AP or IB – Which Do Colleges Prefer?

The answer varies

Do college admission committees prefer Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate programs?

Students, that’s the wrong question. A better question is, “Which of these rigorous programs will best serve me?”  And the answer is not the same for everyone. Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) are structured differently with different objectives for student learning.

Here are just a few key differences to consider:

AP Programs.

AP classes and exams are widely accessible. High schools around the country and internationally offer AP classes (and often quite a number of them), and anyone is eligible to register and take the AP exams offered each May, regardless of whether they have taken the class. An AP class focuses on a single subject, which allows students to take these college-level classes in the areas of their ability and interest. A high school student interested in STEM, for example, could take up to 3 math AP courses and as many as 4 or 5 science AP courses. This would be one way to demonstrate ability and achievement in math and science on an application to a college engineering program.

IB Programs.

The IB program is less known but becoming more common in U.S. high schools. An interdisciplinary program structured to develop knowledge across disciplines, IB also places learning in global context. Students focus on five of six areas of learning: language & literature, language acquisition, individuals & societies, mathematics, sciences, and the arts. To earn the IB diploma, students must also complete a project in the community and write an extended essay on a topic of their choosing. This is a structured program that does not allow for much class choice or electives, but provides a rigorous, yet holistic education to students in the program.

Choosing if you have both options. If you have the option to choose between AP and IB, choose the one in which you can succeed while also exploring your interests and passions outside of the classroom, allowing you to create the strongest profile for your college applications. To make your decision, consider these questions:

  • Where do my strengths lie?
  • What is my learning style?
  • What level of rigor can I handle while still making time for meaningful involvement in extracurricular pursuits?

AP and IB courses are not right for every college-bound student. For others, one program is a better opportunity than the other. CPSi guides students and families in making choices such as this one to help enhance their learning now and improve their college opportunities in the future.

What’s the AP Capstone?

Look for a discussion of that topic in a future post.

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