The ‘what’ of TOK refers to the knowledge produced by human thought. Human knowledge is divided into Areas of Knowledge (AoKs). Those units generally combine subjects which have similar methods, scope and goals. There are eight of them. Natural Sciences, Human Sciences, History, Mathematics, the Arts, Indigenous Knowledge, Ethics, and Religious Knowledge. TOK will not only make you look at these areas of human thought from a new perspective but it will also highlight the connections and differences between them in a way which will enrich your appreciation of each one.

Natural Sciences obviously focus on the knowledge produced by Physics, Chemistry and Biology. Their focus is of course the natural world although increasingly those subjects are also contributing to a Scientific picture of human nature. A typical TOK question could be “If scientific answers are always open to further investigation, how can we know when we’ve reached the truth?”

Human Sciences includes a number of subjects whose focus is the understanding of human nature and culture. Economics, Psychology, Anthropology, Sociology are the main subjects covered. A possible TOK question could be, “How can we know whether a particular example of human behaviour is a law rather than merely a trend?”

History is studied separately as it involves potentially all the other areas of knowledge. A TOK question could be, “How do we know whether the path of History is random or patterned?”

Mathematics is foundation of much of human knowledge and is therefore also linked to pretty much every other AoK in one way or another. One of the most central TOK questions in Maths is, “Is Maths invented (purely a product of the human mind) or discovered (does it exist in some real sense beyond human thought)?”

Ethics is not a subject studied very widely in schools generally, unless in the context of a Philosophy or Religious Studies course, but it does address some of the most important questions human beings can ask, e.g. “How can we know whether something is always wrong?”

Indigenous Knowledge deals with the traditions produced and preserved by the most ancient human civilizations. As such, much of this knowledge has been lost or is largely unknown, this unit tries to rediscover the insights and values of the people who came before us. A TOK question could be, “Is indigenous knowledge ever obsolete?”

The Arts is a many-faceted unit as it covers potentially all artistic disciplines. As such it is quite a challenging unit as it is not always easy to identify common traits between different art forms or traditions. One could address a TOK question such as, “Do the arts ever provide knowledge which can be used for problem solving?”

Religious Knowledge systems explores knowledge within the context of world religions primarily. It deals with issues such as the existence of God, whether religious faith is always irrational… A possible TOK question could be, “To what extent is it possible to test the competing knowledge claims of different religious traditions?”

You are not expected to cover them all but as many as possible will certainly help when writing the TOK essay.