As the current Grade 10s are finalising their class choices for the upcoming school year, it seems appropriate to highlight the differences between the IB and the AP (aka the high school programme), in order to pave the way for any final, drastic shifts in decisions.


It is often believed that the IB is the more challenging and life-wrenching way to go, however this ultimately is a myth. Having taken the IB for the past year, and having observed others go through their AP classes, I can say that while I certainly was taken aback and am occasionally overwhelmed by the IB workload, the AP can be just as difficult. It all comes down to what you make of it and how you are as a student.


Here are some of the fundamental differences between the two:



  • Unlike AP classes, the IB is a two year programme.


This means that with the IB, when doing your final exam, you will be required to know content from the past two years, while with the AP you will only need what you learned in the last year. However, this also means that the A.P. is a lot more fast paced, as they cover lots of content in a short period of time.


  • With the IB, you will have to complete various long term assessments.


Unlike AP classes, every one of your IB classes will require you to complete an Internal Assessment. These Internal Assessments will often take place over a few months, and will require lots of work as they determine a certain percentage of your final grade for that class. If you are a major procrastinator and the idea of working on a single assessment over a long period of time is repelling for you, beware of the IB.


  • The IB is more holistic, however there is more freedom with the AP.


While it is definitely possible to design your AP classes in a certain manner so that they offer you a holistic education, with the IB this is already done for you, as you are obligated to take courses from various subject areas. Therefore, the IB may be more suited for someone who is not exactly certain of their interests, and the AP would be the other way around, as it would enable the person to really focus on what they enjoy.


  • Extended Essay and TOK do not exist for the AP.


This is one of the most significant differences between the IB and the AP. While the IB requires you to write an Extended Essay, take Theory of Knowledge, and complete CAS, the AP does not. Therefore, if you hate the idea of writing a 4000 word essay, and you don’t understand why one could possibly want to, or even need to, discuss how we know what we know, do not take the IB.


  • With the AP route, your grades are completely dependent on your final exams.


Another big difference between the two routes is that your grades for AP classes are simply dependent on your exams at the end of the year. If you do not handle test situations well, this may not be the right choice for you.


  • Even though your IB grade isn’t just based on exams, exams are still important.


Although your grade is less dependent on your final exams in the IB than it is in the AP, final exams still determine a large chunk of your grade and therefore the exam stress is still prevalent in  the IB.


Overall, both routes are definitely challenging, however they are also rewarding in their own ways. Before giving into the myths and the stigmas surrounding both programmes, you need to recognise what kind of person and student you are, and determine which route is right for you, accordingly to that.


But I have to admit, whether or not this is with good reason, we IB students complain a lot more…