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IB Theory of Knowledge

Theory of Knowledge (TOK) is a mandatory part of the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Program (DP) that offers an opportunity for the students to contemplate on the nature of knowledge. It involves 100 teaching hours over the two years of the DP and is designed as a purposeful inquiry into different ways of knowing and various areas of knowledge.

Structure of TOK

Contrary to standard academic programs, TOK employs a process of exploring and sharing views of students. It is in essence a battery of questions, called ‘knowledge questions’ (KQ) that can be approached through different angles. There is no end to the valid queries that may arise out of it. It emphasizes on the use of real life situations and relating them to knowledge questions. Students along with tutors may have to step out of the comfort zone to explore the unexplored. In TOK course, there may be no right or wrong idea but it leads one to take a balanced approach to the knowledge claim in question.

The TOK curriculum encompasses:

Ways Of Knowing (WOK): A combination of ways of knowing (in no particular order) such as sense perception, reason, emotion, faith, imagination, intuition, memory and language.

Areas Of Knowledge (AOK): This includes mathematics, natural sciences, human sciences, history, religious knowledge systems, indigenous knowledge systems, the arts and ethics.

Factors that cut across individual ways of knowing and areas of knowledge:

  • Nature of knowing
  • Knowledge communities
  • Knower’s perspective and applications of knowledge
  • Validations of knowledge claims


The TOK is evaluated in two parts:

1. TOK Essay: This includes a 1600 word essay that is evaluated by external examiners. Each student gets to pick an essay title out of six issued by IB. This is evaluated through four criteria. The student is expected to put forward claims and counterclaims, interconnecting knowledge issues to areas of knowledge and ways of knowing, substantiating original sense of thinking. Essays running beyond 1600 word limit will not be read by the examiner and one mark will be deducted as penalty.

2. TOK Presentation: An oral presentation is to be delivered before the class in about ten minutes. This can be presented in any form, say debates, skits, games, interviews etc. Only reading it aloud is not permitted. The topic should pertain to the real life situation of interest to the student. This can either be done individually or in a group of up to 3 participants. The learner is expected to discuss why the topic he/she has chosen is significant, connecting it to a pertinent knowledge question and examining the implications of approaching the question from a different perspective. This would be internally scored using four assessment criteria.

The total score is converted into grades ranging from A to E. If an aspirant fails to submit either the TOK essay or TOK presentation, or receives grade E for either the extended essay or theory of knowledge, he/she will not be awarded the diploma.

Significance of TOK

TOK associates academic subject areas as well as going beyond them. It typically shows the ways in which the students can apply their knowledge with greater consciousness and authority. It pushes students to be conscious of themselves as thinkers, getting them more familiarized with the complexity of the knowledge and recognizes their need to act responsibly in a highly connected world. To learn more about TOK, get in touch with qualified teachers at an online tutoring portal that could put you on the right path.
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