ZIS’ Never-Ending Debate: IB vs AP

IB or AP? This is the daunting decision that looms over every Upper School student. Either students are trying to wrap their heads around which one to choose in the first place or they are living through the consequences of their choice. The task of choosing AP or IB, a mix of the two or choosing the ZIS certificate courses, can be stressful. After all, this decision will dictate how your life looks for the next two – or more- years. So, how can this decision be made? 

The general consensus of preference for the 9th and 10th grade seems to be the IB programme, as this is the one that students tend to know more about. When asked where they got this information from, students said their main sources were teachers, family members and older students. However, as of this year, IB is in drastic decline as less than 50% of current juniors are doing the program compared to previous years having a strong majority of diploma students.

Survey of Class of 2022’s Predictions

Overall, the reason why students chose the IB was because they like how it is structured. The IB allows you to delve deeper into subjects, instead of just touching the surface. You build a deeper understanding of your subjects and can spend more time on them. The courses, as well as the extended essay, also prepare you well for university. Additionally, they like that the IB allows you to keep your university options open, as you usually don’t need specific courses for university. The students also thought that CAS adds a lot to their high school experience because it ensures a balanced high school experience. Common misconceptions include that IB allows for absolutely no free time. But, like most things in life, the stress all depends on your time management. If you try to learn how to stop procrastinating (I know it’s hard), the workload won’t seem as daunting.

Survey of Class of 2021

The most common reason for students picking the AP was that they are able to choose a large variety of courses, as they can take a different combination of courses in their second year. This gives them the opportunity to try many different subjects or to specialize in the subjects they like. Students also liked that they don’t have to do the CAS, TOK, and EE and that they get a guaranteed free block. A great thing is that the AP allows you to choose your “difficulty level”. The more APs you take, the more challenging it gets. The common misconceptions of the AP include that the programme is very easy and that AP is not accepted in universities worldwide. Like mentioned before, you can choose the number of APs you take and can therefore increase or decrease your workload. If you are taking 5 APs in one year, then obviously your experience with the programme isn’t “easy”. It should also be known that AP is now being accepted in most British and Swiss universities, however, you usually have to pay attention to which specific APs are required for university courses.

Survey of 11th Graders’ Recommendations to Lower Grades

On the one hand, it is very valuable to talk to people who have either taught or experienced the programme. This way you can get an insight into the structure and the content of the different courses and see whether they are  appealing to you or not. 

On the other hand, everyone has a different learning style and preference. What you might think is slow pace may be way too fast for another person. It all depends on the individual. Just be aware that there are many different opinions on courses, but none of them are objectively right or wrong. Try to focus more on the explicit facts of the course, such as what type of material it covers as well as how CAS, TOK, and extended essays work.

It is also good to do some research on your own. Visit websites explaining the different programmes in detail. It is always a good idea to check out some general university information for the country you are interested in, so you can check the admission requirements.

Don’t forget that you can also do a mix of programs! You can do some AP year-long courses, but also take a two year IB course. This allows you to get an IB certificate for however many courses you complete, alongside the APs you take. Alternatively, you could also complete ZIS certificates in courses like Applied Design, Environmental Economics, or Digital Journalism.

So, what does this all mean? Basically, it all comes down to you. You, as an individual, have different course preferences and different learning styles than your classmates. At the end of the day, both of the options are great programmes that allow you to grow as a learner and as a person, and as long as you manage to make it to graduation – you’ll be alright.

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