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Theory of Knowledge (TOK)

Students study the ‘nature of knowledge’ and reflect on ‘how we know what we claim to know’.
Theory of knowledge is a compulsory course of study in the IB Diploma. It draws together all the knowledge that is learned in other courses and questions the validity of what we know, prompting critical engagement. At the centre of the course is the student as a ‘knower’.

  • To help students to discover the richness of knowledge, and to realize how empowering knowledge can be.

  • To examine how knowledge is built up, examined, and evaluated by individuals and societies.

  • To reflect on how we learn – both inside and outside school – and to make links between the academic disciplines and our thoughts, feelings and actions.

  • To reinforce that there are many different ways of thinking and knowing – perspectives being shaped by historical, socio-cultural and individual positions which may obscure the way we see the world.

  • To explore some of the responsibilities that may come with knowledge.


Syllabus Component


Knowledge Themes

The core theme – Knowledge and the Knower – encourages students to reflect on themselves as knowers and thinkers, and to consider the different communities of knowers to which we belong. There are then five optional themes, of which two are chosen to examine in detail, based on student interest. These optional themes are: knowledge and technology; knowledge and language; knowledge and politics, knowledge and religion; and knowledge and indigenous societies.  

Areas of Knowledge (AOK)

The areas of knowledge (AOK) are specific branches of knowledge, each of which can be seen to have a distinct nature and sometimes use difference methods of gaining knowledge. In TOK, students explore five compulsory areas of knowledge: history; the human sciences; the natural sciences; mathematics; and the arts.

Knowledge Questions (KQ)

The course centres on the exploration of knowledge questions. These are contestable questions about knowledge itself, such as: “What counts as good evidence for a claim?”, “Are some types of knowledge less open to interpretation than others?”, or What constraints should there be on the pursuit of knowledge?”. Through an investigation of ‘real-life situations’ students explore the implications of knowledge and knowledge / or knowledge controversies / issues.


Standard Level:

Internal Assessment: (33%)

The TOK Exhibition: The exhibition assesses the ability of the student to show how TOK manifests in the world around us. The exhibition is an internal assessment; it is marked by the teacher and is externally moderated by the IB.

External Assessment: (67%)

The TOK Essay: The TOK essay engages students in a more formal and sustained piece of writing in response to a title focused on the areas of knowledge. The essay is an external assessment component; it is marked by IB examiners. The essay must be a maximum of 1600 words and must be on one of the six prescribed titles issues by the IB for each examination session.

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