Theory of Knowledge

TOK is a core component of the IB Diploma Programme. All Diploma students are scheduled for this class in 2nd semester 11th grade and 1st semester 12th grade.

“The TOK course,…, encourages critical thinking abut knowledge itself, to try to help young people make sense of what they encounter, Its core content is questions like these: What counts as knowledge? How does it grow? What are its limits? Who owns knowledge? What is the value of knowledge? What are the implications of having, or not having, knowledge?

What makes TOK unique, and distinctly different from standard academic disciplines, is its process. At the centre of the course is the student as the knower. Students entering the Diploma Programme typically have 16 years of life experience and more than 10 years of formal education behind them. They have accumulated a vast amount of knowledge, beliefs and opinions from academic disciplines and their lives outside the classroom. In TOK they have the opportunity to step back from this relentless acquisition of new knowledge, in order to consider knowledge issues.” (Theory of Knowledge guidelines, IBO, 2006)

TOK diagram(diagram from Theory of Knowledge guidelines, IBO, 2006)

TOK classes involve active participation in every lesson through readings, research, discussions, seminars, presentations and written work. Students (the knowers) explore the Areas of Knowledge (AoK) in six subject areas (mathematics, natural sciences, human sciences, history, the arts and ethics) through four Ways of Knowing (Wok), namely sense perception, language, emotion and reason.

Simply put the teacher and students explore and interpret the world by answering two questions: “What do I know?” (areas of knowledge) and “How do I know?” (ways of knowing).


Theory of Knowledge is assessed in two ways:

Internal Assessment: Presentation to the class (individual or small group)

External Assessment: Essay on a prescribed title (1200 – 1600 words).

Both assessments have published rubrics used by teachers and examiners and known by students. Theory of Knowledge is graded on an A-E scale:

A Excellent; B Good; C Satisfactory; D Mediocre; E Poor

The scores from Theory of Knowledge and Extended Essay provide the basis for the award of up to 3 bonus points to the overall diploma score.

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