students on a library

Which Is the Better Option: IB or AP?

As your teen approaches the time when they can attend university, you might consider enrolling them in programs that can supplement their learning with college-level courses. They can choose from International Baccalaureate or Advanced Placement, which can provide greater leverage for acceptance in a prestigious university and earn them credits for some courses. While they appear to offer similar advantages at first glance, what are their differences and which is better?

What Is the International Baccalaureate Program?

The International Baccalaureate or IB was conceived in Geneva in 1968, then adopted in the US in 1971. The IB is an internationally-accepted learning program offering education with a focus on preparing students to function in a more globalized society. Students who endeavor to have an IB diploma are required to excel in six subject groups. This includes second language acquisition, literature and language, individuals and societies, maths, sciences, and the arts.

Apart from these courses, a set of core disciplinary approaches will be taken, such as the theory of knowledge, creativity, activity, service, and an extended 4,000-word essay. Your child can take IB courses that are “standard level” or SL, or “high level” or HL. You can enroll your child at an international baccalaureate program in any international school, including those in Singapore. To obtain the IB diploma, a minimum of three HL courses must be completed.

While it is possible to take IB courses individually, the program was meant to be more comprehensive. The IB diploma is recognized by many elite private institutions all over the world; they do not apply the credits earned in a standardized manner. Some universities will offer placement in advanced courses instead of adding their credits towards graduation. You can see which universities give credit for IB diplomas or exams.

What Are AP Classes?


Advanced Placement classes or AP is a US-based program that began in the 1950s. This was created to address concerns that the curriculum of many high schools and universities in the US were inadequate to prepare students for obtaining gainful employment. The AP program was also designed to address redundancies in university courses, as some graduates of elite private high schools had already taken the introductory courses.

AP was initially intended to accelerate students into more appropriate courses; nowadays, the AP enables gifted students to take more advanced courses. The College Board is the administrative body for AP and is a non-profit organization that also administers the SATs and PSATs. Its primary purpose is to provide more challenging, university-level coursework and assist capable students in earning college credit or skipping introductory classes and taking more advanced courses.

Compared to the IB program, AP classes were not devised with the intent of offering a cohesive curriculum. Students can choose from 38 courses in varied areas such as English, Arts, History and Social Sciences, Maths, Computer Science, and Sciences. It is possible for your child to self-study for an AP exam and earn credits, but this depends on what their high school offers.

Comparing the Two

While both the IB and AP culminate in exams and allow students to earn university credit, there are marked differences between the programs. The IB has a more globalized slant and can provide students with a broader, real-world view via the community service component and research paper requirement. The AP is a less costly option and allows students the flexibility of taking the courses they like.

Which Is Better?

The answer as to whether IB or AP is better is not a clear-cut yes or no. You must first take into account your child’s needs, their educational goals, and your time and budget. If the aim is for your child to live and work abroad, the IB is recommended; should you and your child desire placement in a prestigious university and advance quickly to completing their education, then take the AP.

Choosing between the IB or AP is no simple task. You should discuss with your child what their needs and goals are in terms of their education and future careers. You can also seek the advice of their school’s counselor to help in making this critical decision.

Scroll to Top