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When it comes to the Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate programs, why chose one when you can do both? Sticking with a single program might not be the best fit for you. Of course there are exceptions, such as if you are planning to complete the requirements for the IB Diploma or AP Scholar Awards. Both programs offer rigorous courses and exams that could lead to college credit, so take some time to learn more before you decide to stick with just one program.

Here are some things to consider when selecting which courses and exams to take:

College Credit Policies Vary

Besides wanting to challenge oneself, the desire to earn college credit before stepping foot on campus is often the reason why high school students take AP or IB classes and exam. Taking a combination of AP and IB exams might be necessary for you to receive the maximum amount of college credits. When researching colleges to apply to, check out their policy for credits you earn prior to your admission. A score of 3 on an AP test may be considered passing according to the College Board’s standards, but some colleges will only give you credit if you score a 4 or 5. If you have the choice between taking an AP course and exam that you potentially receive college credit for, or taking an IB course and exam that none of the colleges on your list offer credit for, the AP course might be the best choice for you. You would still be taking a challenging course and hopefully be able to get a head start on college credits. Another thing to keep in mind is that you are able to take an AP Exam without actually taking the class. An option would be to take an IB course at school in the same subject, and then self study so you could take the AP Exam.

A college might give credit for IB exams, but only if they are Higher Level courses instead of Standard Level. Always read the fine print so you don’t end up surprised when the fall arrives and you end up without any credits. For example, numerous people from my high school took the IB SL Math Studies Exam. They were not pursuing the IB Diploma, so they were not required to take the test for this course but they did because they were hoping for college credit. When the end of the school year arrived, many were disappointed to find out they would not be receiving college credit if they scored high enough to pass because it was a SL course. If you can’t find the credit policies on the admissions section of a college’s website, look in the college’s course catalog or email your admissions counselor.

Follow Your Interests

Both programs offer challenging courses. Don’t feel bad if you would rather take the course within a subject that you are more interested in, even if the other course is perceived to be the “harder” program at your school. Taking courses you are actually interested in, instead of forcing yourself into a class you know isn’t for you, will make homework and projects feel easier because you will be more engaged. For example, during my senior year I had the option of taking IB HL History of the Americas or AP U.S. Government and Politics to fulfill my school’s social studies requirement. I went with AP because I was more interested in that subject matter, but for my math and science classes I chose IB. Letting your interests lead you when selecting which AP and IB courses you take will make for a more enjoyable school year.

Know Your Learning Style

Although the courses and exams may focus on the same subject area, the way the AP and IB programs are set is different. Do some research about what the type of assignments the course consists of, or what is required if you decide to take the exam. See if you can find the syllabus from previous years of the courses you are interested in. Which novels would you be required to read? Is a large percentage of the class spent doing hands on projects? Look up practice exams too. Some of the exams may be better suited for your learning style. If you take IB HL English, an oral presentation is required in addition to the written part of the exam. In comparison, the two AP English exams require essays and answering multiple choice questions. Those should be the type of things you consider about perspective courses; don’t get caught up in if the course is AP or IB.



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the author

Cara Claflin is a senior who attends a public school in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Even though she plans to stay in Minnesota, attending college in a state that doesn’t have snowstorms in May is starting to sound appealing. She hopes to double major in journalism and marketing. Cara loves helping high school students make the most of all the resources available to them. At school, she is an editor for her school’s newspaper and takes part in a leadership group. When she has some free time, she enjoys dancing, listening to music, reading, and watching music and dance competition reality shows.

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