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IB vs. AP – discover the difference

IB vs. AP – discover the difference

High school students in the US who are interested in challenging themselves academically can choose to enroll in rigorous university-preparatory programs such as the College Board’s Advanced Placement (AP) or the International Baccalaureate® (IB) Diploma, depending on what their school offers.

Both courses offer unique benefits, but have different educational goals. AP programs are more common in US high schools and are comprised of subject-specific college-level academic classes. Teachers develop their own curriculum based on course requirements and AP standards. The IB is a pre-college, international-perspective program with a focus on six subject areas. The curriculum is created by an international committee of teachers. In addition to coursework, IB students participate in community service, personalized research and a holistic approach to learning, focusing on how subject matter works with each other.

Breaking down the IB

At EF Academy, we offer the IB because it challenges students to grow outside of the classroom, it prepares students for the challenging and competitive education environment they’ll find at university, and it is internationally recognized.

The structure of the IB program acquires breadth and depth of knowledge and understanding, as students are required to study courses from six different subject groups. IB Diploma students must choose one subject from each of the five groups, ensuring knowledge and understanding in their best language, additional languages, humanities, the experimental sciences and mathematics.

“The IB program is different from AP classes because it encourages students to be global citizens who are active in various aspects of school life, to be compassionate toward their peers, and to develop the skills to be life-long learners,” says Patrick Dunn, Head of Humanities and former IB Coordinator at EF Academy New York.

The course structure of the two academic paths is also very different. Those following the AP academic path can select individual yearlong courses, of which there are more than 30 to choose from, while the IB Diploma program is a two-year curriculum that covers Grades 11 and 12 (the last two years of secondary school).

“With the IB program students not only get an academic education in six subjects, but they also learn research skills while preparing and writing an Extended Essay of 4,000 words, participate in a Creativity, Action, Service (CAS) project over 18 months, and learn how to question during the Theory of Knowledge course of 100 hours – all of which AP does not offer,” Mr. Dunn says.

He adds: “With the IB covering topics over a two-year period, versus a one-year program like the AP, much more time is given to developing a richer knowledge of subjects by going deeper into the content of the courses.”

IB and higher education

According to IBO, “several studies commissioned by the IB have concluded that, compared to their peers, IB students tend to go to university at higher rates, go to more selective universities, and perform better once there.”

Some of these conclusions include:

  • Former IB students in the U.S. are significantly more likely to attend a “selective” or “highly selective” institution compared to the average U.S. university applicant.
  • In the U.S., a comparison of four IB standard level courses and similar AP courses assigned the IB SL courses equal or higher grades than their AP counterparts.
  • In the UK, IB students are more than twice as likely to attend top 20 universities than the average A-Level student.

The above research can be found by clicking here.

All of the IB’s studies are available here.


From student to global citizen

Finally, one of the IB curriculum’s greatest benefits to students, aside from how it prepares them for university, is how it helps shape them into confident, independent global citizens.

Mr. Dunn says, “Students benefit from the IB curriculum by living a program that aims to help them develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring students, who help create a better world through intercultural understanding and respect.”



At EF Academy, students choose the IGCSE, A-Level, IB Diploma or American High School Diploma program based on their strengths, age and desired campus location.