Theory of knowledge (TOK) is one major component every student who is currently or soon to be enrolled in the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program (IBDP) should know and prepare for. It is basically a core requirement of the IBDP that encourages students to move from memorisation to the application of the knowledge they have acquired.

To put it simply, the TOK requirement focuses on the educational philosophy of the IBDP. This is important to note as you require the completion of your TOK in order to earn your IB diploma. To learn more about how this IB requirement is structured and assessed, here are some of the most important things you should know about IB TOK.

What is TOK and how is it structured?

The main objective of TOK is to make students aware of the interpretative nature of knowledge and the role that their ideological biases play in accepting and analysing information – whether these biases are retained, rejected, or revised in the process.

In other words, through TOK, students enquire about the different kinds of knowledge and the various ways of knowing. As such, it is composed almost entirely of questions like “how do we know X?,” “how does an individual judge which is the best model for Y?,” and “What does theory Z mean in the actual world?”. In essence, it is the critical examination of knowledge, assumptions and beliefs.

Through the discussions of questions like the ones stated above, IB students obtain greater awareness of their ideological and personal assumptions and develop an appreciation for the abundance and diversity of cultural perspectives.

How is TOK assessed?

TOK has gone through several changes over the past few years, particularly when it comes to its assessment approaches. As of 2020, the assessment of TOK comes in the forms of an essay and an exhibition. The latter form replaced the old oral presentation assessment that required students to apply TOK thinking to real-life situations. Here is what you need to know about each of the new TOK assessment forms:

  • TOK Essay

All IB students seeking to earn a diploma are required to write a TOK essay containing at least 1,600 words in response to a title they can choose from a set of six essay titles that will be prescribed for the examination. It is the IB that will issue the prescribed titles for each exam session. This tests a student’s ability to apply creativity, clarity and critical thinking when comparing and contrasting the chosen topic they are writing on.

Students must also apply the 8 areas of knowledge (AOK) which are the arts, mathematics, natural sciences, religious knowledge systems, indigenous knowledge systems, history, human sciences and ethics. Pick any two that can be used to expand on your chosen topic, though it is recommended that choosing two that can give opposing viewpoints can create interesting debate and grant in-depth analysis throughout your essay. Examples can be choosing science and ethics or religion. Students should seek to write well-developed ideas rather than sharing generalised points as that is how examiners can observe a student’s full train of thought and grade them accordingly to the critical thinking skills they have applied.

Your TOK essay counts for the majority of your marks. It comprises 2/3 or 67% of your final TOK grade. It is imperative to note that you must avoid writing your TOK essay in the style of your extended essay (EE).

  • TOK Exhibition

TOK exhibition is a new individual requirement that replaced the old oral presentation approach. Its primary aim is to analyse how students can apply TOK concepts to the real world. To complete this assessment, students need to choose one IA prompt from a list of 35 options provided by the IB, select three objects, and illustrate the connection between the IA prompt and the objects in a 950-word written commentary.

The exhibition essentially has 2 important parts: the presentation or display aspect and the 950-word written commentary, although the 950-word commentary is what contributes towards the final grade of your IB grades. Students should make sure that the pictures they used are taken by themselves and shouldn’t be shared with other students in their separate exhibitions. Each exhibited picture should also not be a generic item but something that holds a specific real-world context, something that exists in a particular time and space. An example would be a student’s baby brother as opposed to a generic image of a baby brother found on the internet.

The exhibition requirement is worth 1/3 or 33% of your TOK grade. It is assessed internally by your teacher and moderated externally by the IB. Take note that your exhibition should be based on one of the prescribed prompts, otherwise you will get a zero for your hard work. Additionally, it should be noted that your commentary should include proper citations and references.

Deadline for IB 2022’s TOK

Like the IB EE, the internal deadlines for the various stages of the TOK assessments are set by the IB schools and supervisors. This means that schools have the freedom to decide on the due dates of their students’ TOK submissions so long as their internal deadlines are in keeping with the submission dates set by the IB.

However, in general, schools set their TOK essay deadline in March for the May session and in September for the November session. For the exhibition deadline, on the other hand, most schools require their students to submit by May or June for the May session and by November or December for the November session. It is the schools’ responsibility to make sure all their candidates are able to submit their work on time.


Overall, TOK is a necessary IB requirement because it allows students to learn how their knowledge can be applied with greater awareness and credibility. By knowing how TOK is structured and assessed, you can have better preparations to complete this requirement and earn the IB diploma you have been working hard for.

Aside from TOK, the extended essay (EE) and upcoming IB exams are what you need to get ready for in the coming weeks. If you are having a hard time studying for the exams, especially in difficult subjects like chemistry and math, consider hiring an IB maths tutor to help you.

Here at QE, we offer reliable and comprehensive IB and IGCSE maths tuitions in Singapore that will help you prepare better and increase your chances of scoring 7’s in your IB exams. With the help of our seasoned and dedicated tutors, you will definitely find it easier to complete all your IB requirements. Contact any of our educators and advisers today to learn more about our tuition classes today.