If you’re like many students who find it difficult to differentiate between the AP and IB programs, then this guide is for you. In summary, the AP and IB are high school programs that offer students challenging courses and an opportunity to earn college credit. However, their goals and philosophies are different.

The AP was created in the United States to help prepare high school students for college by allowing them to take college-level courses with no particular course program. On the other hand, the IB program was developed in the United Kingdom, which offers a globally-recognized diploma. In the IB program, students need to take a set of courses in different subjects to earn the diploma.

To learn and understand the difference between the two programs, check out these insights.

International Baccalaureate (IB)

The International Baccalaureate Diploma is a European-based academic program for high school juniors and seniors. With its integrated learning approach, the program encourages students to think beyond the limit of their communities and prepares them to compete on a global scale. Furthermore, the program has received the trust, respect, and recognition from a lot of colleges in the U.S.

While the program emphasizes intercultural enrichment and understanding, it was initially developed as a standard curriculum for high school juniors and seniors who moved from one nation to another. Ideally, it benefits children whose parents often relocated, such as the military and diplomats.

Even so, the IB diploma program has gained significant popularity with more than seven thousand programs in over 150 countries. In most cases, the program focuses on these main areas:

  • Mathematics and Computer Science
  • Language Acquisition
  • Arts
  • Experimental Sciences
  • Individuals and Societies

To complete the diploma successfully, students also need to go through three other essential elements:

  • Complete a 4,000-word essay
  • Outside-the-classroom learning experience
  • A knowledge course

While dozens of colleges recognize the IB diploma program, each institution has its own policies and rules on how they grant credit for the exams. Most importantly, the IB diploma program courses are offered only in accredited schools and the teachers must complete a thorough training. If your school doesn’t have the IB program, then you can pursue the diploma online.

Advanced Placement (AP)

Advanced Placement is an American-based college-level program created for high school students. The objective is to give students a taste of college experience by letting them study college-level courses while still in high school. The AP programs are developed and run through the College Board, a non-profit academic organization collaborating with several schools throughout the U.S. The College Board offers AP courses, college prep resources, and standardized tests, such as the SAT and ACT.

There are typically about 40 AP classes available for high school students across the U.S., which focus on major areas like:

  • English
  • Math
  • Physics
  • History
  • Chemistry
  • Language

For instance, you can enroll in classes like AP European History and AP English Composition. You can also take advanced level classes such as Environmental Science, Calculus, Studio Art, and Economics. For language courses, students can choose either German, English, Chinese, Italian, Japanese, and Spanish.

There are quite a few benefits to AP courses, where some studies show that students who take AP classes while in high school are more likely to graduate from college compared to others. These courses also help facilitate academic competence, which can also be an excellent way to encourage high schoolers to apply to college.

AP Exam Score Guide

The AP course exams are usually scored on a scale of 1 to 5, which can be deciphered as such:

  • 1: No Recommendation
  • 2: Possibly Qualified
  • 3: Qualified
  • 4: Very Well Qualified
  • 5: Extremely Well Qualified

Many colleges and universities require a standard score of at least 3 or 4. In most cases, when a high school partners with a particular college, their AP exam results can be used in place of prerequisite classes.

Dual-Credit Programs

Dual-Credit is an alternate program that allows students to graduate with high school certification along with college course credits. The program also can be an exam or course-based.

One of the most important reasons to choose the Dual-Credit program is because it gives you a competitive advantage which can earn you early college credit. This can be helpful because most available jobs today require some college education.

This type of program also helps enable students to earn college credit while still in high school by facilitating a smooth transition from high school to college. It ultimately gives students exposure to the college curriculum while in high school, which allows them to test and get used to college coursework. Even better, high school students who take Dual-Credit are more likely to complete their Bachelor’s degrees faster than the others who haven’t.

The Dual-Credit is available through many resources, including:

  • Cambridge International (CI)
  • College in the High School
  • Technical Education Dual-Credit
  • International Baccalaureate
  • Running Start
  • Career and Technical Education
  • College in the High Dual-Classes

These resources offer both exams and course-based options at the high school and college levels. The exam-based dual program allows students to take an exam on IB, CI, or AP, where they are expected to score at least 3 points for AP and at least 4 points for IB. Course-based dual programs, which can also be known as concurrent enrollment, allow students to join classes that can offer both college and high school credits.


Choosing the right approach to help prepare you for your college experience can be an important decision, but the good news is that the differences between these programs are simple. Ultimately, the kind of course you choose will depend on your preference and your school’s goals.

The IB diploma course is a global based program that offers an integrated academic approach to high school students. The AP course is a learning program developed for high school teenagers, and its primary goal is to connect high school students with college success while still in high school. On the other hand, Dual-Credit is a great alternative that allows students to earn both high school and college credits at the same time.