IB’s present alternative to AP’s: As AP exams approach, some pursue alternative testing options


Rose Guan

The International Baccalaureate (IB) program was founded in 1968 in Switzerland. “IB is a very suitable pathway for students who feel as though they are still open to try a range of things,” Emily Hyland, an IB student at Presbyterian Ladies’ College in Perth, Australia, said.

by Rose Guan and Gloria Zhang

Many upper school students are preparing for the dozens of AP exams in the next two weeks—but other students in the U.S. and worldwide, at schools that use International Baccalaureate (IB) programs as an alternative to AP exams, are preparing for IB exams instead.

IB classes often focus on different areas of he same subject that APs do; both culminate in exams at the year’s end. Colleges often give credit for higher-level IB exams in addition to AP exams.

Founded in 1968 in Switzerland, the international IB program has since grown to over 4,000 schools worldwide. AP exams were offered in more than 21,000 schools in 2015, according to an annual participation report released by the College Board.

The IB Diploma Programme requires students to take a variety of courses, including humanities, languages, sciences and math.

“IB is a very suitable pathway for individuals who feel as though they are still open to try a range of things,” Emily Hyland, an IB student at Presbyterian Ladies’ College in Perth, Australia, said. Emily will graduate from high school in November 2019. “Students are available to more options and future career pathways, as they are taking up a multitude of subjects from different topics.”

The IB program’s requirement to take diverse courses restricts the focuses on specific subjects if a student has already chosen a major or is set on a set career path, however.

“The AP system is more a la carte, meaning you can choose to take AP classes in areas of your speciality and as many as you like. [IB] is an inclusive curriculum, meaning you take IB courses across the board in multiple subjects,” history teacher Damon Halback, who has taught at an IB program at the University of Massachusetts in Boston, said. “[The IB program] has got advantages in that it allows for deeper thinking and allows for essay driven instruction, but it has disadvantages because it is kind of all-or-nothing, meaning you have less ability to style the courses you take.”

Both APs and IBs offer challenging and in-depth courses and result in exams which tests students’ knowledge. However, as the Harker community is more connected to the AP program, the chance for switching curriculums is minimal.

“I would think that there’s a much better chance that we’re going to get rid of the AP program than just put a period at the end of that statement, rather than switching to IBs. I’m not saying that it’s a news flash. I don’t see that happening anytime soon, but I think that than switching to IB,” academic dean Evan Barth said. “I think that if you were to list positives and negatives of the AP program, the negatives on the external side becomes a metric that people measure themselves against the world. ‘How many AP classes you do have?’ I don’t think it would be really different, if it were IBs.”

This piece was originally published in the pages of the Winged Post on May 11, 2017.