What Not To Do In A TOK Essay: 10 Costly Mistakes

June 9, 2024

what not to do in a tok essay

All IB students have to write an essay. And if it’s your time to tackle this assignment, you may be wondering what ToK essay mistakes you need to avoid to score better grades.

In this post, we’ll share 12 of the most common mistakes past IB students made in their TOK essays so you don’t make any of them.

We’ve been writing TOK essays for 5 years now. The one thing we know for sure is that, while this 1,200-1,600-word essay is a compulsory assignment on a particular area of knowledge, it can be challenging nut to crack.

However, the purpose of the TOK far much overweighs its complexity.

By enrolling in the course and learning the ins and outs of the subject, you’ll expand your perspective and improve your critical thinking skill, so much so that you become more inquisitive.

To be abundantly clear, the Theory of Knowledge course isn’t just another subject that teaches you a new concept. If anything, you learn how to think differently.

Do you need help with your TOK Exhibition commentary? Our TOK experts are here to help you get the work completed fast. 

10 TOK Essay Mistakes to Avoid Right Now

In this article, we tell you about the 12 most common TOK essay mistakes that can cost you many marks.

You should not make any of these mistakes when writing your TOK essay. 

1. Writing an Unfocused Introduction

A well-written introduction aims to accomplish three key goals:

  • Stating a position (which can be "agree," "disagree with reservations," or "agree with reservations")
  • Establishing clarity about the title's main concepts and terms
  • Identifying the areas of knowledge and ways of knowing that will be the focus of the essay

When your essay begins with broad and general statements on humanity's unending desire for knowledge, it appears to be a descriptive essay.

Most of the time, these writings force you to stray. Furthermore, these kinds of introductions might rapidly make you doubt the essay's goal.

So make sure the introduction covers all facets of the title as well as its assumptions.

2. Misinterpreting the Essay’s Purpose

In a TOK essay, you must explore the elements that influence your decision to accept or reject information as knowledge. If you don't recognize this, you'll end up writing an essay that doesn't actually address the question.

Keep in mind that a TOK essay is not the same as a research paper in that it does not follow the same standards as an extended essay.

3. Ignoring the Scope of the Essay

You should be realistic about how much information you can include in your TOK essay within the 1200 to 1600 words limit.

The essay does not invite you to think about the points you could make. If anything, you should be aware that doing so restricts your capacity to address the issues you bring.

During the brainstorming stage of your essay, you should learn to think on, examine, and then pick the most relevant ideas from the list you produced.

4. Writing a One-sided Essay

A TOK essay varies from other essays in that it’s multi-disciplinary. In this respect, avoid addressing this style of essay from a single point of view.

A well-written TOK essay delves into the story's many perspectives and ideas before delivering the objective argument complete with the counterclaim.

5. Incorrect Referencing

The importance of referencing is that it verifies your statistical data or study and lends credibility to your work. You can also avoid plagiarism by crediting the original source of information.

When writing TOK essays, you must accurately cite your references, just as you would in any other type of academic writing.

This does not imply that each fact needs reference.

The general rule of thumb is to provide sources for little-known facts and ignore popular opinion. Above all, be sure you accurately cite your sources in ToK.

6. Using Poor Examples in the Essay

The best ToK essays are those that feature the most relevant examples where necessary.

These instances are cross-cultural, based on personal experiences that span several eras.

By relevant examples, we mean making a precise reference to a single artwork or scientific theory rather than making a generic reference to scientists or artists.

The use of examples is to connect the instance to the title. It also goes beyond the exemplification it was used to demonstrate.

You should avoid using hypothetical instances at all costs. If you do so, you will have an essay that does not properly address the knowledge question.

You should also avoid citing too many examples. Students who approach the topic from a subject standpoint frequently appear to overfill the essay with examples.

They go from one example to the next without actually demonstrating how important each one is.

However, the problem with this strategy is that it causes your essay to become more descriptive rather than analytical.

7. Not Referring to WOKs and AOKs

In your introductory sentences, you should clearly state which way of knowing and are of knowledge your essay will focus on.

You must also make specific references to the WOKs and AOKs terminologies and utilize the TOK language correctly.

8. Failure to Evaluate Claims and Ignoring Counterclaims

You will not get the best grades for your TOK essay if you fail to establish assertions in your work.

And of course, you will score lower points if you include a claim in the essay but fail to back it up with strong evidence.

Also, TOK essays that don't do a good job of examining counterclaims are more likely to treat the TOK title as a discussion about knowledge.

As a result, TOK teachers often treat such essays as one-sided declarations of students’ own perspective or position.

9. Wrong Choice of Real Life Situation 

Some students don't get the grades they deserve because they select a real-life situation that makes it difficult to examine the terminology in the KQs or knowledge questions efficiently.

It's critical to find an acceptable real-life circumstance for your TOK essay if you want to succeed and get good grades.

10. Poor Knowledge Question

Many students pick a knowledge question that has nothing to do with the real-life event they've picked.

It's common for students to select a question that falls short of the knowledge level.

Before you organize the presentation, you must first grasp how to write knowledge questions.

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.

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