AP vs. IB: Considering the Similarities and Differences

Olivia Trone, Bilingual Editor

Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) are both high school programs that offer rigorous classes to challenge students and provide them with the opportunity to receive college credit. AP has more name recognition in the United States, whereas IB is internationally-based and is less popular. AP seems more practical for an American student, but the IB program is more organized and beneficial in the long run. But there are key similarities and differences that should be explained. 



  • AP is more common for schools in the United States

According to the US News & World Report, fewer than 950 high schools offer the IB Diploma Program, but more than 20,000 schools offer AP classes. 

  • AP and IB are structurally different

If you desire to, you are able to complete a certain amount of IB courses, with a few special classes, to receive an IB Diploma. To do this, you take a full IB course load. AP offers a wide range of classes, but there is no such thing as “full AP” or an AP Diploma.

  • Your final score is determined differently

AP tests occur once, so they measure your abilities only on that day. If you screw up during the exam, but you really know the material, your true abilities aren’t reflected. IB scores are based on multiple different data points taken from assessments throughout the year. This way can provide a more accurate representation of a student’s knowledge in the class. 



  • Both programs can lead to college credit

AP and IB exams can give you college credit, depending on your score. AP tests are out of 5. Selective colleges give credit for a 4 and 5, but some will give credit for a 3 on an exam. IB exams are out of 7. Most colleges give credit for scores of 5 and higher. 

  • The programs are costly

Normal AP exams are usually $95 in the US and Canada. AP Seminar and AP Research are exceptions; those exams always cost $144. For IB, the cost per score is $119, with a $20 program fee. 

  • Both have intense workloads 

AP and IB both have very intense workloads, since they are classes meant to prepare students for the academic rigours of college. In the long run, the fast pace and workload is beneficial in preparing for academic standards at universities. 


AP vs. IB is a common debate. Like I said before, I think IB is organized and provides a more unique, integrated approach to learning. But no matter what program your school offers, you will be successful in high school and beyond.