In 2019, the IB announced that the Theory of Knowledge (TOK) was receiving an update. This update replaced the TOK group presentation with the brand new TOK Exhibition.
The TOK Exhibition task assesses if a student is able to show how TOK manifests in the real world. This is done through object curation and written commentary.
The first assessment of this new format commences in 2022. Without much to rely on, the TOK Exhibition is relatively unknown. This guide will bring you step-by-step through the assignment, helping you to score an A for it.
Getting started: Selecting the Exhibition prompt
Let’s begin this deep dive from the very top: prompt selection.
Before IB students can start on their answers, they must first select a prompt. These prompts are released by the IB and are not unique to an assessment year.
There are 35 prompts to choose from. They are generally shorter (as compared to the essay titles) and also less directional. This gives students greater leeway in how they approach and answer the prompt.
When selecting a prompt, students have to note that they are not allowed to change the prompt. If a student has altered a prompt, they risk receiving a zero for their TOK Exhibition.
Curating the objects for the TOK Exhibition
After deciding on a prompt, the next step is to select three objects. These objects form the core of the student’s answer. Using them, student’s will illustrate how TOK presents itself in the real world.
The objects that a student may choose are not limited to physical objects. Digital assets, such as online articles and tweets, can also be used for this assignment. While the possibilities of objects are endless, students must abide by one rule. And that is the object must already exist. This means that students cannot create something specially for the Exhibition.
When choosing which to include, students should opt for items that are specific. A good way to check is to ask if the argument would still make sense if the item has been replaced. If changing the object makes no difference, then the object is not specific enough.
Objects should also preferably have a personal connection to the student.
Writing a commentary for each object.
After choosing the objects, the next step is to write commentaries to go with them. In total, students will have to write three commentaries; one for each object.
When writing the commentary, students will have to:
- Identify the object,
- Establish the specific context in which the object exists in,
- Justify the inclusion of the object, and
- Explain the link between the object and the prompt.
Though all four are necessary for a well-written commentary, the last two are arguably more crucial. So, instead of splitting the word count equally, we would advise students to focus their writing on the latter two tasks.
The summative word count of these three commentaries should not exceed 950 words. This will average out to approximately 300 words per commentary. Though 300 words may sound like a lot, it is not much. So, students must be alert when writing their commentaries. Rather than verbosity, students should prioritise precision and persuasiveness.
Checking the TOK Exhibition document before submission
The final step before submitting is to prepare the document for submission. There are a few things that students want to put on their final checks checklist.
First up, the TOK Exhibition title. The title must clearly state what Exhibition prompt has been used.
Next on the list is to make sure that the document is free from any identifying information. Keeping student’s work anonymous is one of the steps the IB has taken to ensure fair marking. Identifying information includes the student’s name, candidate number, and even session number.
Also, if there are several working documents, now would be the time to combine it into one file. At the end of the day, each student must submit a single file to their TOK teacher.
This includes the images of the three objects used for the exhibition. If a student has chosen a virtual asset, a screenshot must be taken and inserted into the document. For all images, students should take some time to check its resolution. Teachers don’t grade students for image quality, but it can still impact their perception of the overall work.
The last checks students should do is to check their citation and bibliography. All references must be properly and accurately cited.