AP vs. IB: What are the differences?

AP vs. IB: What are the differences?
Jessica Olson and Peyton Erickson represent the differences in AP and IB. Photo by: Baylee Colburn

By Jessica Olson and Baylee Colburn –

One factor that makes Lincoln High unique is having the choice to choose between International Baccalaureate (IB) and Advanced Placement Program (AP). The International Baccalaureate is an international educational foundation headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, founded in 1968. The IB program has been a part of Lincoln High since 2008. This program allows students to earn an IB diploma. However, they must complete a specific set of courses, including he Theory of Knowledge course, a 4,000 word extended essay, and 150 hours of creativity, action, and service hours. However, AP was developed in the United States in 1955 to help high school students prepare for college by taking advanced courses with no set program or specific number of courses required. AP classes have been offered at Lincoln High for over 25 years. IB senior Logan Altman shared what his opinion of AP is he said, “AP is just as hard as IB, it’s just a different program.” When asking him what are some of the downsides of taking IB he said, “There aren’t any, It just takes up your time.” Both AP and IB senior Lauren Lesak said “It’s (IB) good for some people. It just depends on the person and their learning style.” Lesak said she took more AP courses instead of becoming a full IB student because “The teaching style of AP fits me better. Also, it’s easier to get college credit with AP classes.”

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The main difference between these two groups is AP is a collection of individual courses, compared to IB which is a comprehensive program. Within the IB program there is a huge emphasis on language acquisition and developing a sense of international mindedness. Also, the IB program offers a diploma, which isn’t required to get into college. Another difference between the two is the curriculum. In AP, there is a specific curriculum for each course. Compared to IB where there is a curriculum that is passed down throughout the whole program.

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Not only are the teaching styles different, there are plenty of other key differences between the two groups. One difference would be the exams. The IB exams charge a $113 registration fee along with a charge of $164 per exam. The total of the IB exams comes to $842 which the district pays for. AP exams are $91 without any additional fee’s, although if students are on free and reduced lunch they can get a fee waiver for the AP exams. Students who are in AP classes don’t have to take the AP test in the spring. The tests are also graded the same way in the sense that if a student passes a test, they will receive college credit, and if they don’t pass then they don’t receive any. Another difference between the two groups is how much course credit can be earned at different schools. IB higher-level courses are usually accepted by colleges, but standard-level IB courses aren’t always accepted. In contrast, AP courses are offered at one level. Furthermore, many colleges have variances in credit hours or what is accepted between AP and IB.

IB senior Hanna Hoffman demonstrates a science experiement to future IB students on IB acadamy day. Photo by: Riana Lurice Dazon

IB senior Hanna Hoffman demonstrates a science experiement to future IB students on IB acadamy day.
Photo by: Riana Lurice Dazon

AP social studies teacher Andrew Bargen discussed the differences between AP and IB. “I teach AP because I think it’s very important to teach primarily skills and also content that prepare students for college.” If he could change one thing about AP he would. “One thing I like about IB structure is there are questions in advance, Bargen said. “They say to the students taking that class ‘you’re going to get one of these questions’. I like that because then there’s not a lot of mystery about what are we responsible for covering.” If he could change AP for U.S. history and government and politics he would just every year start with 50 questions, big picture questions, and say a number of these will be on the national exam. “That would be awesome, because then that gives you that structure and that frame. I teach my class to try and prepare kids for the national exam but sometimes it’s a crapshoot of trying to figure out what era will the DBQ (document-based question) come from or what topic will it cover. Versus if you knew in advance that would be super cool, because then you could at least spend time on those questions. It would be more mastery than it would be mystery.”

IB coordinator J.P. Caruso said, “The reality is that students who take the full diploma program have a better success rate at a four year university than students who don’t.” Caruso also commented “I don’t think the IB program is harder than the AP program. I think there are more demands made of IB students than AP, but that’s only by vurtue in the fact that you are taking six IB courses at the same time.”

There are 134 freshmen and 106 sophomores in the pre-IB program. In the IB program, there are 47 juniors and 38 seniors. There are a total of 19 IB classes offered.

Some AP students feel there is bias from not only teachers but other staff throughout the school that advocate for IB instead of AP. Lyra Hubl, an AP junior, commented on whether she saw favoritism towards IB students. Hubl said, “I think so. I feel that IB students are more…I guess looked up to and that they have more responsibility than AP.” Khea Demery, a junior in IB, explained why she joined IB and not AP. “I feel like AP wouldn’t have been a challenge. It would be too easy for me.” Demery also mentioned the cons of IB. “It’s like just being challenged and having to do more work than you’re used to. It’s not really like a downside, but it’s something that’s hard to get over.”

Which group should you choose, AP or IB? Which group you choose really determines on one’s personal learning preferences. The choice should also be determined on whether or not you’re ready for a full program commitment or whether you just want to take a few college classes. There are a lot of things to consider when deciding which program to join. Is either group better? Well that’s up to you to decide.

Baylee Colburn
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