Think of high school as a big bowl of fruits, with each type of class being a different type of fruit. That is the best way I can distinguish IB and AP classes. We can’t compare them as the same type of apple, but rather as apples and oranges. Both are fruit, and both will satisfy credits for graduation, but the experiences are completely different. This is a comparative analysis that is meant to assist you in choosing classes.
I am an AP Scholar with Honors and my twin sister received her IB Diploma, so I have seen both sides of the programs.
Who runs the program?
AP: The Advanced Placement program is run by The College Board, the same organization that curates the SAT and PSAT.
IB: IBO, the International Baccalaureate organization runs the worldwide program.
Who can take the courses?
AP: Freshmen through seniors have the opportunity to take these courses, but the Capstone program becomes available starting at sophomore year.
IB: IB courses for high school students are catered to juniors and seniors, as most of the classes are cumulative over the two years. Your school may offer Pre IB which prepares freshmen for the rigor of IB.
Do the classes count as college credit?
AP: Most colleges will accept top scores on the higher level classes to count as credit for electives or beginner level courses. It is important to realize this only applies to US colleges.
IB: The standard level courses don’t earn you much college credit (but are required for diploma) and top scores on the tests for higher level courses will be treated about the same as AP scores. IB is unique in that it is an international program, so the credits will be accepted at universities around the world.
What are their missions?
AP: Offers advanced college level content for high school students to try to earn college credit through the process of research, collaborations, and communication. The classes are guided by objectives and standards that the teachers will use to shape their lesson plans to ensure the students are well prepared for the end of year exam in May.
IB: Offers an in depth, focused approach with its courses often essay based. IBO’s founding mission was to create world class students across the globe. In classes, students learn all the basics of a topic such as the civil war or cell theory and then get to explore their own interests through internal assessments, which are research topics.
Can I mix and match?
AP and IB: Absolutely! It is completely possible to get a certificate in both, but if you are interested in a diploma from both, then the IB’s standards will be too rigid for this. There are simply too many classes required to try to be a Diploma student and a Capstone student.
Is there a diploma?
AP: College Board has recently introduced the AP Capstone Diploma, which can be earned by taking multiple AP classes, and the required AP Seminar and AP Research courses within which an extensive research essay is required. They also offer certificates and other distinctions for scores on AP exams, such as AP Scholar, AP Scholar with Honor, and AP Scholar with Distinction.
IB: While one can earn an IB Certificate for completing a few IB classes, the IB Diploma requires the completion of 3 higher level (HL) and 3 standard level (SL) classes along with a 4,000 word Research essay, and 150 hours of volunteer service.
What types of classes are there?
AP: There are a variety of language and culture course, history courses, and science courses to choose from. The classes can be one or two semesters long, and correspond to an approximately 3 hour exam given in May.
IB: The higher level classes are two years, cumulative, and worth 4-8 credits hours at most universities if you score at least a 5 out of 7 on the exam. The standard level, one year courses aren’t as accepted by colleges, but are still necessary to acquire the diploma.
When are the standardized tests?
AP: All AP administered testing is done in May, whether or not your course was a one or two semester class.
IB: For standard level class, it is either November or May of the first year depending on where you are in the world. For the higher level classes, testing is after the second year in May.
What are the costs?
AP: Each exam costs $89 to register for, but some schools subsidize the costs. For example, all math and science exams at my high school were half price because the state wants to encourage students to take these exams, so the school covered part of the cost.
IB: Registration costs $150, and each exam costs around $100. You must take at least 6 exams to even qualify for the IB Diploma.
Are there any extracurricular commitments?
AP: As of this time, there aren’t any required volunteering type projects.
IB: The Creative, Action, Service aspect of IB is a 150 hour extracurricular requirement where you do creative, action and service outside of your school requirements. It is designed to ensure diploma students are well rounded outside of academics.
I really enjoyed taking AP classes, and my sister enjoyed her IB classes. Everyone has different needs and learning styles, so it is important to keep your needs in mind when picking classes. Both programs are interesting, and it would be beneficial for you to ask upperclassmen from both programs what they like and dislike about the classes. One school’s program could be great, but another’s could be mediocre. Keep in mind that choosing which program, or even a bit of both, is your decision, not your friends’ or your parent’s.