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What NOT to do in a TOK essay

AVOID doing these things in your TOK essay:

Deviate from the main question

Make sure that every part of your essay is completely focused on the title.

Going off on tangents unrelated to your knowledge question detracts from your argument and wastes words.

Also remember that your essay needs to be about knowledge itself and how we acquire it, not the content of a particular subject.


Similar to the above point, you need to avoid filling your essay with sentences which don’t contribute anything to your argument.

It’s really obvious to an examiner when you’re just writing to reach the word count and doing so won’t help your final mark.

When you’re editing your essay there’s one key rule you should follow ruthlessly: if it doesn’t add to your overall argument, cut it!

Give a one-sided argument

One important element of the TOK essay is showing that you can deal with conflicting ideas. For this reason, don’t just focus on your own argument/perspective, make sure you include decent counter arguments and responses to these.

Use hypothetical/cliched examples

Remember your Real Life examples need to be well… real. So don’t use hypothetical situations such as: “Imagine that you were dreaming about…”

If you want your essay to stand out, its best to avoid using cliche examples (see a list here) as well as those from your TOK textbook. Try to be as original as possible.

Make unjustified claims

A definite no no in a TOK essay is to make really broad claims without providing any supporting evidence.

For this reason, avoid writing things like: ‘Many scientists say…’ or ‘This proves that…”

When making claims, use words like ‘often’ or ‘sometimes’ to avoid overgeneralization.

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Real life examples are a crucial component of your essay as they serve to link your arguments to the real world. Two major indicators of the quality of your examples are ´originality´ and ´relevancy´.

The full list of prescribed titles for the November 2022 Theory of Knowledge essay assessment will be posted here shortly. Please check back here soon.

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