All International Baccalaureate courses are not created equal. The IB program offers two levels of its courses: Standard Level and Higher Level. This also means there are two levels of exams. IB HL courses require more instructional time, and often require a two year commitment to be eligible for the corresponding exam. For colleges that do accept IB exam scores for college credit, Higher Level exams tend to receive credit more often than Standard Level exams. If you’re planning to take SL courses and exams, here are a few things to consider:

1. Finding SL Credits

Colleges that award credit for SL courses do exist! The IB Community Blog has composed a list of colleges to explore if you’re hoping to receive SL credit. These schools are both public such as the University of Texas at Austin and private such as DePaul University. Some only offer credit for SL exams if you have completed the full diploma program, while others will give credit for SL exams even if you only took a few IB courses. Read all credit policies closely and confirm they are still accurate by checking the college’s direct website. If you still have questions about which credits you would be awarded, it’s a good idea to contact your regional admissions counselor.

2. AP Test Option

It can feel frustrating to know you won’t receive college credit for the rigorous IB course you take. If the college you want to attend doesn’t offer credit for SL courses, you still have another option. Many IB courses have an Advanced Placement course similar to them. Although you may have to do some self-studying to prepare for the subject’s AP exam, if entering college with credit is important to you it will be worth the extra studying. Unlike IB exams, AP exam can be taken without taking the corresponding program’s course.

3. SL is Still Advanced

Although some IB courses are designated as Standard Level, taking any IB class shows colleges you are willing to challenge yourself and can handle advanced work. Don’t turn them down just because they’re Standard Level. I personally took IB SL Psychology even though none of the colleges on my list offered credit for SL exams. If you find a course you’re interested in that happens to be SL, remember your other testing options. Class selection doesn’t have to be solely based on which will lead to college credit. It’s okay to follow your personal academic interests.

4. IBO is Taking Action

The International Baccalaureate Organization is aware of the difference in how colleges award credit for SL and HL courses. So far, the IBO has visited individual colleges and presented at higher education conferences to spread the word about SL courses. With continued promotion of fair college credit policies and student awareness about their options, more students can have a head start on earning college credit. Earning early college credit helps lessen the cost of college and makes it easier to graduate on time, but remember that credit polices don’t have to dictate your college choice. Take time to research credit policies of the colleges on your list, but remember there are many factors to consider before making your final decision.

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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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