Many international school students going into their junior year (11th grade) will have to decide between taking regular classes, the International Baccalaureate (IB), or the Advanced Placement (AP) courses. It may be a difficult decision as it could potentially narrow down your choices for applying to universities…or will it?!

1. Comparison

Here’s a guide comparing the IB and AP so you can have a better understanding of the differences between the two, to help you decide what bests suits your current needs and future plans.



The International Baccalaureate (IB) was founded in 1968 in Switzerland as an internationally accepted university entrance qualification.

The Advanced Placement (AP) was developed by the College Board in the US in 1955 to help high school students prepare for college by offering college-level advanced courses and exams.


The IB aims “to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect.” 

The AP program aspires to give high school students a “head start” in college, by “getting familiar with college-level work”, developing “skills necessary for college”, and “discovering their passion”.


The full IB diploma program is a two-year program that requires students to pass IB-level classes chosen from 6 subject groups, complete a 4,000 word essay on a topic chosen by each student, as well as extracurricular activities for personal growth.

The AP is a 1 year course focused on teaching students specific knowledge and testing their understanding through the exams. Students could take any number of AP classes they prefer, depending on their school, schedule, and goals.


57 classes in 6 subject groups (Language and literature, Foreign language, Individuals and Societies, Experimental Sciences, Math and Computer Science, and the Arts).

To earn the full Diploma, students will select 1 subject from each of the 6 subject groups with subjects available in Standard Level (SL) and Higher Level (HL). 

It is possible to take just a few IBs without earning the diploma, but IB was developed to be a set program of courses.

38 classes in 6 subjects groups (Arts, English, History and Social Sciences, Math and Computer Science, Sciences, and AP World Languages and Cultures)

Students can choose as many subjects as they would like to study and take the exam.



In addition to being graded for their class work and assignments throughout the 2 years, students will also take the final exam, where they need to apply their learning to unknown situations or scenarios by explaining the thought process in written form.

Students can take AP exams without being enrolled in an AP class. The exam tests how much you have acquired the knowledge and skills of each specific subject, and are mainly multiple choice questions.


As of August 2021, there were over 7,500 IB programs being offered worldwide, across over 5,500 schools in 159 countries according to the IBO. More than 170,000 students took the exams.

In 2020, 1.21 million students took 4.1 million exams.

College Recognition

IB diploma shows colleges that the student challenges him/herself in all subject areas, and both academically and extracurricularly.

Depending on the overall grade or specific grade of a subject, some universities will give credit or placement.

AP program shows colleges that a student is highly knowledgable or has interest in a particular subject.

Almost all colleges and universities in the US and Canada  grant credit and placement for qualifying AP scores.

Recognition by Region

Universities in Europe, UK, and other parts of the world recognize the IB.

The AP is mainly catered to students planning to apply to universities in the US & Canada, although some schools in other countries will recognize and give credit.


2. Conclusion

Both the IB and AP are popular programs that are being taught throughout the world. Both have their pros and cons but at MakeSensei, we recommend you to choose depending on your future goals. If you already have an idea of which university or which country you plan to pursue your further education in, it is important to check which program is better recognized or have better benefits when applying to those educational institutions.

Either path you choose, the one thing to remember is to work hard and learn your likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses along the way!

If you would like more information aboout each program, please check the links below.

IB Diploma Programme (DP)

Advanced Placement Program