Ask a College Advisor: Are AP or IB Courses Better for Earning College Credit?

Hear from one of our education professionals on choosing between high school AP or IB courses for college credit.
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Question: Are AP or IB courses better for earning college credit?

Answer: Students can earn college credit and benefit from the academic rigor of both AP and IB programs. Whether you should choose AP or IB courses all depends on the options available at your high school and your academic goals.

If you are trying to decide between the two, first consider if one or both options are offered at your high school. Then research which courses and scores are accepted for college credit at your potential future colleges.

Comparing AP and IB Courses

Most U.S. high schools offer either the IB program or AP classes, though some schools may offer the option of both or neither. Although IB and AP are higher-level courses that can be used to receive college credit, they have very different course structures and testing procedures so it is important to do your research on each prior to committing to a course.

IB Programs

AP Programs

  • One-year subject matter-based classes
  • Courses are selected by individual students and are not part of a larger program
  • 38 AP courses and exams are available across all subjects
  • AP exams are used to determine college credit
  • Only offered in the U.S.
  • Students can take AP exams with self-study even if they are not enrolled in a corresponding AP course

Transferring College Credit

One of the biggest assumptions that college students make is thinking that their AP or IB scores are guaranteed to be accepted once they reach college. This is not the case. Each college and univeristy has different standards regarding AP and IB equivalency. There is typically a maximum number of units that can be transferred, and most schools require a minimum score on AP or IB tests for credit to be awarded.

Schools and specific academic departments usually offer exam equivalency charts to help students determine which courses and scores will be accepted. These charts determine if you will receive college credit for qualifying AP or IB scores.

The College Board provides an online credit policy search that can help you research whether your AP scores will be accepted for college credit.


For high school students looking to get a jump-start on college credits, both AP and IB courses are a great option. Researching the courses your high school offers as well as those accepted by your potential colleges will help you choose which program is a better fit for you.

DISCLAIMER: The responses provided as part of the Ask a College Advisor series are for general informational purposes only. Readers should contact a professional academic, career, or financial advisor before making decisions regarding individual situations.

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