TOK optional themes

The optional themes of TOK look at five different approaches to producing and using knowledge about the world: indigenous societies, language, politics, religion, and technology, and how they affect us as knowers. Students look at two of these in detail.
We consider the optional themes via six ‘Big Questions’, which provide us with a framework to make sense of this part of the course, and link it to the other elements of the course – the core theme, and the areas of knowledge. Clink on the BQ images below to access a huge amount of free content, including quotes, notes, and media sources relevant to each BQ.
Members of the site also have access to the Exploration Points, which provide students with a checklist of essential terms and concepts, questions on the quotes and real-life situations, and suggestions for further research. To unlock the members-only features, join us via this page

Knowledge and indigenous societies considers how knowledge in smaller-scale, traditional societies is produced and used, and how this might contrast with larger-scale, industrialized societies.
Knowledge and language explores the relationship between knowledge and our forms of communication, looking at ways in which language helps and hinders us from understanding the world.
Knowledge and politics thinks about how the political affiliations of knowers can influence how they view and interact with the world, as well ways we can develop an understanding of this human science.
Knowledge and religion thinks about how having a religious perspective can shape the way we understand the world, and what constitutes knowledge within religious knowledge systems.
Knowledge and technology thinks about something that has become synonymous with the Internet, but which extends way beyond that, and has a huge influence on how we understand the world.

The 2022 TOK syllabus

Here’s our diagram for the 2022 TOK syllabus, indicating the nature of the different aspects of the course, and suggesting the relationship that exists between the core theme, optional themes, and the areas of knowledge.

Feel free to print out and display the diagram on your classroom wall – it should help to prompt some discussions with your students about why TOK is structured in this way, how the different elements interlink, and the reasons for the changes and additions made to the course.

The optional themes and TOK assessment

Your understanding of the themes is assessed primarily via the TOK Exhibition, whereas your knowledge of the AOKs is assessed via . Having said this, you should always remember that knowledge is interlinked and interdependent, so you should never envisage the themes (and areas of knowledge) as existing independently from each other. This is why we encourage you to think in terms of the Big Questions, each one of which requires a combination of themes and areas of knowledge to be understood and answered.
Your understanding of, and engagement with, the themes, comes via contemporary real-life situations. News stories, debates, controversies, issues, and experiences – at a personal, local, national, and international level should form the driving force of the lessons you attend, and the activities you carry out. You should be ready to draw on them to justify your opinions and assertions. Approaching TOK in this way will help you to get to grips with the overall assessment target of the exhibition: how TOK manifests in the real world.

Become a member of

We passionately believe that our pioneering resources for TOK are the best in the world, and enable teachers to deliver a truly life-changing experience for their students. In order to unlock all these resources, become a Full Access Member of the site, and set your whole school community up with the following features:

Revolutionary lessons for a revolutionary course

Our revolutionary BQ framework organizes the TOK course into questions, each one consisting of a series of fully resourced TOK lessons, delivered on beautifully designed Google Slides and Docs.


Learning based on the latest real-life situations

Our unique monthly TOK newsletter provides links to articles, videos, podcasts, and other media sources, and detailed suggestions on how to explore and unpack them.


The DP Integration Tool

The DP Integration Tool brings together the different elements of the DP, allowing non-TOK teachers to draw on the course to both enrich their own teaching, and provide an integrated learning experience for students.

Exploration Points

On every free content page, you’ll be able to access our Exploration Points section, with key terms and concepts to grasp, questions on the quotes and thinkers, and unpacking suggestions for the real-life situations.

Full support’s creator, Michael Dunn can always be contacted about the content of the resources. He is always reachable via email, and will get back to you quickly with a comprehensive response to whatever you are asking.

Sample content

Check out a previous edition of the TOK newsletter here, and look at some of our Big Question lessons on this page. Note that one of the key aspects of this approach to TOK is its updatability: we constantly add new lessons and resources to the Big Question framework, and you’ll receive a fresh TOK newsletter every month, making the course much more responsive and relevant to what’s going on in the world than the traditional textbook approach.

Contact us

Get in touch with us about the 2022 TOK course, our membership options, or any other aspect of TOK, using the contact form below. Find out who we are on this page, and what people have been saying about us here.

Cite this page as: Dunn, Michael. TOK optional themes (20 December 2015). Last accessed: 3 July 2020