When families ask us which program is the better choice, AP (Advanced Placement) vs. IB (International Baccalaureate), I usually give them my answer based on how they impact a student's chances of admission. Both programs do a good job of showing colleges that a student has the intellect and the work ethic to succeed in college. But it's important to consider the question of college credit, too.
The AP program was originally introduced to allow students to earn college credit while still in high school. And as Jay Mathews points out in his column today, that's where there's still a big difference between AP and IB.
Check the Web sites or rule books of most American universities…and you will discover that they offer college credit to students who get good grades on Advanced Placement exams in high school but that they refuse to give the same credit to students who do well on similar International Baccalaureate Standard Level exams. They offer credit to students who get good grades on exams taken after two-year Higher Level IB courses, but those are different. Tests for one-year IB courses don’t get credit; tests for similar one-year AP courses do. This has produced one of the most nonsensical testing traditions I have encountered in American education, already famous for exam madness. The hardworking students who take a one-year IB course, do well on the exam and want to get the college credit they deserve have to spend another three hours, at one of the busiest times of the school year, taking the AP exam in that subject, which costs $87."
A lot of students take on AP or IB programs with the intention of improving their chances of admission to selective colleges, which both programs do. But if you're concerned about whether or not you'll eventually get college credit for those choices when you arrive to college, you'll need to research the policies of your chosen colleges. And at least for now, it's likely that AP will lead to college credit more often than IB will.