Some high schools offer the option of taking AP or IB courses. If your school offers both sets of curricula, how do you decide which to take? Colleges like to see applicants who have been challenging themselves in high school, and pursuing an AP or IB curriculum – for those who have the option – is a great way to do that. But what is the real difference between them?
The AP (Advanced Placement) program is a curriculum sponsored by the College Board that offers standardized courses in over 30 subjects. Participating colleges recognize the courses as equivalent to college-level work, and may offer college credit for qualifying scores on AP exams. The exams are offered every May, and scored on a scale of 1-5. The advantage of this curriculum, aside from the possibility of getting college credit, is that students have the flexibility to choose the AP courses that best match their interests, without needing to follow a pre-determined course plan.
The IB (International Baccalaureate) program is more structured. Students have the option to choose Standard or Higher Level IB courses, and they must take courses across a specific range of subject areas. The IB program has 3 required elements, as well: a Theory of Knowledge course, Service Learning, and an Extended Essay. Students can also get college credit for qualifying scores on IB exams, graded on a scale of 1-7. An advantage of the IB option is that it offers a cohesive curriculum that culminates in earning an internationally recognized IB diploma (there is also an option to do a partial program that culminates in a certificate).
Colleges appreciate the rigor and intellectual challenge of both curricula. If you have the opportunity to choose between them, consider the advice of your guidance counselor, and weigh that against how you learn best.