Get with the program

Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) classes are put into place to challenge exceptional students. It can be noted students at the school are strongly encouraged to take at least one AP or IB course during their time in high school. However, are these types of classes really for everyone? “Students who are planning to take these advanced courses need to be prepared to work hard,” IB biology teacher Maria Sotomayor said. “These are advanced courses for a reason, and the goal of the advanced courses are to push students to perform as best they can, so the students should expect just that.”

AP courses consist of standardized high school courses which are roughly equivalent to undergraduate college courses. After completing an AP class, students typically take the AP exam in that subject, which can earn them credits and accelerated placement in college. The fact that all of the AP credits can be transferred over to your college degree if you get four or five, really attracts a lot of students, like junior Dina Chang. “AP really allows a student to see how certain events affect other things in the world and prepares them for their future in college,” Chang said. “Which is a really nice perspective to have. This is one benefit to AP since IB really goes into depth about topics, you’re able to learn more like you would in a college setting.”

On the other hand, IB courses have gained popularity lately for setting high standards of learning and emphasizing creative and critical thinking. IB students are more responsible for their own learning experience, choosing topics to learn about and creating their own projects. In doing so, teachers act more as supervisors or mentors. IB emphasizes the importance of research and pushes students to learn from their fellow students rather than teachers. Beyond preparing students for critical thinking and college-level work, the full IB program requires students to express themselves through writing and community service. The Programme tries to develop thoughtful, intelligent and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through ‘intercultural understanding’ and respect. “If I could go back in time to when I made my decision to join IB,” Chang said. “I would do it in a heartbeat because it really has given me an incredible opportunity to study abroad doing things I love, such as being a journalist.

There are many differences between the AP and IB programs. The AP comparison only fits in a high school with an IB diploma program where students are allowed to take one or more IB classes in their strongest subjects. Even then, IB and AP classes tend to differ in teaching method and testing. Some see AP as more focused on written learning and standardized tests. In contrast, IB classes and assessments tend to involve more research, writing, and hands-on evaluation. “You’re given a lot of work to complete, so you must be organized,” Junior August Wagner said. “IB courses are definitely hard, so you shouldn’t just join the program because you think it’s what’s right, but because you’re confident in yourself in your school work.”

A key difference is the final exam. IB exams are set up to challenge students to apply what they have learned into new situations, such as reviewing a case study, in an effort to test students’ ability to react to new information in a short period of time. The tests given (often essays) are then sent to one of 6,000 trained international examiners to be graded alongside work from other IB students worldwide. “So far, I’ve only taken one IB exam,” junior Mary Olivia Rentner said. “My teacher gave me a lot of review packets, which I did, and that seemed to work just fine for me. You just have to really want to do well and put in the effort to see the results.”

There are numerous benefits to both programs, however, it is advised not to overload a class schedule with AP and IB courses. Each course requires a large portion of a student’s attention and time. These time-consuming classes especially demand all of a student’s effort when preparing for the end of the year exams. It is crucial to create and maintain strong study habits in order to retain information for these exams. “Good candidates for the AP and IB programs are students that have great study habits,” junior Negar Kueen said. “However, these classes are advanced for a reason. The courses are very rigorous and there are nights that you don’t get any sleep, but in the end, you can look back and say ‘Wow… I did it’.”