ToK Knowledge Questions: The Complete Guide for IB Students

The Theory of Knowledge course guideline refers to knowledge questions as inquiries that focus on the nature of knowledge and what it means to “know”.

Knowledge questions don’t focus on specific situations, and they’re not subject-specific either. They’re open-ended and focus on knowledge. In addition to being generic in nature, knowledge questions in ToK investigate knowledge claims linked to real life situations.

In addition to questioning the ways of knowing and the areas of knowledge,these questions employ terms such as value, experience, culture, belief, and authority.

Key Takeaways

  • Knowledge questions examine the nature of knowledge and explore what we claim to know.
  • The questions aren’t specific to any subject or situation but generic in nature.
  • Knowledge questions use terms commonly found in the ToK vocabulary.

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What Counts as Knowledge Questions in TOK

Knowledge questions are concerns that guide your focus on TOK key concepts instead of commonly discussed topics within subject lectures. 

These questions are philosophical in form. However, you should connect them to real-world event and give evidence and examples from actual occurrences.

An issue counts as a knowledge question if:

  • It links to the course components, themes, and different areas of knowledge.
  • It considers the nature of knowledge, who holds knowledge, and the condition for accepting something as knowledge. 
  • It highlights the benefits and drawbacks of methods and tools used to acquire knowledge and uncover truths.

Knowledge questions start with phrases such as “to what extent”, “how do we ascertain”, or “what defines knowledge within”.

The questions may include terms such as experience, explanation, interpretation, truth, values, culture, evidence, belief, justification, or certainty.

Also, knowledge questions in TOK:

  • Explore the notion of what qualifies as knowledge and what doesn’t.
  • Distinguish between facts and fiction.

Characteristics of Knowledge Questions

Knowledge questions in TOK have the following characteristics:

  • They’re open-ended. Therefore, they can evoke investigation into the nature of knowledge and knowing.
  • Knowledge questions should disentangle approach biases, uncertainties, verification methodologies, and constrains on knowledge.
  • They question and address how we understand the world, ourselves, and others in relation to how we seek, acquire, generate, and influence knowledge.

What is NOT a Knowledge Question? 

Any question that requires a YES or NO response does not count as a knowledge question in the TOK course.

Also, specific questions, such as those you expect to get in your IB exams, don’t count as knowledge questions in the course.

What are the Elements of Knowledge Questions in TOK?

The following is a brief explanation of the four elements of knowledge questions in TOK:

1. Scope

Scope focuses on the nature and extent of various fields and subjects of knowledge. The element requires you to examine:

  • The relationship between areas of knowledge
  • The wholeness of human knowledge
  • The nature of the challenges that each area of knowledge attempts to solve

2. Perspective

Perspective examines the nature and significance of circumstances and viewpoints. It reflects on a student’s source of information, personal view, as well as how different groups see and approach knowledge.

Perspective may also include reflection on the evolution of knowledge and historical views. 

3. Methods and Tools

Methods and tools focus on:

  • Practices and techniques through which humans generate knowledge
  • The establishment of traditions, practices, and methodologies used by formal disciplines
  • Cognitive and material tool that help humans pursue knowledge, and how these tools have evolved due to advancements in technology
  • The development of conceptual frameworks

4. Ethics 

Ethics examine issues that influence investigations across different knowledge domains. In addition to linking between values and facts, ethics examines how epistemic and ethical values relate to each other in pursuit of knowledge.

A discussion on ethics in Theory of Knowledge should emphasize on knowledge questions implied by ethical issues under investigation rather than discuss the ethical issues themselves.

How to Write Knowledge Questions

You should incorporate terms and principles from knowledge theory when formulating a knowledge question. To enhance their prominence, consider highlighting these terms in bold.

For instance, you can start your question with “How can we know?” or include the term “knowledge” directly into the question.

For example:

  • “Does our grasp of mathematics possess greater certainty compared to our comprehension of scientific principles?”

For creativity, you can start questions with “How well is its justification?” or pose questions like “To what extent is the supporting evidence for X compelling?”

Good Examples of Knowledge Questions in Different Areas of Knowledge

The following are good examples of knowledge questions:


  1. Are mathematicians justified in having confidence in their generated outcomes?
  2. What is the degree of importance of emotion in shaping mathematical knowledge?
  3. In what manner does mathematics serve as a descriptor for our physical reality?
  4. Is belief a factor in the realm of mathematics?
  5. Is language a prerequisite for comprehending mathematics?


  1. What is the extent of statistics’ importance in shaping historical narratives?
  2. Does the language used to document History impose constraints on its claims and factual accuracy?
  3. To what extent does emotional influence affect the interpretation of historical events?
  4. How is our understanding of the past distinct from other forms of knowledge?
  5. Will humans ever achieve true historical objectivity?


  1. Is language a common element across all forms of art, including music, painting, architecture, sculpture, and literature?
  2. Is aesthetic beauty an essential requirement for art?
  3. How does art contribute to the comprehension of societies and individuals?
  4. Is it necessary for specialists to identify and acknowledge works of art?

Natural Sciences

  1. Is the theory of evolution certain?
  2. Do similarities exist between knowledge in literature and that in natural science?
  3. In science, is ancient wisdom more valuable than imagination?

Human Sciences

  1. How dependable are statistics in shaping business and economic choices?
  2. What is the level of reliability associated with economic models?
  3. Among emotion, reason, perception, and language, which holds the utmost significance in advertising?

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