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AP and IB Courses

Welcome back to your EDGE College Resource Blog! Read on for helpful information about advanced courses for high school students!

Today’s bloggers are LeeAnn Patrick, a 2009 EDGE Alumni and UCLA graduate, and Camille Erskine, a high school science teacher and UCSD graduate.

What are AP and IB courses?

Camille: AP stands for Advanced Placement course, and they are administered by the college board. IB stands for International Baccalaureate and is an international organization based in Switzerland.

LeeAnn: Both courses are advanced courses for high school students, though the availability of courses depends on the school. AP courses are much more readily available, as they can be picked up on an individual basis by students who want to delve deeper into a specific course of study. A full list of AP courses can be seen here. Please note that not all schools offer all APs – check with your school directly to see what is offered. The IB program for high school students is a group of classes that must be completed in order to complete a diploma, and only certain schools are authorized to offer IB diplomas. You can find out more about the Diploma Programme here.

Why are the APs and IBs important? Why should we care?

Camille: These courses are important because they allow students to dive deeper into content or challenge themselves to a greater extent than the typical A-G courses available to students in most schools. They allow students to hone their interests, to spent time developing critical study strategies and ways of thinking, while also allowing students to receive an extra grade point; and, at times, college credit for certain courses. This can be dangerous–there are many students who push themselves through the curricula out of desire to compete and have a higher GPA instead of true pursuit of knowledge, which can lead to student burn out and increased stress levels.

LeeAnn: In addition to expanding students’ knowledge in topics beyond typical high school level, a good score on an AP exam can actually be applied toward college credit at some schools. This allows students to exempt themselves from certain courses when they are signing up for college classes.

What’s been your personal experience with this topic?

Camille: I personally graduated with an IB diploma, and did not have an experience with AP courses.

LeeAnn: I took many AP classes, but I have no experience with IB courses.

Timeline–When should students implement this?

Camille: AP courses are available to students at different times depending on the school themselves. Most schools allow the courses to be taken in the Junior and Senior years of high school, though some courses can be taken even earlier. Exams take place in the spring. IB courses also vary by school, and have a similar examination time period in the spring. AP tends to focus on memorization of facts, with a standardized testing format, whereas the IB exams focus students on ways of thinking and explaining reasoning.

LeeAnn: If a student is interested in an AP course they know is offered at their school, they should make sure it is on their class schedule before the end of the previous year. This is particularly important if the school offers any Freshman AP courses that are interesting to the student. If a student is not enrolled in an AP course, but believes they are proficient enough to pass the test, they can register to take an AP exam. If they get a good score, this AP credit can be applied toward certain college and university general education requirements. Some students opt to take an exam without taking a course if it is something they know they are an expert in, for example, a foreign language they might speak at home. A student could also take this path if there is not an AP course offered at their school for an area they are very interested in, and they would like to self-study. It is important to note that the exams may have fees – some schools will cover the fees of students who were in the course, but the protocol varies by school.

What are some resources, tips and tricks you think are helpful for this topic?

Camille: The demand these courses place on students requires them to form good study habits! This means increased time management, organization, and the ability to prioritize. It is very helpful to use a planner and other tools.

LeeAnn: Before taking the exam, make sure you know the format so you can allocate time properly! Some exams, it’s better to complete everything even if you get it wrong, while for others, it might be better to skip the questions you don’t know and focus on the ones you do – it’s important to know how the exam is scored before you go in. Most importantly, however, it’s really easy to get swept up in taking a lot of advanced courses for the sake of improved GPA or college preparedness, but it’s very important to take your own mental health and limitations into consideration. Before signing up for more advanced classes, check in with yourself and make sure you feel capable of handling the additional workload – it can definitely be a lot!

Thank you Camille and LeeAnn for your advice about AP and IB courses! Keep an eye on our College Resources page for a new article every two weeks! Got community college or trade school questions that still need answering? Comment below!

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