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Advanced Placement AP vs IB

Parents face many difficult decisions when helping their children prepare for their future. Of course, all parents want the best for their children, but sometimes knowing what is best is not easy. Many parents wonder about the choice between the AP and the IB programs. Getting good information about the options is often the best place to begin when faced with a difficult decision. “As an example, consider a father named Harlan Hanson – during his career he served as both the Director of the AP program for the US College Board and later served in another role in which he was instrumental in advancing the IB Program in the United States. Hanson has four children and gave each of them the facts about the two programs and let them decide. Two of his children chose the IB and two of his children chose AP. In each case, Hanson said, they made the right decision.”

Both AP and IB classes are taught at the first-year university level in the United States, and are therefore eligible for college credit. For example, a student who takes AP “Calculus BC” and a student who takes IB “Mathematics HL” will both be eligible to skip Calculus I in university. Both programs are rigorous. They offer a true college experience in high school. Universities want to see that students are challenging themselves – both AP and IB allow for that kind of rigor. Universities know both the programs and know what the results mean.



History and Background

The International Baccalaureate was founded in Geneva, Switzerland in 1968. The program fit the need for a common pre-university curriculum and a common set of external examinations for students in schools throughout the world. As diplomats and business people relocated from country to country, IB created consistency among programs at the international schools their children attended. The Advanced Placement program was founded by the College Board in New York, USA in 1965. It was born out of a report by top high schools and Princeton, Harvard and Yale Universities that recommended that an advanced curriculum with external exams be created for high school students to earn university credit. IB was created to allow mobile students a common program – but the rigor of the program has qualified it for gaining university credit. AP was started to challenge high school students with advanced university course work – but the popularity of that approach means that there are American curriculum schools all around the world that teach AP courses therefore also allowing for mobility.

Why AP Suits More Students

The IB is an all-inclusive program; you are either in or out. All of an IB student’s classes are integrated and demanding. The AP program allows for greater choices as it offers specific courses and exams on a course-by-course basis. Students can choose the areas they want to accelerate in. If math and science are their specialties then they can choose to advance in those subjects. Similarly, if languages or humanities are preferred, students can choose those realms. Students can advance in one or all of their courses. For those unique students who do accelerate and excel in multiple arenas, the College Board offers the AP International Diploma – an additional marker of significant achievement along with their US high school diploma.


For more information about AP, please check out www.collegeboard.com as well as an intro video put out by College Board: AP Course Overview.

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