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As TOK is a rather unique subject that is rather unlike any other subject that students may have been exposed to before; students often struggle to understand what it is that TOK is doing and how they should prepare for it. Here are three simple tips that could help you start your TOK journey the right way.
1. Pick up a pop philosophy book. Even better if it’s one about epistemology.
As I’ve mentioned before in a previous article, TOK is not philosophy, but it does have its roots in it, particularly in epistemology, the philosophy of knowledge. Having a basic familiarity with the major concepts and debates will make it easier for students to understand the intent behind TOK, as well as get them used to the style of thinking and questioning that is required.
2. Read a lot, and read widely
One of the major issues that I see with students is that they struggle to come up with relevant real life situations to use in their essays or presentations/exhibitions. When it comes to examples and real life situations, there is no set syllabus that students can simply memorise. The whole point of TOK is to see how these somewhat abstract, philosophical thoughts are applicable to real events in the “real world”. However, it’s somewhat difficult to do that if one lacks enough general knowledge of things in the real world to begin with. You cannot give any meaningful commentary about the structure of knowledge in the sciences if you have absolutely no knowledge about major events and developmental milestones in the sciences.
3. Pretend you’re 5 years old again
You know how children seem to have a never-ending series of “why”? Go back to that. The point of TOK is to critically examine common assumptions about the nature and structure of knowledge that we take for granted all the time. We all know that a proper scientific hypothesis should be falsifiable or else it’s not good science, but why? How does it help? Does it make the resulting hypothesis more accurate somehow? How? Why is accuracy a necessary component of the sciences? What about in the field of literature–do I need my theories to be falsifiable or reliable there? Why not? What is so different about the nature of scientific knowledge from literary knowledge that makes the requirements for what counts as knowledge in those fields different?
Bonus: Don’t overthink it.
Students often get overwhelmed by all the jargon and buzzwords that get thrown around in TOK. Real Life Situations, Areas of Knowledge, Knowledge Questions, Knowledge Frameworks, so on, and so forth. Students then get hung up on “what are my AOKS for this essay,” “what RLS do I use,” “do I need a counterclaim” as if they’ve somehow lost all ability to write a basic essay. Your RLSes are your examples, and you should always have at least one example to back up any argumentative point that you make. Your AoKs are the fields of knowledge in which your examples are based. You should generally discuss both for and against arguments in your TOK essay–as you would for every other essay. Focus your efforts on breaking down your prompts and coming up with points to explore said prompts. then start thinking about what examples you could use to back up or illustrate those points.
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