APs vs. IBs: Is IB Better Than AP?

Advanced Placement (AP) courses offer high school students a chance to experience college-level education. Passing an AP exam can provide students with college course credit, and college admission officers favor applications from students who have high AP exam results.

AP classes cover a wide range of subject areas and are the most common college-level courses available. AP classes are not, however, the only college-level courses students have access to in high school. One of the most common alternatives is the International Baccalaureate (IB) program. So how do you determine which program is better for your student? Read on to find out the difference between these two programs and which option is best for your child.

What Is an AP Course?

The AP program helps high school students get accustomed to college-level courses. The number of AP courses available varies from school to school, with some courses, such as AP English and AP Physics, more likely to be offered than, say, AP Spanish or Chinese.

At the end of an AP course, students sit a standardized exam that tests how well they mastered the course material. AP exams tend to have both multiple-choice and free-response questions that evaluate students’ knowledge. AP exams are scored from 1 to 5, with 3 being a pass, but college boards prefer to see higher scores of 4 or 5. A student can choose to take an AP exam without attending the course.

What Is the IB Diploma Program?

The IB program is intended to produce students who function well in a globalized society. While it is possible to take individual IB courses, the program is designed as a comprehensive program for students between ages 16 and 19.

The IB Diploma program offers instruction in six subject areas:

  • Language and literature
  • Language acquisition
  • Individuals and societies
  • Sciences
  • Mathematics
  • The Arts

In addition, the program requires students to study theory of knowledge (TOK); creativity, activity, and service (CAS); and the art of writing an extended essay. Students can take standard level or higher level IB courses, but they must take at least three high-level courses to earn the IB diploma.

Differences Between AP and IB Programs

In addition to their goals and structures, AP and IB programs differ in other ways:

  • AP is the more popular choice. Over 2.8 million students take AP exams every year, while only 166,000 take IB programs.
  • AP is readily available. The IB program is not as common as AP because schools have to be able to offer enough classes for the program diploma. It’s easier for a school to add individual AP courses than the IB program.
  • Program goals. AP courses rely on exams to determine whether students have absorbed and understood course materials. IB focuses on writing and critical thinking skills in addition to exams.
  • Expense. An AP exam costs $96 for students in the United States, the U.S. territories, and Canada and $126 for students in other locations. IB exams each cost $119. Many schools have financial aid or fee-waiver programs for students taking AP exams.
  • IB requires class enrollment. Students can, if they wish, take AP exams without taking courses. Doing so is not always recommended, as the course prepares you for the exam, but it is possible. In contrast, IB requires class enrollment.

Is IB Better Than AP for College Credit?

Whether a college board offers college credit or advanced placement for IB and AP exams depends on the individual institution. Most colleges allow students to earn college credit with AP exams and high-level IB exams. Not all accept standard-level IB exams for credit.

College admission officers want proof that students have taken the most challenging courses available through their school. In some cases, this may mean taking AP classes, while in others, it means taking IB courses or, ideally, earning the IB diploma.

Whether you take AP or IB classes, an online tutor can help you earn the highest score possible on course exams.

Revolution Prep’s tutors are more than just subject matter experts; they’re talented instructors who teach students the skills they need for IB and AP test preparation and throughout their college careers. Contact one of our team members today to find out more.