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The Difference Between the IB and AP Curriculum

Throughout high school, we are often told by teachers, parents, and classmates to strive for higher education, to get to the top of the class. Of course, schools themselves want that too, and provide many opportunities to excel at subjects and study for them. A few such opportunities can be found in AP and IB curriculums. Both launched around the 1960s, they are internationally recognized programs to give college-level courses to high school students and help with admissions to high-end colleges and universities. Though both have similar benefits, what are the differences?

The AP course and exam curriculum is made by the College Board, the same organization which hosts the SAT. It began in 1952 with a test program, officially launching in 1956, and now hosts over 2.8 million students in AP exams in 38 subjects spanning physics, calculus, biology, chemistry, history, and many more including languages. AP exams are the end goal, and AP classes are there to prepare students for it, though they have the option to self-study and take the exam independently. The exam is scored from 1 to 5, anything above 3 counting as a passing score. The score is crucial, as college admissions look at them to see if students have taken advantage of AP courses, with Prep Scholar stating, “Getting a 5 on an AP test shows that you are more advanced in a subject than 80-90% of advanced students”. The score can be exchanged for credits in college classes, acting as an intro-level college course in high school grades 9-12. The benefits are better time management skills, challenges with help grow skills useful for college and university, and consideration of resources available to students.

The IB program is less known but recognized internationally as a program that spans a wide range of topics, all required to get the full diploma. It stands for International Baccalaureate and was created in Switzerland in the 1960s as a program for students aged 16-19, though it also provides material for elementary and middle school classes. There are six subject groups, including language and literature, mathematics, sciences, arts, individual and societies, which all have an exam which needs to be passed, along with 3 additional courses. Students with an IB diploma are 35% more likely to enroll in higher education, and 40% more likely to graduate a four-year university. The IB program starts in grade 11 and has 3 main benchmarks for students, including an individually researched essay and a CAS project, a project with the theme of creativity, arts, and service incorporated. The program benefits students by preparing them with a college-level workload and increases social skills, analysis and writing skills, and the opportunity to study at least 2 languages.

Though the IB program is less known, with less than 950 U.S. schools providing, it is more international-based with nearly 5,200 schools in 157 different countries hosting it, compared to the AP program which is incorporated into the curriculum of over 20,000 U.S. high schools. Both are able to lead to college credit and prepare students for the workload by improving skills needed in the outside world. The main difference is that AP classes are more focused on a single topic, while the IB program looks at a topic from many perspectives, the impact of it on countries, the history behind it.

No matter which is chosen, pursuing a course that shows college admissions that you are capable of handling college work is a great step towards entry and study into the subject you are interested in. Of course, the main goal is to enjoy classes and the time spent, so think carefully about which you are going to choose!


Benefits of an AP Curriculum,

Edwards, Halle. “What Are Ap Classes? Why Should You Take Them?” What Are AP Classes? Why Should You Take Them?, 25 Feb. 2021,

“What Is the IB Program, and What Are Ib Classes?” American School of Paris: Top International School in Paris,

Pannoni, Alexandra. “IB vs. AP: Discover the Differences - US News.” U.S. News, 4 Dec. 2019,

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