Theory of Knowledge

TOK – or Theory of Knowledge – is a branch of philosophy and a core subject in the IB Diploma Programme. As an interdisciplinary university preparation course, TOK is designed to promote critical thinking in areas that will be considered for future study. These include History, The Natural Science, The Human Sciences, Mathematics and The Arts.

The course is devoted primarily to critical reflection on questions of knowledge, such as ‘What constitutes good evidence for a claim?’

The curriculum includes three areas:

  • The core theme—Knowledge and the knower: This theme encourages students to reflect on themselves as knowers and thinkers, and to consider the different communities of knowers to which we belong.

  • Areas of knowledge: The areas of knowledge (AOK) are specific branches of knowledge, each of which can be seen to have a distinct nature and sometimes use different methods of gaining knowledge. In TOK, students explore five compulsory areas of knowledge: history; the human sciences; the natural sciences; mathematics; and the arts.

  • Optional themes: This element provides an opportunity to take a more in-depth look at two themes of particular interest to teachers and students. The given themes all have a significant impact on the world today and play a key role in shaping people’s perspectives and identities.

There are no written exams in Theory of Knowledge. Instead, there are two components submitted to the IBO for assessment:

  • The TOK exhibition assesses the ability of the student to show how TOK manifests in the world around us. The exhibition is an internal assessment component; it is marked by the teacher and is externally moderated by the IB.

→ Learn more about the TOK Exhibition here.

  • The TOK essay engages students in a more formal and sustained piece of writing in response to a title focused on the areas of knowledge. The essay is an external assessment component; it is marked by IB examiners. The essay must be a maximum of 1,600 words and must be on one of the six prescribed titles issued by the IB for each examination session.

Further Information:

Click here to read the subject brief.

School Curriculum:

TOK Curriculum Goetheschule Essen


Maria Spree. Email: maria.spree[at]