Why Students Fail ToK Exhibition and What to Do Instead

The ToK Exhibition project isn’t as challenging as the Theory of Knowledge essay, but many students still fail to score top grades because several mistakes.

So in this guide, we look at the common reasons why IB students fail the ToK exhibition project and exactly what to do to submit an A-level file.

Let’s get started.

Key Takeaways

Many students fail the Theory of Knowledge exhibition project for the following reasons:

  • Selecting the wrong IA prompt
  • Picking objects without real-world context
  • Working in groups
  • Not writing the commentary properly
  • Failing to establish a clear, relevant link as required by the exhibition marking scheme
  • Starting to work on the exhibition project late
  • Submitting plagiarized work as your own

If you feel like the exhibition assignment is too difficult for you, click here to hire a commentary writer. Our team will help you get the project done based on the grading criteria used. Plus, you get the work delivered to you on time.

Reasons Why Students Fail ToK Exhibition

The ToK course is one of the reasons why IB is a difficult program, but you can navigate through by managing your time and studying right.

In addition to writing a 1,600-word essay, the course requires you to complete an exhibition, which accounts for 33% of the final grade.

To score a 10 for the commentary, learn about the most common mistakes that students make, as well as how to avoid them.

So, here are the seven mistakes that you need to avoid:

1. Choosing the Wrong IA Prompt

There are 35 IA prompts for the exhibition project, and IB states clearly that you can work on a prompt of your choice.

Unfortunately, many students just pick their prompts without careful consideration. They tend to pick what seems to be easy to work on from the face value, and then later realize they made a wrong selection because they can’t work on the exhibition.

So here’s the deal:

Merely picking an IA prompt based on suggestions from your peers or sheer excitement isn’t going to make the cut.

Here’s what you should do instead:

  • Read the entire list of the 35 IA prompts.
  • Pick a question from the list, making sure you base your selection on the ToK concepts that you find interesting to explore and on how Theory of Knowledge manifests itself in the world.
  • Find out if you can relate the question back to the core theme or one of the optional themes in ToK.

You don’t have to stop there.

We recommend that you find out whether the question is interesting enough to explore. At least your choice should focus on the concepts that you’d like to explore, even if you’ve not learned them in your classroom.

2. Not Selecting the Right Objects

There’s more to this project than just choosing the right question to explore. That’s why students who choose the right IA prompts but fail to select the right objects lose important marks.

We have a complete guide to ToK Exhibition objects. We strongly recommend that you read it and take notes if you haven’t already.

However, the summary is that you’ll fail the exhibition project if your objects don’t meet certain conditions.

To be on the right track to scoring 10 out of 10, make sure your objects:

  • Exist in a particular space and time
  • Are not generic symbolic
  • Have a real-world context
  • Are unique
  • Can link to the IA prompt and relate to the core theme or one of the optional themes

If you follow these guidelines to a tee, you won’t have to worry about ending up with the wrong objects for the project.

3. Holding Group Discussions

We understand how helpful group discussions with your peers can be. You get to share ideas, learn new skills, and stand the chance to write A-grade papers.

However, the IB ToK exhibition guidelines aren’t the same as for the previous presentation project. In fact, IB makes it clear that you cannot hold group discussions with your classmates concerning the exhibition project. 

The one thing that should be very clear moving forward is that the exhibition is an independent project. Therefore, you must research and complete it on your own.

If anything, the last mistake you want to make is to share your objects (or images of objects) with your classmates only to find out later that someone else chose objects similar to yours.

4. Writing the Commentary the Wrong Way

There are three possible reasons why an IB student would get the commentary wrong:

  • Negligence: Simply writing the commentary without looking at the instructions or understanding the requirements is a good way to fail.
  • Last minute rush: The very last hour can make or break your commentary, and often there are high chances of failing because you’re hardly well prepared.
  • Overwhelming assignments: Writing the commentary to get it done with because you have other assignments to complete could get you in trouble.

Our guide on writing the ToK exhibition commentary can help you to avoid these mistakes. So if you’re having a hard time writing, you should check it right away.

5. Starting Late and Pulling an All-Nighter


IB isn’t an easy program. You are going to have so much to do that a single strand of procrastination could as easily offset your chances of earning the diploma.

Start working on your exhibition in the last minute, and you could pull some all-nighters that might affect your output. Of course, there’s no guarantee for the best results.

The best advice we can give you is that you start early. Every IB student who starts early always gets the best results for the exhibition, even if those results aren’t 10 out of 10.

6. Getting Comfortable With Intellectual Theft

There is nothing worse in an academic setting than plagiarism. Yet some students get so comfortable with it that they don’t realize its potential effect until it’s too late.

Understand that submitting someone else’s work as your own is straight up silly and the worst academic felony that could get you expelled from the IB program.

The last thing you want to do is to present yourself as a careless, irresponsible, and silly student. Such negative virtues don’t align with the IB learner profile.

Do your own unique work. Start early and let your effort speak for itself.

7. Failing to Link Your Prompt and Objects to ToK Themes

Many students make this mistake, but it’s something you want to avoid completely for the best results.

Sure, the exhibition project requires you to choose an interesting IA prompt and three objects. However, you cannot score top grades if you don’t link them to the themes taught in ToK.

IB states clearly that you must relate the question and the objects to one of the optional themes or the core theme.

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