• Kristen Moon

IB or AP: Which is the Better Choice?


If you wish to enroll in a program of college-level courses, the International Baccalaureate (IB) and Advanced Placement (AP) programs will probably be on your list. Each program helps you enter institutions of higher learning with confidence in your abilities, and carries weight with universities. But which one holds better prospects? Here's a look.

What are the benefits of each program?

The benefits of both programs are quite similar. They offer courses intended at teaching you the skills and habits that will help you succeed at college. They prepare you for college-level work, improving your writing and problem-solving skills, and teaching you how to plan your time and studies to manage the challenging coursework at college.

IB and AP exams can be used to earn college credits. However, you'll need to check if your preferred college(s) offer credits only for higher level (HL) IB classes or also for standard level (SL) classes. AP credits can count towards actual college classes, and exam scores of 3 and higher can get you into higher level courses. Some colleges don't offer credit for AP courses but also don't require you to do the introductory courses.

How many classes can you take?

There is a total of 34 subjects in the Advanced Placement program. You can take one or multiple AP classes. Some high schools limit the number of courses a student can enroll in. As the program is challenging, students may feel stressed out if they take many AP classes in one semester. The AP exam consists of multiple choice questions and free response questions that can be answered in different formats.

The IB program has six areas of study. Like the AP program, you can choose the courses you want to take at the higher and standard levels. The IB program emphasizes critical thinking and students are encouraged to ask questions and develop their research skills. To earn the IB diploma, however, you have to take six subjects – three to four at the more challenging higher level and the rest at the standard level.

How do they compare on cost?

The registration fee for an AP exam is $92 (more details here). Many schools offer subsidies to encourage students to take exams in certain subjects like Mathematics and Science. IB exam fees are higher: a $160 registration fee and $110 fee per exam are charged (more details here).

Which one carries more weight with colleges?

Both IB and AP programs are recognized by universities in the United States and worldwide. As such, there isn't a preference for one over the other. What colleges are more interested in knowing is whether you've taken the most demanding classes and challenged yourself academically. They pay attention to the rigor of your courses, not just a high GPA. So, it's best to choose your classes with care, keeping in mind the expectations of colleges you plan to study at and the degree you wish to pursue. Examine what programs/classes your high school offers and make a plan to challenge yourself instead of opting for the easy A.

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