BY VIOLET W.*
Cover photo courtesy: moonprep.com
If you wish to enroll in college-level courses, the International Baccalaureate (IB) and Advanced Placement (AP) programs will probably be on your list. Each program helps you enter institutions of higher learning with confidence in your abilities and carries weight with universities. But which one holds better prospects? Here’s a look.
What are the benefits of each program?
The benefits of both programs are quite similar. They offer courses intended to teach you the skills and habits to help you succeed at college. In addition, they prepare you for college-level work, improve your writing and problem-solving skills, and teach you how to plan your time and studies to manage the challenging coursework at college.
IB and AP exams can be used to earn college credits. However, you’ll need to check if your preferred college(s) offer credits only for higher level (HL) IB classes or also for standard level (SL) classes. AP credits can count towards actual college classes, and exam scores of 3 and higher can get you into higher-level courses. Some colleges don’t offer credit for AP courses but don’t require you to do the introductory courses.
How many classes can you take?
There are a total of 38 subjects in the Advanced Placement program, and you can take as many as you want. However, not every high school in the U.S. offers AP exams for all subjects, and some high schools limit the number of courses a student can enroll in. Because the AP program is challenging, students may overextend themselves if they take multiple AP classes in one semester. The AP exam consists of multiple-choice questions and free-response questions that can be answered in different formats.
The IB program has six areas of study. Like the AP program, you can choose the courses you want to take at the higher and standard levels. The IB program emphasizes critical thinking, and students are encouraged to ask questions and develop their research skills. However, to earn the IB diploma, you have to take six subjects – three to four at the more challenging higher level and the rest at the standard level. In addition, all IB diploma candidates must complete the course TOK (Theory of Knowledge), which is assessed through an extended essay and presentation and requires students to reflect on the nature of knowledge.
How do they compare in cost?
The registration fee for an AP exam is $96. Many schools offer subsidies to encourage students to take exams in certain subjects like mathematics and science. IB exam fees are higher: a $172 registration fee and a $119 fee per exam.
Which one carries more weight with colleges?
Both IB and AP programs are recognized by universities in the United States and worldwide. As such, there isn’t a preference for one over the other. Colleges are more interested in knowing whether you’ve taken the most demanding classes and challenged yourself academically. They pay attention to the rigor of your courses, not just a high GPA. So, it’s best to choose your classes with care, keeping in mind the expectations of colleges you plan to study at and the degree you wish to pursue. Examine what programs/classes your high school offers and plan to challenge yourself instead of opting for the easy “A.”
*Violet W is a College Counselor & Outreach Coordinator at MoonPrep. It is never a good idea to sign up for an official MCAT without being 100% prepared. If your practice tests aren’t in your target score range, you probably aren’t ready to take the exam. Some schools will see all of your MCAT scores, so it isn’t a good idea to take a test that won’t help you on your path to medical school.