AP vs IB: Which One is Better for College Admission?

AP vs IB: Which One is Better for College Admission?

First of all, what are AP and IB? AP is a trademark of the College Board, which stands for Advanced Placement. Advanced Placement courses are an American institution in which students may take college-level courses while in high school. Your acquisition of the content matter is assessed in the 3-hour-long AP exam given at the beginning of May that school year. AP courses are vastly important in college admissions, because it gives colleges a glimpse of how you will fare at their schools. Further, colleges want to see that you challenged yourself with the most difficult course load your school offers. If your school offers AP courses, colleges expect you to have taken them. Of course, you never want to take more of them than you can succeed at. Taking 10 AP courses is not impressive if you don’t simultaneously earn good grades and score high on the AP exams.

IB courses stand for the International Baccalaureate Program, developed out of Switzerland. The IB program is far rarer in the United States. In 2014, more than 2 million students took AP exams in 2014, while there were only about 135,000 who took the IB exams.

Both AP and IB coursework may earn you college credit, depending on your scores on their respective exams, and the college in which you enroll.

What’s the Difference between AP and IB?

AP was developed in the United States so that high school students could take college-level courses in high school.

IB was developed in Switzerland as an international diploma that could be recognized anywhere. As such, the IB program is a complete course curriculum, whereas the AP courses are one-off courses in the subject matter of your choice. You can pick and choose AP courses. If you are enrolled in an IB program, you take all the IB courses. Though higher-level, and more focused on writing and critical thinking skills, only advanced IB courses are considered for college credit. Within the context of IB, similar to AP, you may choose which courses you take at the advanced level.

Cost-wise, IB is more expensive for a school to adopt and for individual students to attend. There is a yearly $160 registration fee for IB, plus the test costs, which are slightly higher than the costs for the AP tests.

Which One, AP or IB, Will Offer Me More College Credit?

That depends on the school in which you enroll. Each school has different policies regarding awarding of college credits. Most will accept either AP or higher-level IB, depending on your scores,, whereas most colleges will not accept regular level IB courses for credit. Some will accept more AP courses. Some will accept more IB courses. To find your prospective college’s policies, google the name of your school followed by AP credit policy. Similarly, for IB, google the name of your school followed by IB credit policy.

Which One, AP or IB, Do Colleges View Most Favorably?

In general, colleges do not view either AP or IB more favorably. What colleges look for is that you challenged yourself by taking the most ambitious courses in high school. At the same time, colleges will NOT look favorably upon you taking the most challenging courses and not succeeding at them. So choose your course load wisely. Colleges only evaluate you in the context of your high school offerings, so don’t worry if your school doesn’t offer the same course options as another.

Which One, AP or IB, Should I Take?

That’s up to you, and obviously depends on which programs your high school offers. Do you want to fully commit to the IB program, with its more challenging courseload overall, or do you want more control in which subject areas to challenge yourself?

MIT’s advice: “Overall, you should try to take the most stimulating courses available to you. If your high school doesn't offer courses that challenge you, you may want to explore other options, such as local college extension or summer programs.”

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