High School Course Selection: AP vs IB

Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) programs are available to students in many high schools today. Historically, AP courses have been more prevalent, but IB curriculums continue to be implemented in school districts around the country. Both programs offer a rigorous high school curriculum and provide an opportunity for students to earn college credit. It’s important for students and parents to understand the differences between both tracks. The programs are very different from one another and neither holds a “one size fits all” philosophy.

Before enrolling in AP or IB courses, students should conduct a thorough analysis to determine if this is an appropriate track for their future goals.

Advanced Placement vs International Baccalaureate | High School Course Selection

Below are some basic differences between AP and IB courses.


Advanced Placement (AP)

The AP program was developed in the US. The goal of the AP program is to help students prepared for college by taking rigorous, advanced courses. There is no specific amount of AP courses that a student must take. They may take as many AP courses as they would like, bearing in mind time management and academic goals.

International Baccalaureate (IB)

IB was developed in Switzerland. The intention of the IB program is to be regarded as an internationally-recognized diploma. To earn the diploma, a student must take a prescribed number of courses in a range of subjects. Students may take a few IB courses and not earn the IB diploma, though this goes against the original mission of the IB program.


Advanced Placement (AP)

Approximately 2.7 million students took AP exams in 2017

International Baccalaureate (IB)

Approximately 159,000 students earned an IB diploma in 2017


Advanced Placement (AP)

AP courses are aimed at teaching students specific course content and then testing their knowledge on the AP exam. Depending on the score earned, a college may or may not accept this score as incoming college credit. It is best to confirm the score needed with each individual college.

International Baccalaureate (IB)

The IB program has a greater emphasis on writing and developing critical thinking skills. Earning an IB diploma also requires a college-style research paper and extracurricular requirements.


Students must be enrolled in an IB class to take an IB exam. Students can take AP exams without being enrolled in a class.


Students who do not earn an IB diploma are generally not at a disadvantage, simply because not many high schools offer this program. Students cannot be penalized if the program is not available to them.

Colleges-especially the more selective ones- prefer to see that a student has taken the most challenging course load available at their high school. Rather than be concerned about IB versus AP, students should be focused on taking the most rigorous classes available to them at their high school.

#AdvancedPlacement #InternationalBaccalaureate #CourseSelection

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