Is IB Worth It? Here’s What You Need to Know

Advanced Placement is common because it’s easy. IB is less popular because it’s strictly structured and incredibly challenging. But is IB worth it despite the pressure involved in the program? 

The IB program is worth it for students who wish to earn a globally acknowledged diploma. Apparently, selective universities look at whether a student took the IB course to make their admissions decision. Also, one must take the IB course to earn IB-specific scholarship or to earn 32 college credits.

Some schools will want to know if you can handle challenging academic situations in college or university. To do this, they’ll start by asking if you took the IB diploma course in high school.

Key Takeaways

  • IB is better than AP because it teaches students to think critically in and outside the classroom.
  • The IB program is a suitable option for students who can handle difficult classes.
  • IB requires effective time management and study habits to master its strict structure and complete all IB assignments with the least amount of effort.

How Many Classes are in the IB Program?

The IB program currently has 57 classes all categorized into 6 distinct groups. See the summary table below:

1Individuals and SocietiesBusiness ManagementInformation Technology
  Global PoliticsSocial and Cultural Anthropology
  HistoryWorld Religions
2Language AcquisitionClassical LanguagesLanguage B
  Language AB Initio 
3Studies in Language and LiteratureLiteratureLanguage and Literature
  Literature and Performance 
4The ArtsDanceTheater
  Visual Arts 
5SciencesBiology  Environmental Systems and Societies
  Sports, Exercise and Health SciencePhysics  
  Computer Science ChemistryDesign Technology  
6MathematicsAnalysis and Approaches 
  Applications and Interpretation 

Note that these subjects are available to Standard and Higher levels.

Just to reiterate, IB requires that you study six subjects, three from HL and three from SL. Also, IB doesn’t place restrictions on subject selection, so you’re welcome to choose and work on the   subjects that you find interesting.

How Does IB Compare to AP Program?

To make up your mind on whether to choose IB or AP, it’s important to understand exactly how the two programs differ.

See the comparison table below:

1.HistoryStarted in 1968Started in started in 1951
2.PopularityAvailable in 153 countriesAvailable in less than 60 countries and popular in US schools
3.StructureIB’s curriculum is fixed and  students study six subjectsAP is more flexible because it offers students subject choices
4.DifficultyDemands time due to its strict academic rigorAP classes are generally less demanding
5.College CreditsOne can earn college creditsOne can earn college credits

Let’s look at these differences in more details below: 

1. History

Founded in 1968 in Geneva, Switzerland, IB prioritizes a global education approach to equip students for their post-secondary education and future endeavors. As of 2021, the IB program is available in 159 countries.

In contrast, the Advanced Placement (AP) program, established in 1951 by the U.S. College Board, first started as a response to the educational challenges posed by the Cold War in the United States. However, it transitioned to become one of the most popular education programs worldwide.

2. Popularity

AP and IB programs have a global presence, but there are differences between the two programs as far as popularity is concerned.

The IB program is available to high school students in 159 countries, whereas the AP program is accessible in fewer than 60 countries.

However, the popularity of the AP program surpasses that of the IB program due to its broader availability. For instance, in the United States, approximately 22,169 high schools offer on-site AP programs, while only 931 high schools provide the IB program.

Furthermore, there is a significant disparity in the number of students enrolled in each program.

In 2022, only 180,000 students participated in the IB program.

That’s a considerably smaller figure compared to the approximately 1.2 million students who enrolled in the Advanced Placement program in the same year. 

3. Structure

In IB, students explore six areas, three at the standard level and three at higher levels. One is free to choose a topic to cover, as long as it fits within the scope of the assignment.

Furthermore, a student must attend all IB classes for two years, write assessments and essays, and pass exams to earn the IB diploma. These assessments include a combination of classroom performance and exam results.

On the other hand, Advanced Placement program offers greater flexibility in subject selection, not to mention that students can opt to take the AP exam without necessarily attending in-class sessions.

4. Difficulty

IB classes are more demanding than AP classes, and for several reasons. Every student in the IB program must:

  • Take the Theory of Knowledge course, which fosters critical thinking individually and in the context of diverse cultures.
  • Complete an extended essay, which is a substantial 4,000-word research project that spans the two-year course.
  • Write IAs for three to five of the six subjects that they choose to study at standard and higher level.
  • Participate in CAS program, which emphasizes innovative actions and community service to earn CAS hours.

In contrast, Advanced Placement classes generally involve a lighter workload.

5. College Credits

Students in both IB and AP programs may earn course credits, but the quantity of transferable varies by institution.

Some schools award credit for IB subject grades of seven, which is the highest achievable score in the IB system. Other schools may recognize scores of four and above.

Certain universities assign greater credit value to one program over another. For instance, the University of Michigan offers more credit for IB classes compared to AP subjects, whereas the University of Colorado Boulder may allocate more credit to specific Advanced Placement exams than to certain IB exams.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide whether you’ll take the IB diploma course or enroll in a completely different program such as ITGST or Advanced Placement.

After all, every program has its benefits and drawbacks.

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