Colleges are becoming increasingly more competitive. This is why it is important to plan ahead. Start thinking about your college goals as soon as your freshman year or your sophomore year of high school. Meet with your high school guidance counselor to discuss classes, extracurricular activities, your high school GPA, and more. 

A key part of college planning involves picking the right high school classes for you. If you are wondering how many AP classes should I take? or what is the difference between IB and AP classes? or even what are AICE classes? read on!

In this article, we will provide a thorough explanation of the AP, IB, and AICE curriculums. We will also answer key questions, such as: Should I take IB Classes in high school? What is the difference between AP and IB Classes? and What are the AICE program requirements? 

Challenging course loads and high GPAs

Are AP Classes worth it? The short answer is, yes! There are many factors to keep in mind, however, as you ask yourself how many AP classes should you be taking. Colleges want to admit passionate students who are capable of completing college-level work. Taking advanced classes is a great way to show college admission officers that you are a capable student. This is especially important to consider if you are interested in applying to competitive programs such as Ivy League colleges

While it’s important to have a high GPA and a challenging course load, this can look different depending on where you go to school and what advanced classes are offered. Does your high school offer AP Classes, IB Classes, and/or AICE Classes? AP, IB, and AICE classes are advanced classes that provide high school students with the opportunity to earn college credit. In this article, we will discuss key differences between the AP, IB, and AICE curriculums.  

An overview of the AP curriculum

Students who excel academically often take AP Classes in high school. But what do AP Classes mean? 

AP stands for Advanced Placement and is an advanced high school curriculum designed by the College Board. The College Board administers the SAT exam. Ultimately, this is why the AP curriculum focuses on standardized testing. AP tests are administered in May and anyone can sign up for an AP exam. You can take an AP exam even if you haven’t taken the AP Class — although we do not necessarily recommend this. 

AP tests are scored on a scale from 0 to 5. A score of a 3 or higher is considered a passing grade. Depending on the college you attend, you could receive college credit for receiving a passing AP test score. Some colleges, however, will only accept a score of a 4 or 5. This is why it’s important to ask

about the college’s AP policy. Another advantage of taking AP Classes is that, depending on your grade and test score, you may be eligible to skip entry-level classes. Again, this depends on the specific college you are attending. 

Pros Cons
  • You can pick and choose which classes interest you.
  • There are no requirements for how many classes you have to take.
  • You can take AP Classes online. (This is especially helpful for homeschool students).
  • You can receive college credit, depending on your test score and the college you attend.
  • There is a strong emphasis on standardized testing. Depending on your test-taking skills, this could be seen as a pro or a con.
  • Not all colleges award college credit for AP Classes. 

An overview of the IB curriculum

What is IB in high school? How is IB different from AP? 

IB stands for International Baccalaureate and is an advanced high school curriculum designed in Switzerland. This program was designed to be an internationally recognized diploma and is currently gaining popularity in the United States. Similar to the AP Curriculum, the IB Curriculum offers high schoolers the opportunity to stand out from their peers during the college admissions process and earn college credit. 

This program is completed in two years and is typically only available to high school juniors and seniors. At some schools, however, students may be allowed to take only a few IB Classes, rather than commit to the entire program. In order to earn an IB Diploma, you must be enrolled in an authorized IB school and complete all of the requirements. 

Students must take at least: 1 language and literature course, 2 foreign language courses, 3 individual and societies courses, 4 science courses, 5 mathematics courses, and 6 courses in the arts. Out of this IB Classes list, students must complete 3-4 classes at the Higher Level, whereas the remainder may be taken at the Standard Level. Students must also write an extended research paper, fulfill various extracurricular requirements, and complete a Theory of Knowledge course (as well as write a final paper and deliver an oral presentation for this course). Finally, students must score 24 or more points by passing each course’s final exam. 

If you are considering key differences between IB classes vs AP Classes, it’s important to note that IB Classes emphasize writing and critical thinking skills more so than AP Classes. In fact, IB exams rarely include multiple-choice questions. The exam is largely essay-based. Because of this, at some high schools, Higher Level IB courses may be considered more difficult than AP courses. 

Pros Cons
  • IB Classes in high school help students develop exceptional writing and critical thinking skills. This is especially helpful for students who do not necessarily excel during standardized tests.

  • It is a thorough, balanced curriculum that helps students stand apart on their college applications and earn college credit.

  • It is also internationally recognized and is gaining more popularity in the United States. 

  • There is less flexibility than in the AP Curriculum. This is because the IB Curriculum offers a specific two-year program. In some cases, however, schools will still let you pick and choose IB Classes.

  • IB Courses are not as popular in the U.S. as AP courses. 

What is the AICE curriculum?

AICE stands for Advanced International Certificate of Education and is an advanced high school curriculum designed by the University of Cambridge in England. Similar to the IB Curriculum, the high school AICE program offers an internationally-recognized diploma. This program, however, is still gaining popularity in the United States. 

AICE classes are offered at two levels: the Advanced Subsidiary (AS) Level and the Advanced (A) Level. AS Level classes are a year-long, whereas A-Level classes are 2 years long and are more rigorous. In order to earn an AICE diploma, a student must be enrolled in an authorized AICE school and fulfill various requirements. 

Students must complete a minimum of 14 AICE credits (AS Level exams

count as one credit and A-Level exams count for two credits). Two credits must be earned in Mathematics and Sciences; two credits must be earned in Languages; two credits must be earned in Arts and Humanities. Students may also elect to take up to four credits in Interdisciplinary Skills courses. Finally, students must receive passing scores on seven exams in four content areas within two years of passing their first exam. 

If you are curious about AICE classes’ pass rate, AICE classes are often deemed less challenging than AP or IB Classes, and the majority of enrolled students earn their AICE diplomas by the end of their sophomore year.  

Pros Cons
  • Students can earn an internationally-recognized diploma and earn college credit.

  • Students can often complete their diplomas by the end of their sophomore year. Effectively, this motivates students to plan ahead and take their coursework seriously as soon as they begin high school.

  • Students have more flexibility to choose their courses than they do in the IB Curriculum.

  • AICE classes are often not considered as challenging as AP or IB courses.

  • These courses are not as popular in the U.S., although their popularity is rising. 

How to stand out to colleges

What’s the difference between AP and IB Classes? Does one carry more weight than the other? What are AICE classes? 

These are all important questions to ask yourself as you design your high school schedule, especially if you are interested in applying to highly-selective colleges and universities. Typically, high schools will grant students more credit for taking advanced classes by calculating “weighted GPAs.” So keep this in mind as you focus on picking the right high school classes for you

If you are a high school senior or a high school junior planning on attending college, reach out to learn more about our services as you prepare for your college applications. There are lots of ways to stand out in colleges. 

Taking challenging classes, such as AP, IB, and AICE classes is just one way to prepare for your college applications. Remember, there are lots of things to consider as you prepare for college. Plan ahead and consider various college application factors such as extracurricular activities and SAT scores