IB or AP? Make the right decision!

Updated: Jul 10, 2020

The ultimate high school question.

IB and AP courses are designed to prepare students for college-level work. They demonstrate dedication and aptitude for advanced studies and bolster your college applications. But which one is the right one for you?

Students, depending on their school, can follow either the Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) route. Both offer the ability to earn college credit (and perhaps help them graduate early!).

Common questions we receive:

  1. Is one program more reputable?

  2. Does one look more impressive than the other?

  3. Will one improve the chances of getting into a top school?

  4. Are the difficulties of both AB in IB the same?

We've summarized the Pros and Cons of both AB and IB courses! Take a look.

1. Course Structure:

Advanced Placement: Classes are one year long, and cover a wide variety of content. They are similar to courses in college or university.

International Baccalaureate: Courses are mostly over two years long, and are at a much slower pace. Curriculum uses mostly critical thinking skills and involves a lot of research, analysis, inquiry, and reflection

2. Teacher Quality:

Advanced Placement: Teachers' courses have to complete an AP Course audit to get their curriculum certified and gain access to confidential practice exams and AP classroom resources.

International Baccalaureate: Teachers receive formal training organized by the governing body. They work as a team to create a curriculum across standards.

3. Focus:

Advanced Placement: Emphasis on subject knowledge while learning important test and note taking skills including timing.

International Baccalaureate: Focused on research, critical thinking, essay writing. IB courses are less focused on taking tests.

4. Exam format:

Advanced Placement: AP Exams are administered once at the end of each course. They include multiple choice and free response questions. Exams are graded in the United States.

International Baccalaureate: IB exams include several components including written, oral, and taped exams over the span of two years. Assessment and project work can be difficult. Exams are graded World wide.


1. One IB exam is more expensive than a single AP exam.

2. The IB has a longer course of study and larger work-load throughout the year.

3. You have to be enrolled in an IB school to take the exam, but you do not have to be

enrolled in an AP curriculum to take the AP exam and earn credit.

4. Although AP is more popular than IB for American colleges, not all colleges give them

the same value. It is important that a student is aware of how their preferred schools

weighs their AP scores out.

5. The IB mimics a liberal arts philosophy and places an emphasis on global education.

6. AP courses mimic fast-paced, college level coursework.

Conclusion: What should you choose?

Choosing either AP or IB can benefit you in different circumstances. If you are a student who emphasizes subject knowledge and prioritizes standardized tests over open-ended questions then AP might be the right path for you.

However, if you prioritize more essay writing, and using your critical thinking skills, then IB may be a better option.

Best of all: both are equally respected by colleges and universities, and choosing one over the other will not hurt your chances of admission into college. Not to mention, excelling on either test will allow you to earn college credit before you step foot on campus!

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