Confusion is good
If you’re a little confused, then you’re off to a good start, because you’re going to confused a lot during the TOK course. TOK is all about wondering – and often your wondering won’t result in you figuring out a clear answer, and you’ll discover that the wondering is often the end product.
In terms of what it deals with, it’s essentially a critical thinking course, which focuses on five areas of knowledge, and five optional themes that are connected (but not limited) to your IB Diploma subjects. It deals with the nature of knowledge – epistemology – so it has a ‘philosophical’ angle, and draws on the ideas of many famous thinkers from the present and the past history. It’s probably best understood by looking at its aims, the fundamental one of which is simple: to help you think in a clearer and more structured way.
It’s a mandatory course because the IB considers the skills and topics that you’ll be learning during the course very important. TOK, alongside and CAS, is one of the three things that sets the diploma apart from other programmes of its type, such as A-Levels, and, makes the Diploma, dare we say it, a superior and more demanding course.
Assessment in TOK
You’ll be assessed in two ways. First you’ll design and deliver a TOK ‘exhibition’ which will be internally assessed by your school, then you’ll write an essay, which will be externally marked. You get to choose from a list of 6 titles, and given time in class and at home to complete it.
Together with your extended essay, the grade will contribute to the 3 extra points to your overall Diploma mark out of 45. Note that you have to pass TOK in order to pass your Diploma. Even if you have done amazingly well in your other subjects, you will not be awarded your Diploma is your grade in TOK insufficient.
TOK is about asking questions about what we know, about listening to the opinions and perspectives of others, about forming evidence-based opinions, and about trying to improve the way we structure our thoughts and ideas. It is about being critical but not cynical, interested but also objective, well-informed but not opinionated. It is about encouraging the process that Maria Mitchell talked about when she said:
We have a hunger of the mind which asks for knowledge of all around us, and the more we gain, the more is our desire; the more we see, the more we are capable of seeing.Maria Mitchell
But you’ll only truly understand TOK when you begin the course, research the issues, form your own opinions and try to defend them, and listen in class to your teacher and (above all) fellow students.
Discussion points on knowledge and the TOK course
Our ‘discussion point’ documents look at many different questions and issues related to the TOK course, as well as key theories and thinkers that have shaped our understanding of the world. Click on the link below to take you to the discussion point documents.
Find out more about the TOK course
This page outlines the aims and the structures of the TOK course for the 2022 syllabus.
Read about how our structure for TOK (the BQ framework) aligns with the new syllabus.
We’ll be adding some thoughts here very shortly on the role of knowledge questions in the TOK course.
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