, the game plan, execution of the gameplan, planning for tok essay, structure of tok essay, introduction, conclusions, bibliography.

How to write a TOK Essay? 

To answer that, you must familiarise yourself with what a TOK Essay is about.

Before you start reading this article,  Amanda  has some excellent TOK tips for you!

Theory of Knowledge is one of the most meta subjects that IB offers. Despite its complexity, TOK helps in providing a base for holistic learning and allows students to have a multidisciplinary experience. 

To understand TOK is to understand the essence of IB, a task that most people consider unattainable.

But not for you! 

Thank your lucky stars who made you land on Nail IB. How exactly will Nail IB help you? 

Well, nailing International Baccalaureate is something we will discuss later. 

Let's focus on cracking your TOK essay, shall we?

TOK demonstrates how students  can apply their knowledge  with  greater awareness  and  credibility .

Big words, huh? 

Now that we know that we cannot just slide through the Theory of Knowledge, let's understand how we can conquer this battle all guns blazing.

ToK essay’s primary objective is to answer the  why  behind our studies. 

It makes one aware of the real-life implications of their subjects. The students gain greater awareness of their personal and ideological assumptions and appreciate the diversity of different perspectives. It helps the students find their unique perception, a prerequisite for excelling in the IB TOK essays.

Before we dive into our gameplan, let’s overview the rules of the game.

There are two assessment tasks in the TOK: an essay and a presentation . While a presentation encourages students to explore a real-life situation through the lens of TOK, an essay is written on the basis of the various questions provided by the International Baccalaureate Organisation.

  • The presentation is to assess a student’s ability to apply TOK thinking to a real-life situation whereas IB TOK essay is more conceptual.
  • The essay is externally assessed by IB and must be on any one of the prescribed TOK essay titles issued by the IB for each examination session.
  • Word limit of a TOK essay is 1600 words ( excludes extended notes, footnotes, bibliography).

Now that we have unleashed the game, let’s move ahead towards the gameplan of acing both, your presentation and your essay.

One of the fundamental tasks of TOK is to examine different areas of knowledge and find out their similarities and differences.

The TOK essay requires the students to investigate two Areas of Knowledge (AOK)  and two Ways of Knowing   (WOK) . AOKs and WOKs are investigated via questions such as:

  • How do we know what we know? (WOK)
  • What counts as evidence for X? (AOK)
  • How do we judge which is the best model of Y? (WOK)
  • What does theory Z mean in the real world? (AOK + WOK)

The aforementioned are  Knowledge Questions  which help combine the Areas of Knowledge and the Ways of Knowing that they are using. This eliminates the superficial way of learning and makes an individual sensitive to the nature of the information.   Our acquisition of Knowledge can be broadly divided into Shared Knowledge and Personal Knowledge.

Shared knowledge: What WE know It is the product of more than one individual. Although individuals contribute to it, shared knowledge does not solely depend upon the contributions of a particular individual—there are possibilities for others to check and amend individual contributions and add to the body of knowledge that already exists.

Personal knowledge: What I know It is essentially dependent on the experiences of a particular individual. Also known as procedural knowledge, it is gained through experience, practice and personal involvement and is intimately bound up with the particular local circumstances of the individual such as biography, interests, values, and so on.

The best hack to ace TOK essay is to develop a habit of making connections between the construction of knowledge, its acquisition and its relevance in the real world. 

After that one needs to develop an interest in understanding the difference between diversity and cultural perspectives and personal assumptions.

One also needs to critically reflect on their own beliefs and assumptions, leading to more thoughtful, responsible and purposeful lives.

Yes, this is what you signed up for. It may sound a little intimidating but once you get the hang of it you will be able to see the matrix and understand this beautiful world a little better.

Understand that to provide the best version of your writing, it will take you more than one or two drafts. First and foremost, you need to pick your essay topic diligently. Try to choose an essay topic that best interests you. The topic should also allow you to explore the Areas of Knowledge towards which you are naturally inclined. Here are a few sample questions:

a) 'Ways of knowing are a check on our instinctive judgments.' To what extend do you agree with this statement?

b) With reference to two areas of knowledge discuss the way in which shared knowledge can shape their personal knowledge.

c) How can we know if knowledge is produced more through 'Passive Observation' or 'Active-Experiment' within the Human and Natural-sciences under a Mathematical-Perspective?

d) "The whole point of knowledge is to produce both meaning and purpose in our personal lives". Assess the validity of this statement.

Great things take time. It took me more than a couple of weeks to finalize this TOK essay guide. It is completely okay if the first few drafts may not look pleasing or award-winning to you. You will require sharpening your perspective towards the topic each time you polish your draft. Your writing journey from a dull draft to a masterpiece will be a whole process that you will have to be patient with. Have faith in yourself and proceed stepwise.

You need to consider the opinions of others who have devoted hours of research and a lifetime of dedicated studying the topic that surrounds your writing. Unravelling the realms of your mind palace is so Sherlock but let’s not deny the fact that at times, Watson is the one whose expertise helps Sherlock through pretty difficult times. I mean even Batman needs a Robin. In support of my awesome sauce examples, the point I am trying to make is that  finding support for our claims and counterclaims through research is a good thing .

Use real-life examples to support your claims and counterclaims. These examples need to be documented researched examples like studies, experiments, articles, presentations by well-known people, etc. Examples that stem from your diploma subjects are highly encouraged, but those will need to be supported by research as well.   

It is suggested that you choose a title, stick to it, tackle it and not be afraid. Do not change your mind unless there is a good reason. Also, try choosing Areas of knowledge that you truly enjoy. You know slaying a known devil is much easier than an unknown one. Allot a TIMELINE to your essay. Start with creating an outline of your essay. This will help you to track your progress and accomplish your goals

You can use tools like  Trello  to organize your ideas and plan your TOK essay.

Areas of Knowledge (AOKs): TOK distinguishes between eight areas of knowledge. They are mathematics, the natural sciences, the human sciences, the arts, history, ethics, religious knowledge systems, and indigenous knowledge systems. It is suggested that students study and explore six of these eight.

Ways of knowing (WOKs): TOK identifies eight specific WOKs- language, sense perception, emotion, reason, imagination, faith, intuition, and memory. It is suggested that studying four of these eight in-depth would be appropriate. WOKs underlie the methodology of the areas of knowledge and provide a basis for personal knowledge.

Moving ahead, let us discuss the structure of your TOK essay.

Your essay will consist of 4 broad segregations

Before breaking down further on the pillars, keep the following in mind

  • Please note what the TOK essay title is asking you. (Read it a couple of times. We highly recommend that you brainstorm ideas with your TOK coordinator)
  • Make sure you understand the command term and the question it is asking.
  • What kind of knowledge is being elicited?
  • When choosing your areas of knowledge (AoK) and ways of knowing (WoK) make sure that you are able to draw contrasts and comparisons, that is, you are able to find evidence that supports as well as challenges your claims.
  • Identify key terms in your TOK essay title. Make sure you define them. Your essay will gravitate around them. Key terms/words in your titles are your essay anchors. Your response should be built around them.
  • Your writing skills come in handy while you work on your IB TOK essay. Like any other essay make sure you have proper thesis statements and topic sentences to guide the evaluator through your work.
  • Respect the TOK essay title. Rephrasing the topic is not encouraged . Your main job is to address the title.

Introduce your topic accurately and state your thesis statement for the essay carefully.  A thesis statement is like a teaser to your entire essay wherein you define your key terms and introduce your interpretation of the question. Make sure that you do not reword the prescribed title in your thesis. Instead, it needs to, as the word says, INTRODUCE your readers to what your essay is about. A strong introduction allows the reader to deduce what knowledge question(s) you are trying to answer.

So, in a nutshell

  • Write interesting things about the given TOK essay title .
  • Define key terms
  • Narrow in on the particularly interesting aspect
  • State your thesis statement . This will be your short answer to your given title if you don't know how to write a killer thesis statement check out this blog from SparkNotes .
  • State your Roadmap. This will help the readers in understanding the direction of your essay.

The body can be mainly divided into 3 segments.

Body (1st Segment)

  • AoK Claim:  Here you investigate your first Area of Knowledge and draw parallels between your AoK and the question. This is done by stating your claim. Claims can be general in nature and need not reference a particular area of knowledge. They help you shape your essay and investigate the question further. 
  • Evidence: Example of a real-life situation, describe thoroughly and accurately, which supports your stated claim. (AoK)
  • Counter-Claim: State your counter-claim: like claims, those can be general and need not reference a particular area of knowledge. Counterclaim helps you show the other side the coin and gives your essay a holistic nature. 
  • Evidence: A referenced real-life situation/example. Describe thoroughly and accurately, show how this supports your counterclaim (AoK ).
  • Don’t forget to weave in your WoKs:  You need to take into account the source of your knowledge. Here you can also investigate if your nature of acquiring the knowledge has, in any way, affected it. It is good practice to question if your knowledge would be different had it been acquired through a different source/method
  • Mini-conclusion: Here you analyze your examples in reference to your claims and counterclaims. You must connect to your thesis statement and the prescribed title. How does your proposed argument, in this particular part of the body, connect to the prescribed title and the knowledge questions you are trying to answer?

Body (2): Follow the above process for your second AOK.

  • Use this part of your essay to compare and contrast your varying AoKs. You need to connect them to your thesis and your prescribed title clearly showing how your arguments respond to the PT.

Your conclusion section will make your essay come together. It is the glue that will make your essay stick together. Herein, you need to

  • Reiterate your thesis (initial response).
  • Use your mini conclusions to write a final conclusion.
  • Tell the reader what the significance is for knowing what we know in this particular PT.
  • Discuss implications as well.
  • Offer another perspective, how will the perspective of a different person affect the claims/counterclaims you make in the essay?
  • Don’t forget to make the end strong.

We recommend all the ib students use the  citation machine  (It's FREE) to organize or generate a bibliography for your TOK essay. Please go through this extensive guide provided by the IB before you start working on your citations.

If you are still struggling heaps with your TOK essay feel free to subscribe to our tok notes bundles or get access to more than 500+ IBDP notes and past papers here .

Nail IB is your virtual companion that helps you hustle through your diploma and provide you with the right resources at the right time. To know more about acing IB, click  here .

I hope this article will become the foundation for figuring out how to write a TOK Essay.

Remember to have faith in yourself.

I hope you NAIL your TOK essay!

Quoting the great Napolean Hill

"Whatever the mind of a man can conceive and believe, it can achieve."

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TOK Exhibition Prompts: The Complete List for IB Students

Author Image

by  Antony W

September 5, 2022

a list of tok exhibition prompts

As you already know, the TOK Exhibition is a new individual assignment introduced to the TOK syllabus to replace the TOK Presentation ,  which has been part of the program since 2015.

In this assignment, an IB student has to choose a topic from the provided TOK Exhibition prompts, find three objects, prepare a document for moderation, and showcase (or present) their exhibition project.

In this guide, we’ll give you some useful insights that you can use to choose a prompt, identify your objects, and work on your exhibition. We’ll also include all the 35 TOK Exhibition prompts in the last section so you can read all of them right from the same page.

By the time you finish reading this guide, you should be able to an Exhibition that will earn you the full marks.

About the TOK Exhibition Prompts

Before we get to the details, it’s important to note that the prompt provided in this guide are exactly as provided in the TOK Exhibition   guide . 

Unlike the titles for the TOK Essay ,  these prompts don’t change every year and will remain the same for the duration of the specification.

Another important rule to keep in mind is that the prompt must appear on the title page exactly as it is. That means you shouldn’t alter, rewrite, or re-arrange the wordings of any of the 35 titles provided in the list.

How to Choose a TOK Exhibition Prompt 

A list of 35 titles for the TOK Exhibition means you have many options to consider.

However, the list can be quite overwhelming, not to mention create a possibility for confusion as you make your selection of the topic to work on.

To avoid confusions and choose the right prompt that you can comfortably handle within the respective timeframe, it’s important to know exactly how to choose a prompt.

Choose an exhibition prompt that interests you. It can be something you easily relate with, or one that you have always wanted to explore within the Theory of Knowledge curriculum.

Also, the topic can match a concept you find interesting in the TOK course, or it can be something you have had an experience with especially outside the classroom.

The second, and perhaps the most important rule, is to make sure you can set the prompt within the context of either the optional themes or the core theme in TOK.

You can only choose one topic, even if you love more than one topic from the list of the 35 prompts. More importantly, make sure that the topic you choose relates to each of the three objects that you choose.

Exhibition Prompt and Objects: Which One Should Come First 

Whether the three TOK objects or the exhibition prompt should come first depends on whether TOK teachers would like to incorporate artefacts and activities that encourage reflection on such artefacts within the Theory of Knowledge context.

If teachers decide to use artefacts instead of audio-visual or textual stimuli as knowledge questions   for starting discussions, students should pick their objects, reflect upon them first, and then select the most appropriate prompt for the exhibition.

In such a case, the prompt you choose will fit the three objects a lot more naturally.

If teachers don’t include artefacts in teaching the Theory of Knowledge, students should choose a prompt first followed by the objects, which they can use to explore the knowledge issue within the context of the selected prompt.

Should I Use the Objects to Unpack the Prompt?

The TOK Exhibition assessment instrument gives us very clear insights on the relationship between the objects and the TOK Exhibition prompts. Students have to observe the following criteria:

  • You should clearly define and explain the relationship between the IA prompt you choose and each of the three objects.
  • You have to provide a strong justification of the contribution that each object you choose to explore makes to the exhibition.

The primary goal of the analysis is to highlight the key knowledge issues within the knowledge question and the understanding that it brings forth.

Should All the Objects Come Out of One IA Prompt?

There’s a likelihood to fall into the temptation of considering multiple prompts for the TOK Exhibition project.

However, that would be a completely wrong approach that automatically scores you a zero.

According to page 40 of the Theory of Knowledge Guide, students should select only one prompt (or title) on which to base their exhibition project.

Further, the guide clearly states that the three objects (or images of objects) that a student chooses must have a link to exactly the same prompt.

TOK Exhibition Themes and the IA Prompt 

The IB requires that, in addition to choosing an IA prompt to investigate, you should unpack it within the context of the core theme or one of the optional themes in TOK.  

In other words, in addition to choosing a prompt to explore, you should think about how the topic relates to indigenous societies, politics, religion, technology, language, and knowledge and the knower.

Doing the TOK Exhibition Project 

You’ve learned a lot about the TOK Exhibition prompts so far. Before we put together a list of the prompts in the final section, we strongly believe that it’s important to give you access to resources that you can use to do the Theory of Knowledge exhibition project right.

Here’s a list of resources related to the Theory of Knowledge Exhibition project:

  • A student’s complete guide to TOK Exhibition
  • Tips to help you pass TOK Exhibition
  • How to choose TOK Exhibition objects
  • How to write a TOK Exhibition Commentary
  • TOK Exhibition rubric : Understanding the assessment instrument

You can also get  help with TOK exhibition from Help for Assessment. Our TOK professionals are only a text away, and we will help you get your assignment reviewed, done, and revised in good time.

With these resources only a click away, we’re confident that you can complete a TOK exhibition project that will earn you the full marks after review by your Theory of Knowledge teacher.

Theory of Knowledge Exhibition Prompts 

  • What counts as knowledge?
  • Are some types of knowledge more useful than others?
  • What features of knowledge have an impact on its reliability?
  • On what grounds might we doubt a claim?
  • What counts as good evidence for a claim?
  • How does the way that we organize or classify knowledge affect what we know?
  • What are the implications of having, or not having, knowledge?
  • To what extent is certainty attainable?
  • Are some types of knowledge less open to interpretation than others?
  • What challenges are raised by the dissemination and/or communication of knowledge?
  • Can new knowledge change established values or beliefs?
  • Is bias inevitable in the production of knowledge?
  • How can we know that current knowledge is an improvement upon past knowledge?
  • Does some knowledge belong only to particular communities of knowers?
  • What constraints are there on the pursuit of knowledge?
  • Should some knowledge not be sought on ethical grounds?
  • Why do we seek knowledge?
  • Are some things unknowable?
  • What counts as a good justification for a claim?
  • What is the relationship between personal experience and knowledge?
  • What is the relationship between knowledge and culture?
  • What role do experts play in influencing our consumption or acquisition of knowledge?
  • How important are material tools in the production or acquisition of knowledge?
  • How might the context in which knowledge is presented influence whether it is accepted or rejected?
  • How can we distinguish between knowledge, belief and opinion?
  • Does our knowledge depend on our interactions with other knowers?
  • Does all knowledge impose ethical obligations on those who know it?
  • To what extent is objectivity possible in the production or acquisition of knowledge?
  • Who owns knowledge?
  • What role does imagination play in producing knowledge about the world?
  • How can we judge when evidence is adequate?
  • What makes a good explanation?
  • How is current knowledge shaped by its historical development?
  • In what ways do our values affect our acquisition of knowledge?
  • In what ways do values affect the production of knowledge?

About the author 

Antony W is a professional writer and coach at Help for Assessment. He spends countless hours every day researching and writing great content filled with expert advice on how to write engaging essays, research papers, and assignments.

IMAGES

  1. TOK essay

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  2. IB TOK Essay

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  3. The November 2022 TOK Essay Titles

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  4. IB ToK Essay Prompts for November 2022

    ib tok essay prompts 2022

  5. The TOK Exhibition (+ ALL 35 PROMPTS)

    ib tok essay prompts 2022

  6. The TOK essay titles are out. Could we have a general discussion thread on the same. I feel it

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COMMENTS

  1. IB ToK Essay Titles and Topics: May 2022

    IB ToK Essay Titles and Topics: May 2022 Here are links to ideas and suggestions relating to the the six May 2022 IB ToK Essay topics: Topic 1. Can there be knowledge that is independent of culture? Discuss with reference to mathematics and one other area of knowledge. Topic 2.

  2. Example essays

    Further guidance on the TOK essay and exhibition can be found in the IB's Programme Resource Centre (PRC). Materials in the PRC are only available to existing IB World Schools. These materials are free. There are a number of resources on TOK in the IB Store, which are available to everyone. Find out how to become an IB World School.

  3. Theory of knowledge

    Theory of knowledge (TOK) is assessed through an exhibition and a 1,600 word essay. It asks students to reflect on the nature of knowledge, and on how we know what we claim to know. TOK is part of the International Baccalaureate® (IB) Diploma Programme (DP) core, and is mandatory for all students. Learn more about theory of knowledge.

  4. Breaking Down TOK Essay Titles 2022

    Breaking Down TOK Essay Titles 2022 IB - Understanding It IB Theory of Knowledge Most Popular The TOK Essay can be a daunting task, and many of us struggle to even begin out of fear of doing something wrong. Not only are you expected to learn the philosophy of all the areas of knowledge, but now you have to write an essay about it too!?

  5. The May 2022 TOK Essay Titles

    Tim has made a full, May 2022 TOK Essay Titles Analysis, which you can watch inside IBMastery. It will help you understand how to approach each of the titles (i.e. things to avoid, things to consider and some tips and helpful advice for each title). The May 2022 TOK Essay Prescribed Titles 1. Can there be knowledge that is independent of culture?

  6. May 2022 TOK essay titles

    The M22 TOK prescribed essay titles are now being written by Northern Hemisphere schools, for a mid-March deadline. Check out the M22 TOK essay webinar, which models what an initial unpacking session would look like. Below you'll find the key words to pin down in the essay introduction, links to the BQ framework, and other consideration points.

  7. Tok 2022: Theory of Knowledge Website for The Ibdp

    The IBO has grouped the suggested knowledge questions around four elements: scope, perspectives, methods & tools and ethics. These elements provide a basis, or a framework for the knowledge questions. Acknowledgement: The descriptions of the frameworks (elements) are taken from the TOK guide, (first teaching 2020, first examination 2022).

  8. How to Structure a Theory of Knowledge Essay

    Paragraph 1. - Say one or two interesting things about the prescribed title question. This shows us, right away that you know what the question is asking. - Define one or two of the key terms in the title. Get definitions for all of the main words in your title. You don't need to include all of them in your essay, but it's useful to see how ...

  9. November 2022 TOK Essay Prescribed Titles

    The IB has released the May 2022 TOK Essay Prescribed Titles. Make sure you get the "official" two-page document from your TOK teacher / coordinator. ... May 2022 TOK Essay Prescribed Titles - basic knowledge questions; May 2022 TOK Essay Prescribed Titles - Key Words and Phrases; May 2023 TOK essay prescribed title - key terms;

  10. IB ToK Essay Titles and Topics: November 2022

    Title 1: Within an area of knowledge is it more important to have credibility or power? Discuss with reference to the natural sciences and one other area of knowledge. Thoughts to consider with essay 1 include: the varieties of power the difference between being credible and being correct what is meant by "importance" here?

  11. TOK essay

    What are the examiners looking for? How will your essay be assessed in practice? The examiners will give you a global mark for your essay. In this sense, please keep the main criterion in mind: " Does the student provide a clear, coherent and critical exploration of the essay title?"

  12. Guide to the TOK Essay

    The TOK essay is a 1600 word essay written about topics usually given to students from their teachers from a list of numerous options. It is an essay that promotes arguments and counterarguments for the topic at hand. Understanding your ways of knowing (WOKs) and areas of knowledge (AOKs) is extremely crucial before you even start choosing a ...

  13. IB TOK Essay Titles

    The International Baccalaureate Organization releases six TOK essay titles, twice a year for submission either in May or November. So you need to know which cohort you're submitting with. The essay titles for submission in May are released in the previous September. The essay titles for submission in November are released the previous March.

  14. IB TOK Essay examples

    IB TOK Essay examples | Clastify Are you applying to college in the US? our new collection of Common App essay examples. Home TOK Essay IB TOK Essay examples Filter exemplars Common App Category IA EE TOK Notes Other Type Essay Grade C Session May 2024 May 2023 November 2022 May 2022 November 2021 May 2021 November 2020 May 2020 November 2019 Other

  15. TOK 2022 essay prompts : r/IBO

    This subreddit encourages questions, constructive feedback, and the sharing of knowledge and resources among IB students, alumni, and teachers. Note that the subreddit is not run by the International Baccalaureate. ... yeehaw--- TOK 2022 essay prompts ToK/EE Is anyone on here doing the second prompt for the 2022 TOK essay the one about Maya ...

  16. IB ToK Essay Prompts for November 2022

    Vasy Kafidoff September 3rd, 2023 IB Topics Every year, students who started IBDP are waiting for IB to share the list of specific prescribed titles for Theory of Knowledge essays. Like in all the previous years, IB opened a list of six topics for TOK essays for the next semester. In the year 2022, November TOK essay titles will be as below. UPD!

  17. May 2022 Theory of Knowledge Essay Titles

    IB ToK Essay Prompts for November 2022 Every year, students who started IBDP are waiting for IB to share the list of specific prescribed titles for Theory of Knowledge essays. Like in all the previous years, IB opened a list of six topics for TOK essays for the next semester.

  18. 2023 ToK Essay Prompts: Tips & Deep Dive Insights

    Ready? Let's demystify these prompts together! The ABCs of ToK Essay Prompts Understanding ToK essay prompts isn't just about reading the words. It's about delving deep into their meaning, intent, and the broader context they inhabit. Think of each prompt as a puzzle.

  19. LibGuides: US IB Theory of Knowledge: TOK Essay

    Generally no …. TOK examiners tend to be quite dismissive of essays that argue either that we can't know anything at all or that you can have your 'truth' and I can have my 'truth' and that these truths are both true. The first of these approaches is often called 'lazy scepticism' and the second 'easy relativism' and you can ...

  20. How To Write A ToK Essay

    There are two assessment tasks in the TOK: an essay and a presentation. While a presentation encourages students to explore a real-life situation through the lens of TOK, an essay is written on the basis of the various questions provided by the International Baccalaureate Organisation. The presentation is to assess a student's ability to ...

  21. TOK Exhibition Prompts: The Complete List for IB Students

    Students have to observe the following criteria: You should clearly define and explain the relationship between the IA prompt you choose and each of the three objects. You have to provide a strong justification of the contribution that each object you choose to explore makes to the exhibition.

  22. The November 2022 TOK Essay Titles

    Here are the Theory of Knowledge Essay prescribed titles for the November 2022 session.. The video analysis of these titles is already available in the member's area and there are already discussions posted in our community area.So you'll find lots of help inside IBMastery, with topics and ideas to consider for each title, some tips for the new rubric and helpful advice for each title.

  23. The Theory of Knowledge Exhibition Prompts

    The TOK Exhibition Prompts 1. What counts as knowledge? 2. Are some types of knowledge more useful than others? 3. What features of knowledge have an impact on its reliability? 4. On what grounds might we doubt a claim? 5. What counts as good evidence for a claim? 6. How does the way that we organize or classify knowledge affect what we know? 7.