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AP vs. IB Programs



As a high school freshman or sophomore, you have so many choices to make, and if you are at a high school that offers both AP and IB classes you have another tough choice.


AP and IB offer the most rigorous courses for high school students. Both styles of learning will challenge you and prepare you for college. Let’s explore each to see what is right for you.


The AP


AP (Advanced Placement) is a popular level of high school classes that offer college credit. College credit is earned through the AP exam that is taken in the spring – typically May. There are an array of classes offered in the AP catalog – AP United States History, AP Physics I & II & C (that’s a lot of physics), AP Music History as well as many AP Art classes for specific mediums. In total there are 38 AP classes – definitely some for everyone! No matter what you’re interested in.


Now to the learning, AP classes dive deep into fact-based knowledge that is preparing you for the AP exam. Two students at very different high schools taking the same AP Classes will have largely learned the same concepts. With that said you can expect a fair amount of reading in AP classes – and timed writing in AP English Lang (commonly junior English).

AP offers 2 other interesting classes – AP Seminar and AP research. The classes end in what’s called the Capstone, this is a great opportunity to do research and produce a high-level piece of writing. – need some help or tips check out this blog – (Dale – High School Research)


As for the AP exam, most subjects are broken down into multiple choice and free response questions. For the exact break down the AP has some great information about each test. (AP Courses and Exams – AP Students | College Board).


I have linked a table from College board that provides you with what score is needed at a specific college on a specific exam to get the college credit – also what college credit! It is a pretty neat! AP Credit Policy Search – AP Students – College Board.




The IB


Let’s learn a little about the IB – International Baccalaureate in order to make sure we have all the information!


IB classes


The IB is a set curriculum that when taken gives you the opportunity to earn an IB diploma – definitely an honor! In order to earn an IB diploma 6 classes must be taken, before we talk about the diploma let’s talk about what IB is like.


International Baccalaureate is a comprehensive curriculum that interconnects and builds on each other with 1 overall curriculum. For example, what you are learning in your Environmental Systems class may connect to your Economics class or your English class. IB classes stress analytical thinking and often can feel slower because your teacher is helping gather understanding of holistic ideas. Often you will be asked to think critically or work in a group with similar theories to develop ideas or answers.


IB offers 57 classes over many different subjects. There are different levels of classes SL (Standard Level) and HL (Higher Level). Higher level is going to have more rigorous content.

As for the exam, IB exams are taken in the spring and can help you earn college credit. Questions are typically open-ended or provide you with an overarching idea that you need to provide an answer for. Some classes have a verbal component on their exam as well.

You have the choice between taking individual IB classes or taking a group of 6 classes from specific subjects to earn a diploma. An IB certificate is awarded for a qualifying score on a single IB exam – not diploma.


The IB Diploma has some other aspects to it. First you need to have a mix for SL & HL classes across the core subject areas. Also, diploma candidates’ complete community service through a CAS (Creativity, Action, Service) over the two years of classes. Additionally, there is a Theory of Knowledge class that is unique to IB, the curriculum is exactly what the title sounds like, you study and reflect on learning and how people learn and gain knowledge!


After all that information, some key take aways…


No one program or set of classes is better than the other. They offer different learning and teaching styles. Take some time to find out what type of learner you are? Do you learn through memorization and repetition, or do you learn through discussion and investigation?

Memorization and repetition = AP / Discussion and investigation = IB


Are there subject areas that you want to dive into like Physics? AP has the most Physics classes.


Or do you want to learn Psychology while taking Social and Cultural Anthropology with a deep dive into Global Economics over two full years. – IB has that for you.


The learning possibilities and experiences are endless. It is important to make the most out of the classes you take in high school. For more advice check out a blog from (Dale Price on Academic Sequencing).


Your high school transcript is an important part of your college applications. A great Podcast from Dartmouth University Admissions – The Search, brings different transcript perspectives from admissions reps all over the country. Definitely give it a list Admissions Beat Podcast | Dartmouth Admissions – Season 2 Episode 9.


Remember that grappling with new topics and diving deep into the ones you love is learning and learning is GROWING. Both IB and AP offer different classes with a different focus. It is all about finding what is going to be the best for you!


If you would like to talk about AP and IB Pograms, schedule a free consultation HERE. We look forward to helping you PREPARE, APPLY and ACHIEVE in all of your college application tasks!




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