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Introduction to the TOK and how IB tuition can help

The TOK (theory of knowledge course) is a compulsory IB subject that all IB students must take in order to receive their IB Diploma. In this article, we would provide you with valuable information regarding the TOK course and how our IB tuition can help students in the TOK

However, unlike all the other IB subjects, it is not graded from a 1 to 7. Instead, it is graded from a scale of A to F. As you may know, the full score in IB is 45 marks, with 42 points coming from the 6 subjects and 3 points being decided by the student’s TOK and EE score.

Thus, the TOK is of considerable importance.

Since the TOK accounts for 3 out of 45 IB points, it can often mean the difference between making a university offer and not making it. It is critically important for IB students aspiring to top universities to strive for the best in TOK.

What is the TOK course designed for?

The TOK course is essentially a course to explore knowledge. This includes how knowledge is obtained and the process of knowing. The most essential question is “how do we know what we know?” in various contexts. It is an extensive course involving at least 100 hours of instruction.

Some of the major objectives are:

  • Develop an understanding on the construction of knowledge in academia and in the wider world

  • Develop an understanding on how knowledge is examined in a critical way

  • Become aware and develop an interest regarding assumptions made when constructing knowledge

  • Ability to critically reflect on one own’s assumptions

  • Understand the significance and power of knowledge

The TOK Curriculum explores 3 main components

  1. Knowing about knowing

The course explores how we know what we believe we know. Throughout the course, students are required to critically evaluate various knowledge claims, which is essentially an assertion about knowing something. Moreover, students would analyse and explore knowledge questions, which is essentially a question about knowledge. These materials are designed to help students understand the nature of knowledge on a deeper level.

2. Ways of knowing

Students will also study various ways of knowing, which are channels in which we can obtain knowledge. There are 8 ways of knowing in the TOK course, including: memory, intuition, faith, imagination, reason, emotion, sense perception and language.

3. Areas of knowledge

Areas of knowledge are essentially the different subject areas. In TOK, the main areas of knowledge explored are: indigenous knowledge systems, religious knowledge systems, ethics, history, arts, human science, natural sciences, and the mathematics. Through exploring these various areas of knowledge, students can gain a deeper understanding of knowledge

In order for students to get the highest possible score in the subject, which is an A, they would need to demonstrate their ability to:

  • Evaluate and analyse justifications to knowledge claims

  • Create evaluate, analyse and answer knowledge questions

  • Critically examine how various areas of knowledge create knowledge

  • Understand how various ways of knowing are used to construct both personal and shared knowledge

  • Evaluate and explore the relationship between knowledge questions, claims, ways of knowing and areas of knowledge

  • Show an understanding of various perspectives and points of views

  • Ability to explore a Real world situation from the TOK framework.

The relationship between TOK and other IB subjects

The TOK course is complementary to all other IB subjects studied. Firstly, the TOK course can help students understand how knowledge in different subjects areas are constructed. This can help students to develop a deeper interest in the subjects they study. Moreover, the TOK course can help students understand the connection between various IB subjects studied.

How would TOK help a student later on in life?

Many university courses require students to be able to question the sources of knowledge and to understand how knowledge is constructed and be aware of the ever-changing nature of knowledge. Thus, many elements of theory of knowledge is actually embedded in university courses and the TOK course can help students to prepare for this. Moreover, the TOK course improve students’ critical thinking skills which is very important in university education.

Moreover, as the media landscape changes in recent years, and the rise of social media, false information or fake news are being spread at a very fast paste.Critical thinking skills developed in the TOK course can help students to critically evaluate these information.

The major assessments

The TOK Essay

The TOK essay counts for 67% of a student’s TOK score. The IB would come up with a list of 6 different questions and the student would need to pick one of them to answer

The TOK presentation

The TOK presentation accounts for 33% of the student’s total score. It is a 10 minute presentation and the student can pick any topics that they wish

More information on a Tok presentation

The TOK presentation is a compulsory assessment as part of the TOK course. The objective of the TOK presentation is for students to apply TOK concepts in real world situations.

Firstly students would need to pick a real life situation that interests them and then develop a knowledge question, which will be the basis of the presentation. Then throughout the presentation, students would need to develop claims and counter claims regarding the knowledge question. In the TOK presentation, it is also very important to to explore various areas of knowledge and ways of knowing.

Key tips on the Tok presentation

Firstly, students need to be clear about what knowledge issues are. Tok is primarily concerned about what knowledge is, how knowledge is acquired and how do we know what we know.

Knowledge issues are questions aiming to analyse and evaluate the problems of knowledge. For example, knowledge questions can in the form of “how do we know…”. Another example of a knowledge question is “how does [a way of knowing] help is to acquire knowledge in an [area of knowledge].

As mentioned above, the central knowledge issue is introduced in the beginning of the TOK presentation. The Knowledge issue cannot be too general but it cannot be too broad as well and it must attempt to answer one of the 3 basic questions listed above (what knowledge is, how knowledge is acquired and how do we know what we know). For example, “to what extent is suicide ethical” is not an appropriate knowledge issue for the TOK presentation, because it is not related to the 3 basic questions. Another wrong example is “what ways of known can allow us to determine whether suicide is ethical”. This knowledge issue does address one of the 3 basic problems, but then it is too specific. A more correct example of a main knowledge issue is “what is the role of logic in the development of knowledge in mathematics”. After developing the main knowledge issue, sub-knowledge issues can be developed. For example, “how can we use logic to develop new mathematical theorems”.

After the development knowledge issues, students must develop claims and counter claims to answer the knowledge issues and the sub-knowledge issues. The structure of developing claims and counter-claims is the PEE (point-evidence-explanation) method. A claim is basic an argument in favour of the knowledge issue, and a counter claim is one that goes against it. An example of a claim is “logic is critical in the obtainment of knowledge in mathematics”, whereas a counter claim is “other ways of knowing are equally important in the obtainment of knowledge in mathematics”

A real world situation or real world event is important to be used in the TOK presentation. One way to use a real world example is to extract knowledge issues from it. Another way to use real life situations is to use them to support your claims or counter claims. There are no limitations as to what real world situations you can use. It can be an event on the news, or it can be something that happened to you at school.

To start off your TOK presentation, pick a real world situation that intrigues you. Then, you can try to extract one knowledge issue from the situation and make that knowledge issue the base of your entire TOK presentation. After developing your main knowledge issue, you can then develop sub knowledge issues to further extend your presentation, and also find real world situations to help support your claims and counter claims.

The actual presentation is an oral presentation, and much like a verbal essay. Most students, would choose to do a powerpoint presentation. This is the format that we would recommend as it allows students to lay out their arguments clearly.

At the end of the presentation, teachers would typically ask follow up questions. These questions are designed to help you and to get you to speak about important aspects you might have missed earlier. If you can answer the questions well, it is a great opportunity to gain back marks you might have missed earlier.

Key tips on the Tok essay

Each year, the IB would come up with 6 essay titles that students can answer. Students are required to pick 1.

Typically, TOK essays are multi-disciplinary, meaning that you will be required to explore multiple ways of knowing and multiple areas of knowledge. It is important to keep this in mind when writing the TOK essay. Having said this, it is obviously critical for students to have an accurate understanding of the various areas of knowledge and ways of knowing. This understanding will also allow you to develop the proper claims and counter claims.

Similar to the TOK presentation, you are required to develop knowledge issues revolving around the essay title and then develop claims and counter claims. It is critical that your knowledge issues are well constructed and that your essay flows in a logical manner. Thus, we suggest students to create an essay outline before starting to write the actual essay, to ensure that your essay is well constructed.

Another advice is to use multiple channels of research and to draw inspirations from various areas- ranging from newspapers, websites and your real world interaction. Then, you can use these research findings to develop your claims and counter claims.

In the introductory paragraph of your TOK essay, it is important to define the terms. At this stage, be sure not to use dictionary definitions. Wee recommend using official TOK materials such as textbooks to ensure your definitions are correct. Moreover, in your introduction, you should also clearly lay out the areas of knowing and the ways of knowing that would be discussed in the rest of your TOK essay.

How would our IB tuition help with the TOK?

Over the years, many IB students have contacted us to get help for the TOK. This is understandable because the TOK is a very abstract subject by nature and can be very confusing to students.

Our IB tuition can help students for both the TOK presentation and the TOK essay. Firstly, our tutors can help students to develop appropriate topics or knowledge issues, which interests the student and is relatively easy to score high marks. After that, our teachers can also help students to develop their claims and counter claims with appropriate real world examples.

If students come to us with a draft, our IB tuition can also help students to refine the draft to a level 7 quality.

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