IB vs. AP | International Baccalaureate or Advanced Placement?
June 28th, 2021
Academics are getting competitive day by day. There is no surprise if you have started looking into different academic programs like IB or AP at an early age because, let’s face it, this is what time requires. Ready to figure out what option to choose International Baccalaureate or Advanced Placement? Let’s start.
As a parent, you always aim to ensure that your child is academically challenged in high school, which further aids them in getting admissions to the top colleges around the world. Having that said, students and their personal dedication allow them to explore different courses at school in order to nurture and excel in their interests. As such, IB and AP are two of the most prominent programs students can choose from.
One of the routes students go for is college-level classes which promote them academically and broaden their horizons. Two of the advanced courses students usually have to choose from are International Baccalaureate, commonly known as IB and Advanced Placement, known as AP. Both these programs offer high-schoolers with college-level experience through a variety of different subjects, which vary from Environmental Science, Computer Science, or even language courses such as Chinese Language and Spanish Literature. The decision to choose the subject, of course, relies on the hands of the student. One of the biggest benefits of AP and IB is that high-schoolers can sometimes earn college credit through the courses and often get exempted from certain introductory-level courses in their college.
Now, you might be wondering which of the two programs you need to choose from, and perhaps, therefore, you are here in the first place. While the high school you are enrolled in may offer both the programs, it all boils down to which of the two meets your preferences. Let’s jump into some background information on both the IB and AP and discuss their pros and cons. All and all, this will help you in making the right choice!
Background and Philosophy of IB (International Baccalaureate)
The IB goes back to 1968 when it was first introduced in Geneva and was introduced in the United States later in 1971. Since its start, International Baccalaureate is recognized all over the world due to its global education offerings. The aim of IB programs is to ensure that students are prepared for a globalized society.
IB programs are commonly known as IB Diploma. The curriculum of the diploma is designed for the age groups of students belonging to 16 to 19 years of age. This age group falls for students going to 11th and 12th grades.
The IB diploma comprises of six different subjects, which the students must study. These include:
- Theory of Knowledge (ToK)
- Language and literature
- Acquisition of language
- Societies and individuals
The courses are offered at a high level (HL) and a standard level (SL) and students can take the courses on either level, depending on their expertise and knowledge. For an IB diploma to be received in HL, a student has to take at least 3 courses of the level. Overall, IB offers itself as a comprehensive program that prepares students with the best of their knowledge.
Be prepared to complete numerous academic papers during the International Baccalaureate Diploma programTherefore, you should be ready to spend hours, days, and weeks completing your IB projects. Such as for example 4000 words IB extended essay, or 1600 words IB ToK Essay, not forgetting about several IB Internal Assessments you should complete during the academic year.
Is IB Diploma a Widespread Program?
In the US, IB might be referred to as a small program, which is relatively growing as every academic year passes. According to the official source, 945 schools in the US offer IB programs and diplomas. Additionally, international schools in different parts of the world and those functioning in the US offer IB programs exclusively.
What is the View of Colleges on IB? Is it Beneficial?
Just like any qualified and ranked diploma, getting the IB diploma is not a piece of cake and colleges are fully aware of it. In the IB diploma, students are required to complete projects in addition to the coursework. For instance, a 4000-word research project (IB extended essay) and performing community service are a must-to-do for the completion of the diploma. When colleges reflect that you have an International Baccalaureate diploma under your belt, they become fully aware of your dedication to yourself and the community. Colleges love to see initiative by students, and you enrolling yourself in a comprehensive diploma stands as a testament to your dedication.
You can read my other article where I share all the similarities and differences between IA and EE for IB students.
In the US, 1662 universities recognize the IB diploma. Some of these universities also provide credit for courses. The best thing to do here is to shortlist and finalize which university recognizes and credits for the diploma and then go ahead with the decision to take it up. You need to be sure before making the decision. You may also find how some of the schools offer placement instead of course credit. This means that if your HL score was high, then the student might be able to enroll in a higher, more advanced level of Physics course as a freshman rather than taking the general, hundred-level course like other students.
On the other hand, you might see how some of the state schools in the US offer course credit. This means the student can use the score which counts as a college class. For example, the University of California has a ’30 for 30’ policy, which means that if a student received 30 or more score, they will be given 20-semester units. Oregon State and CUNY also have the same policy (three schools for you to consider if you are leaning towards IB diploma).
Background and Philosophy of AP (Advanced Placement)
Founded by the Americans in the 1950s, Advanced Placements is a US-based educational program. The AP was developed in response to preparing the students for the world with respect to Cold War. Since then, students from all over the country have shown interest in enrolling themselves in AP.
Currently, the intention of AP is to allow elite college freshmen to engage through suitable subjects and coursework. It is regarded as a program that uplifts and grooms gifted students by offering them a more challenging outlook on academics.
The College Board, a non-profit organization is responsible for administering the AP program. It is the same board that is in charge of Common App, PSATs and SATs. Meanwhile, if you are in need of Common App essay assistance, check this link. The College Board has two important missions:
- Offering students with challenging college-level subjects and coursework
- Motivate students to get college credit or to skip introductory-level courses!
What sets the AP program different from the IB diploma is that the AP was not created to offer students with a cohesive and comprehensive curriculum. What it does instead is to offer students a choice to choose from 38 different courses in 7 different subject areas, which include:
- Cultures and world languages
- Computer sciences and Math
- Social sciences and History
- AP Capstone
The choice of choosing the subjects is entirely up to the student and often depends on what the school they are enrolled in has to offer. On the other hand, one might be able to study on their own for the AP exam in case the school does not offer a specific subject.
What is the View of Colleges on AP? Is it Beneficial?
As shared by the College Board, more than 22,170 schools offer students the opportunity to study in the AP program. In comparison, finding an AP subject is easier than the IB program.
Furthermore, another offering of AP is that you can take the courses online. For instance, if you are interested in Johns Hopkins Talented Youth or SCOUT by the University of California, you can take the AP classes online. Additionally, this allows the child to prepare themselves individually for the exam as well. If the student is motivated, this goes to show to universities how grounded he or she is with respect to their aspirations.
Nearly every college in not just in the US but in Canada as well accepts AP scores and offers credit and placement. Additionally, international universities all over the world also recognize the program. The College Board has an online tool that allows students to see which institutes accept the scores, which makes it easier for the students to make the decision.
Now when compared to IB programs, as you read above as well, different institutes have different policies which shift between placement and credit, which isn’t the case with AP scores. For instance, the University of Maryland accepts 3 to 5 AP score and give credit in various subjects. Another example is of Haverford College, AP exam score between 4 to 5 offer students with four-course credits. Dartmouth, on the other hand, exempts their students from taking introductory classes and offers them placements in higher levels, but keep in mind that these may not be included in the graduation.
Conclusively, when enrolled in AP program, a student can benefit themselves in two ways:
- Show drive and motivation which can help with admission to a top school
- Earn credit and graduate early and also avoid student loan/debt
Final Takeaways: Which One to Choose Over Which?
1. AP is affordable, convenient to obtain and offers a number of options:
The majority of the high schools in the US offer AP courses, which in comparison to IB diploma is a blessing because IB courses are not as commonly obtained. IB curriculum is comprehensive, which is indeed a pro in its nature but then again takes away the freedom of flexibility, something which AP utilizes to its benefit. AP can be more like a self-study program. The cost of the tests for AP is also cheaper compared to the IB diploma. There is no enrolment fee if the student just wants to apply and give the test.
2. IB offers realistic preparation to students wanting to go to Liberal Arts and offers a well-rounded curriculum
One of the stark differences between IB and AP is that IB offers a holistic diploma experience with its research essay, critical thinking component and community service aspect, offering students a first-hand experience of college before college even begins. IB is a great opportunity for those students who wish to advance in the subjects they are aware they can excel in. The community service component shows that the student deeply cares about the society they belong to and acts as an aid towards their applications to college.
3. Colleges Accept IB and AP similarly
At the end of the day, what colleges really look at is how a student is capable of challenging themselves academically. So, it all boils down to taking initiative and not which of the two you should be leaning towards.
As mentioned by Yale, it is appreciated when students take advantage of IB and AP courses that are offered to them in their schools. On the other hand, Princeton says the same with respect to enrolling in either IB or AP program. While AP is more widely accepted, colleges that accept IB also reward students in a more constructive manner. You need to keep in mind which of the colleges act as your dream choice and then make the decision accordingly.
Both programs come with a wide range of subjects that feeds into different interests. You get to decide which one you are inclined towards the most and choose accordingly. Keep in mind that regardless of the choice you make, be sure that you are ready for the challenge that comes with it. While IB has numerous academic and practical elements, AP has a lot of self-study involved. Finding the much-needed time to be involved in either one of the programs can be tasking, but not impossible. In the end, it depends on how you want to reach the finish line.
In the end, what matters is the dedication and the comfort of the child. A student, in as early as this in their lives should be able to explore different options academically and be a better judge of what interests them. Both the programs are highly efficient and you cannot go wrong with either one. What matters is how the student manages to excel in them. In the end, colleges will see that you took responsibility and took advantage of the options that were being offered to you in school. In shorter words, it is really a win-win.
Are you a fan of the International Baccalaureate or Advanced Placement? Share your ideas in the comments section below 😉
Vasy Kafidoff is a co-founder and CEO at Writing Metier, who has a keen interest in the academic world and technology. He is a cryptoromantic and blockchain enthusiast for more than 5 years now, and he is excited about the way technology shapes financial and educational systems.
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