AP vs. IB

Written By: Michelle Ramos-Aragon

Advanced Placement versus International Baccalaureate – both are programs offered at Port Chester High School. If one passes the exam in either, he or she can obtain college credit where money could be saved for the future.With enough credits, one can even enter college as a sophomore, saving money from a full year of tuition. But what are the differences between the two challenging types of college level courses?

The AP exam, which is scheduled in May with scores coming in July, is graded from a 1 to a 5. Getting between 3 to 5 is a passing grade, though depending on the college, some may only accept 4 or 5s. Doing well on many of these exams could win a student different awards such as an AP Scholar of Distinction, which could look good in a college application.

The IB exam, which is also scheduled in May with scores coming in July, is graded from a 1 to a 7. Getting between a 4 to a 7 is considered passing, but like AP exams, depending on the college, some may be more inclined to only accept 6 or 7s. Unlike AP exams which are generally traditional tests that are more knowledge based, depending on the IB exam, a student might be given different types of skill based assessments throughout the course as a  part of the final grade. For example, when taking IB Italian, in addition to a traditional exam, an Individual Oral (IO) needs to be taken where one speaks about a topic in the language to their teacher alone. Other courses such as IB Chemistry, IB Biology, IB Math & Analytics, and IB History require an Internal Assessment (IA) on top of the exam which assesses the student’s knowledge on the class by having them write a paper with their own research question on the subject. 

Another difference between AP and IB are the types of classes as well as the time spent on them. With AP, one generally has one class which lasts a year, but with IB, there are HL (Higher Level) and SL (Standard Level) courses that are available for the same subject. In order to pass an HL course, more hours of class time are required; therefore, many HL courses are two years, while SL courses are one year. This leads to universities only accepting credit from HL courses rather than SL. Although if the student is taking the full IB Diploma, SL can get a student college credit.

AP does not have an equivalent to the IB Diploma, which is a two-year interdisciplinary diploma that has international notoriety taken during a student’s junior and senior year. Being an IB Diploma candidate can be very beneficial as it looks good on one’s college application, and it can allow a student to gain many college credits, saving them a fair bit of money on tuition. In order to receive the Diploma and to be considered a candidate, one must create an Extended Essay of around 4,000 words with its own research questions based on a subject taught at school, one must participate in CAS (Creativity, Action, and Service) where a candidate must do a final project involving one of these values, and one must take many required IB classes as well as Theory of Knowledge. 

Both AP and IB courses are challenging with more coursework than regular classes. Yet, those from our student body do have (anonymous) comments giving their opinions:

“Although both classes stress me out, I think that AP classes all just depend on one day and how well you can do a certain skill which doesn’t really help everyone, but IB, I think gives  you more of a chance to do better.”

“IB classes could have more liberty at times since a lot of AP classes feel like they’re being taught for a test.”

“I have taken more AP courses than IB courses. That being said, I think IB has more opportunities for kids and it’s not like AP, where you have to pay to be a part of it. Other than that, I don’t think they’re that different but IB may help prepare you for the real world and college since more writing and critical thinking is involved.”

“I’d say the only difference between the two is that AP is suggested if you’re simply planning on earning college credits, but if you’re looking to enhance your skills and apply those skills to college, then IB is probably the best way to go. It’s because of these reasons that IB can be a bit more demanding and stress inducing than AP. Not to forget the IA’s it requires midway through the year.”

Despite the grievances with each program, the benefits outweigh the challenge, and many in the student body have decided to chase the challenge. If you decide to take these courses, make sure to stay organized and keep all your notes in a folder to go back to for any exams. Practice different skills needed such as essay writing or multiple choice. Look back on old exams to prepare yourself on what to expect. But most importantly, remember to take care of yourself first. If the stress begins to consume you, reach out to a friend or a teacher to help you because these classes, whether it be IB or AP, aren’t meant to be easy; they’re meant to challenge you, and there’s nothing wrong with getting support from others along the way.

One thought on “AP vs. IB

  1. Having taught both AP and IB courses, I can tell you that both courses are rigorous and require a high level of engagement and active participation from both the student and the teacher. That said, a student must consider many factors in making the best decision, including, your work-life balance, areas of strength and your future ambitions.

    I am not advocating on behalf of either, because I believe that they both offer different benefits to our students. However, just to add context both AP and IB Exams come at a cost. The difference is that the district has supported and budgeted for the cost of IB Exams. So, they’re not free but rather funded.

    Great article!

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