An Advance Placement (AP) course is a college-level class that is designed for high-school students. The goal is to connect students to college success through allowing them to take college classes while still in high school. Studies show that AP students are generally more successful at college compared with other students. In fact, AP courses are the best way to encourage a high school student to enter college. Students report that AP classes are typically more interesting and beneficial than other classes. These classes increase a students' academic competency while offering challenges and rewards.
AP exams are scored on a scale of one to five. That is, one means failure and five means extremely well qualified. Most colleges require the student to receive a score of at least three to four. When the high school registers with college, their AP test scores will be used to exempt them from taking applicable prerequisite classes. Finally, approximately 30 percent of college scholarships use AP course scores. All AP courses are created and offered through the College Board.
There are basic differences between the AP and IB programs. The AP program is American based and is very subject focused. Conversely, the international IB program takes a holistic approach to learning. However, most American high school students participate in the AP program. In fact, over 14,000 public schools collaborate with the AP program, compared with only approximately 800 for the IB program. In the end, both programs have rigorous academic standards and will help the student prepare for college.
To sum up, the AP program is American based and provides courses that high school students can take for college. The IB course is international based and provides an integrated approach to learning. The biggest difference between AP and IB is that AP is more popular and useful for an American high school student.
College admissions counselors also see value in both programs. Grades in college prep courses such as AP and IB were listed as being of "considerable importance" by 73.2% of respondents in the 2019 State of College Admission report compiled by the National Association for College Admission Counseling. Only 5.5% of respondents felt the same way about subject test scores in AP and IB programs.
If your student is an 11th or 12th grader and you are choosing between AP and IB, in my mind IB is the better program. The principal reason is that it has significantly more emphasis on writing than AP. The IB exams, unlike AP, rarely have multiple choice questions. Students must answer in essay form and their answers graded by human beings. (Usually about half of AP exam questions are essays graded by human beings, but a good grade on that section can get the student a final top grade of 5 on the exam even if he misses most of the multiple choice questions.)
A student who goes for the IB diploma, which requires the equivalent of six two-year courses, must also write a 4,000 word extended essay, often a research paper on some topic. Most of the former IB students I know say the extended essay was the most satisfying and challenging thing they did in high school, and prepared them well for college research. Let me put this next sentence also in all capitals: IN THE UNITED STATES, ONLY THE IB PROGRAM AND PRIVATE SCHOOLS CONSISTENTLY REQUIRE HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT TO WRITE MAJOR RESEARCH PAPERS.
Course offerings and other AP and IB information can be found on the additional pages in this section.