Both the AP and IB programs offer challenging courses to high school students for which they can earn college credit, but their philosophies and goals are quite different.
The College Board’s Advanced Placement Program (AP) enables willing and academically prepared students to pursue college-level studies—with the opportunity to earn college credit, advanced placement, or both—while still in high school.
AP was developed in the United States, with no set program of courses and no designated diploma. Students can take just one or a dozen AP classes, depending on their school and schedule. Canterbury currently offers 20 AP courses that are open to students in Grades 10-12. Our Class of 2015 valedictorian took 17 AP courses during his high school career, and is now attending the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Read more about 2015 valedictorian Ched Milic.
Enrollment in AP courses alone exhibits both rigor and acceleration in the academic setting. As such, colleges use AP course enrollment as a predictor of academic success in college. Major studies have demonstrated that students who take one or more AP classes perform better at college and graduate in a more timely fashion than other students. A student’s performance on an AP exam is not considered during the college process unless a student wishes to highlight a specific achievement.
In contrast, IB was developed in Switzerland to be an internationally recognized diploma. It is possible to take a few IBs without earning the diploma, but to earn the diploma one must take a certain amount of courses in a range of subjects. Student performance on IB exams must be considered in the college process. Students are considered pre-IB through Grade 11; they are only accepted as an IB student in Grade 11.
So now that you know more about the two programs, we’ll get to the big questions: Which one do colleges prefer? Which one looks most impressive?
Actually, colleges don’t automatically consider AP or IB harder or more impressive on a transcript. Since IB is a rarer program, a college cannot penalize students for not taking it. Plus, there are huge differences in how both AP and IB courses are taught and graded at high schools across the country. Because of this, colleges – especially the most selective ones – simply want to see that students have taken the most challenging course load available at your high school.