International Baccalaureate vs. Advanced Placement Tests

Instructor: Marissa Baranauskas
The International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement programs can both be used to earn course credit at several colleges and universities. Keep reading for more information on these programs' test formats and scoring, and find resources that can help you successfully earn college credit.

International Baccalaureate Program

The International Baccalaureate (IB) program is offered at local schools approved to provide this course of study. Four different programs are available, including a Diploma Program for high school students age 16 to 19.

This two-year curriculum is recognized by colleges and universities during the admissions process. Students who successfully complete the coursework are eligible to receive introductory core or elective course credit they can apply toward their college degree.

Diploma Program Requirements

To complete the Diploma Program, students chose one course of interest from each of five subject areas in language and literature, language acquisition, individuals and societies, science, and mathematics. They then have the option to take either a sixth subject in the arts or a second course in a subject they've already taken (with the exception of language and literature).

Additionally, students complete a 1,600 word essay and an oral presentation on the theory of knowledge, a 4,000 word extended essay on a topic of interest, and an independent project. You can prepare for the essay portion of the program by taking this course on Essay Writing. Content includes video lessons and practice quizzes that can teach you how to structure, write, and revise quality essays.

A bilingual diploma is also possible for students who pass two language acquisition courses along with a language and literature course and a science or individuals and societies course that they have taken in another language.

Diploma Program Assessment Methods

Student success in each of the six subjects it typically assessed through written exams administered in May and November. These tests could include multiple-choice and short-response questions in addition to essay questions. Laboratory work, field work, artistic performances or oral exams completed as part of a course could also be used to help determine grades.

Scoring for the Diploma Program

Each course is scored on a scale from seven to one, and essays are graded on scale of three to zero. A cumulative score of 24 or greater is needed to earn a diploma. The independent project is not scored, but its completion is a requirement.

High diploma scores (of around 30 or greater) could be used to earn up to a year's worth of college elective credits at some schools. Additionally, scores of 4 or higher on individual IB exams could also be used to earn introductory course credits in subjects like biology, physics, psychology, or a foreign language. Keep in mind that policies for awarding credit vary by school.

Advanced Placement Courses and Tests

High scores on AP exams can also allow students to earn college credit and bypass introductory college courses. These exams are typically offered at the culmination of Advanced Placement (AP) courses, which are offered in 30 subject areas and were available to students in over 21,000 schools in 2014-2015.

Unlike the IB program, however, students can still participate in AP testing even if their school doesn't offer an AP course. They simply need to make arrangements to take an exam at another school.

AP Exam Format

AP exams are comprehensive tests held annually in May. Exams are typically comprised of multiple-choice and open-response questions. The open-response questions may require students to write an essay, show the steps involved in solving a math problem or, as is the case with language exams, record an oral response.

Scoring the AP Exam

Scores for each exam are derived from students' performance on both the multiple-choice and open-response portions. A final score of one through five is assigned, with five being the highest possible score. Most colleges award credit for a score of three or higher. However, the decision to accept AP scores in exchange for college-level credit is at the discretion of each institution; minimum passing scores, the exams accepted, and the amount of credit awarded may vary.

AP Exam Preparation

Listed below are links to several Advanced Placement exam prep courses. If you're preparing to take an AP exam, these courses provide video lessons of the material you may encounter on the test and practice quizzes to measure your understanding of course content. You can find additional exam prep courses in other subject areas at

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

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