IB vs. AP Classes: Which Should You Take? | BestColleges (2023)

  • The IB program is an international program focused on critical thinking and global awareness.
  • The AP program offers courses that allow students to earn college credit in high school.
  • IB and AP are different programs that offer engaging, challenging coursework for students.

High school students can take advantage of several programs that will challenge them academically and allow them to earn college credit. Many first-year college students enter school with college credit thanks to IB or AP classes.

Although both the IB program and AP program can help students learn higher-level thinking and analysis skills, the two programs are very different. Read on to discover what makes each path unique.

What Is the IB Program?

The International Baccalaureate program, or IB program, fosters critical thinking skills while helping students become productive global citizens and leaders. Although IB courses are more common in high school, IB programs are also available in elementary and middle schools.

Students can choose to take individual IB courses or enroll in an IB program. Students enrolled in IB classes receive grades from their high school. If they're also enrolled in a third-party IB program, participants will complete assessments and receive separate grades there. They receive points that can be applied toward an IB diploma.

The IB Diploma Programme prepares students ages 16-19 for college-level coursework. Students must take courses from six areas of study: sciences, mathematics, studies in language and literature, language acquisition, the arts, and individuals and societies. At the end of each class, students take an IB assessment and earn points.

Each assessment receives a score between 1 and 7. Students who earn at least 24 points can graduate with an IB diploma. Participants must also finish three core components: theory of knowledge; the extended essay; and creativity, activity, service.

What Are AP Classes?

Advanced Placement (AP) classes are college-level courses offered in high school. At the end of each course, learners can choose to take the national AP exam corresponding to their class. Exams are scored on a 1-5 scale, with 5 being the highest. Students who earn a sufficiently high score on their AP exam can earn college credit. To qualify, students usually need to earn at least a 3 or 4 depending on the college.

AP courses are accelerated, so students tend to spend more time studying and preparing outside of class. Students can choose from a variety of AP classes, including English literature, U.S. history, biology, art history, Japanese language, and music theory. Some schools may limit AP courses to juniors and seniors, while others allow all students, regardless of their grade level, to enroll.

Technically, the AP exam does not have an age limit. Students can also take AP exams without enrolling in the accompanying courses.

What Are the Differences Between IB vs. AP Classes?

Although similar, the AP and IB programs have several key differences to be aware of.

AP Courses Are More Common Than IB Courses

There are 38 AP exams available. Although not every high school in the U.S. offers AP exams for all subjects, students can typically pursue several AP options at their school. According to the College Board, 1.2 million students took 4.1 million exams in 2020.

(Video) #Transizion IB vs AP: Which One is Better For College?

IB courses and programs are not as common in the U.S. As of July 2021, there were over 5,500 IB schools and 7,500 programs offered worldwide. Roughly 1.95 million students ages 3-19 participated in IB courses and programs; however, less than half of these programs were based in the Americas.

IB Is More Expensive Than AP

High school students must pay $119 for every IB assessment they register to take in the Diploma Programme. To earn an IB diploma, students need to take at least six courses. Other aspects of the IB Diploma Programme, such as core requirements, also include fees.

In the U.S., AP exams cost $96 per test. Some students, however, may qualify for fee reductions or waivers from either the College Board or their school district.

AP and IB Have Different Focuses

Although both AP and IB courses prepare students for college through rigorous work requiring higher-level thinking, the two programs have different focuses. Overall, the AP program aims to provide students with college-level courses while they attend high school. Each course stands alone, and there are no additional components to complete outside the exam.

IB courses, in contrast, focus more on helping students understand the process of knowledge and develop critical thinking skills. The IB Diploma Programme includes additional requirements that often center on global awareness.

An AP Course Is Not Required to Take an AP Exam

To register for an IB exam, a student must be enrolled in and complete an IB course. Students who want to take an AP exam, on the other hand, are not required to complete the AP course associated with that test.

That said, most schools do not advise students to take an AP exam without enrolling in the corresponding AP course. The AP course is designed to prepare students to do well on the exam.

Do Colleges Prefer AP or IB?

Colleges typically do not state a preference for AP or IB courses. Both options are rigorous and can help you earn college credit depending on your exam scores. If your school only offers AP or IB, you may want to simply stick with what is available.

If your school offers both, you should decide which program would be the most beneficial for you. While you can take both IB and AP courses, pursuing the IB diploma and preparing for AP exams may prove challenging. Unlike the IB program, AP offerings allow you to only take courses in the subjects you choose.

Does AP or IB Give You More College Credit?

The amount of college credit you earn for AP exams depends on the score you received, your college's policies, and the AP exam subject. Most colleges award credit for scores of 4 or 5, regardless of the AP subject. Many colleges also accept a 3, but credit awarded may vary based on the subject.

(Video) is the IB diploma worth it? from a 45 student 🌎 (high school vs. college)

Students may earn credit for IB courses, but the amount of credit also varies. Some colleges only award college credit to students who hold a full IB diploma, while others may award credit for individual exams.

AP vs. IB: Which Is Right for You?

Ultimately, most colleges do not consider AP or IB better than the other. Consider what classes are offered at your school to determine which program is right for you.

The IB diploma includes additional requirements, so factor in whether you have time to pursue this credential alongside your extracurriculars and other commitments. If you want, you can take IB courses without pursuing the diploma.

Although the IB diploma is impressive, taking several AP courses could allow you to earn more college credits and graduate college early. If your school doesn't offer either IB or AP options, you can study for and take AP tests without enrolling in the courses.

Frequently Asked Questions About IB and AP Classes

Is IB harder than AP?

It depends. Some students argue that IB is more challenging because of the emphasis on critical thinking and the more application-focused evaluations. However, both IB and AP classes are considered college-level courses that many students find challenging.

(Video) Advanced Placement (AP) vs. International Baccalaureate (IB) Classes – PART 1

Can I take both AP and IB classes?

Most schools will allow you to take both AP and IB courses. However, depending on the school and your course schedule, completing the IB Diploma Programme while taking AP courses may not be possible. Check with your school to find out what its policy is.

Is the IB program better for Ivy League schools?

(Video) IB vs AP: Which Curriculum is Better for College Admissions?

According to a survey released in 2011 by the International Insight Research Group (in partnership with the International Baccalaureate Organization), compared to the general acceptance rate, the acceptance rate of IB students into Ivy League institutions was 3-13 percentage points higher.

Does Harvard prefer IB or AP courses?

(Video) IB or AP? Parents and Students Must Watch this Video to Know Which Is Better

Harvard does not explicitly state a preference for IB or AP courses. To receive credit for IB classes, accepted students must earn an IB diploma. Incoming students must earn a score of 5 on at least four AP exams to earn college credit at Harvard.

Feature Image: SolStock / E+ / Getty Images

FAQs

Is it better to take AP or IB classes? ›

Do Colleges Prefer AP or IB? Colleges typically do not state a preference for AP or IB courses. Both options are rigorous and can help you earn college credit depending on your exam scores. If your school only offers AP or IB, you may want to simply stick with what is available.

Is IB more impressive than AP? ›

If all you want to do is gain college credits or complete admission prerequisites in specific subjects, then AP might be the right choice for you. But if you're looking for a high quality, stimulating education that imparts skills you'll need all through college and beyond, then IB might be the right option.

Are IB classes easier than AP? ›

Difficulty. While HL (“High Level”) IB courses are generally considered to be more difficult than equivalent or similar AP classes, SL (“Standard Level”) IB courses are typically seen as similar or easier than their AP counterparts.

Are IB courses harder than AP? ›

IB is more rigorous than AP because it requires higher grades than other classes do (i.e., A). This means that students who take IB won't necessarily be able to take as many classes at their local community college or state university—they'll need to apply for admission through another route first!

Does Ivy prefer AP or IB? ›

Students who take IB classes in high school have higher acceptance rates into Ivy League schools, but this doesn't necessarily mean a higher acceptance rate than AP students; it just means that IB students have a higher acceptance rate than the general application pool.

Are IB students more successful? ›

Strengths of an IB education

Some of the most selective universities worldwide recognize the IB diploma and our students are regarded as some of the highest performers in their areas of study.

Do universities like IB more? ›

Universities appreciate the IB's rigour and they know it takes hard work and dedication to perform well, particularly in Higher Level (HL) subjects. This is demonstrated by the fact that most US universities award course credits for IB Diploma subjects.

Do IB classes boost GPA? ›

A student typically receives 5.0 grade points for a class if they earn an “A” grade in an Honors, Advanced Placement (AP), or International Baccalaureate (IB) class, while each subsequent grade is worth an additional point over its worth in a non-weighted system.

Does IB make your GPA higher? ›

The key difference is that grades earned in more challenging courses—including honors, IB, and AP—receive a higher numerical value, which can potentially raise a student's overall GPA.

Which is the hardest subject in IB? ›

Top 10 Hardest IBDP Subjects
  1. IB Maths Analysis & Approaches.
  2. IB Chemistry.
  3. IB History.
  4. IB English Literature.
  5. IB Computer Science.
  6. IB Maths Applications & Interpretations.
  7. IB Biology.
  8. IB Arabic B.
May 6, 2023

Is IB the hardest high school course? ›

IB is one of the most demanding courses that one can attend in high school. We have dedicated another article to answering if the intensity and extra workload are worth it! For now, let's focus on the power itself. One of the distinguishing traits of IB is that it is comprehensive.

Does IB help get into Ivy League? ›

IN THE US: The IB Diploma Programme is a well-known and accepted “college-standard” curriculum. The acceptance rate of IB students into Ivy League Universities is up to 18% higher than the total population acceptance rate.

Does IB help get scholarships? ›

The award amount is for $3000 per year (up to four years). To be considered for the IB Diploma Scholarship you must be an entering Freshman, have a total IB exam score of 30 or higher, and apply by February 1st.

Which IB subjects are the easiest? ›

Economics, philosophy, business and management are the easiest IB diploma subjects.

Is IB academically challenging? ›

The IB DP is a rigorous, academically challenging two-year program that is designed to prepare students for success at the university and life beyond. The IB DP includes a defined curriculum with final examinations and a core requirement that leads to the awarding of an IB Diploma.

What is the minimum IB score for Harvard? ›

Harvard University in United States of America requires students to maintain a minimum IB of 40 in order to stand a good chance to get admission into Harvard University.

What is the lowest IB score for Ivy League? ›

Unlike their UK counterparts, US universities don't release official cut-off scores for the IB Diploma. Based on what the Oxbridge universities in the UK expect from IB applicants, an overall grade of 38+ would be well received by the Ivy Leagues. For the more selective universities, you're looking at around 40+.

What percentage of IB students get into Harvard? ›

IB College Acceptance Rates
University or collegeIB students acceptance rateIB students vs total population
Harvard University10%+3%
New York University57%+27%
University of Michigan - Ann Arbor71%+20%
University of Miami72%+42%
6 more rows

What are the disadvantages of IB? ›

Cons
  • Workload. If the subjects are as wide ranging as they should be, you also need to consider the hard work and magnitude of study which is needed. ...
  • Reduced flexibility. Even with so many subject choices, there's less flexibility in the IB due to the compulsory breadth of study it requires.

How many people fail IB? ›

That's around 4 out of every 5 students who are able to pass. The good news? That means you're quite likely to pass the IB as well!

How stressful is IB? ›

The workload can be overwhelming, and the pressure to perform well is intense. Many students also have extracurricular activities, volunteer work, and part-time jobs, which can add to their stress levels. Moreover, the IB curriculum is demanding and requires students to be self-directed learners.

Does Harvard prefer AP or IB? ›

Non-IB applicants have a 5.1% chance of enrolment as compared to 12.2% for IB DP holders. However, it is important for IB students to score at least 38 points and above if they are aiming for an ivy league school. Additionally, competitive universities like Harvard emphasize higher level (HL) IB subjects.

Does Harvard like IB students? ›

Dean of Admissions “Success in an IB program correlates well with success at Harvard. We are always pleased to see the credentials of the IB Diploma Program on the transcript.” GPA is not nearly as important a factor in university admission as the IB Diploma.

Is taking IB in high school worth it? ›

Whether the college you ultimately attend gives college credit for IB courses or not, taking IB courses give great advantages to students: Better prepared for college. IB courses are at a higher level than the general courses in high schools. Many see IB courses as college-level.

What is a 4.0 GPA in IB? ›

The Weighted GPA Conversion Chart
Letter GradePercentageAP/IB GPA
A-90-924.7
B+87-894.3
B83-864.0
B-80-823.7
8 more rows
Jan 23, 2020

What IB grade is a 4.0 GPA? ›

In terms of the internal course grades in your IB Diploma Programme, the 1-7 scale is generally converted with a conversion guide provided by the school. Generally, a 6-7 is an A (4.0), and a 5 is a B (3.0). If your school grades IB courses A-F they get converted as normal (4.0 UW, 5.0 weighted).

Do colleges care about IB classes? ›

Colleges care the most about grades in high school courses, so focus on challenging yourself and performing well academically. Both IB and AP curricula are an excellent opportunity for students to demonstrate their academic abilities and aptitude for college-level coursework.

What GPA is good for IB? ›

Typically banks screen resumes based on GPA and will often remove anyone below 3.5. However, there is room for an exception here, and exceptional experience may bypass GPA requirements if one can prove competency or high value to the bank.

What is a good weighted GPA for IB? ›

What Is a Weighted GPA?
Letter GradePercentageAP/IB GPA
A93-965.0
A-90-924.7
B+87-894.3
B83-864.0
8 more rows
Feb 17, 2021

Are IB and AP weighted the same? ›

Some colleges tend to give AP more credit.

For example CU Boulder generally gives AP language exams more weight than IB language exams. Meanwhile, other colleges give more credit for IB. The University of Michigan, for instance, generally gives more credit hours for IB classes.

What are the 5 hardest IB subjects? ›

Which Courses Make the HARDEST IB Diploma?
  • English A Literature HL - Average Score: 4.67.
  • Spanish AB. ...
  • History HL - Average Score: 4.29.
  • Chemistry SL - Average Score: 4.01.
  • Math Studies SL - Average Score: 4.17.
  • Visual Arts HL - Average Score: 4.26.
  • Individuals and Societies - Average Score: C.
  • Average Score: C.

How hard is it to get a 7 in IB? ›

Overall, only 8% of students get a 7 in IB Maths, and whether you're among them depends on you. To be fair, passing your IB Maths course with flying colours isn't about luck. It is about hard work, skills, and a clear idea of what to do in the final IB exams.

What is the dropout rate for IB students? ›

The rate of dropout from the IB Program varies from school to school, with the value still standing above 50%. If anything, students drop out from the program because they find it too difficult and too stressful. Not to mention it requires a lot of work. Some students walk out of the program only after a few days in.

Does IB have a lot of homework? ›

How much homework is there for IB classes? It is expected that students will receive about 20 minutes of homework per class per night. So 5 classes should be 1h40m of homework; however, instructors are aware that some classes require more others less homework, so instructors focus on the overall amount of work given.

Is IB the most rigorous curriculum? ›

Both IB and AP are considered the most rigorous level of courses that high school students can take.

What is the highest IB grade ever? ›

The highest possible score for an IB diploma is 45 points. The possible 45 points are awarded as follows: Each of the six subject areas is awarded a mark on a scale of 1 to 7.

Does MIT accept IB? ›

IB scores are downloaded electronically once you release them to MIT. Use the Candidate Results Service. There is no need to send or bring a copy of your certificate or diploma.

What IB score is required for UCLA? ›

UCLA requires a minimum of 3.4 GPA for non-California residents (and 3.0 GPA for residents) and no grades lower than a C in required high school courses. This translates to 35 IB points, and ABB in A levels.

Does Harvard look at IB predicted grades? ›

If you study the IB curriculum or the A-level curriculum, then we expect that your school will send predicted grades, based on your current classroom work and the results of any internal or mock exams you have taken up to that point.

Does IB give weighted GPA? ›

The IB courses are weighted like the AP courses. However, with the IB Diploma Program, students receive 6 weighted credits their Junior year and 5-6 their Senior year, plus one for TOK. These students can also receive AP weighted credits if they take those classes.

What are the benefits of an IB school? ›

The IB enables students to direct their own learning pathway and develop the skills and confidence they need to thrive and make a lasting difference. It empowers teachers as the architects of learning excellence, working alongside engaged colleagues in a rewarding career supported by a strong global network.

How many college credits can you get from the IB program? ›

It is possible to receive up to a full year's credit. Students who earn an IB Diploma will be eligible for sophomore standing and will be awarded 30 college credits toward their bachelor's degree.

What is the easiest math in IB? ›

Mathematics HL - Average Score: 4.69

However, by our rules, the easiest IB subject combination is the one with the highest average scores and the average score in Maths HL is actually a full 0.5 points higher than in Maths SL!

What is the lowest passing grade for IB? ›

IB exams are graded on a scale of 1-7 with a 4 considered passing for HL and a 3 considered passing for a standard level. To earn the IB Diploma based on IB exam marks, the following requirements must be met: o Score a minimum of 24 points o Receive a minimum of 12 points if 3 Higher Level subject exams are taken.

What is the hardest math in IB? ›

IB Further Math HL is considered to be the toughest subject based on how rarely it is opted by students. It covers all the optional topics of IB Math HL, which by the way is considered tough in itself. IB History HL is also considered to be tough since it has the lowest percentage of students getting 7's.

Why is IB so much harder than AP? ›

Is IB harder than AP? It depends. Some students argue that IB is more challenging because of the emphasis on critical thinking and the more application-focused evaluations. However, both IB and AP classes are considered college-level courses that many students find challenging.

Is it OK to fail IB? ›

Grades of A and B are expected of all IB students. Students with a grade of D or F are not considered in "good standing." A semester grade of F in an IB course will require the students to return to their sending school for the remainder of their high school education.

Does IB have more homework than AP? ›

AP vs. IB Classes: Which Are More Rigorous? IB program is more rigorous. It has more homework and assignments that you need to complete before taking the final exam or test.

Are IB programs worth it? ›

Completing the IB program allows you to receive up to 32 credits. If you gain admission into a college or university that offers generous course credit for both the IB diploma and individual IB exams, you could graduate at a much faster rate than students who didn't take up the IB program or exams in high school.

What percentage of IB students get into college? ›

IB College Acceptance Rates
University or collegeIB students acceptance rateTotal population acceptance rate
Columbia University13%9%
University of California - Berkeley58%26%
Harvard University10%7%
New York University57%30%
6 more rows

Is it easier to get into Harvard with IB? ›

Harvard University in United States of America requires students to maintain a minimum IB of 40 in order to stand a good chance to get admission into Harvard University. The IB requirement of Harvard University is much higher than the average requirements of universities in United States of America.

Will IB help me get into Harvard? ›

Placement Recommendations - Harvard makes recommendations for courses appropriate for a student's background based on results of AP, IB, SAT II, and placement exams. Students with stronger preparation in a language, math, or science, for example, will be recommended for placement in more challenging classes.

Do colleges care if you are IB? ›

Universities appreciate the IB's rigour and they know it takes hard work and dedication to perform well, particularly in Higher Level (HL) subjects. This is demonstrated by the fact that most US universities award course credits for IB Diploma subjects.

Does Harvard accept non IB students? ›

The short answer is that Harvard does take IB scores into consideration. In fact, it is believed that a high scoring IB diploma (DP) correlates well with success in the Harvard application. Non-IB applicants have a 5.1% chance of enrolment as compared to 12.2% for IB DP holders.

Is IB the hardest program in the world? ›

IB is one of the most demanding courses that one can attend in high school. We have dedicated another article to answering if the intensity and extra workload are worth it!

What IB score is needed for Harvard? ›

Harvard University requires students to maintain a minimum IB score of 40 in order to stand a good chance to get admission into Harvard University. However, it is important for IB students to score at least 38 points and above if they are aiming for an Ivy League school.

What GPA scale is IB? ›

In terms of the internal course grades in your IB Diploma Programme, the 1-7 scale is generally converted with a conversion guide provided by the school. Generally, a 6-7 is an A (4.0), and a 5 is a B (3.0). If your school grades IB courses A-F they get converted as normal (4.0 UW, 5.0 weighted).

Which school has the highest average IB score? ›

2022 Results
#Avg. PointsName
143.0Letovo School
242.8St Paul's Co-educational College
342.7Anglo Chinese School
442.6Godolphin & Latymer School
70 more rows

Videos

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2. IB vs AP | My experiences with International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement
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3. Should You Take AP or IB Courses in High School?
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4. What's the difference between honors courses, AP classes, and International Baccalaureate classes?
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6. AP vs IB: which is better? - college credit, exams, difficulty, & my experience/advice | studybright
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