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Advanced Placement Courses vs International Baccalaureate Curriculum

What are Advanced Placement courses and International Baccalaureate courses?

Advanced Placement (AP) courses and International Baccalaureate (IB) programs offer high school students challenging courses that will help them to secure college credit. You may be wondering what the differences are between these two programs. In this article, we will discuss the main differences between AP Courses and IB programs.

IB Programs Explained

This was launched in the United States of America in 1971; however, it began in Geneva in 1968. International Baccalaureate, as the name suggests, is an international program geared towards empowering students to function in a globalized society.

When this program is discussed in the context of an American high school, the IB Diploma Program is usually meant. This is designed for students between ages 16-19 or grades 11 to 12. There are six subject groups in the IB program. They are language and literature, language acquisition, individuals and societies, sciences, mathematics, and the arts.

AP Classes Explained

An Advanced Placement class is an American program that was started in the 1950s. This program came as a response to concerns during the Cold War that students were not being adequately prepared for the professional world. The main drive of AP classes today is to offer talented students more challenging courses.

Students who attend AP class are given the opportunity to choose from 38 available courses across seven subject areas. The subject areas are AP Capstone, Arts, English, History and Social Sciences, Math and Computer Science, Sciences, World Languages and Cultures.

AP Courses vs IB Curriculum

Let’s take a look at the key differences between the two programs.


  • Program goals: Both programs have different goals. IB emphasizes developing writing skills and critical thinking skills while AP class is geared towards teaching students specific content. The students’ knowledge of the content is then tested via examinations.

  • Program cost: The International Baccalaureate program is more expensive than Advanced Placement courses. Each examination for IB costs $119 while AP tests only cost $95 for students. These prices apply to students in the United States, US territories or Canada.

  • Enrollment: You are permitted to sit AP exams without having been enrolled in a class; however, it is mandatory that you be enrolled in an IB class to be eligible to sit an IB exam.




How Colleges View Applicants Who Have Taken IB vs. AP

The short answer is that in a head-to-head battle, there is no distinct college admissions advantage for either type of course. What colleges are more interested in is that you have challenged yourself to tackle the most rigorous courses available to you. They recognize that not all high schools offer an IB curriculum, and that even when schools offer Advanced Placement courses, they may not necessarily offer them for every subject.

As an easy rule of thumb, try to take challenging courses (in which you’re likely to do reasonably well and/or have a strong interest), and get the highest grades you can get. Don’t take Advanced Placement or IB courses simply for the sake of taking them. Ensure that your choices are strategic, and that you can mange the rigor entailed. And of course, aim to do well on the respective Advanced Placement and IB exams.

Interested in the Ivy League? Princeton clearly states that they value students who challenge themselves and take courses such as AP, IB, and other challenging classes. Yale, on the other hand, explains that students are only expected to take IB or AP if their school offers it. As such, it is apparent that colleges – including even the most elite – are simply interested in you making an effort to challenge yourself.

Bottom Line for Advanced Placement Courses vs International Baccalaureate Curriculum

In deciding between Advanced Placement classes and an IB program, it all boils down to your objectives. Experts suggest that there are no major benefits in choosing one over the other. What is most important is that you perform well in whichever class you select. Need more guidance with planning your high school curriculum? WisdemUSA is here to help. Contact us today!

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