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IB Theory of Knowledge Exhibition: Guidance and Ideas

IB Theory of Knowledge Exhibition: Guidance and Ideas

6 min Read|February 02 2024
|Written by:

Charles Whitehouse


The Theory of Knowledge (TOK) course is a fundamental part of the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme. The course is intended to encourage students to think critically about the nature of knowledge, and to consider the ways in which different areas of knowledge are interrelated. Students should demonstrate their ability to question the assumptions and biases that underlie different forms of knowledge, and to recognize the value of different perspectives.

The TOK Exhibition is an internally assessed oral presentation which makes up 33% of students’ TOK grade. It is a new assessment component, starting from the first assessment in 2022. The TOK grade and the Extended Essay (EE) make up a maximum of 3 points. If students receive a minimum of an A and a B across the two subjects, they will achieve the full 3 points.

IB Theory of Knowledge Exhibition Guide

Source: IB TOK Guide.

What is the TOK Exhibition?

The TOK Exhibition is an oral presentation which allows students to demonstrate their understanding and exploration of a real-life situation or issue through the lens of TOK. The exhibition is intended to be an opportunity for students to apply their knowledge and understanding of the TOK course in a practical and meaningful way.

Students create an exhibition of three objects, or images of objects, and write a commentary on each object. The total exhibition should be fewer than 950 words.

It is recommended that the Exhibition be rooted in one of the TOK themes:

Core theme - knowledge and the knower. This theme encourages students to reflect on themselves as knowers and thinkers, and to consider the different communities of knowers to which we belong.

Optional themes: Knowledge and technology; knowledge and language;

knowledge and politics; knowledge and religion; and knowledge and indigenous societies

You will have roughly 8 hours of teaching time to prepare for the exhibition task.

What are the prompts for the Exhibition?

There are 35 prompts which students can respond to. All three objects should link to the prompt.

1. What counts as knowledge?

2. Are some types of knowledge more useful than others?

3. What features of knowledge have an impact on its reliability?

4. On what grounds might we doubt a claim?

5. What counts as good evidence for a claim?

6. How does the way that we organize or classify knowledge affect what we know?

7. What are the implications of having, or not having, knowledge?

8. To what extent is certainty attainable?

9. Are some types of knowledge less open to interpretation than others?

10. What challenges are raised by the dissemination and/or communication of knowledge?

11. Can new knowledge change established values or beliefs?

12. Is bias inevitable in the production of knowledge?

13. How can we know that current knowledge is an improvement upon past knowledge?

14. Does some knowledge belong only to particular communities of knowers?

15. What constraints are there on the pursuit of knowledge?

16. Should some knowledge not be sought on ethical grounds?

17. Why do we seek knowledge?

18. Are some things unknowable?

19. What counts as a good justification for a claim?

20. What is the relationship between personal experience and knowledge?

21. What is the relationship between knowledge and culture?

22. What role do experts play in influencing our consumption or acquisition of knowledge?

23. How important are material tools in the production or acquisition of knowledge?

24. How might the context in which knowledge is presented influence whether it is accepted or rejected?

25. How can we distinguish between knowledge, belief and opinion?

26. Does our knowledge depend on our interactions with other knowers?

27. Does all knowledge impose ethical obligations on those who know it?

28. To what extent is objectivity possible in the production or acquisition of knowledge?

29. Who owns knowledge?

30. What role does imagination play in producing knowledge about the world?

31. How can we judge when evidence is adequate?

32. What makes a good explanation?

33. How is current knowledge shaped by its historical development?

34. In what ways do our values affect our acquisition of knowledge?

35. In what ways do values affect the production of knowledge?

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How should I choose my objects?

Students have quite wide flexibility in choosing their objects for the Exhibition. Students are encouraged to select objects that are of genuine interest and that they have encountered in school or in their personal lives.

The objects can be digital as well as physical. For example, students could include a photograph of an object such as a historical document or a real-life sculpture where it would not be feasible to exhibit the physical object. They can also use digital objects, such as a screenshot from social media, but they must be specific objects with a specific real-world context that exist in a particular time and place, including virtual spaces. For example, Twitter as a general media platform is not an object, but a specific tweet is. This is true more generally - the objects should not be generic from the internet or a generic object, but should be more specific.

The objects can also be created by the students themselves, but they must be pre-existing objects, not created specifically for the exhibition.

Have a look at our comprehensive set of IB Study Notes and IB Practice Questions, developed by expert IB teachers and examiners!

What are some example objects and ideas?

The IB gives these examples of objects:

  • A tweet from the President of the United States
  • An image of the painting Guernica by Pablo Picasso
  • The student’s own extended essay (EE)
  • A basketball used by the student during their physical education lessons
  • The graphic novel The Colour of Earth by Kim Dong Hwa
  • A painting that the student created in their DP visual arts course
  • A refillable water bottle provided to each student in a school as part of a sustainability initiative
  • A news article from the popular website Buzzfeed
  • A photograph of the student playing in an orchestra

These demonstrate what is means for the objects to have real world context: a Google Images picture of a basketball would be inappropriate, but the student’s own basketball is fine.

It would, of course, be a good idea to be more original than this! This is especially true because the IB are looking for some personal interest in the objects from the student.

Here are some new ideas by an expert IB TOK tutor of types of objects you could choose.

  • A painting or sculpture
  • A scientific technology
  • A historical document or artifact
  • A piece of literature or film
  • A photograph or video from your own life
  • A musical composition or performance
  • A news article, tweet or a podcast
  • A personal item such as a family heirloom or an object of sentimental value

For example, if the student chose the theme ‘Knowledge and Language’, the three objects chosen may be:

1. A language translation dictionary, with a commentary exploring the limitations of translating individual words without the context of the sentence or the speaker, based on the student’s experience of acquiring a new language and attempting to communicate with native speakers

2. A script from a historical play studied in school, with a commentary exploring what can be learnt about the past through the language in the text, which is rooted in contemporary ideas, but what knowledge may be lost in not being able to see the play performed as the playwright imagined it at the time

3. A piece of Grade 1 homework from a student’s primary schooling, with a commentary exploring how children’s ability to express their thoughts through language is limited by their lack of skills and experience

What are the assessment criteria?

The TOK Exhibition is marked out of 10 marks. The grade is internally assessed by the student’s teacher and externally moderated by the IB at the end of the course.

This is the IB’s description of an Exhibition which should be marked 9-10. The main assessment question is: “Does the exhibition successfully show how TOK manifests in the world around us?”

The exhibition clearly identifies three objects and their specific real world contexts. Links between each of the three objects and the selected IA prompt are clearly made and well explained. There is a strong justification of the particular contribution that each individual object makes to the exhibition. All, or nearly all, of the points are well-supported by appropriate evidence and explicit references to the selected IA prompt.


In conclusion, the exhibition is a dynamic learning experience requiring students to employ various skills, including research, critical thinking, and collaboration. It demands connecting different knowledge areas, demonstrating critical thinking, and effectively communicating ideas. The assessment, conducted by teachers and externally moderated by the IB, reflects the depth of student engagement. Incorporating IB tutoring can further enhance students' capabilities, offering targeted guidance to refine these essential skills, ensuring a more profound and well-rounded exhibition experience.

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Professional tutor and Cambridge University researcher

Charles Whitehouse

Written by: Charles Whitehouse

Oxford University - Masters Biochemistry

Charles scored 45/45 on the International Baccalaureate and has six years' experience tutoring IB and IGCSE students and advising them with their university applications. He studied a double integrated Masters at Magdalen College Oxford and has worked as a research scientist and strategy consultant.

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