BY: Emma Allde
For upperclassmen the topic of Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses is cause for much controversy and disagreement. Tenth graders are now in the midst of attempting to make the difficult choice regarding which programme is the best for them. To make the right decision for you as a tenth grader it is important to remain well-informed, open-minded, and honest in assessing one’s strengths and weaknesses.
Returning to ZIS for my senior year, I was not given the choice between AP and IB. Knowing as a tenth grader that I would be forced to take the AP made me very apprehensive as to the success of my future plans of studying in the UK. I was under the misimpression that APs were not satisfactory for UK universities; unfortunately, this is a common misunderstanding for many students in ZIS. The truth is that a multitude of upperclassmen as well as former graduates have been successful in their applications to all over the world with both programmes. Therefore, I cannot stress enough the importance of choosing the programme that better suits your strengths and weaknesses as a student rather basing it on your desired country of study.
The Advanced Placement is American by design; however, the programme offers opportunity for success for every student. The AP differs from the IB in that most courses are only one year in length and there is only one high standard of difficulty available. Many students find the ability to complete a course in one year appealing as it offers fast exam results, opening up the opportunity for a more free and flexible schedule. Furthermore, unlike the IB the AP allows students to personalize their courses to suit their interests, not mandating a fourth year of courses such as maths or science. However, do not be fooled by stereotyped lazy AP kids or the number of ‘frees,’ the AP programme is rigorous and requires responsibility, initiative, and dedication. The inability to choose a level of study brings the majority of AP courses up to the standard of an IB Higher Level or higher. The AP as well as the teachers who teach it expect a high level of maturity as the majority of courses rely heavily on self-motivation to achieve high marks. Lacking the heavy deadlines of the IB and secondary course work such as Internal Assessments, Extended Essay, and Commentaries alleviates a workload from an AP students’ shoulders in some sense; however, the lack of detailed assignments and projects demands a high level of discipline from the student to master the difficult course material through self-study and paying close attention to lectures. The AP may appear to be the easy way out and in honesty the freedom in course selection does offer an easier option. Despite this, if you are self-motivated and enjoy faster results then the AP is the right choice.
The International Baccalaureate has internationally been given high praise for its rigour, high success rate, and the hardworking students that labour through its two years. The IB demands attention in all courses including math, science, English, history, theory of knowledge (ToK), language, and elective courses. In addition, Creative Action Service (CAS) hours are an important aspect of success in the diploma and requires additional time and effort from the candidates but also the chance to be creative and successful outside the classroom. The IB is also given high prestige at ZIS because of its worldwide recognition and the high percentage of students who commit to the diploma. IB differs from AP in the style of learning as well as the obvious time frame. The two year course forces IB students to be dedicated, patient, and responsible with keeping old information fresh in their minds in time for the exams. ToK promotes further levels of higher thinking and exploration in all aspects of study. In addition, many students are not only drawn in by the prestige of the programme but also the structure of the programme. The IB diploma runs on a tight schedule and the Extended Essay and extra course work with high emphasis of independent research and writing moulds students for success in university. The structured assignment and schedules allows students to keep organized and focused whilst building a repertoire for future success. Many students are discouraged by the high course load; however, the ability to choose three higher and three standard level courses allows the IB student to have some breathing space. If structure and organization is necessary for your success than the IB is very suitable.
Considering the differences between the two programmes it is important, as I have stressed previously, not to be discouraged from one course because of the place you wish to study. The AP is highly accepted in the United Kingdom; completing exams in eleventh grade allow for the possibility of unconditional offers or highly attainable conditions. Oxford University and Cambridge University, world renowned as two of the top universities in the world, welcomed two AP students for interviews this year alone. Students have expressed concern in taking AP and applying in the Netherlands; however, as Sebastian Slob ’12 states “the AP program is very appealing, not only for the US, but also places like Holland.” Sebastian applied to the Technical University of Delft, the Netherlands, and wishes to clarify to other Dutch students that “after making contact with the university [he] had the option to do either IB or AP.” For him the AP was the right choice because it enabled him to focus on subjects more specific to his desired career. Jordy Lubkeman ’12 an IB student who applied to the US remarks that “the IB curriculum is really not designed for kids who are applying to the US. This is because all the work really amps up September to December senior year” when US applications are looming. However, she emphasized that many college authorities believe that the IB “distinguishes you from the sea of kids applying with AP credits and that it prepares you better for college due to its heavy emphasis in writing and independent research.” All in all, it is important not to be discouraged by a lack of requirements listed on university websites; speak to the university counsellors and inquire to your universities of interest by email, phone, fax, or other. Make the choice that is right for you.