International Baccalaureate: What You Need to Know

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Kristen Seikaly
Kristen Seikaly

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High school students look for the most difficult classes they can take. To do so, students often look for Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) classes. AP classes are relatively familiarized in the United States. On the other hand, fewer high school students understand the International Baccalaureate program. Here’s what you need to know.

With the AP curriculum, you take the class, and then take a final test associated with the subject. If you get a 4 or a 5 on the test, you may qualify for college credits upon entering university. Students and families like AP classes because earning credits like this means you could graduate early!

But what do you know about IB? Is it similar, the same, or completely different? For those who don’t fully understand the specific benefits, these acronyms can be confusing. How is a student to decide whether or not they should pursue IB courses?

Don’t worry, we lined up the basics for you right here.

What is the International Baccalaureate program?

IB is an international diploma program founded in Switzerland. Although you can take individual IB classes, the curriculum is most cohesive when taken altogether. Doing so creates a “holistic” high school education. The contrasts with AP classes, which focus intensely on one subject matter. You can take a college placement test for both kinds of classes, but you must be enrolled in an IB class to take an IB test.

Another key difference between the AP and IB program – students can start the IB program at a much younger age. Unlike the AP program, the IB program has options for students as young as three years old.

Why Pursue It?

The International Baccalaureate program is considered academically rigorous and held to a high standard. It also caters to those who learn better with hands on activities and group discussion. Furthermore, students interested in going abroad to attend college may find benefits come college application time if they pursued the IB diploma program. Since it is an international standard for education, foreign colleges will know your academics are up to their standards if you received the diploma.

Is the Program Right/Available For You?

Currently, 894 schools in the United States offer the program, so if it’s something you’re interested in, you’ll want to make sure you attend a high school with the program. Note that the program can work differently in different schools though. At some high schools, it’s a program within a program. At others, students can take IB classes without taking the entire curriculum.

As for whether or not it’s right for you, it can be costly, just like AP tests, and the diploma program requires time and focus. However, a good education often requires time and money, so you may want to consider the benefits of putting your resources towards the International Baccalaureate program.


No one can tell you if a particular course or diploma is right for you. However, there are a number of benefits to the International Baccalaureate program that make it worth your consideration. As far as college applications go, the IB program is still unique enough within the United States to set you apart from other applicants, even if you plan on applying to schools within the U.S. 

Questions? Let us know!