AP vs. IB: Which Should I Take?

For which grades are IB and AP subjects offered?

One of the most important structural differences between the AP and IB programmes is when they are offered. Students will typically take the AP between Grades 9 to 12 at US high schools. On the other hand, the IB is split into different programmes depending on grade level. It is for students ranging from primary school (IB PYP), to middle school (IB MYP), to high school (IB DP). The Diploma Programme (DP) occurs in the final two years of secondary school.

How are AP and IB courses graded?

AP courses have a maximum of 5 points for each exam. IB courses, on the other hand, have a maximum of 7 points. To qualify for the IB diploma, students must complete 6 IB courses and three additional required IB courses (Theory of Knowledge, Extended Essay, and CAS for one point each). The scores from each of these add together to form a combined score (for a maximum of 45 points: 42 + 3). To receive the IB diploma, students must have a minimum combined score of 24 points.

How do AP and IB courses differ in terms of content?

Generally speaking, AP courses are more content-heavy and test how well students have retained and understood information from the course. In that way, AP courses are similar to the SAT, ACT, and other American standardized tests. This is no surprise, given that the Collegeboard writes both the SAT and AP exams. Meanwhile, IB courses tend to focus less heavily on content and more closely on developing problem solving and critical thinking skills. IB courses train students to analyze topics from an interdisciplinary perspective and try to get students to see the underlying connections between topics.

How do college and university admissions view AP and IB courses?

AP and IB courses are a great addition to your college admissions application. Both programmes are highly respected. Universities appreciate the rigorous learning each programme requires of its students. That said, the AP programme is an American programme and is, therefore, more prevalent and well-known within the United States. Outside of the United States, the AP programme may not be as well-known. However, the AP programme is still highly regarded by many universities around the globe. The IB programme, on the other hand, is a global programme without any kind of American bias.

So should I follow the AP or IB curriculum?

Deciding whether to follow the AP or IB programmes depends on a number of factors. These include your personal learning style, your post-secondary school goals, and the opportunities available at your school. Many schools will only offer one or the other. In that case, your choice has essentially been made for you. If you do have a choice over which programme to take, then you should evaluate which programme is most suitable for your learning style. If you are still unsure about which programme to follow, then hiring a private tutor could help. Private tutors know the AP and IB courses inside and out and can help match your skill set with one or the other. Private tutors are also deeply familiar with AP and IB course content and can help you as you advance through each programme while also preparing you for other college admissions components like SAT and ACT exams.

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