Comparing Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate Programs

Often times, students and parents enter high school and are suddenly faced with a large number of choices; choices that will affect the future of the student and the parent both. One of these choices include, for many students, whether or not to join AP (Advanced Placement) or IB (International Baccalaureate).

As they contemplate this, many factors will influence the choices made, yet a complete understanding of the difference between the two programs would have to be grasped. The truth of the matter is: AP or IB is not for everyone. Many students will find one more suiting than the other. It’s all a matter on how a student works best, and what they have planned for their future.

The AP program is a national program in the United States that provides students with an Advanced Placement opportunity. The courses are difficult and challenge a student with advanced course work and a definite necessity to grasp the concepts that will appear on the test. IB works much the same way, providing students with a stimulating and difficult program that will often force them to work.

However, there are very definite differences between the two programs. AP is not necessarily a program, but rather, a series of classes that provide students with more of a challenge. Unlike IB though, students are not required to take ALL AP courses. Often times, students take AP classes that they excel in, and honors in classes that they have more difficulties in. For example, if a student excels in English, yet has difficulties in math, they will often take AP English courses and normal math courses. In IB, students are required to take ALL IB courses, providing them with difficult classes in all areas of their education. Without taking all of the required IB courses, students will NOT receive the IB Diploma at the end of their senior year.

IB often is viewed as a more restrictive form of education for students. In their junior year, students are fully incorporated into the IB program. And as such, they must take six courses. They have their electives, and then must choose a sixth subject, including another science, another language, IB Music Theory, IB Art, so on and so forth. Along with these courses, all students are required to participate in a class labeled Theory of Knowledge, which is expected to stimulate the mind. Along with these requirements, students are also required to perform a designated amount of community service hours labeled ‘CAS’.

CAS stands for creativity, action, and service. These hours of ‘community service’ must fill all of those categories and are considered a way to better the students education and over all experience in life. These CAS hours are necessary to receive the IB diploma. Also required to receive the diploma is an extended essay. This essay is expected to be a minimum of 4,000 words and is submitted to the IB board for review. Often, this essay can provide extra points towards a students diploma. Along with the essay, CAS, and required classes are many other written and oral works that will be submitted for review.

These strict standards do not flow over onto the AP side of high school education. In AP, the classes lead up to the test at the end of the year, where students are graded on a 1-5 scale. To pass the test and receive recognition, students must receive at least a three on the test. Often, colleges will provide credits to students who receive a four or five on the test. The IB tests are all graded on a scale of 1-7. To pass, students must receive a four on the test. If a student scores a 2 or lower on more than one test, they can possibly not be granted an IB diploma.

NOTE: Students who receive the IB diploma can often enter college as a sophomore or junior (as in the state of Colorado) but EVEN if the student does not receive the diploma, the student can still receive college credit for passing an IB test with a proficient grading.

As often happens, parents and students alike are confused by the significant differences between the two advanced programs. The choice is a difficult one, and it all depends on how best a student learns, and how much they want to put into their education. If a student wants to take a national perspective, than the IB program would probably be best, because it is an international program recognized around the world. However, if the student wants to major in other areas, such as theater, AP could often be the best choice.

It all comes down to what the student is willing to put into his/her education. Both programs provide stimulating courses, however, a significantly larger degree of work is needed to be rewarded an IB Diploma. Yet, as noted, a student could still receive college recognition for IB courses that are taken. The choice is a difficult one, especially as a student enters high school and is bombarded with questions about their future and college. However, with the right information, students can often feel confident about the decision that they make.