The previous three blogs have focused on a general introduction to TOK, an overview of the content of the course (Areas of Knowledge) and a look at the methods for producing knowledge (Ways of Knowing) found in the course. This final Pre-IB blog looks at the way in which TOK is assessed. This consists of an externally assessed piece, the TOK Essay, and an internally assessed piece, the TOK Presentation. Both are necessary in order to pass the TOK component and therefore be able to receive the Diploma. Your TOK score contributes, with the Extended Essay, up to three points depending on the quality of both, to your total score of IBDP points (maximum 45).

The TOK essay is a written answer to one of six titles released at the beginning of your second year (DP2). The maximum word length is 1600 words. How and when the essay is written will very much depend on your school. The essay titles will change for every session (May and November each year) although the focus very much remains the nature, production, acquisition and application of knowledge. You will be expected to demonstrate your ability to know and use TOK concepts effectively, to explain and apply them using some chosen Areas of Knowledge and Ways of Knowing. Typically, you will not be expected to explore more than two/three of each or either although this will be very much determined by your chosen title. The top grade (10/10) will be awarded to those essays which have a sustained focus on TOK, an effective understanding and use of TOK concepts, a clear and coherent structure and evidence of individual engagement and orignal thinking. Your teachers will give a predicted mark but the essay is assessed externally. If this sounds rather daunting, remember the vast majority of IB students worldwide manage this perfectly well.

The TOK Presentation is an oral answer to a question created by you. The IB allows for individuals, pairs or groups of three to give a presentation. The length of the presentation is determined by the number of students involved, ten minutes for each. Pairs and groups of three answer a single question, they just do so in more detail. The question to be answered must be a Knowledge Question and it must emerge from a Real Life Situation (a real event).  This RLS can be a personal experience or some real event in the modern world or in the past. The knack is to know how to extract a Knowledge Question from an RLS, once this is done the rest should follow relatively easily. For example, the 1962 Cuban Missile crisis (AoK History) could be used to explore the role of personal and shared perspectives and how the latter shape knowledge in History. There is no real limit in terms of which RLS you choose, although you must make sure to clearly connect the TOK material (AoKs/WoKs etc…) to your chosen RLS. The TOK presentation will include a document (TOKPPD) in which your presentation’s key ideas and points are summarized. It will be assessed by your teachers but may be moderated by IB examiners (i.e. they will assess whether your TOKPPD warrants the mark you have been awarded), the maximum mark is 10/10. In my experience most students end up creating very interesting and thought-provoking presentations, so nothing to fear here either.

Many students initially find TOK disconcerting and difficult, but in the end most genuinely value the way in which it challenges but also enriches their thinking.