by Rachel Jones

For many years, JEB Stuart High School has been a member of the small IB community. While Stuart only offers one AP class, AP Statistics, many students remain curious as to what the difference is between IB and AP classes.


Advanced Placement courses have been viewed as the top classes for most high schools in the U.S. since the 1950’s. It is used for high schoolers who would like to be challenged, more so than what they are receiving in standard curriculum classes. At the end of an AP class, students have the option to take the AP exam in order to receive credit for  classes, and possibly college credit, depending on the college. Unlike IB,  a student can opt to take an exam for a class he or he has not taken.

According to, nearly 14,000 public high schools offered AP classes during the 2012-2013 school year. Tal Dunne, a sophomore at Falls Church High School, moved from JEB Stuart to Falls Church in order to be a member of the AP program.

The AP program is an intriguing detail that college admissions boards like to see. Students who take Advanced Placement classes are usually higher level students, and for most, AP classes are the most advanced option available to them at their respective high schools. “Taking AP is a sign that you’re up for the most rigorous classes your high school has to offer.” says

Another benefit to the AP program is receiving college credits early. By completing an AP course and scoring successfully on the AP Exam that follows, most colleges and universities nationwide offer college credit, advanced placement, or both, for AP exam scores that meet their criteria. Receiving college credits can open doors to studying abroad, double majoring, or cutting costs of classes.

“Both the IB and AP programs are both very good programs, but if I had to choose one, I’d choose AP.” said Dunne. “AP has so many more options you can take, and has no set requirements. You’re either in AP or you’re not.” However, an increasing number of high schools offer the International Baccalaureate program which offers a rigorous set of courses, much like the AP program.


Unlike the popular AP program, the more obscure International Baccalaureate program is only offered at about 830 high schools in the U.S. according to JEB Stuart is one of those choice schools. However, the IB program is primarily an international program with nearly 4,000 participating schools in 150 countries, and focuses its courses and learning on being globally adept.

“It is a very well-rounded, whole program that is designed to form a principled, knowledgeable, open-minded person.” said Stuart’s IB coordinator Jennifer Kresse Rodriguez. The biggest difference between the AP and IB programs is earning the Advanced versus IB diploma. While the IB diploma is more challenging than AP, only some colleges take its rigor into account when accepting students.

The IB program has various requirements to become a diploma candidate. Each student must take all IB level core classes, and must take at least 3 Higher Level classes and 3 at the standard level. Each class has two parts; part one in junior year, and part two in senior year, and the IB test consists of the curriculum from both years. Along with the numerous course selections, there are three core elements which are required to become an IB diploma candidate: A Theory of Knowledge class, the extended essay, and Community and Service hours. All three of these are critical aspects to the IB diploma programme and prepare students for the type of work that they will encounter in college.

“The IB program is an excellent college preparatory program,” said Rodriguez. “You are taking six courses, each of those for two years, and in addition you have [Theory of Knowledge], the extended essay, and your community service which equip students for their future college assignments.” Many former IB students concur with Kresse Rodriguez. Laura Nettuno (‘12) as an IB candidate, now attends James Madison University.

“The workload seems like a piece of cake when you get to your freshman year [in college]. You’re prepared for writing research papers.” said Nettuno. “TOK helps too because you can challenge arguments differently than you ever thought you would.”

AP and IB classes provide extensive opportunities for future leaders all over the world.  At stuart, the IB program allows students to learn and communicate, and sets them up to pursue what they might be interested in. Both have benefits and disadvantages, but both prepare students to take on whatever the future hands them.

Photo by Rachel Jones