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IB, AP, and AICE: They’re All College-Level Programs; What Are The Differences

When students take AP, IB and AICE courses, they are studying college-level material while they’re in high school. These courses challenge students to explore topics in depth and work at a higher level by incorporating critical thinking, analysis, synthesis, multiple perspectives, and verbal communication skills. In a high school that uses a weighted GPA system, students will see the rigor of these courses reflected in a GPA boost. In addition, students may earn college credit for taking IB, AP, or AICE courses. How do the three programs compare and contrast? INTERNATIONAL BACCALAUREATE (IB) What is IB? The International Baccalaureate program was developed in Switzerland to be an internationally recognized diploma. This challenging two-year sequence of classes, projects, and other requirements is offered to students in 11th and 12th grades. IB seeks to develop the whole student through its full and broad curriculum. To earn this diploma, students must be enrolled in an authorized IB school. What are the benefits of an IB program/IB Diploma?

  • Shows college admission personnel that a student is challenging themselves in all subject areas, rather than just selected subjects as might be the case with the AP program.

  • Emphasizes independent learning and time-management skills over multiple choice exams, offering an advantage for some students, such as those who excel in writing and critical thinking.

  • Awards up to 30 hours of college credit based on performance in class and IB exam scores.

  • Requires a two-year commitment.

  • Florida students who complete the diploma plus 100 hours of community eligible are automatically eligible for the Florida Bright Futures 100% tuition scholarship.

How students can earn an IB Diploma

  • Take courses from each of 6 subject groups: (1) language and literature; (2) language; (3) individuals and societies; (4) sciences; (5) mathematics; and (6) the arts.

  • Take 3-4 IB courses at the Higher Level and the rest at the Standard Level.

  • Write an Extended Essay, described as a long, college-style research paper.

  • Take a Theory of Knowledge course, write a paper, and give an oral presentation based on research.

  • Satisfy extracurricular requirements that emphasize creativity, action, and service.

  • Score 24 or more points by passing each class’s final exam.

ICC Note on IB Most colleges give credit for higher-level IB exams, but not all give credit for standard-level IB exams. ADVANCED PLACEMENT (AP) What is the AP program? Advanced Placement classes are standardized, subject-specific college-level classes developed by the U.S.-based College Board (the same company that administers the SAT). The program helps students prepare for college. Students can take one AP course or more than a dozen, depending on their school, schedule, and goals. What is the AP Capstone? Comprised of AP Seminar and AP Research (two different classes, each a year long), the AP Capstone program allows students to develop competencies that they’ll use in college: research, analysis, collaboration, and presentation skills. AP Seminar is a prerequisite for AP Research. How students can earn an AP Capstone Diploma

  • Take four AP exams of their choosing and earn scores of 3 or higher on them; in addition, they must earn a score of 3 or higher in AP Seminar and AP Research.

What are the benefits of AP classes and the AP Capstone Program?

  • Allow students to dig deeper into subjects they are passionate about.

  • Expose students to college level work and expectations.

  • Students may earn college credit and/or the opportunity to place out of entry-level classes in college based on their AP exam score/s.

  • Students can take AP courses online, as anyone can sign up to take the exams in May.

  • Students can self-study for courses (for example, if the class is not offered by their high school or because a class won’t fit in their schedule) and take corresponding exams.

  • Evaluate students with assessments that reward recall.

ICC Note on AP AP and IB credit are both widely accepted by colleges, but you’ll want to check with each college because credit policies vary. CAMBRIDGE AICE What is AICE? The Cambridge Advanced International Certificate of Education (AICE) is an international diploma with a corresponding international academic curriculum and assessment. AICE was developed by the University of Cambridge in England. The classes are rigorous, and most are offered at two levels: the Advanced Subsidiary (AS) Level, and the Advanced (A) Level. AS Level classes are one year long and less demanding than their A-Level counterparts, which are two years in length. What are the benefits of AICE classes and/or diploma?

  • Prepare students with up to 30 hours of college credit.

  • Allow students more flexibility to pick and choose courses to fit their specific interests.

  • Offer advanced Subsidiary (AS) Level exams that count for one credit and Advanced (A) Level exams that count for two credits.

  • Florida students who complete the diploma plus 100 hours of community eligible are automatically eligible for the Florida Bright Futures 100% tuition scholarship.

How students can earn a Cambridge AICE Diploma

  • Complete a minimum of 7 AICE credits from subjects drawn from three curriculum areas: (1) mathematics and science, (2) languages, and (3) arts and humanities. There is also the option to study interdisciplinary subjects. Students must also take the compulsory Cambridge International AS Level Global Perspectives and Research.

  • Earn a set number of points through a wide range of evaluations, including formal written examinations, oral assessments, and projects.

ICC Notes on AICE Students frequently report that AICE classes are easier than IB or AP classes, and many complete their AICE diploma by the end of 10th grade. Schools in the US are more likely to recognize AP or IB as more rigorous than AICE, but the AICE curriculum is still typically considered more rigorous than Honors or Dual Enrollment courses.

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