Which is Better: AP or IB Classes in High School?

Should you take AP or IB classes in high school?

Flickr user Ryan Stanton

As you continue through high school, if your grades are strong, you might have the opportunity to enter advanced classes. Two options include International Baccalaureates (IB) and Advanced Placement (AP). But which is the better option of the two?

AP vs IB – What Are They?

 First, before we can dive into which is better, we need to cover the basics of the two.

What are IB Classes?

International Baccalaureate, or IB classes, can be offered in any grade, but they are more commonly seen in high school. IB classes can be individual courses or part of a whole program, known as the IB Diploma Programme.

The classes in the program cover six areas, including the arts, language and literature, math, sciences, language acquisition, and individuals and societies. Each course is capped off with an IB assessment that is graded between 1 and 7.

The truth is, although each of these programs is significantly different from the other, both have tough curricular requirements and high testing standards. Both programs are also more rigorous than regular high school classes. In order to finish and earn a diploma in the IB program, a student needs a total of 24 points.

Students who have an IB diploma and attend a college that accepts them will likely be able to skip their first year of college and earn 30 credits towards their bachelor’s degree.


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What Are AP Classes?

Only offered in high school, Advanced Placement (AP) classes are individual courses on a subject matter. They can cover everything from Chemistry to Calculus and Art History to Biology – there are 38 total available!

Like an IB, AP courses are finished with an AP test. These are scored between 1-5, with 1 being the lowest and 5 the highest. A 3 is generally considered a pass. The higher you score, however, the more likely you will be to receive college credit. Usually, a 4 or 5 is required to earn a 1:1 college credit for the AP course you completed. A 3, if accepted by the college, will count as an elective.

AP vs IB – The Differences

Next, let’s cover the differences between AP courses and IB programs. These may actually influence your decision on which to go with.

1. IB Programs are Rarer than AP Classes

While many high schools have at least one AP class, if not more, available to students, IB programs and classes are rarer in the United States at the moment. They’re much more available in Europe.

2. IB Classes are More Expensive

Students pay per assessment or test when it comes to IB and AP classes. The AP exam costs $96, compared to the IB assessment which is $119. Core requirements in an IB program may also come with fees.

3. You Can Take an AP Exam Without the Class

Did you know that you can actually take an AP exam without having sit for the year-long class? This can be extremely beneficial for things like language! An IB program, however, does not offer this option.

4. AP and IB Programs Have Different Goals and Focuses

Although they can both count towards college credits, the experiences in AP and IB classes are vastly different.

AP classes cover college-level classes and are stand alone. They offer an opportunity for high-level students to get some of their college requirements out of the way or just to get a head start on their degrees.

IB classes, however, are more focused on a breadth of knowledge for the individual, including the process of knowledge, global awareness, and critical thinking. They’re broader and more holistic.

If you want an intense focus on a subject you’re interested in, an AP class may be best for you. If you want a more rounded approach to your education, you might want to go with an IB program.

AP vs IB – Which Is Right for You?

If your school does happen to offer both AP and IB classes, you’ll have to make the decision between the two. The answer, however, isn’t clear cut. It absolutely varies from student to student. You’ll want to review the differences above first, but if you’re struggling to decide, here are some other facts to keep in mind

Accepted Credits Can Vary Between Colleges

If you have a dream college (or colleges) in mind, make sure to ask them what types of credits they accept before you enter the AP or IB class. Some schools will only accept AP classes, and not IB. You will also want to inquire about how many college credits you may receive, required scores on the tests, and any other questions you might have regarding the transfer of credits.

That said, colleges that do accept both IB and AP classes tend not to have a preference. Both are, in fact, highly regarded!

You Could Potentially Earn More Credits through AP Classes

Although an IB program may allow you to skip the first year of college, it is technically possible to take more than 30 credits in your AP classes! Of course, this depends on how much rigor you want to take on.

You Could Take Both

If you really can’t decide, it may be possible for you to take both AP and IB classes. However, due to high school class scheduling, you may not be able to actually earn your IB diploma while also taking AP classes. Talk to your advisor about your options and schedule.

If your school offers both AP and IB classes, you may have a decision ahead of you! Really give thought to your passions as well as your goals when deciding between the two. It may also be worth a conversation with your intended college to ensure any potential credits you earn will transfer.


Do you want to know more about whether or not your college accepts AP or IB classes and credits? Use our College Match tool to not only uncover the schools that are your “matches” but to get further information about accepted credits.

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