Academic TOK

Overview: TOK Exhibition

If you’re planning to give the IB Diploma Examinations in May 2022 or beyond, the IBO has introduced an updated version of the TOK Course with a few major changes in the content and its final graded components. While past students had a TOK presentation marked internally and moderated externally by the IBO, for the new syllabus, students have to now write a commentary for an exhibition selecting 3 objects and explaining their real-world context.

Exhibition Assessment Outline:

Total marks: 10

Total weightage for the final TOK Grade: 33%

General Structure:

The TOK Exhibition follows a general structure that students are expected to follow. Primarily, the students have to select 1 of the 35 pre-formed ‘high-level knowledge questions’ and base their exhibition on that IA prompt. The students have to write a commentary relating their 3 objects to the selected IA Prompt in no more than 950 words.

The Objects

The students should select objects that are of personal interest to them, and those which the students might have come across in their academic studies and/or life beyond the classroom. Moreover, the objects selected must be as diverse as possible to ensure the exhibition depicts the ‘open-mindedness’ of the student. It’s not compulsory to select physical objects; the students can also use digital images for their exhibition as long as the images relate to the student’s personal interest.

Lastly, the IBO recommends that the students must not select generic objects from the internet; not only will it degrade the quality of the exhibition, but it will also decrease the personal importance of the exhibition to the student. A few examples taken from the IBO’s official TOK guide on what you can include are:

  • A tweet from the President of the United States;
  • An image of the painting Guernica by Pablo Picasso;
  • A basketball used by the student during their physical education lesson;
  • The graphic novel The Colour of Earth by Kim Dong Hwa;
  • A painting that the student created in their DP visual arts course.

The Commentary

The IBO recommends students base their exhibition and the choice of objects on one of the five themes in the new TOK course (Knowledge and Knower, Language, Technology, Politics, Religion & Indigenous Societies). This will help students narrow down the focus of their exhibition, making it more evaluative rather than informative. To achieve the highest mark band, the commentary should have the following features:

  • A strong justification of the particular contribution that each individual object makes;
  • The specific real-world context for each of the objects;
  • A clear link between each object and the selected IA prompt;
  • Well-supported evidence for all, or most of, the claims.

The Final Exhibition Presentation

Although this part of the process is not graded, the TOK Course can give students an opportunity for their exhibitions to be exhibited to an audience. A few examples of the ways in which the exhibition can be presented include:

  • A class of TOK students could hold an exhibition within one of their regular TOK classes.
  • Two classes of TOK students in the same school, or different schools, could host exhibitions for each other.
  • A school could host a TOK exhibition for parents and other members of the school community.
  • Students could display their TOK exhibitions in a “virtual exhibition”. (E.g. using an online virtual gallery space)

Conclusion: The commentary should answer the basic question of “how TOK manifests in the world around us” and as a result, students must carefully select their IA prompt and the objects. One important thing is that, although students have to present their ‘exhibition’ of objects in front of an audience, the commentary is the component that will be graded and thus must be given more importance.


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