** TOK has gone through a curriculum review over the past couple of years, and starting in 2013, there is completely new version of this course being taught for students taking final exams in 2015. **

Theory of Knowledge (TOK) is a much like the glue that holds everything else (subjects of Groups 1 – 6) together. Knowledge on the whole is rather broad, and it is only classified into various disciplines such as languages, humanities, sciences, mathematics and the arts to help distinguish one from the other. Nonetheless, throughout this course, there are some key motifs and concepts which students will find in numerous places, regardless of the discipline they have chosen. These concepts will be studied in greater detail within the TOK course.

Knowledge

At the very beginning of the TOK course, students are expected to answer some basic questions like:
  • What is knowledge?
  • How does knowledge come about?
  • How do we agree on what counts as knowledge?
  • How do we 'know' something?
Students have to learn to distinguish between 'personal knowledge' and 'shared knowledge.' Although the two are very often interlinked, students will have to develop their thinking to isolate one from the other, and make their judgements based on the more appropriate choice in determining whether something is 'true' or not.

Claims and Questions

In TOK, students are expected to question and assess the validity of 'knowledge' in general. More specifically, they have to investigate the basis of a particular claim, whether it is something related to the bigger world, or whether it is about knowledge itself. This will involve the students to think critically, and apply their investigative skills, especially during the TOK Presentation. Additionally, students are also expected to question knowledge, in terms of how knowledge was constructed or derived in the first place. These are open ended questions, and often they have very subjective responses, since they involve various 'ways of knowing' and span various 'areas of knowledge'. Students will learn how to consider multiple perspectives and balance their arguments in supporting their opinions and conclusions.

Areas of Knowledge

Previously only four, the TOK course now identifies eight 'ways of knowing', which students will explore in greater detail throughout the course:
  • Language
  • Sense Perception
  • Emotion
  • Reason
  • Imagination
  • Faith
  • Intuition
  • Memory

Ways of Knowing

The eight distinct 'areas of knowledge' (with corresponding Subject Group designations) that are explored in the TOK course include:
  • Languages (Group 1 and 2)
  • History (Group 3)
  • Ethics (Group 3, 6)
  • Religious Knowledge Systems (Group 3)
  • Indigenous Knowledge Systems (Group 3, 6)
  • Natural Sciences (Group 4)
  • Physical Sciences (Group 4)
  • Mathematics (Group 5)

Critical Thinking

'Critical thinking' is broadly defined as the ability to think through a claim and decide whether to accept it, question it or reject it. This is a crucial skill, not just for students pursuing the IB Diploma, but for everyone who has to make a crucial decision at any stage in life. It is through TOK that students will hone their critical thinking skills, which will enable them to question claims by:

  • Applying theory to understand the practical situation
  • Paying attention to the context
  • Using theoretical techniques and methods to assess the situation
  • Observing data, gathering evidence
  • Using appropriate criteria to make an adequate judgement


There are many diverse ways of knowing, and therefore critical thinking relies on more than just logic for making a valid judgement. One must balance such things as accuracy and precision, breadth and depth, while keeping a careful eye for biases. Opinions shape our world view, so it is a challenge to remain objective outside of one's own biases and limitations. Critical thinking and healthy discussion of opinions is therefore critical for success in TOK as well as in all our lives.
*The consultation that will be provided here is a compilation of our own experience, as well as the information contained in Diploma Programme: Theory of knowledge Guide (IBO, Apr 2013)