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AP and IB Classes: Behind the Scenes for a Good Choice

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First off, there’s a specific point that needs to be made.

Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) classes serve a similar purpose with different techniques: pushing a more intensive curriculum for students who want a higher level education.

With all the information about to be thrown at you, understand that neither of these are better or worse than the other. What makes an education less beneficial is how that student utilizes the information.

Every teacher you ask will have a bias towards their particular class. AP is more popular than IB, as more schools offer it. As IB comes to more schools, those coordinators will be pushing their classes almost like an advertisement. I bring you this article as a student who is currently enrolled in both classes, has peers isolating each program, and had a difficult time making a decision because I did not have enough insight on the educational opportunities that were offered to me.

This article is not intended to sway you one way or the other, rather inform you of the differences so you can come to a more informed conclusion of which program is more or less fitting for you.

So let’s dive into the basics of each program.


AP classes were designed by College Board, the same American company responsible for the creation of the SAT. If you check their website, one of their main advertisements of their program is that AP prepares you for college – therefore, their main purpose is to get your resume to look pretty.

In whatever course you take, the science behind your AP course will be designed to give you a “deeper look” into basic topics. For my experience and for what I’ve seen on tests, this means taking a broad topic that people generally know about, and analyzing the details. Your test will include very specific facts to be memorized on topics covered throughout your school year. However, you do NOT have to take an AP class to take an AP test, you are able to purchase a test to take on the same day as those who are in the class.

Teachers are given a specific list of topics to be discussed, points to be made, and items to cover. Your class should not be different if you take it in another school regarding the information you receive. All AP tests of each year will be the same across every platform in which it is taken, in a mix of mainly multiple choice questions, often essays, and in specific cases free response questions in the format of the specific subject. AP is a very good class for those who thrive on memorization of facts, flashcard learning, specific strategies and formatting, and “by the book” style.


IB classes are part of the “IB Diploma Programme,” designed to give students an extra label on their high school diploma, identifying that they completed the required classes for IB to be globally recognized as a “diploma kid.” This program is offered at very few schools, only about 840 in the United States, and begins during your Junior year (11th Grade) of high school. These classes are recognized by international schools.

IB advertises time management and where students are placed in college if they graduate through the DP. Ivy league schools highly acknowledge DP students. However, IB classes are able to be taken without applying for the diploma, but you MUST be enrolled in an IB class to take an IB test.

IB tests are mix of essays and free response. Yes, there are multiple choice questions, but there are hardly any across all classes offered. Depending on which class is taken, multiple projects are required for credit, for example Internal Assessments (IA’s) are required in each class.

Students who thrive on discussions, drawing conclusions and poised argument will succeed in an IB setting. If there is even slight interest in the DP, I personally suggest to go for it. You can always back out, and depending on your school can transfer into an AP or Honors class in the beginning of the year; the longer you wait to drop the DP, the higher chance of falling behind in an AP class, or the ability to take a higher level course will be unavailable.

Let’s directly compare some aspects.

Test Format (most common to least common)

AP: Multiple Choice, Free Response, Essay

IB: Research Paper, Essay, Free Response, Multiple Choice

Duration of Course in School

AP: 1 or 2 Semesters, taking course is NOT required

IB: 2 or 4 Semesters, taking course IS required

College Credit?

Both AP and IB (with or without DP) award college credit.

What does my college want?

AP is universally accepted to all American colleges (ivies, public, private, community, etc.)

Ivies and international universities REALLY like DP kids. Not all American universities and colleges accept IB classes, however many schools provide a supplemental course in the curriculum to replace that specific credit. Despite this, most universities still accept IB classes.

At the end of the day, where you want to go will affect which class is either preferred or accepted.

Personality of Student (based on personal discussions with my teachers and peers)

AP: facts, textbook readings, flash card learning, details

IB: discussions, opinions, counter reasoning, interpretation, comparisons

Difficulty level

How hard each of these classes are cannot be determined by anything other than the student taking either course. As for any task, the difficulty level will depend on work ethic, preference, mindset, intellect, personality and sheer talent.

Let this new wave of information settle.

To reiterate, neither of these classes are better or worse than the other. How you succeed will come down to what is best for you and your personality. Both are rigorous, both are not easy, and both require intellect to be even partially successful.

I highly recommend that if you still have questions, you contact your counselor, AP or IB coordinator or other students who have experienced either course. Contrary to some beliefs, these decisions could very well impact the course of the rest of your life. They may not be the deciding factor, but they are a piece of your puzzle, part of the edges that lay the foundation of your educational experience.

I truly hope this is a different view of the classes than you have received or have always known. If you have any more information that I have not covered or any questions you can’t find answers to, I would love to talk to you. Please contact me, email me, leave a comment; I understand what it’s like to feel a decision is being made without having enough information. Do not make the mistake of being uninformed.

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17 year old girl from Texas, liberal republican, advocate of the truth and hopeful future Baylor bear to pursue law. "Remember, we live in a world where the facts matter less than how you present them." - Philip DeFranco

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