What is the Theory of Knowledge?

The Theory of Knowledge is an integral component of the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme. It focuses on the nature of knowledge and how it is acquired. The TOK course invites students to reflect on what they already know and how they came to know it.

 Students examine their ideas, reflect on their assumptions, biases and prejudices that they may have taken for granted.

The Theory of Knowledge course promotes shared discovery, rather than teacher-directed instruction, as students critically evaluate information sources, such as the media, to determine their credibility. Students learn other essential skills, such as distinguishing between facts and opinions and recognising what constitutes substantial evidence.

The TOK also enables students to make meaningful connections between their IB subjects. Additionally, the course emphasises key concepts, such as truth, values and interpretation, encouraging students to think critically and apply their knowledge to a variety of contexts and subject areas.

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What Will Students Learn in the Theory of Knowledge Curriculum?

Throughout the course, students deepen their understanding of the influences that have shaped their perspectives and the perspectives of others. Skills gained in the course instil a sense of cultural sensitivity that allows students to be more effective leaders. Looking at the nature of knowledge sparks discussions that lead from one subject area to another, giving students opportunities to make deep connections.

In the TOK course, IB students gain:

A desire for knowledge and an appreciation of how empowering knowledge is

An understanding of how individuals and societies construct knowledge

Appreciation for the value of transdisciplinary study

Respect for the diversity among cultures in terms of beliefs, practices and values

Recognition of the responsibility of having knowledge and how to fulfil that responsibility on local and global levels

An understanding of the nature of language and how to use linguistic skills to communicate ideas

TOK Structure and Assessment Criteria

The TOK course consists of 3 interconnected parts.

Core theme

Knowledge and the Knower. Reflecting on themselves as knowers and thinkers, students consider all the communities of knowers and thinkers they are a part of.

Areas of knowledge

Students explore five distinct knowledge areas: history; natural sciences; human sciences, mathematics and the arts.

Optional themes

With this element, students take an in-depth look at two of five themes that the class is highly interested in. Teachers choose from among the following: knowledge and technology; knowledge and language; knowledge and religion; knowledge and politics and knowledge and indigenous societies. These themes are all relevant to our complex global society and play a critical role in influencing our perspectives.

Students are evaluated based on two tasks that demonstrate their understanding of the course


TOK Exhibition

Students show how the TOK relates to the wider world through an individual exhibition. This includes a 900-word reflection piece and is internally evaluated by a teacher and externally moderated by an IB representative.


TOK Essay

Graded by an IB examiner, the TOK essay is a formal piece of writing on the areas of knowledge. The paper must be no more than 1,600 words.

Final TOK grades are calculated on a scale from A-E. The essay constitutes 67% of the final TOK grade, while the exhibition accounts for 33%. Used in conjunction with the Extended Essay grade, the TOK grade may contribute up to 3 points toward the diploma score.

What is Expected of the Student When Getting Started?

As they begin TOK, students are expected to:
Be open-minded
Compare knowledge across disciplines
Consider how they use emotion, language, reason and sensory perceptions to gain knowledge
Recognise how personal and cultural views impact the knowledge-acquisition process

Additionally, they will explore the nature of knowledge in six subject areas

English - First language

Human Sciences

Foreign Language





Co-ordinated Sciences

Natural Sciences


Real-World Applications

It is crucial for students on the small island of Singapore to understand global issues affecting the wider world and think about their own role in it. With its transdisciplinary approach, TOK encourages global-mindedness as students become increasingly open to respecting different viewpoints. Exploring what shapes those perspectives sets students on a journey of self-discovery as they evaluate how their own perspectives have been influenced.

Completing TOK instils in students a sense of responsibility for seeking valid, factual information. They also learn to respect cultural differences, a hallmark of global citizenship. The transformative impact of TOK promotes critical thinking and an enhanced understanding of knowledge and how it connects to the real world.

Learn more about IB Diploma at OWIS

IB DP Requirements

Extended Essay

Creativity, Activity & Service

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