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What Are the Benefits of AP and IB?
The Advanced Placement (AP) program and the International Baccalaureate (IB) are the two most prominent elite-level curriculums for high school students across the globe. Both programs offer students a more rigorous curriculum compared to standard high school courses and are widely recognized by post-secondary institutions all over the world.
Many parents, teachers, and students may wonder about the real-world benefits of the AP and IB programs, so in this article we will discuss the differences between them, how they affect post-secondary admissions, and the overall impact of enrolling in these advanced curriculums.
What Are the Differences Between AP and IB?
The Advanced Placement program was created by the College Board in 1955. It offers college-level courses for high school students, which are primarily taken during grades 11 and 12. There are currently 38 AP courses and exams available, ranging from science and math to the humanities, art, music, and beyond.
In 2018, College Board also began offering Pre-AP courses for students in their first and second year of high school. The Pre-AP courses are designed to allow students to focus on the core themes in every course and develop essential skills needed to succeed in grades 11 and 12. As of 2021, there are eleven Pre-AP courses available, although there are no official Pre-AP designated schools in Canada. In the United States, over twelve thousand schools offer AP Calculus AB, while only 288 offer Pre-AP Algebra 1. Technically, students can take any AP courses beginning in grade 9, but due to its difficulty and level of critical thinking needed of students, the CollegeBoard does not recommend it until they are in grade 11 or 12.
The International Baccalaureate, on the other hand, is a complete and comprehensive programme that covers grades 1 to 12. It offers a Primary Years Programme (PYP) for students aged 3 to 12, a five-year Middle Years Programme (MYP) for students aged 11-16, and a two-year Diploma Programme (DP) for students aged 16 to 19. To learn more about the IB Programmes, click on this link. Students do not have to begin with the PYP or MYP; they can join IB in Grade 11 to get their IB Diploma. To do so, they must pass six courses, three of which must be Higher Level (HL), complete their theory of knowledge (TOK), extended essay (EE), and a creativity, activity, services (CAS) requirement. Alternatively, they can pursue an IB certificate for as many courses as they like.
In Canada, both AP and IB are well represented in schools. There are 377 IB schools in Canada (189 schools offer the DP, 172 offer the MYP, and 189 offer PYP), while 424 schools across Canada offer AP. If we compare the programs that are offered specifically in high school, AP is twice as popular as IBDP in Canada. In the United States, AP is overwhelmingly more popular, being offered in over 16,000 schools, while IB is only offered in 1,900. However, with approximately 18,000 schools offering AP courses worldwide, it is clear that it is primarily situated in the United States; IB is more evenly distributed internationally.
While the gap in comprehensiveness between AP and IB is closing, largely due to the introduction of the Pre-AP program, it is generally accepted that IB is comparatively more well-rounded.
For example, a widely accepted advantage of the IBDP curriculum is its required extra components — Theory of Knowledge and the Extended Essay. Theory of Knowledge is a 2-year long course designed to help students develop critical and philosophical thinking skills by prompting them to question the nature of knowledge by exploring knowledge claims in different subjects, such as the Natural Sciences, History, Art, Ethics, etc.
The Extended Essay, on the other hand, is a 4000-word essay that students are required to write within the span of 2 years; it is designed to be an individual research project where candidates write on a topic of their interest, whether it be in the area of History, Physics, Chemistry, English, Mathematics, etc. Students can obtain help from their assigned supervisor, who will most likely be skilled in the subject area and can thus guide the students through the essay. This essay, while difficult, is extremely beneficial as it provides students with the independent research skills integral to succeeding in university. This is why many top US universities love accepting IB students as they know they are intellectual scholars capable of a rigorous workload! In fact, many IB students choose to send an abstract of their Extended Essay to colleges for admissions!
Students are permitted to take IB and AP courses simultaneously. In fact, if they are not taking the IB Diploma Programme (IBDP) or taking a full AP course load, it is recommended that they take courses from both curricula. However, it should be noted that students pursuing the DP program may find it overwhelming to take additional AP courses, so generally, students are advised against it.
If a school does not offer IB or AP courses, students can participate in online AP courses. However, they can only take online IB courses if they are a DP student in an IB school. If the student is homeschooling, their only option is to take AP exams from May to mid-June. It should be noted that self-directed learning can be very challenging, especially at the AP level, so students in this situation might need the help of a qualified tutor. Hack Your Course tutors have helped hundreds of students succeed in challenging AP exams, which regularly results in scores of 4 and/or 5 out of 5.
Hack Your Course IB, and AP Tutoring Service is The premier IB & AP institute In Greater Vancouver and Toronto with professionally trained IB/AP tutors. Tutors at Hack Your Course (HYC) who teach AP and IB courses are either first-rate former IB students who are currently exemplary university students or have a Master’s or a Doctoral degree in the subject being taught. That is just the first part of the story; moreover, they all possess the requisite educational materials and closely follow the curriculum and goals specified by AP and IB and use the material provided and mandated by Hack Your Course AP and IB Tutoring Service. They also prepare students for all parts of the final examination in each subject by a thorough review of the subject matter and by employing previous examinations as practice exercises provide by Hack Your Course. With hundreds of happy IB & AP students from Vancouver and Toronto, we know what we are doing!
How do AP and IB Courses Affect College Admissions?
Both IB and AP curriculums factor heavily into the decision-making process of college admission officers, but to what extent is not always clear; in many cases, the degree of influence will also vary between institutions.
The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) has reported that only 5.5% of colleges consider Subject Test Scores in IB and AP courses to have considerable importance in admissions decisions. This statistic might be concerning to some parents. However, it is somewhat misleading, as these are the test scores, not the course grades. For example, a student’s mark on their AP World History exam (graded out of 5) is not particularly impactful on their admission to most colleges. Their mark in the course, as a whole, on the other hand, is immensely important, as the NACAC reports that Grades in College Prep Courses, which include AP and IB classes, are among the most highly considered factors in admissions. 90% of all colleges consider college prep course grades to be considerably or moderately important to admissions decisions. While non-AP and non-IB courses, primarily for students in grade 12, are also considered College Prep Courses, the NACAC notes that Strength of Curriculum is of considerable or moderate importance to 74% of colleges. This means that to almost three-quarters of all colleges, the fact that a student has completed a high-level curriculum, such as AP or IB, factors strongly into admissions decisions. Therefore, while a student’s IB or AP Subject Test Score may not be crucial to college acceptance, completing and excelling in IB and AP classes is enormously beneficial.
Admissions officers are aware of the number of AP and IB classes offered in every school. Thus, if you have only one AP class at school, and it is in line with the major you are applying to, it is worth your while to take it. On the other hand, if your school offers dozens of AP classes, it may be beneficial to take more than one; at the end of the day, admission officers are looking for students who challenge themselves in the context of the resources offered by their school and community. Nevertheless, it is always better to start early. Consider beginning AP classes in grade 10 so that you can avoid taking a full course load of them in grade 12. Avoid overloading yourself with all of the most challenging AP courses in one year; for example, taking AP Calculus BC, AP Chemistry, and AP Physics at the same time might not be the smartest choice!
To get an idea of the relative difficulty of each course, view the AP Score Distribution that is published by the College Board every year. Here is 2020 one.
Additionally, you should adjust the AP classes in your schedule to align with the major you want to pursue in university. If you want to get into a prestigious university’s science program, focus on courses that are relevant, such as AP Statistics or AP Physics. Prospective Humanities majors would be wise to lean towards AP English classes, AP World History, and so forth. Regardless of your interest, it may be worthwhile to take AP Calculus if you think about getting into the sciences! Admissions officers typically view students who complete that course more favorably than those who do not.
Admissions are growing more difficult and competitive every year. Having a strong AP or IB record is certainly an asset, but do not forget that “Grades in All Courses” is the most important factor in admissions. Therefore, regardless of what classes you take, it is important to achieve the highest mark you are capable of; remember that scholarships and university admissions at elite institutions are still possible without AP or IB courses on your record. Excellent SAT/ACT scores, an essay that conveys your personality and showcases your unique voice, a great recommendation letter from a teacher who knows you well and extracurriculars that display your leadership capabilities in an area you are passionate about are also extremely important factors in college admissions.
What Else Should YOU Consider?
There are many factors to consider pertaining to AP and IB courses. First off, both curriculums are strenuous, difficult, and time-consuming. Overwhelming a student’s calendar with a glut of elite-level classes may negatively impact their overall grades as well as other areas of their life, which should not be ignored. One option to mitigate the stress of a heavy academic workload is to begin AP classes in grade 11, which can help to avoid a bloated course load in grade 12.
Nonetheless, it might be the instinct of some students to fit as many AP or IB courses into their schedule as possible. However, a report in 2013 by Jen Kretchmar and Steve Farmer showed that the correlation between the number of AP/IB courses a student takes and their college grades is not linear. While the statistics indicated an advantage for students who had taken five AP courses compared to those who had only taken one, the effect was essentially non-existent for students who took more than five. For this reason, students should carefully consider what benefits they hope to gain from burdening themselves with additional advanced courses in their final year of high school. It you are uncertain that you can achieve a high grade in these extra classes, it may be wiser to limit yourself to only five.
University credit is another factor to consider. Both AP and IB courses can be used as credits under certain circumstances at certain universities (Table 1). If this is an important aspect in your decision-making process, check with the universities you are interested in to check which AP or IB courses they accept for credit, if any. A score of 4 or 5 out of 5 on an AP exam is a common requirement for university credit; likewise, a score of 5 in a higher level IB course is the typical minimum. According to a study done by IGI services in 2011, 69% of the IBDP students reported using their courses for credit or advanced placement or advanced standing in universities. However, if accruing university credits is your sole goal, AP courses are more widely accepted. Again, if you have a specific school in mind, check their website or get in contact with them to learn about their policy in this matter.
The Advanced Placement program and International Baccalaureate are both great high-level curriculums that provide a solid education for students and can give them a significant boost in college admissions. However, if acceptance into an elite post-secondary institution is the student’s main goal when deciding on their high school courses, simply enrolling in as many AP or IB classes as possible may not be the best path. It is always wise to consider your interests, your schedule, and your goals when making these decisions. Sometimes, it is better to excel in a few areas than to be mediocre in many.
Of course, if you are struggling in your AP or IB courses (or in of your academic endeavors), the aid of a qualified tutor, such as those at Hack Your Course AP and IB Tutoring Service, can provide invaluable guidance and help so that you can achieve the grades you are truly capable of.
TABLE 1: AP AND IB CREDIT TRANSFERS IN IVY LEAGUE UNIVERSITIES AND SOME CANADIAN UNIVERSITIES
GLOBAL / US or CA
|MINIMUM IB GPA |
|ACCEPTANCE RATE||CREDIT TRANSFER |
|CREDIT TRANSFER |
|PRINCETON||11/1 (US) |
|- / 38+||6%||AP score of 5 (occasionally 4) might lead to a 100 or 200 level course||Score of 7 in HL equals to 5 in AP |
Score of 6 in HL equals to 4 in AP
|HARVARD||1/2 (US) |
|- / 38+||5%||Advanced Standing are earned by scoring five on a minimum of four AP exams. |
Those scores will put you into an Advanced Standing programme
| At most schools 5 in AP equals 7 in HL |
(it is not mentioned directly on the website)
|COLUMBIA||6 /3 (US) |
|- / 38+||5%||may be granted credit or be exempted from certain courses or requirements |
for most of the AP courses passed with a 4 or 5.
|Only HL courses in the level of 6-7||NC|
|YALE||11 /4 (US) |
|- / 38+||6%||Credits are earned for most of the courses with a final score of 5 |
with the exception of Calculus BC that 4 is accepted
|At most schools 5 in AP equals 7 in HL||AP physics and chemistry do not land any credits. |
You will get the same credits for Calculus AB (5) and BC (4+)
|UNIVERSITY OF |
|14/8 (US) |
|- / 38+||8%||It offers credit for qualifying AP Exam scores with a score of 5 for most courses||It offers credit for qualifying IB scores with a score of 6 for most HL courses||Upenn does not offer any credits for Calculus AP AB.|
|226 /13 (US) |
|- / 37+||8%||It does not offer credits for AP courses taken at school; |
they can be used for exemption and placement (4+)
|It does not offer credits for IB courses taken at school; |
they can be used for exemption and placement (6+ in Higher Level)
|BROWN||101/14 (US) |
|- / 38+||7%||It might offer credits for sophomore students for AP courses taken at school; |
in most cases they can be used for getting into higher level courses (4+)
|It might offer credits for sophomore students for IB courses taken at school; |
in most cases they can be used for getting into higher level courses (5+)
|CORNELL||22 / 18 (US) |
19 / 9 (US)
|- / 37+||11%||It offers credit for qualifying AP Exam scores with a score of 4 and 5s depending on the course||It offers credit for qualifying IB scores with a score of 6 and higher depending on the course||NC|
|UNIVERSITY OF |
|17 / 1 (CAN) |
18 / 1 (CAN)
|- / 34||43%||a score of 4 in AP courses that you have taken might land you first-year credit |
in UofT to a maximum of 3 full credits.
|Prerequisite courses can be presented at either SL or HL. |
Credit is granted for HL subjects with a minimum grade of 5.
|UNIVERSITY OF |
|31 / 2 (CA) |
34 / 2 (CA)
|24 / 33||57% (VANCOUVER) |
|a score of 4 can land you first-year credit in UBC.||All HL and some SL IB courses (scores of 5 or 6 depending on the course) |
can be considered for first-year credit.
|a 4 in Calc AB (or Calculus AB subscore in Calc BC) |
will land you math 100 that is worth 3 credits.
a 4 in Calc BC will get you math 100 and 101
that are worth 6 credits altogether.
UBC does not give credit to Math SL.
|MCGILL||51 / 3 (CA)||33 / 36||49%||The university offers credits for an AP score of 4 and higher depending on the faculty.||A maximum of 30 credits of advanced standing may be granted |
for the IB diploma based on HL results of 5 or better.
|both physics AP 1 and physics AP 2 must be completed to grant you PHYS 101 and PHYS 102 for a maximum of 8 credits. Calculus AB will count towards Math 140 (calculus 1) and Calculus BC will count towards Math 140 and Math 141.|
|WESTERN||287 / 10 (CA)||28 / 33||58%||A score of 4 in AP may be considered for transfer credit for some subjects up to a maximum of two credits.||A score of 5 or higher in IB HL subjects may be considered for transfer credit for some subjects up to a maximum of two credits.||NC|
|SIMON FRASER||306 /12 (CA)||- / 31||59%||Students who complete the AP examination with a minimum of 4 can be granted credits for a maximum of 3 credits.||Transfer credit is awarded for all SL and HL subjects passed with a grade of 4 or higher.||NC|
|UNIVERSITY OF WATERLOO||210 / 9 (CA)||- / 33||53%||A score of 4 in AP may be considered for transfer credit depending on the faculty for some subjects for a first-year university course. For example, calculus AB is not accepted for transfer credit for students in the Faculty of Mathematics, including Computing and Financial Management; however, it is accepted for calculus 1 for the sciences for all other students.||transfer individual IB HL with a minimum of 5.||The acceptance rate varies widely from department to department. |
Theory of knowledge and the extended essay with a minimum grade of B (Good) in both. Waterloo equivalent transfer credit is PHIL 1XX (1.0 units).
|CARLETON||471 / 18 (CA)||28/31||-||Applicants with AP scores of 4 or higher are granted credit.||Students may be awarded advanced standing (transfer) credit for HL subjects with a grade of 5 or better, subject to the discretion of the appropriate faculty to a maximum of 3.0 credits||For acceptance, One subject may have a grade of 3, provided it is offset by a grade of 5 or better in another subject. Prerequisite subjects must have a grade of 4 or better. Specific programmes might have additional course requirements.|
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