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.

Marking the TOK Exhibition.

Next up is the marking phase. The TOK Exhibition is an internally graded assignment. After the school teachers have concluded the grading, they will then select a sample and send it to the IB.

There, IB examiners will review and moderate the received sample. The moderation process checks and ensures that the marks have been awarded equally.

For the TOK Exhibition, students are graded out of 10. According to the TOK subject guide, marks are awarded based on how well the exhibition demonstrates how TOK manifests in the world around us. When marking the student’s scripts, IB teachers will be looking out for five areas:

  • Selection of objects,
  • Identification of the object’s real world context,
  • Explanation of how the objects link to the prompt,
  • Justification for inclusion of objects, and
  • Support through evidence and reference.

Though this stage is out of the student’s control, we are keeping it in as it gives us a peek at the marking rubric.

TOK Exhibition Prompts

  1. What counts as knowledge?
  2. Are some types of knowledge more useful than others?
  3. What features of knowledge have an impact on its reliability?
  4. On what grounds might we doubt a claim?
  5. What counts as good evidence for a claim?
  6. How does the way that we organize or classify knowledge affect what we know?
  7. What are the implications of having, or not having, knowledge?
  8. To what extent is certainty attainable?
  9. Are some types of knowledge less open to interpretation than others?
  10. What challenges are raised by the dissemination and/or communication of knowledge?
  11. Can new knowledge change established values or beliefs?
  12. Is bias inevitable in the production of knowledge?
  13. How can we know that current knowledge is an improvement upon past knowledge?
  14. Does some knowledge belong only to particular communities of knowers?
  15. What constraints are there on the pursuit of knowledge?
  16. Should some knowledge not be sought on ethical grounds?
  17. Why do we seek knowledge?
  18. Are some things unknowable?
  19. What counts as a good justification for a claim?
  20. What is the relationship between personal experience and knowledge?
  21. What is the relationship between knowledge and culture?
  22. What role do experts play in influencing our consumption or acquisition of knowledge?
  23. How important are material tools in the production or acquisition of knowledge?
  24. How might the context in which knowledge is presented influence whether it is accepted or rejected?
  25. How can we distinguish between knowledge, belief and opinion?
  26. Does our knowledge depend on our interactions with other knowers?
  27. Does all knowledge impose ethical obligations on those who know it?
  28. To what extent is objectivity possible in the production or acquisition of knowledge?
  29. Who owns knowledge?
  30. What role does imagination play in producing knowledge about the world?
  31. How can we judge when evidence is adequate?
  32. What makes a good explanation?
  33. How is current knowledge shaped by its historical development?
  34. In what ways do our values affect our acquisition of knowledge?
  35. In what ways do values affect the production of knowledge?