Description of IB Diploma Program and AP Program

See a side-by-side chart illustrating the differences between IB Diploma Program and AP curricula.

A Description of the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Program and Advanced Placement (AP) Program

Both the IB Diploma Program and the AP Program offer students the opportunity to take college-level courses in high school. FCPS has an open enrollment policy for both programs and all students are encouraged to take AP/IB courses in their area(s) of academic strength. Students and parents are encouraged to check the website of the high school that they will attend to determine program and course offerings at their individual school. 

Element IB Diploma Program AP Program
What is it? The IB program is a rigorous pre-university program leading to assessment in six subject areas. IB is noted for its challenging curriculum and international perspective. Beyond completing college-level courses and examinations, IB students are also required to engage in community service, individual research, and an inquiry into the nature of knowledge. The AP program is a challenging academic program designed to provide high school students with college-level academic courses. The AP program is a cooperative educational endeavor between secondary schools and colleges and universities and is considered a standard for academic excellence in the U.S.
Mission “The International Baccalaureate Organization aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect. To this end the IBO works with schools, governments and international organizations to develop challenging programs of international education and rigorous assessment. These programs encourage students across the world to become active, compassionate and lifelong learners who understand that other people, with their differences, can also be right.”

“The College Board’s mission is to connect students to college success and opportunity. The AP program supports the principle that each individual school must develop its’ own curriculum based on a set of expectations that colleges and secondary school faculty nationwide have established for college-level courses.” 

“For over 100 years, the College Board has partnered with leading educators, schools, and colleges to create innovative programs that help students, families, and educators to evaluate each student's academic strengths; challenge students to explore their interests and reach their potential; inspire students to do their best work; and pursue educational opportunities beyond high school.”

Courses IB course curriculum is developed by an international committee of university professors and master secondary teachers. IB standard level (SL) courses provide breadth while IB higher level (HL) courses provide specialization. All HL courses are two years. Some SL courses are two years and some are one year; these will also vary by school. IB requires 150 teaching hours for SL and 240 teaching hours for HL courses. FCPS offers 30 different IB courses at the HL and/or SL levels. Individual teachers develop their own curriculum based on established course requirements and AP standards that must be approved by the College Board as part of the AP Course Audit process. University professors review the course syllabi for rigor and content to match college standards. All AP courses are one-year. FCPS offers a total of 35 different AP courses in all of their AP schools.
Why take IB or AP? IB provides a comprehensive educational program that prepares students for selective universities and colleges. IB is a rigorous program dedicated to educational excellence with an international perspective. AP provides a challenging educational program that prepares students for selective universities and colleges. AP is a rigorous program dedicated to educational excellence with a long-standing history in the United States.
All IB teachers complete a comprehensive training that includes curriculum, teaching strategies, and assessment. Teachers continue to attend workshops every 5-7 years. All AP teachers complete comprehensive training that includes developing curriculum, teaching strategies, and preparing the students for examinations. Teachers continue to attend workshops every 5-7 years.
Diplomas and
Students pursuing the IB Diploma take 6 IB courses in different areas - English, World Language, Social Sciences, Science, Math, and an Elective. Diploma candidates must take a minimum of 3 higher level (HL) courses (maximum of 4) with remaining classes taken at the standard level (SL). Diploma students also take the Theory of Knowledge course, write a 4000-word extended essay, and complete 150 hours of creativity, activity, and service outside of class. A student must achieve a minimum score of 24 out of 45 points to be awarded the IB Diploma. Students may also take IB courses in areas of academic strength and interest. IB diploma course students take one or more IB courses and the associated exam(s) and receive certificates of recognition for each IB exam with a score of “4” or better. Students may enroll in as many individual AP courses as they wish based on academic strengths and interests. The College Board recognizes students with exceptional performance in the Advanced Placement program as follows:
  • AP Scholar - 3 or higher on 3 exams;
  • AP Scholar with Honor – Average 3.25 with a 3 on at least 4 exams;
  • AP Scholar with Distinction – Average 3.5 with a 3 on at least 5 exams; and
  • National AP Scholar – Average of 4 on all exams with a 4 on at least 8.
  • AP Capstone Diploma
  • AP Research Certificate
Examinations Students take a series of internal assessments (assessed by the local teacher and moderated by an examiner) and external assessments (moderated by international standards). IB tests are scored on a scale of 1-7. Several FCPS teachers are IB examiners. Students sit for an examination at the end of the AP course, with the exception of AP Research and AP Art at which are scored on a performance task. AP assessments are scored on a scale of 1—5. All examinations are graded by a group of AP readers. Many FCPS teachers are AP readers.
Types of
Assessments include lab work for science; papers for English and the social sciences; oral presentations or exams in English and foreign (world) languages; portfolios in math and computer science; and various projects such as journals and art books in the electives. Examinations include multiple choice questions and essays. World Language exams include listening and speaking components. Art requires a portfolio and music includes sight-reading. AP Seminar, AP Research, and AP Computer Science Principles have performance based assessments.
College Credit Many colleges offer credit for HL exams with scores of 5, 6, or 7. Some colleges offer additional credit to students who complete the IB diploma. Some colleges offer credit for SL exams with scores of 5, 6, or 7. Most colleges list the credit policy on their websites. University recognition policies are also available on the IB website under “University Recognition.” Many colleges offer college credit for AP examinations with scores of 3, 4 or 5. Universities and colleges list the credit policy on their websites. University recognition policies are also available on the College Board website.