TOK Essay: Common Problems


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There are some common, recurring problems with the TOK Essay. The prescribed title question is not answered explicitly, the examples are not explained, the essay is not organized, the….. Here is an overview of the most common problems.

The following audio files should give some basic advice for the TOK essay.

Some common TOK Essay problems are:

  • Defining terms using only dictionary definitions without interpretation of the definition.
  • Relevant ideas are not compared
  • Use of generalizing statements and words: all, none, few, many….. It has always been known that…..
  • Introductions that make not explicit reference to the topic, or introductions that do not properly interpret the topic question.
  • Not mentioned how an idea is evaluated: The evaluation is based on what criteria? Students do not indicate in the introduction how they intend to evaluate the idea.
  • Students answer the question either with yes or no, but fail to give a differentiated argument.
  • Topic not answered: Paragraphs with TOK theory or examples that is not brought into connection with the title. Make sure that every paragraph of the essay contributes to explicitly answering the topic question.
  • Lack of relevant examples: cross cultural examples that are based on stereotypes.
  • Biggest threat: Students may agree with the above points but are not aware that they actually have the same problems in their own essay. Why? Because as an author of the essay you become blind to these problems – let someone else read the essay.

Disclaimer: The content of this website (and this advice in particular) is not endorsed by the IB-Organization. Following this advice can naturally not guarantee you a high TOK mark, there are many factors involved.

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In so far as a scientific statement speaks about reality, it must be falsifiable; and in so far as it is not falsifiable, it does not speak about reality.

- Karl Popper -