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IB or AP?

October 11, 2011

Students in Coppell are able to choose from many high school options, including International Baccalaureate (IB) and Advanced Placement (AP).  AP and IB are considered equally rigorous, just different.  IB is a self-contained curriculum offered as a 2 year program for students starting their junior year (four core subjects, foreign language, and arts/electives).  AP classes are offered individually – there are currently 37 AP exams offered across 22 subjects each year.

Colleges have great respect for the IB program, but it does not give a leg-up over AP.  Each program has a different approach and the student’s success depends on their interests and learning style.  IB is a more comprehensive core curricular program, AP allows more flexibility.  The material covered varies as does the expectation of what you will do with what you learn.  IB is about depth and AP is more about breadth.  IB prides itself on inspiring students to think critically and to find links between disciplines.  IB is also very language-based (both in content and testing), which is not always a good fit for students who are more interested in focusing exclusively on math and science.  AP courses are selected individually based on student interest.  Both are intended to be challenging, high-level classes that prepare well for college; however, neither is a golden ticket to a top school.

When deciding which courses to take in high school, consider either AP or IB to meet the needs of the gifted student.  But, keep in mind that AP and IB is not for everyone.  Duke University offered this response to a parent questioning which program was best for her child:

Students who are likely to succeed in AP and IB programs have a record of high achievement, are willing to work hard and to devote much out-of-school time to absorbing knowledge, have developed the prerequisite skills for the courses, are confident and self-motivated multitaskers, and manage their time well.  Those for whom AP and IB are not suitable options seem to be nonconforming students who resist the strict curriculum that is set forth. They dislike following inflexible syllabi driven by the goal of high performance on the tests that measure success. Students who question the structure of a fixed curriculum or who wish to explore new ideas or concepts through research or applied knowledge may be uncomfortable in AP courses or the IB program.

AP and IB are not for everyone – CISD also has the Academies, GT classes, project-based learning courses, and more to meet the needs of your child.

For more information and advice from students who have navigated the many options in CISD, please plan now to attend our CGA Symposium on Feb 2, and Feb 4, 2012.  The event on Feb 2 will include a panel discussion from high school students that can help guide you in curriculum choices.

One Comment leave one →
  1. She-Bear permalink
    April 2, 2012 9:23 pm

    I struggle with the claim that IB “does not give a leg-up over AP”. What I found is that selective colleges will give, at most, a semester worth of credit for AP courses, no matter how many AP classes a student took. However, selective colleges will generally give IB diploma holders a full year of college credit….and probably view their applications are slightly stronger.

    I think IB is a better fit for gifted students in general, particularly those who are gifted in both math and writing, and especially those who love to synthesize and debate what they have learned in multiple subjects.

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