AP vs. IB

What are your plans for the future? Choosing your high school classes can dictate your future plans. It will be the two most important years of your life that will aid you in not only your college-making decision that could also lead with your job in the future or even if you don’t want to go to college at all. Let’s look at the differences and similarities for both the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP) and the Advanced Placement (AP) program, as well as the Pros and Cons of both, in order to help the future graduates of ISKL.


In terms of similarities, IB and AP both rely on fairness when scoring assessments. They then, remove the personality and individual influence – so that the final grades are based on the quality of work which would get assessed against fixed guidelines. Also, they both get experts to score and mark the papers and so because of this, they can get receive additional weight in their GPA.

They encourage students who are motivated and desire to do the programs because it would help them to shine academically. If you think about it, these courses are not only challenging but very rigorous too.

Moreover, worldwide recognition is seen in both of the programs as they both are recognized by all of the US (and most worldwide) universities for consideration of either college credit or advanced standing. They know that a student with success in either the AP or IB is clearly ready for university-level work. Hence why students get an exemption for many entry-level courses, in return allowing their degree requirements to be completed quicker, ALSO meaning fewer credits have to be paid for.


AP courses can be taken anytime during your 4 years of high school at ISKL because it takes a semester for a class but in order to achieve and go for the full IB diploma, you must take two years of ONLY IB courses.

While the AP is accepted throughout the U.S., the IB Diploma Programme is even greater because other international universities, as well as the U.S., recognize and respect an IB diploma whereas AP is not.

AP was started in the US however the IB is more internationally recognized. Both of them have different program goals and this is only because they are both taught and graded differently. The most selective universities just want to see that you have taken the most challenging course. For instance, Princeton states, “Whenever you can, challenge yourself with the most rigorous courses possible, such as honors and Advanced Placement (AP). We will evaluate the International Baccalaureate (IB) or another diploma in the context of the program’s curriculum.” So since ISKL has both, you can take a mix of AP and IB or choose the full IB program.

With the IB diploma, you also have to do 3 mandatory components, EE, TOK, and CAS. CAS stands for Creativity, Activity, and Service. To define it further, Creativity “means arts and other experiences that involve creative thinking.” For Activity, “the physical effort that contributes to a healthy lifestyle” and Service which is “an unpaid and voluntary exchange that has a learning benefit for the student.” EE is short for Extended Essay which is “a research paper of up to 4000 words, asking students to do independent research on a topic that interests them.” The TOK is Theory of Knowledge which is essentially “an oral presentation and a 1,600-word essay that asks students to reflect on the nature of knowledge” whereas, with the AP program, there is no separate component as it is just the classes.

Pros of the IB Diploma

One of the main pros of the IB is global recognition. It is recognized in all leading universities worldwide aforementioned. The university preparation is another pro being it teaches you skills and different ways of learning that will set you up to do well there. Time management will be a key skill that you gain from the IB because the heavy workload will force you to get into good study habits sooner or later and would help work on ways to better manage your time.

In CAS, not only does it push you to have a balanced approach to your studies, but you also get the chance to develop skills like compassion and teamwork.

Another pro is the well-rounded education that you will receive from the IB. You have to choose a wider range of subjects in the IB obviously but you get a much wider range to choose from and you are exposed to a much wider range of subjects. That’s why IB is so challenging however at the same time notably rewarding. You’ll get a much stronger sense of fulfillment in the IB because you can’t only play to your strengths like you do in other curriculums. IB students who want the IB diploma, take only IB courses, you MUST also take at least 3 higher level courses and 3 standard level classes. However, you can take IB Classes without having to do the Full IB Diploma.

Cons of the IB Program

There’s less flexibility in the IB because if you don’t take an arts subject, at least you could choose another subject from a different category from the other 5 groups, but there’s definitely no chance of triple dipping which could be a potential problem if you are set on studying medicine at university because you can only take 2 sciences.

You also have so much to do! Besides the six subjects, within them, you have to do coursework and assignments. For TOK, CAS, and EE, you have to do the essays, presentations, and projects. Being hardworking and organized is much more important than being smart because, in the IB, you need to be able to manage your time really well to fit in all the activities. You also need to keep your grades up consistently. The IB requires consistent work and consecutive performance over the two-year period because the exams aren’t spread out. This means that you’ll be tested in two years.

Pros of the AP Program

Like the IB, AP is also an academically rigorous program.  There will be more reading, and the grading will be harder, as compared to a regular class. This is because, in general classes where the 4.0 GPA is normal, a lot of the AP classes are graded on a 5.0 scale. This is good as some colleges will take it into consideration while analyzing a student’s application. Many scholarships and awards specifically have set criteria that require a certain GPA.

Cons of the AP Program

However on the other hand though, the cons include the challenge and workload as there is an excessive amount of the workload as well as the consideration from different colleges. As mentioned about the difference in the grading with normal classes and AP classes, since AP classes are harder than normal classes, a B is usually held with higher “honor.”

The AP course is only a semester which can be viewed as more difficult because it is summarized into a semester rather than it being a 2-year course like the IB.

Lastly, it is important to remember that no two colleges are the same, meaning no two colleges will take AP classes into consideration the same way. Some might understand a lower grade in AP whereas some will bring the 5.0 scale into consideration but others won’t. The exams are scored on a scale of 1 – 5 basis. A score of 1 in AP exams indicates ‘no recommendation’ while a score of 5 decodes to ‘extremely well qualified,’ a score of 3 is the least expected to demonstrate you are ‘qualified’ to successfully achieve a basic college course in the subject.

In conclusion, many consider the IB to be more challenging than the AP but it is important to note again, that the IB courses require a strict course of study for two solid years and if you’re unsure about committing to an IB program, then the AP program might be right for you. Both programs will prepare you for college, but where you plan to study may be a deciding factor in which program you choose although both AP and IB are widely accepted (with the AP being more familiar in the US.) There are slight differences in credit policies so it would be good to look up credit policies at your ideal university before applying.