1. It doesn’t matter if you’re learning TOK for the first time (all you non-IP peeps) or if you’re coming from Year 4 IP like I did – you’ll probably have to learn everything TOK from scratch again. Make sure you pay attention in lectures to get a sense of what TOK entails – it’s especially important you become familiar with what constitutes the various ways of knowing (WOKs). Don’t worry about the AOKs as much, you can always read up more after the lectures.
  1. TOK is more about the ‘how’ rather than the ‘what’ – it focuses on the process of acquiring knowledge. Using an (overused) example, a presentation about euthanasia should focus more on how the various stakeholders acquire the knowledge that constitutes their perspectives about euthanasia and whether it is right or wrong. In this case, whether it actually is right or wrong isn’t the issue at hand. Craft your knowledge questions (KQs) while keeping this in mind (e.g. to what extent is knowledge acquired through reasoning more justifiable than that acquired through emotion?)
  1. When coming up with KQs for your essays and presentations, try to make them as broad as possible – that way you’ll be able to examine multiple real-life situations and AOKs if necessary. For example, the KQ I used above can be used to examine medical knowledge (e.g. euthanasia) along with other AOKs such as religious knowledge. There is no right answer to a KQ – one that is well-crafted would allow you to examine conflicting perspectives and that’s what the teachers and IBO hope you’ll be able to do.
  1. It is very important that you define key terms in your KQ(s) and prescribed essay titles. Seemingly common terms such as knowledge are definitely worth defining – I for one tried to challenge the definition of knowledge as ‘justified true belief’ in my essay. Always refer to the title and/or question at hand when writing your essay.
  1. One thing that most students struggle with is establishing their personal involvement in the real-life situations referred to. As such, it is good to think about your real-life examples early – you do not want to be stuck with a contrived statement in your assessments such as ‘I used the example of educational practices because I am a student’ or ‘I am interested in…’. As a side note, some teachers actually won’t require this stated explicit in your essay while others will.
  1. On that note, it is very important to note that the level of consistency amongst teachers can be rather low at times – you’ll often hear conflicting things about your essays or presentations. This is worth considering especially for your presentation, which will be assessed by TOK teachers other than your own. You’ll often see students consulting the teachers of other classes to find out what went wrong with their work, especially for those having to redo their presentations. A safe approach would be to signpost everything explicitly (as Moira has mentioned) and examine issues stakeholder by stakeholder, while analysing the WOKs used in their formation of knowledge.
  1. Procrastination bites you in the ass, so start early. It might seem as if you have a lot of time on your hands to complete your assessments – I took 3 weeks just deciding on my essay title – but the sooner you let your teachers take a look at it the sooner you can get feedback. I made this mistake and decided to submit 2 shoddy drafts instead, receiving feedback only late into term 2 when other deadlines were also in sight.

In an interesting twist, my claims about ACS boys being excellent with last-minute work were shattered when my supposedly ‘B’ graded cross-marked essay came back to me in Term 3 – I was told I was going to fail TOK with that essay. I had only a few days to redo my entire essay – you do NOT want to be in that situation.

  1. As such, take your teachers’ words with a pinch of salt. Don’t get me wrong, though – they’re worth consulting, but use your own gut instincts to iron out your essays and presentations. Get your friends to proofread everything for you, and ask for their help when preparing for your presentations – they’ll be able to critique your work/speaking skills and help you. Best of all, this can be mutual, and you can help them too!
  1. Always take a stand on the issue – state the knower’s perspective. You actually get marks awarded for stating your own perspective on the issue(s) (it doesn’t need to be ‘right’, just justified with the evidence presented). You can (and should) also include other reasons not based on the evidence, such as personal belief – and state how this influences your view on the RLS or allows you to understand a stakeholder’s perspective. After all, your personal involvement should be strong – and you get marks for this too!
  1. (Try to) have fun. As much as I dreaded having to do work for TOK, I relished the opportunity to examine certain real-life situations in depth. TOK does really help you to look at real-world issues more critically and allows you to make better judgments on matters at hand, while also allowing you to question the knowledge you learn in class. I got to examine things such as moral education (and its assessment) along with economic assumptions – these little things will challenge your view on what you have learnt while allowing you to examine these facets in greater detail.

Samuel Lim (6.11) is from the graduating batch of 2014. 

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