Is AP or IB harder?

AP vs. IB classes


Photo by: Quinn Downing

The differences between AP and IB classes.

With the scheduling season in full swing, students argue whether AP or IB classes are harder and which one to take. Midlo is an International Baccalaureate world school and has been for many years, but Advanced Placement classes have become an option in almost any course, even Crafts, causing students to question the right choice for them. However, there are many different aspects to analyze when comparing AP to IB classes, since they’re like apples and oranges.

One of IB’s best/worst parts is that there are minimal class options during your upperclassmen years. On the one hand, this allows students to have a very tight-knit community, since they’re all taking the exact same classes. The students always have a group chat with everyone in IB to ask questions about homework or as a reminder for an upcoming test. But on the other hand, you’re being forced to take six plus college level classes. For AP classes, the community is the exact opposite. Occasionally, classes have a group chat with a fourth of the kids but the support system is not there as it is with the IB classes. So while AP classes have the flexibility to choose classes that they’re more interested in, they lack the community that IB has.

Since the students are all taking the same classes, they have tests and due dates on the same day. Because of this, if a history teacher assigns a test on Friday, but the students already have a math test on that day, they’ll usually move it in order to make studying more manageable. For AP classes this isn’t realistic, there are usually mixed grade levels and, even if there aren’t, the students are taking a variety of classes that don’t test on the same day, making it another reason that IB is easier. 

AP and IB classes also test very differently. As people always say, in IB you go an inch wide and a mile deep, but in AP you go a mile wide and an inch deep. What this really means is that IB classes focus on a few topics but go very deep into them, while AP classes focus on as much as they can. From my experience, this is super obvious. In IB History of Americas, three topic are covereds: the Civil war, civil rights movements, and Revolutions in America. That’s all we cover in our junior year. However, AP World History goes from 1200 CE to the present day. So it’s very much two different learning styles, if you’re not understanding something in IB Biology, it’s going to be a major problem because it’ll likely be a recurring topic. 

“I would say that AP is harder since the class is more focused on the AP tests whereas IB teachers have more freedom on what they teach and how much they have to teach,” Ryn Duval, 12, said.

IB classes are two year courses, so already students have to recall information from over the summer, and then take an exam at the end of the two years. While learning information for this cumulative writing exam, students have another assignment (an Internal Assessment) that goes towards their final score that is used to determine college credit. An example of this is in IB psychology, students run a psychology experiment on students and then write a paper about the results. In comparison, AP classes are only preparing you for one test at the end of the year, the AP exam. 

“Honestly, I think IB is harder because the IA’s and other essays involve a lot more writing with longer word count requirements than an FRQ requires in an AP class,” Noelia McCaffery, 12, said. 

To address the issue of should IB kids be included in class rank, I think so. Freshmen and sophomore year students in pre-IB get no extra boost of GPA other than the normal boosts if they’re taking honors, AP or Dual Enrollment classes. After that, they do get the 1.0 GPA boost for all their IB classes, which is six. However, because Midlo offers so many college credit classes, anyone not in IB could take that many AP or DE classes and get the exact same boost.

I dropped out of IB the first week of my senior year, to take different classes, so I’ve had a mixture of IB and AP classes. In my experience, IB was easier. I think that AP is more work, and a lot more memorization, while IB is more understanding of concepts. Since IB is more writing-centric, it’s not simply right or wrong on tests like AP FRQs and multiple choice questions. Additionally, I’ve felt like kids are way more competitive towards one another in my AP classes, but the kids in IB classes are focused on collaboration and everyone succeeds. That being said, I know that some kids dropout and find AP classes a lot easier, because you just have to learn how to take the test and don’t have to focus on writing. At the end of the day, both classes will be significantly more challenging than an honors course and I think a lot of the difficulty of the class depends on the teacher.