Securing a suitable schedule in AP and IB

With second semester creeping to an end, important factors regarding the rigor of the next school year’s course load should be considered.  With the college benefits and educational benefits of taking higher level courses in challenging programs such as the Advanced Placement Program and the International Baccalaureate Program comes the potential overload of work. Before the class schedules are set in stone during registration time in the summer, both the cons and pros of taking upper-level classes should be evaluated. Additionally, students still conflicted between the IB and AP programs should evaluate their differences.

The Advanced Placement program offers a multitude of courses in subjects ranging from the languages, social sciences, physical sciences, maths and even the performing arts. Being enrolled in an AP class comes with a challenging workload and an enriching, deeper examination on a subject most likely not offered in a regular class. AP classes are essentially college level courses offered in high school and students who perform highly on the AP test are granted college credit by many colleges. Many colleges accept scores greater than 3 while more selective schools only consider 4s and 5s as worthy of credit or placement. The intensive environment and difficult workload prepare the student for the college-level school work, but the best part of AP is the flexibility it offers; students take however many classes desired. This flexibility allows students to participate in multiple extracurricular activities (i.e. multiple sports). In contrast,IB students are restricted to participation in one sport or one school organization (i.e. Publications or the Associated Student Body).  

On the downside, however, AP tests occur once a year during the month of May and students only receive one opportunity to do well on the test, based on material they’ve learned the entire year. If he/she is sick or unfocused on that particular day, he/she would have to wait another year to retake that test. Hard work throughout the year, in that case, may not be accurately reflected on the test score released in early July. Additionally, many top-tier colleges have begun to turn their backs on AP credit. Although some elite universities do grant  AP credits–Yale, Princeton and Columbia grant up to two elective credits for a score of four or higher — to get the full three to four credits required per class to graduate, students will have to retake their high school courses.

The IB program also offers college-level courses to high school students in a heavily diversified range of subjects such as social and cultural anthropology, Norwegian literature, and business and management. The program offers more subject variety than the AP program and IB is a program recognized by universities around the world. The IB program is arguably the most rigorous program offered to high school students, lasting for two years with extracurricular requirements as well; students are encouraged to live a healthy lifestyle and become well-rounded in academics and volunteer activities. Students must participate in a  creative project (i.e. getting involved in the arts) and a project of action–one that requires physical exertion. A service activity or involvement in an unpaid volunteering organization is also required.  IB is also renowned for its mandatory Theory of Knowledge course, which challenges everything students claim to know. The course prompts students to reflect on how they know what they claim to know. A class in tune with philosophical topics and deeper thought, TOK does not reward students based on their  memorization and reiteration skills. Students become more cognizant of the flaws in their own thought processes and are inspired to develop better interpersonal skills. Many students take the IB program just to be enrolled in this uniquely enriching and thought-provoking course.

Unfortunately, unlike AP or a regular class schedule, the IB program dictates the amount of courses and the level of the courses each student must take in order to receive their IB Diploma. In addition to the mandatory TOK course, students are required to take classes in language and literature, foreign language, sciences and mathematics. Students must also choose a course from either the arts, sciences, languages, or studies of individuals  and societies. IB participants pick three Higher Level courses (HL) and three Standard Level (SL) courses. There is little to no flexibility in choosing IB classes and any attempts to drop out of a course would have a ripple effect on all other courses. As a result, a drop out in one class may result in a drop out in all other classes; since AP classes are usually already full, students may end up with a schedule of all regular classes. Additionally, the higher level courses and standard level courses chosen in the junior year essentially lock down the schedule for senior year. The three chosen higher-level courses will continue into the next year. A two-year-long commitment is required in order to receive the IB diploma. Unlike AP, however, many SL and HL test scores take into account a predicted score and an academic evaluation by a teacher. And test scores are only a factor in obtaining the IB diploma; long term assignments submitted to IB throughout the two years are equally important.

By Lisa Shen, Opinion editor 
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com